Archive for March, 2010

Reflection Connection

Went with some friends to explore a tiny part of another conservation area.  This one also follows a stream (or several I think) through it’s course down at the bottom of a rather steep ravine.  There are lots of beaver ponds as well and being sheltered by high banks on either side, it’s great for extending a sunrise shoot a few hours longer.  There are lots of nest boxes and I’ll be the bird activity is very high…we scared some geese and made them crabby.  Honking and flapping.  They were funny.  Eventually they moved off and the pond returned to its serene state.  The roots of this old tree made for a terrific foreground element.


Used a polarizer to maximize those reflections and a graduated neutral density filter (8 and 4 stops) to balance the skies a bit, especially when the sun crested the hill.

For these next ones I used my 80s vintage, manual OM 65-200 zoom in order to really isolate the stumps and the reflections.  Used the zoom feature in Live View to  make sure the focus was spot on, so critical with these kinds of shots.


Far Bank

A little further away on the same side of the pond I saw this beautiful moss-covered log.  After scrambling through the undergrowth I realized that beside it was a stone wall.  It fell perfectly perpendicular to it and the lines were irresistible.  When the beavers flooded the area the wall was submerged and this is all you can see from the shore.  Went back to the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm for the wide angle view.

Shallow End

Lines and Angles

Sepia just seems to suit this last one despite some intense color.  Mainly I wanted to emphasize the lines made by the downed tree, the boulders and the trees on the far bank.  I also love the scrim of ice in the foreground.  I’m definitely going back to this location for more exploration.


Walk On By

On the way to the mailbox in the rain I walked by this once –

Walk On By leaf in my driveway

But not twice.

Worlds Within Whorls

Lodgepole pine cone on my front steps.

Olympus E-30 | OM 90mm f2 | ISO 100 | 1/15 | f11

While working on a project/study in my front yard (one that will take me all year to complete) I found this newly-shed specimen.  I was taken by its texture and the spiral emphasized by the process of it opening.  It took several tries to find the right combination of angle and depth of focus, but I think I finally got it.

Oh My Head

Ok…this is not meant to be a gear blog, but I just found a piece of kit that I’m seriously flipped over.  I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up a new tripod & head for macro photography.  The two tripods I have aren’t up to the task.  Neither gets low enough to the ground and one just flat out isn’t heavy enough to support my new camera and old macro lens.

After looking around I’ve been focusing on Manfrotto (my other two pods are an ancient Bogen and a travel-tiny Slik) because of their nifty horizontal capable tripod and multiple head choices.  When I went back to their website the other day, I saw this –

Manfrotto Joystick tripod heads

OMG.  I wasn’t considering a ball head because I find them a bit awkward to manage with a large rig on them.  I was leaning towards Manfrotto’s junior geared head both for its compact design and precision (as macro is my primary target use for this new rig, it’s a great option).  But now this changes everything.

There’s even a little video on Manfrotto’s website showing how you can change the friction and therefore the speed of the ball head.  That squeeze and release mechanism looks slick indeed.  And you can change it from a right hander to a left hander which I might do since even though I’m not left handed I have a lot of dexterity with it.

So I’m going to keep my eyes out for when this puppy releases and see if I can find a store that carries it.  I want to mess with it before I pony up cash, but I’m really jazzed about this design.

The Art of Seeing II

One of my goals is to become a more deliberate photographer; to slow down.  Too many times I’ve rushed through a location, seeing the obvious and shooting what presented itself first.  Yeah sure, a person can get lucky sometimes, but the more I stop and really see, the better photographs I produce.  Also I’ve been holding ideas in my head and returning to a location when the conditions are more favorable.  I’ve never been much of a planner when it comes to photography, but lately I’ve been setting small goals for myself – nothing crazy or elaborate, more like wish fulfillment.  By keeping specific photographs in mind I have fewer distractions in the field and waste far less time.  It has paid off.

I’d walked by this little waterfall a couple of times and had an idea to shoot it, but needed overcast skies, which I was rewarded with this past Sunday.

Motion a deux

Further downstream I noticed the eddies and whirlpools thrown up by other waterfalls…the bubbles on the surface marked where this phenomenon took place.  Ah…long exposures.  That would do the trick.

I knelt down on the far bank and had a look.  Must get that little Charlie Brown tree in.  It’s cute and balances the composition.  Twenty seconds and a bit of tripod contortions later and I achieved this –

Total Perspective Vortex

I can barely tell you how pleased I am with this image.  Just after taking it, a couple of my photographer friends came by and got busy themselves at this same pool.  I changed to a new vantage point and continued to shoot –

High and Low

Drama in Still-life

While shooting these perched on my boulder I chatted with one of my friends who said he was continuing downstream and asked what there was to see.  I told him, but got distracted.  He pushed off, not wanting to wait for me.  No worries.  I had spotted something definitely worth sticking around for –


Getting Close

I’ve always been fascinated with macro photography.  Even got myself a spiffy, world-class macro lens and an extension tube.  But that’s as far as I ever got.  For some reason I’ve never given it serious attention.  I guess it’s all that trial and error with film that got me down.  When I did play with close photography I had more misses than hits and got discouraged.  Ah how digital frees a person.

These are two from the backyard using the above mentioned lens and extension tube.  While I haven’t acquired a flash or a bracket or a new tripod (later maybe) I’m making do with what I have.  Even without the extra equipment there is a lot to remember and incorporate with macro photography.  My biggest weakness is watching the background and foreground elements.  There’s a lot that can show up in a 2D image and be quite distracting.  In person my eyes don’t even pick it up.  Must work on developing new habits.

These flowers are 1 1/2 inches high and about 1/4 inch across.  Really, really tiny.  They are the first to bloom each spring and even though they’re diminutive, insects flock to them for their precious pollen.  You can even see a few grains in the photo.  I decided on a black and white conversion for two reasons; first because it just makes those little white blossoms pop, and second because it’s unusual.  EVERYONE and their mother does flower photography, especially in spring.  It gets boring.  Same shots over and over again.  But a black and white at this level of magnification is different.  And I’m beginning to love the square crop.  With the popularity of 35mm and the aspect ratio it brings, people forgot that there were cameras that shot in a 1:1 ratio.  I love it and try to use it judiciously.

Vanguards of Spring

This next one is really going in the opposite direction in terms of processing and aspect ratio, but the subject matter is a bit different…I hope anyway.  It’s an azalea bud.  The light was perfect even if I had to create some shade with the lens cap.  Once again the Olympus 90mm macro and the 25mm extension tube are a great combination.  The shallow focal field works really well here.  I could have used a reflector here I think.  Must remember.  New habits!

Azalea bud close up

One of my favorite subjects is moss.  I love moss.  I’d rather have moss than lawn.  It’s soft and springy and lush.  What’s not to love?  These are two different kinds (exactly what I don’t know, moss ID guides are thin on the ground) one in shade and one in sun (so hard to manage).  They look like tiny forests or jungles.

Welcome to the Jungle

From the Air

Anyway…that’s what I’ve got so far.  Macro is a challenge, but one I think I’m prepared to meet.

Pay Attention!

One of my greatest challenges as a photographer is recognizing the opportunity for a good image.  Oh sure when you’re at the Grand Canyon you could be Ray Charles (yes I am aware he is dead) and still take one.  I’m talking about the times when you’re not on a photography mission.  No, I’m not one of those people who has a camera on them all the time either.  I just can’t be in photographer mode all the time.

What I’m trying to say is that I am sometimes not so swift on the uptake when great subjects present themselves.  But I was yesterday.  I decided to take some wood in to dry so I could have a fire later in the evening.  Donning shoes and coat I headed to the woodpile in the rain.  On my second trip I pulled out a piece and noticed the tiniest clusters of mushrooms – three in a row – clinging to the edge.  Carefully I took it inside the garage and arranged it with some other wood and voila –

Three Amigos

Each little cluster is about 1/2 inch wide.  Using the zoom feature in Live View I was able to minutely focus my gorgeously sharp Olympus 90mm macro lens.  A bit of curves adjustment in Lightroom and I’m done.

This next one was a few inches away on the opposite side of the same log.  It’s about 3/4 of an inch wide…maybe a tad smaller.  A few of my neighbors drove by while I was taking these and I wonder what kind of nut they thought I’d become standing over firewood with a tripod in the doorway of the garage.

Last Rites

Bah…what do I care what they think?  If I hadn’t been paying attention I would never have seen these little wonders in the woodpile and not had the opportunity to show them in all their diminutive beauty.  Lesson learned.

Breaking out of the routine

So while I was out the other day, I found this marsh full of overblown, overwintered cattails.  I decided to spend some time shooting them with a lens I don’t use all that often – my 65-200mm manual Olympus lens.  On my E-30 it covers a range equivalent to 130-400mm in 35mm film format or full frame, so it’s got a lot of reach.  Despite what some say, many legacy lenses are extremely sharp, well made and suit digital photography just fine.   Many of them are bargains to boot.   So I decided to leave it on and see what I could do with it.

This is wide open (f4) and at or close to maximum zoom.  Something I never would have achieved with the 60mm (120mm in film) end of my normal lens.  I really like the selective focus of the wide aperture and the very OOF background.  It lends to the overblown quality and drowsy feeling the cattails have at end of season.

Winter Cattails

With the zoom at about the half-way mark, we get a bit wider field of view that includes snow on the frozen marsh.  I shifted back and forth until I found the right shape in the cattail clusters, stopping the lens down one to f5.6.  The contrast with the dark brown and golden colors is particularly nice, but what really makes it is that strip of dark brown at the top.  It’s the far bank and I included it to keep a viewer’s eyes in the frame.  I really like this shot.

Cattails in snow

And last but not least, a vertical orientation in black and white.  It’s another example of why it’s important to look back when you’re leaving a location.  You never know what you’ll see and some of my very best photos come from having just one look back.  This time I spotted a little parting in the rushes.  Really I think I’d only have spotted it because of the snow.  Once I did though, I flipped the camera on its side and found a good composition keeping the far bank in the shot to add depth and perspective, this time stopping down to f8 or so to get a few more of the individual stalks in focus.  When I saw it again in Lightroom I decided to do a b&w conversion to emphasize the marvelous tonal range of this photo.

The Parting

Part of what I love about my style of photography is that I get to spend time in quiet, natural places studying what I find around me.  Sometimes when I use an lens I don’t often reach for it opens up a whole new world; a new perspective.  Limiting myself to just this lens helped me find compositions I might otherwise have not seen with my usual 12-60mm ZD lens.  I really should do it more often.

Raging Falls

Even though I haven’t been posting, I have been shooting.  Went to a new location yesterday at dawn and I think I might go back soon as I have other things I want to try.

Yeah, it’s another river in winter, but the rough beauty of places like this just gets to me.  The noise of the crashing water, the evergreens crowding close, the challenge of that massive dynamic range coupled with slow exposures.  Lots of fun.

I loved this one for the axe blade-like rock formation by the tree and the small fall right beneath it.

On Edge

Nearby was a rocky cascade with the most beautiful shape.  I was down the bank in a flash to set up the tripod as high as it would go.  B&W conversion and a square crop really maximize the shapes.


Black and white is just perfect for a lot of winter river work.  The dynamic range is at its maximum with the added snow and it heightens the drama of just about any photo.


That’s not to say I don’t love color.  This next photo in particular has a lot of punch; starting with that kick of green at the top which brings out the richness in the browns in the trees and rocks.  Initially I was drawn to this scene by the little rivulet snaking down the rock face on the left.  Then I stood and took in the whole scene and loved the way each terrace faces the viewer and the brook just curves away and out of sight.

Rocky Descent

It’s March now, and with the approach of spring these falls will be even more dramatic once the snowmelt is underway and the new greenery unfurls, but they still offer some gorgeous treks through the woods and are worth visiting.