Yeah, I know I just wrote a whole big post about black and white photography and how awesome it is, but now I’m starting to crave color. It’s the precursor to spring fever. Happens every year. I try not to let it get to me, but some days I just feel like these leaves –
Kind of dried up and in suspended animation. Drained of vitality. Especially when we get a teaser day that ends up feeling like spring.
I tried to put it out of my mind though and focus on what was cool and interesting about winter. What’s special and unique to that season only. The trees seem to have more patience with it than I do.
When I spied this wood duck house in the undergrowth, I knew I had the tail of it. In any other season this would have been hidden. Unphotographable. Undiscoverable. Unknown.
I’m so glad I found it. The discovery put a spring back into my step. More a leisurely stroll. A hit of joy. That little spark that photography puts in all of us, that you’ve found something worthy of preserving. Something unexpected. Something to tide me over until the greening.
I can’t help it. Discouraged and in my weird place I still had the urge to go out after a storm and take pictures of my front garden. The process itself made me happy and that hasn’t changed.
I basically just walked the driveway and the shoveled path and used the legacy OM 90mm f2 lens. The light was lovely and it was freezing, but I enjoyed myself. That’s important, but this new feeling of purposelessness is not good. I used to shoot for it’s own sake, but now it seems empty somehow. I don’t know if it will wear off or if this is really the impetus to take the next step and try to make this into a business. A small one anyway. But will that remove the enjoyment? See…this is what I’m bent around the axle about. Part of it anyway.
Part of the joy of shooting in the winter in New England is dealing with the cold. Mostly it’s just a matter of the right clothing, but a photographer lives and dies by her eyes and her hands and it’s the hands that suffer most. I think I need to get some of those pocket chemical hand warmers because damn, it’s freezing out there.
The other day I went to shoot this sunset on the nearby lake Massabesic.
It freezes pretty solid in the winter, but wasn’t quite there yet. It was making lots of noise though – cracking and groaning as if trying to have a conversation. I love the noises it makes. Still the ice that was there was interesting which was good because the only clouds in the sky were at the horizon. Those slightly higher ones above were there at first, but the wind pushed them out of the scene. It was the wind that killed me. By the time I shot these –
my fingertips were so numb I couldn’t turn on my headlamp for the hike back to the car. I had to put my thumb in my mouth to get the feeling back. I did warm up on the way back though, and so it wasn’t permanent, but wow, I haven’t been that cold in a while. Looking back on it, I should have worn some long underwear under my pants, but I didn’t. Torso-wise I was pretty well covered. Brain fade. I’ve been meaning to slap some pipe insulation in my tripod legs, but keep forgetting that, too. Constant contact with that frigid aluminum is hard on the fingers. Getting back into the swing of winter takes me a while I guess. Winter photography is its own reward, but I really shouldn’t put myself at risk the way I do.
Anyway, these were shot with my E-30 and ZD 12-60mm as usual and I overexposed by about a stop for each one. I dragged my old Bogen tripod because it’s better in the field than my travel one and I wasn’t walking far. I also used a polarizer and an 8-stop graduated ND filter. I recently read on another photography blog how passe these are, but I disagree. The author went on to say that he’d manipulated his final images with Photomatix. How is that different from manipulating them in the field (apart from my frozen fingers that is)? I can’t say I see any difference in the result. Use the tools that work for you I say.
And stay warm!
Keep your spring down there.
Went hiking yesterday. Mt. Cardigan is an easy climb in pretty much every sense of the word so we weren’t expecting anything approaching an adventure. We hadn’t counted on snow. What fell as rain down here landed as snow up there. Temps meant that once again ice and snow on trees would be bombarding us from above. Oh and the trail would be muddy and running with water. Hooray for Goretex!!
Anyway, it wasn’t a total loss, these are all almost straight out of the camera, color adjustment (greens got totally blown) and clarity/sharpness –
They don’t call it The Granite State for nothing –
Approaching the summit tower –
Up here it was windy as hell. Looking at the snow on the cairn, it looks like it’s moving. The trees below do an incredible job of sheltering the trail, but up here is a different story. When we actually got to the tower the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to walk against it. Because I (stupidly) forgot my gloves in the car I got very cold very fast and didn’t have the dexterity to take more than a couple of lousy photos. Damn it was cold. So much for spring at the top of Mt. Cardigan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 –
I liked the duality of these two branches –
and now for the big picture –
Dead trees make such bold statements…and that sky!
The backlit snow caught my attention and the shadowed background sets it off perfectly –
A last look over my shoulder –
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.
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.
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.
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.
These lovely girls are at the end of my street…they posed for me so nicely.
Another tree in the neighborhood on the same day. The light lasted just about an hour and then clouds moved in.
This last one is from this weekend. I was lying down in a mostly frozen brook with my head on a comfy rock.
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.
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.
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.