Archive for February, 2010

The Ugly End of Winter

As we head into spring it gets harder and harder to find things that I find photographically pleasing.  So I went to the beach.

The way the light hits the sand and lights up these rivulets is really something.  Nothing like an empty beach –

Morning Glory

Black and white wasn’t a bad choice either for highlighting the shapes created by the water –

Beach Fan

I’m told all waterways lead to the sea –

The Curve of the Earth

A Glorious Morning

I’m not a morning person, but for good light I can make exceptions.  Yesterday we had fresh snow for the first time in a month and I just had to go out and play.  It was wonderful.  Crisp.  Quiet.  Shining.  Here’s how it went –

Soft light brings out the sparkles in the snow –

Quietly Waiting

I liked the duality of these two branches –

Last Season

and now for the big picture –


Dead trees make such bold statements…and that sky!

Up Early

The backlit snow caught my attention and the shadowed background sets it off perfectly –

Backlit Beauty

A last look over my shoulder –


Fulfilling Your Vision

A lot of the time I’m a spontaneous photographer.  I walk around with my eyes open and take pictures of what I see.  Some interpretation goes into it, but mostly I’m pretty literal and documentary.  Until recently I didn’t really envision what I want ahead of time and try to manipulate things to come together.  Mostly its because I’m lazy.  But things are changing.

In late December I shot some frames in a nearby apple orchard.  I’ve always loved apple trees for their crazy shapes and slightly menacing aspect.  While there I thought was a great addition to a sunset they would make and went back for a try.  Things went OK, but didn’t really turn out how I envisioned.  So, keeping an eye on the sky became an almost daily ritual.  I was looking for the right combination of color and clouds.  I know what I want, but getting it is another story.  Trying though…persisting is part of the deal.  It’s part of the effort of the art.

Orchard Sunset

I guess people just think it’s luck or your camera, but good photography takes dedication and practice.  You have to know the rules and when to break them.

Sunset Symmetry

Most of all, you  have to go out and do it.  Keep trying. Even if stuff doesn’t come out exactly how you intended, it’s still valuable.  And sometimes, even beautiful.

Sundown in the Orchard

Look Out Below!

I’m one of those head’s down kind of hikers.  Mostly it’s to watch where and how I’m placing my feet (not breaking an ankle or my neck is very high on my list of things to do), but it has its other benefits.

This first shot took me a while to get the way I wanted it.  I forgot my reflector and didn’t have a flash with me so It’s a longish exposure.  Tough to do when you want a ribbon of focus running through a subject, but I managed it.  I used my tremendously sharp 90mm f2 Olympus lens.  I love that lens.

Fall mushrooms

I almost stepped on this leaf , but I swerved and then kept going.  Only for a couple of steps though, then I went back for a closer look.

Large-toothed Aspen leaf with morning dew

These frosty leaves were sheltering in the lee of a rock wall on the seashore.  As soon as the sun came around the frost disappeared in a moment.

Frosty Leaves

These bright little beauties caught my attention in an abandoned zoo / amusement park.  I was photographing the icon the park was known for when they just popped into my field of view.  The recent rainfall left everything darkened and slick.  I like the effect.

Orange and Gray

So don’t forget to look down every once in a while…you’ll never know the treasure you’ll find.

Mr. Blue Sky

OK, so it’s not my favorite ELO song, but I do love a gorgeous, deep blue winter sky.  Despite their somewhat cliched nature I can’t help shooting trees or tree boughs against the sky.  Snow on the branches is even more overdone, but I still love the contrast and the shapes.

Fan dance.  No polarizer, no color enhancement – the sky really was like this.

Fan Dance

These lovely girls are at the end of my street…they posed for me so nicely.

Winter Sisters

Another tree in the neighborhood on the same day.  The light lasted just about an hour and then clouds moved in.

Winter Glory

This last one is from this weekend.  I was lying down in a mostly frozen brook with my head on a comfy rock.

Up from Under

At this point in winter, no matter how I enjoy the cold and bleak aspects, it starts to get to me and I look for color.  This is almost all that’s on offer though.  I’ll take it.

Making the best of it

Don’t you hate it when you drag yourself to some lovely location for a sunrise or a sunset and mother nature doesn’t cooperate?  She’s ornery and unpredictable, but usually if you’re paying attention you can find something worth a spot on your memory card.

Lately I found a really great location not too far from me that would be terrific during sunset.  Apple orchards are so photogenic to me, albeit a bit creepy.  I half expect the trees to start throwing fruit like they did in The Wizard of Oz.  The crazy convoluted branches lend a lot of character and atmosphere.  So I went out one day to scout it for a sunset.  Oh who am I kidding, I was hoping for a great shot.  I didn’t get what I wanted, but I adapted.

Orangey Orchard Sunset

Now, my original plan was to highlight a single tree if I could and use it as a front piece to the sky.  Given that the sky was totally uninteresting, I had to move to plan B – lots of trees and branches.  Luckily I had time and acres and acres of trees to choose from.

This next one is from yesterday.  A few of us local photo enthusiasts got together for what we hoped would be a good sunrise.  Most of us drove more than an hour and then hiked for a bit in the 9-degree weather.  Then we all wandered around the field from one river view to another, like confused refugees, trying to find the shot.  I wasn’t in the groove.  I wasn’t inspired.  I couldn’t see.  Nothing jumped out at me.  My expectations were all caught up in the net of reality and I couldn’t break free.  Only when I gave it up for lost did I turn and see something worthwhile.

Cold sunrise

That line of trees and the almost geometric layout of the tufts of crispy grass did it.  I shifted from warm, glowing lovely sunrise to bleak, cold, stark sunrise.  The 4-stop graduated neutral density filter was a big help in drawing definition from the clouds in the sky.  I wanted to render the trees largely as silhouettes and the snow slightly blah.  Of the several shots I took, this one works best and unlike a lot of my compatriots, I think I walked away with something that was worth the time.

Mesmerize Me

Sometimes I don’t realize what I’ve shot until after I look at it for a while.  This image didn’t really strike me right away, but as soon as I did a B&W conversion it did.


The Dream is Over

When viewed large, it’s easy to get caught up in it; trance-like.  I spent quite a few minutes in this field with this perfectly angled morning light and it was so worth it.  I’ve been trying to capture the stark beauty that winter offers and I think this one does that quite well.  It conveys protection as well somehow, as if the snow is cradling the dead milkweed.  Moreso than this photo, taken from the top of a mountain –


This one illustrates how harsh and unforgiving winter can be.  The windblown snow and the stark presentation give the impression that the weeds are toughing it out against all odds.

It’s been fun honing my style; finding my vision.  I’m sure for the second one, the folks that were enjoying the summit view from a nearby picnic table probably thought I was nuts, crouching low on the ground angling toward some crispy weeds instead of taking pictures of the valley below.  But the macro view was uninteresting compared to this more intimate moment.  I’m most proud of myself as a photographer when I find photos like this.

Big Picture v. Little Picture

Lately I’ve been out shooting with other people and it’s helped me define my style.  When one is alone, there isn’t anything to compare with, so in a group I observe how others approach the same subject.  It’s fascinating and has led me to think about how I want to convey what it was like to be where I took my pictures.  Both macro and micro pictures are necessary for this, but which speaks more clearly?

Details v. Vistas.  For me, it takes both types of photos to really tell the story; to make the viewer feel like they know what it’s like to be there.  Too many times have I just told ½ the story by concentrating on the Big Picture.  A wide angle lens is a forgiving tool.  It’s easy to get decent or even good photos when using such an encompassing lens.

Stormy skies over Provincetown MA lifesaving station

For me though, I find I like crafting detail shots even more.  They’re more intimate and somehow more personal.  When I see some small element in a photo, it puts me in closer proximity to the photographer.  Now I can try to find what caught her attention in the first place.  What fixed it on this tiny part of the giant landscape?  Is it as magical to me as it was to him?  Can I convey that feeling of a special discovery when I make detailed photos?  It’s more challenging and I really like working the details of a given scene.  Anyone can show me the whole thing, but who can show me the secrets?

Bedewed feather and beach detritus

Sand-blasted chains at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod MA

The size of the detail varies, too.  Sometimes you need focus, but not so tiny.  A medium-shot if you will.  Something with perspective to help illustrate why being at that place at that time was worth photographing.  There was a big storm this past October on Cape Cod and the surf was high…unusually high.  But my big pictures just didn’t convey any scale.  They were impressive of the totality, but so what…oh look – waves.  Aren’t there always waves?  And tilted horizons?

Big surf after the storm, Cape Cod MA

I kept on the look out for something that would convey just how high the surf was coming.  Then I found it.

Surf's Up - right to the edge

Secret’s out.