to paraphrase Robert Burns. Sorry, Bob.
With all the tools at our disposal now like Photographer’s Ephemeris and just plain Google maps, we can really get a handle on a location, the light and how best to showcase both. In our minds we envision the photographs we want to take. We move the pin all over the map deciding on the best vantage point. We make ‘shot lists’.
This morning I set out for Lubberland Creek Preserve with visions of a lovely saltmarsh sunrise in my head. I knew just the spot. Saw that a certain little island would be backlit perfectly this time of year. Felt that the marsh itself would be frozen enough that I could walk out and not get my feet soaked. I hoped for a bit of mist or frost or both. Maybe even deer in the meadow. And clouds. Don’t forget clouds. The forecast called for partly cloudy, so things would be perfect.
Then shit happens.
Yah. It’s inevitable, right?
First I was low on gas and had to stop. After a false start at an exit that only had a single gas station – closed! – I lost a few minutes there and at the station that was open. By the time I got to the preserve, I was running late. I could see color in the sky and it was building. But wait…where are the clouds?? Well no worries, maybe there will be some mist, fog or dare I hope? – deer in the meadow. Ok deer, where are you? Didn’t you get my memo? And wouldn’t you know it, above freezing so no mist, no fog no nothing.
What’s a photographer to do?
Find something else!
With the rest of nature doing its best to thwart me (it feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?), I had to regroup really fast. For a few minutes I found myself falling into the trap I wrote about in my last post. My pre-determined shot list wasn’t materializing and I didn’t have a fall back position. So I just stood and looked for a while and realized where my eyes were going.
The light in the grasses was beautiful. And the contrasting colors really worked well…finally nature was giving me a little break!
I changed lenses to my old 90mm f2 so I could have a bit more reach and just kept crunching over the reeds and grasses, hunting for new compositions and arrangements while the light lasted.
I had a great time until the light ran out. When I got home and saw what I had, I was very happy that Lightroom helped me keep the processing uniform so as to bring the images together as a set. No, I didn’t get precisely what I wanted, but I did get something worthwhile and pushed myself to find it. I’m content. Besides, it’s not like it’s going anywhere and I can always have a do-over!
My husband is a runner and goes to races in the area. Sometimes I go with him if there’s something interesting to photograph in the vicinity. On New Year’s Day he went to Salisbury Massachusetts and so I went to walk the Old Eastern Marsh Trail that runs about a mile and a quarter. I wore the completely wrong shoes and ended up with wet feet from the sloppy slush, but I did get some gems –
I did a bit of research and found that the Great Marsh is the largest uninterrupted stretch of salt marsh in New England. It is protected to preserve habitat for all kinds of birds, fish and other wildlife. The Merrimack River empties here and so there are many tributaries in the delta, some of them still with open water making for some great reflections.
At one time people harvested hay from the marsh, and although there weren’t any staddles that I could see, there was this lone fence post. I really liked it with the cattails and grasses all matted down. As it was a bit far off and I couldn’t get closer I used the legacy Olympus 135mm f2.8 lens.
It looks like last year there was a boat tour of the marsh and I’ll have to remember that for this coming summer. Alive with birds the Great Marsh must be wonderful.
So I finally got myself to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newbury, Mass. I’ve only lived an hour and ten away from it my whole life and not gone. No idea why other than laziness. At first I was a bit bummed that it wasn’t sunny, but then I quickly changed my mind.
Almost all other photos I’ve seen from Plum Island are on sunny days with clouds and blue skies. The fogginess of the shots I got tell another story and capture an entirely different mood. It was raining when I shot the 2nd and 3rd one here, but they were worth getting out of the car for. The mysterious shapes in the fog give the photos depth and mood. I quite like them.
I will definitely go back though – even if it’s not foggy. Maybe for one of the first snows.
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.
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.
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.
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.