Besides finding interesting ice formations, winter is a great time to play with shadows. With enough snow, the low angle of the sun makes this something you can do almost all day. Just recently I posted a forest landscape with shadows that brought out the contours and the silky texture of the snowpack. You can also use a landscape view to emphasize the contours of the objects casting the shadows. Apple trees are perfect for this kind of thing because they’re so gnarled and twisted.
If you start to limit the angle of view with shadow photos, you can bring an abstract art quality to the image that is especially fun to play with.
Playing with processing is part of creating an even more dramatic image. Here is a light selenium tone treatment. I chose this technique to preserve the feeling of lightness I get from the photo. The delicacy of the shadows and the birch. Traditional monochrome or sepia didn’t preserve the mood so I tried different things until I found something that worked. Never be afraid to experiment!
Man made objects can work for this as well like this bench I found in a small park in Manchester, NH.
And of course you don’t have to convert everything to monochrome. Even in the dead of winter there are subtleties of color to capture. The sun had barely risen when I found these tracks winding through the trees; the warm yellow sky reflects beautifully in the snow.
Even a tiny fern sprig can be interesting with the right background. I just love the differences in intensity between the shadowed snow and the lit snow.
I was struck by the geometry in this next scene and so perched on a large rock to frame a more abstract view of how the shadows and reflections intersect with the trees themselves.
So if winter hasn’t drawn to a close where you are, maybe try some shadow play yourself.
After a colorless winter and a dive straight into spring with all its rainbow colors, I sometimes come off a color binge and process a series of monochrome images. Usually I try for something with lots of interesting texture and a definitive structure and these leaves are perfect. I have no idea what they are, but I like them and the water still clinging after the rain is what makes the images really work. At least to me. All shot w/the OM 90mm macro at varying apertures.
And if you can figure out where the titles come from and why I used them now (without Googling) you get bonus points!
The Piscataquog is my favorite river. I know, weird, huh? It’s an important waterway not only for people, but for many animals and plants that thrive in the ancient glacial habitats along its course. It has 3 branches (north, middle and south), runs for 57 miles with little interruption and its name translates from a local Indian dialect as The Great Deer Place or The Place for Many Deer.
Over the last couple hundred years, many local towns have sprung up on its banks using its regular and forceful flow to power mills, one of which is said to have been the very first shoe factory in the United States. Only remnants remain and much of the land around the 3 branches is officially protected. Each branch has unique geological features which I’m exploring as a project of sorts.
This is the only gorge so far as I can tell and unfortunately most of it is covered in no trespassing signs so I didn’t explore where it was prohibited. I hope someday easements can be granted to allow hikers and of course, photographers. : ) It is on the south branch and is on the border of two towns – Lyndeborough and New Boston.
The bridge in this shot used to connect the two ends of High Bridge road, but is now unsafe as the decking has rotted and there are many holes and the iron supports have rusted to lace in some spots. When a horse put its foot through in the mid 1990s, the bridge closed and has remained so. There is a project underway to raise funds for its restoration, but they have a long way to go. Further downstream is another set of gentle falls as well –
Over the coming months I hope to continue to explore different branches of the Piscataquog. I already have a few scouted and am waiting for some ferns to grow in, etc. There are some flood areas called eskers I want to try to locate as well, so hopefully you will like what’s to come as I explore.
From this morning. I couldn’t resist the patterns or the light.
Fall is one of the most productive…well, if I can call it that, times for me as a photographer. There are so many things that catch my eye and the season is so volatile that there is a surprise almost every day. Here’s a few of my favorite catches.
Early in October things are still relatively mild and all kinds of delicate things still thrive –
But as unexpected things go, one of the prettiest is this –
It’s pretty, but so, so destructive, too –
But at this time of year, it doesn’t last –
and paradise returns –
but the mystery doesn’t end –
Up until recently, I’ve been a catch-as-catch-can type of photographer. If I was going somewhere, I took my camera and tried for photos as I went. Rarely did I return to a location to do better or capture a different aspect of the place. Now though, I understand what scouting a location can do. Remember that old slogan the Boy Scouts used, be prepared? Or maybe it was Outward Bound. Whatever it was, scouting helps me do that really well; be prepared. I have no idea why I didn’t do it before. Just lazy I suppose. Now though, even if I don’t come away with the best portfolio-making shot on earth, I find just being in a location valuable enough to make it worth my effort.
The more familiar you are with locations near you, the more confident you’ll be going into the field. I’ve got shot list in my head and a ton of trail maps in my glove compartment so I’m never short of ideas. In New England we’re lucky to have distinct seasons and the changes that come are big ones. Locations look completely different and it’s an adventure to capture all aspects of them. And don’t forget local meet-ups. I love both being introduced to a new location by someone, and sharing one that might be new to others. We always have fun and it’s great to see how differently we view the same place at the same time.
Sunday for example, I met up with a photographer friend to take advantage of sunrise side-light at another Nature Conservancy Preserve – Lubberland Creek in Durham, NH. It’s part of the Great Bay estuary and is mostly a tidal wetland full of grasses, reeds, flowers, birds and oh yeah, poison ivy. That evil vine aside, the place is lovely and has potential for future sunrises when the sun is in a better position and when there are clouds in the sky. I think it would even work well for sunsets. There’s a beautiful island in the mouth of the creek’s delta and boy won’t that be great at high tide. I’ve really got to get some waders or at least knee-height rubber boots so I can go in the really squishy parts. As it was today I got my shoes pretty soaked, but that was probably more because of the dew than anything.
Watching the light on the grasses was pretty wonderful even it it wasn’t dramatic –
I was fascinated by how the light transformed the scene and of course I got down for some bokeh action –
If you’ve got your Sherlock Holmes hat on, you’ll notice the difference in the bokeh between those two shots. It’s part of what fascinates me about using extreme bokeh and pinpoints of light, like these dewdrops. The shapes of the aperture blades in the lenses is different and gives you different looks. The blades in my Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm are round and the blades in my 80s vintage Olympus Zuiko 65-200mm are octagonal. Oh and I used the close focus feature of that old lens, something I don’t do very often, and I think it came out really well. After playing with the depth of focus for a few frames, I decided this mid-point approach was best. It was tough finding a section of grasses that went all the same way. Reaching in and even delicately removing a blade going the wrong way would make all the dew fall off and ruin the shot. I think my shooting buddy Jeff found out the same thing and if anyone was watching us we must have been pretty comical.
It was all about texture, light and patterns and I think even monochrome works well –
So now that I’ve scouted it, I’ve got ideas brewing for other shots I’d like to get. Frost and snow in winter. A dreamy sunrise with fog. Now I just need to spend a little time with The Photographer’s Ephemeris…
Late last year I visited a nearby Nature Conservancy property called The Cedar Swamp Preserve. Yeah, real romantic sounding place, right? Well it’s got two great things going for it – Atlantic White Cedars and Great Laurel or Giant Rhododendron as it’s sometimes called. This is a small preserve jammed between huge condo developments, some commercial operations and an abandoned-before-it-was-built college campus. Lucky for me it’s only 15 minutes from my house. I’m very grateful for its presence.
I have a thing for trees. Not hugging or anything too silly, but a reverence for what they are and what they do. How long they live and how symbiotic our relationships to them are. I wish I still had my 10-year-old body and mind so I could keep climbing them. I am always saddened by the sight of a full logging truck. I think of the animals and birds dependent on those trees and how they’ve been destroyed. Sometimes when I see a particularly wonderful tree, I put my hand on it and feel the wind vibrate through it. I especially like to find trees that are extraordinary for their size or their mere existence. Like these Atlantic White Cedars for which the land was set aside.
According to the website, these trees are quite rare around the world and this 42-acre stand is part of only 550 total acres in NH. This swamp is the most northern of all Atlantic White Cedar swamps and also has a black gum tree which I have yet to actually find. The walkways are a bit treacherous in places, but I haven’t taken a dunk yet. Neither has my tripod which is too big for the planks. I do like taking a stroll through though. Check out those cinnamon ferns!
So the other thing that makes this special (and me glad that UNH chose the mill buildings in Manchester) is the Great Laurel or Giant Rhododendron. In all my wanderings and hikes I’ve never seen these anywhere else up here (except some cultivated plants which might be variations on the wild species). They’re giant, ghostly and faintly primordial trees. Much bigger than mountain laurel they can grow to 35 feet high. I wished for a taller tripod or a stepladder while photographing them, so much of the drama seemed to be taking place far above my head.
I missed the blooming last year and was determined to get there at the right time this year. Unfortunately because of the weird, wet spring we had, wildflower timing was all over the place and I had to keep coming back and back and back to check on the blossoms. The last time I did the bud casings were soft and springy to the touch, so I knew the time was near.
Each time I visited the groves, ideas would start to coalesce. I envisioned black and white primarily because the canopy above these huge bushes obscures a lot of light and I could play up their natural drama. And because when they do bloom, the flower clusters seem to hover in space a bit against their dark leaves.
But the light was amazing and so soft that I couldn’t resist doing some in color as well.
I had the idea of heading over just after dropping my husband at the airport at 6:30 am. Like I’ve been trying to do all year, I wanted to incorporate more dappled sunlight in my images. The low-angled, early morning sun was perfect. I couldn’t believe the wind was so still either. Wind! The bane of my existence. But it was still; just a breath. A perfect storm of conditions. Just look at the texture and depth the sun adds. And that subtle blush of color. OMG.
Sometimes when I’ve got an idea in my head for months and I finally get to execute on it, I’m disappointed, but not with these. I’m so happy they came out the way I thought they might; better even. It’s stuff like that that makes me light up inside.
So for you technical peeps here’s the skinny. I used my normal rig; Olympus E-30 and ZD 12-60mm lens. No polarizer since the leaves are so beautifully shiny; like rubber almost and they catch the light to give depth to the shots. Lugged my ancient Bogen tripod since it is the taller of the two I own. I exposed for the highlights which is part of the reason there’s so much detail in the whites. I find the E-30 and most other modern digital cameras can hold lot of detail in the shadows, more than the highlights, so I just watched the clipping blinkies in Live View and held them down. Processing-wise the monochromes are pretty basic, just some stretching of curves to emphasize certain tones in certain shots. The color shots had a bit of vibrance intensity added and some white balance adjustments. Not much cropping post-capture on any of them.
The woods and forests are magical to me and when I can capture that I’m so pleased. I hope you enjoy it, too.
The weather and the hordes of mosquitoes have kept me from doing a lot of shooting, but I have been out. The thing is that the shots don’t really seem to go together. Then I had a morbid thought about some of them. Poison mushrooms and grave stones. Heh. It’s ridiculously me and goes with the Wicked Dark thing. So without further ado –
An online photographer friend said that he doesn’t do much black and white landscape work because he feels he needs the color to be there because it was there. I agree with him up to a point. No, I’m no Ansel Adams, but I do like how a black and white photograph can work when the major elements come together.
My job as a photographer is to make you see, not just make you look and I’m afraid that color sometimes gets in the way of that. It makes you look, but often you still can’t see. Our wondrous human brains are really keyed to color. So much so that I can force you through a photograph the way I want you to experience it without you even knowing. Sometimes that works, but sometimes we are distracted by color. We don’t see the other “hidden” strengths of a photograph unless we’ve spent a lot of hours studying them and getting past the ‘ooh pretty colors’ thing.
Another online photographer blog I follow features a lot of monochrome images of the Eastern Sierras and while I am not emulating his style, I was mindful of how he presented things with his photos. This country was made for B&W as the early landscape photographers have shown. As a non-native, I didn’t make intimate portraits of high desert and snowy mountains. Instead I tried to capture what awes me about the western United States. My husband and I love it out there and I can only think of two major vacations spent east of the the Mississippi. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite B&W images from my trip –
Rock Creek Lake in Inyo County. Still in the grip of winter in late May. I had to stop the car and shoot this. The clarity of the air was amazing. It was cold, sunny and invigorating. Incredible that the lake ice is just breaking up.
Next is a microscape (what, you thought I gave those up?) featuring some tiny flowers that looked like stranded water lilies to me. They were on slopes where we stopped on our way to the bristlecone pine forest. It’s probably 9,000 feet in elevation here and there were still patches of snow in the shade.
Near Mono Lake (post coming, I promise) are the Mono Craters, remnants of the volcanoes that created the valley eons ago. Snaking through the desert are many roads winding around sagebrush and poking into canyons. A year or two ago they had a fire and, boy, was it eerie. Nothing living as far as you could see. No sound except the incredibly fierce wind that picked up handfuls of pumice dust and flung it. Good thing there was no need to change lenses. Processing-wise I didn’t really do anything to this one. I liked the conversion the way it came out and I left it pretty much alone.
Believe me when I say this was by far the best road we’d been on since leaving the pavement that day. It’s West Portal Road and it used to lead to mining camps that sprang up in the 19th century. Now it leads to other roads that wind their way into the canyons of the Mono Craters. I felt that a sepia tone would work really well here and low and behold –
This next one is Convict Lake. The water is a crystal aqua blue and so clear that I wished for a wider angle lens to get more of the submerged rocks in the shot (this was at my widest 12mm or 24mm in 35mm film terms). The lake was named after an incident in 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, led by Sheriff Robert Morrison, encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Morrison was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison was named after him. That’s it on the left. I never did really capture the color of the water and so with it being so-so and a distraction, I deleted it.
This next one was taken just as we started to climb Black Point on the shores of Mono Lake. It’s a volcano remnant, too, and a quite easy climb. The pumice here is very dark and despite the sky being a brilliant blue, I decided on monochrome to bring out the texture and highlight the huge tonal range in this photo. I messed with some color sliders as usual to bring up some contrasts and used the graduated filter a bit, too.
I didn’t envision each on in monochrome specifically, but I knew instinctively that pretty much anything I shot would work as long as it had white and black and so…