Posts tagged “morning

Fog is a photographer’s best friend

And we don’t hang out enough.

The other day I literally made myself go out in the morning before the fog burned off. I left it too late (of course…I’m so damn lazy) and didn’t get as much as I wanted to, but it was a productive 90 minutes. Next time I’ll move my ass earlier.

The rush to belong

This next one looks like I used a sepia or similar kind of treatment in post-processing, but I didn’t. I tweaked the white balance/color temperature a bit to bring up the golden-brown richness, but that was it. Both these shots are handheld, too, which not something I do a lot of anymore, but since it was pretty bright and I knew the images wouldn’t be wicked crisp or have lots of depth of field because of the fog, I left the tripod in the car. This little marsh (which even has some resident beavers) is just down the road from me and on the backside of the airport and next to an auto salvage yard. It’s a popular fishing spot, too. People just park and stand on the side of the road. Pretty amazing it’s not a poisoned mess by now.

Ode to Sorrow

As I said, I didn’t move my ass fast enough and so a lot of the fog in the forest had already burned off. In my drive around I noticed that some areas burn off much faster than others. Even shallow depressions in the overall landscape hold fog much longer. I should have checked out a couple cemeteries, but as I said, I was lazy. Not so lazy that I didn’t use the tripod for this one –

Corridors of Power

Confession time.

Sometimes even though I call myself a photographer, I don’t see all the time. I look, but I don’t see. There’s a difference.

In my town we have a lot of apple orchards. So many that you can hardly drive anywhere without passing lots and lots of trees. I see them all the time and I’ve even shot in an orchard or two, but I never realized what great foliage they have. As a nature photographer (with a cemetery fixation, sure) I often ignore man-made landscapes. Stupid. At least in this case. Just because it’s not a natural landscape doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. Leaves on the trees, fog in the air, frost on the grass – what’s not to love?

Inheritance

Sorry I haven’t been more productive lately. The camera went in the shop for a while and the new job eats into my shooting time. I hope once spring has sprung that I’ll be out and about more. I do miss it even though I’m pretty busy most of the time now. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

 


Elusive Wildflowers Part 5 – Grass Pinks

Elusive in the sense that they require a specific and rare habitat, not that I don’t have them nearby or that they are scarce in that location.  I’m lucky.  I live near a kettle bog (two actually, but one has more trail, luckily the closer one).  A kettle bog, named for the shape of the depression in the earth it takes up, is generally very old (Ponemah bog is about 12,000 years old), was created during an ice age, has no incoming supply of water other than from rain and also has no outlet for that water other than evaporation.  Over time it will shrink and shrink until there’s nothing left.  Until then though, there are tons of relatively exclusive plants that you can find an enjoy in a bog.  Too bad the word bog isn’t is pretty as one actually is.  Typically a bog is not a nutrient rich environment, so the kinds of plants that live in one are adapted to this low-cal diet.  Most of the flowers are pink and one of the showiest is grass pink, a type of orchid.  Pardon the all portrait orientation – the landscape shots just didn’t work.

Victory Lap

So we all get together

Because the path is a wooden walkway that is sunk deep into the vegetation and water of the bog itself, it’s not possible to step off the path without getting very wet.  Plus stepping off will damage fragile plants and animals so even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t.  Being stuck on the walkway though limits the photographic possibilities somewhat.  And often times I couldn’t do the amount of scene-clean I wanted to do in order to eliminate distracting elements.  But that’s the beauty of things sometimes; nature is messy.

Silent Devotion

All of these were shot on a tripod using the OM 90mm macro.  Apertures were between 5.6 and 8.  I did a little tweaking in Lightroom, but not much – mostly for color correction since dawn light seems to be tough for a digital sensor.  Luckily the wind was very calm and the lighting was totally lickable.  The dew was pure luck though.  I forgot that it was rather chilly last night and there was even fog over the pond itself.  I only had eyes for these beauties though and even tried one with the newly-risen sun straight on.  The blossoms themselves are only about an inch at their widest and I’m glad I caught them at the beginning of their bloom cycle so that there aren’t old flowers hanging on the stalks.

For the Goddess

It’s a tiny bit bright, but that’s how it was; bright, clear and fresh, with birds singing.  Something right out of a Disney movie (but without talking rodents).


Do you fuel your fire?

Do you fuel your fire or let it go out?

Today I went with a friend to shoot the sunrise.  I know this lake fairly well and know how few places there are with compelling or even just plain usable foreground elements.  It’s always a tough shoot unless you have a lot of time or have scouted beforehand.  With my friend’s back being very painful, I knew we couldn’t walk far from the parking lot and I hoped against hope I’d find something, but doubted I would.

What an attitude huh?  I’d practically given up before I’d even started.  Whatta dope.

It got worse.  I actually took the filter holder off my camera and put the whole rig away!  I stood around chatting with Denise about how I wasn’t feeling it.  She was moving around and trying things.  What the hell was I doing?  Being an idiot.

So I decided that was stupid and went off hunting.  Down by the foundation of an old boathouse I found something…not quite in time for the pre-dawn light, but in time to catch the sun as it crested and lit up the reeds in the foreground.  I was thrilled to find that crack in the ice, too.  It won’t win any awards, but it isn’t crap either. Finding it made the whole morning worth it and I felt instantly better.  Suddenly I was a photographer again.

Eternal Quest

I’m glad I made the effort.  I wasn’t feeling it when I got to the location, but neither was I trying to feel it.  I wasn’t fueling my fire, I was letting it die.  Some photographer, huh?   How many times have you been tempted to give in and stop shooting when you get on location?  Do you work your way through it or do you tell yourself you’re being a discerning photographer and not wasting your time?  Attitude and expectations are everything on some shoots.  Don’t give up.  Go hunting. Stay engaged.  Look around. Fuel your fire!


It’s the little differences

Ah that famous scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent enumerates the little differences between the US and Amsterdam.  I had a similar experience recently and no, it didn’t involve Burger King either.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I practically live in the woods. It started when I was a kid.  No amount of fairy tales would keep me out.  (what was it with making the woods scary or having scary things happen in the woods all the time?   Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, even the Three Pigs had a rough time of it there.)  Anyway…I love the woods and so when I tagged along on one of my husband’s most recent business trips I knew that’s where I’d go on my day alone while he went to his meeting.

I decided to go to the Long Hunter State park just outside of Nashville.  The trail I picked was called the Day Loop Trail and I thought it would be long enough to take up a few hours.  Also I thought it would be interesting enough with parts overlooking the reservoir itself and the rest in the forest.  After getting turned around a bit and taking a while to find the trailhead which isn’t in the main part of the park, I set off on my hike.

Timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  First – the foliage was at its peak, second – the temperature and humidity were ideal, and third – I was basically alone. While hiking this 5-mile loop I only saw 3 other people. Perfect!

The first thing that struck me as different was the rocks. Well, duh.  I’m used to granite.  They don’t call NH the Granite State for nothing.  The stuff is everywhere.  Most mountain trails wind through long strings of boulders. Huge granite ledges and outcrops give the land its uneven character.  In TN that granite is replaced by limestone.  It is just as ubiquitous, but looks much different.  A lot of it is carved by ancient winds and water and there are strange holes in some of it.  The way it is worn away at the surface and can sometimes run in shelves and seams was different, too.  After a while though, it was eerie not having miles and miles of stonewall accompanying me through the forest.  In New England you can’t go ten feet without tripping over one.  While our soils are fertile, the land is so strewn with boulders it has to be cleared before it can be tilled.  Rock walls not only got the stupid things out of the way, but they also helped establish boundaries for land owners. A lot of land now set aside for conservation was once farmland so the walls are everywhere.  Not so in this part of Tennessee.

The second thing that struck me was the undergrowth, or rather the lack of it (at least in this section of the park).  I don’t say that there was NO undergrowth, but sometimes it seemed that way.  I’m used to ferns by the thousands. Hobble bush.  Blueberries and raspberries.  Laurels of several varieties.  Maple leaf viburnum.  Witch hazel.  All kinds of undergrowth make up the NH forest.  So when I’d come across patches like these, it startled me –

Tennessee Morning

Progenitor

Like I said, not all of it was bare, I found this glorious swath of vinca minor which must be amazing in the spring when it blooms –

Yellow above, green below

So no ferns to photograph and weirdly, no mushrooms either.  Plenty of trees though and while most of them were yellow, some weren’t –

Heavenward

Sherbet surprise

Speaking of trees.  Here’s the last thing that kind of freaked me out a bit.  All through this part of the woods there wasn’t a single pine tree.  Not one.  No firs.  No hemlocks.  No pines.  No spruces.  No cedars.  Well, ok, red cedar, but it’s really a mis-identified juniper so doesn’t really count.  I didn’t see a single pinecone.  Very, very strange for this northerner.  Lots of deciduous like maple, oak, shagbark hickory and sycamore, but strangely no birches, aspens, poplars or beeches.  Again, odd for this little gray duck.

Unfortunately, the light wasn’t great for views of the lake, but I did like the way some folks had tipped up these slabs of limestone –

what is it with people and rocks?

In New England we stack up rocks along the trail (and especially on mountaintops) to make little cairns.  People just love rocks and piling them up on each other.  Funny.

Oh and here’s someone I ran into…well almost ran into on the trail.

Southern Belle

She was so different from the orb weavers we have up here that I wished I could have photographed her closely and better, but the wind was relentless and so I had to go for a wide open, high-speed silhouette instead.  I do wicked love that her jaws are silhouetted as well.  Pure luck.

And so ends my wonderful, magical and eye-opening hike through some of Tennessee’s beautiful forests.  Oh wait, let’s take one look back –

Headrush


I live in New England

If you didn’t know before, you know now –

Old Jaffrey Meetinghouse in the early morning sun


The Power of Scouting

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 –

Transitions - before the sun crested the trees

Old Wonders in the New World - after the sun crested the trees

I was fascinated by how the light transformed the scene and of course I got down for some bokeh action –

Somnambulist's Dilemma

Dreaming with One Eye Open

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 –

May Today Become the Day

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…


Mono Lake and Musings on Travel Photography

So I’ve been thinking about this blog post and putting it off because I didn’t have an angle, a theme or a cohesive idea to pull it together.  As with a lot of my writing it just needed time to brew, like a good pot of French Press coffee.  (Four minutes with 200 degree water and fresh ground Starbucks coffee, preferably a darker roast like Sumatra (my current fave) or Italian roast.)  After a few days, I realized what’s really been rattling around in my head – the differences between travel photography and home turf photography.

A little while ago I wrote about The Art of the Do-Over and how that takes some of the pressure off getting the “perfect” shot.  And in the Are We Blind article I showed two shots of the same waterfall separated by about a year of serious shooting.  Knowing that you can easily go back to a location and get the shot you missed is an immense comfort.  You can control the light by watching the weather.  You can control the time of day you shoot.  You can control the equipment you have with you.  And last, you bring your experience and knowledge to the shoot; you know what you’re after and you know the location from having shot it before.  All really fine circumstances, but travel photography is different.

Spacegirl Blues

Travel photography is loaded with pressure.  With angst.  Will I get that iconic photo?  Will I be able to document what it was really like to be in this place?  Will I just get “tourist snaps”?  Will I find some hidden wonder no one’s ever shot before?  Will I get up for the perfect sunrise?  Will I have enough memory cards?  It’s a crazy, anxiety producing time for a serious photographer, even when it’s supposed to be relaxing.  Oh the things we do to ourselves.

There’s an old adage that says familiarity breeds contempt, but I try not to let that happen.  Familiarity can also breed ideas and a level of comfort with the area that the travel photographer doesn’t have.  My biggest hurdle on vacation is not being familiar with the location.  Oh sure you can use online maps and specialized programs like The Photographer’s Ephemeris, but they can only do so much.  Like when you drive and drive to reach a sunset location only to find the river in shackles provided by the Los Angeles water department.  Or when you get up before the sun and drive to what you think will be the perfect beach only to find there’s a huge fence and the gate is locked.  Yeah, that kind of thing.  Being a native is a tremendous advantage in any setting and I can see why photographers hire guides to help them find the best locations.  But I’m on vacation, not a photo shoot and I have to be mindful that my husband has different ideas about fun and relaxation.  Learn to let it go if a shot just doesn’t come together perfectly.  If a location doesn’t turn out to be as good as advertised.  If you have to make do with something other than your ideal.  Let.  It.  Go.

Gemini Spacecraft

And then there’s the weather.  You’re only going to be in that spot for a short amount of time so you take what you get.  Hopefully it’s something you can manage and work with instead of against.  I ruined one whole vacation’s worth of shooting by fighting the light instead of managing it to advantage.  Clouds don’t show up for your sunrise…find something else.  Too much cloud cover for your sunset shoot?  Harsh light all day?  Wind?  Rain?  Snow?  Freezing temps?  Ah the joys of travel photography.

That’s when flexibility is key.  I’ve heard it said that the best way to get good images is to have a shot list and plan them in advance.  All well and good except that you’re planning with in a finite box of perfect conditions.  Ha!  We all know Mother Nature’s sense of humor and unless you have a lot of time and an unlimited travel budget, chances are you’re not going to get the shot you envision.  That’s when the ability to see photographs on the fly comes in so handy.  I did that pretty well on my last trip to CA and tried to do it on this one.  Experience and a solid foundation of good photography practices will be something to lean on in times of trouble.  Think of it as your fallback position.  Fallback onto solid, traditional compositions and subjects that are dictated by what you see, not what you want to see.  Remember what I said about letting it go?  This is when you do it.  Be flexible and let it go if you can’t accomplish it.

Songs for Future Gods

So along with setting a shot list that you can be flexible about, it’s important to set expectations, too.  Study the weather.  Look at the elevation.  Check out the terrain.  Know where the light is coming from. Go to your favorite photography forums and see what threads have been posted about where you’re going.  Post your own thread asking for advice.  Check out blogs from local photographers or pros who have been to the area.  Oh what did we do before the internet?  Seriously, it’s so much easier now and so there’s no excuse for not being prepared when you get there.  Just knowing what the typical day is like where you’re going is a huge advantage.  This will help you visualize ahead of time and you won’t be surprised about what you find.  Think of it as sending an advance team.

Riders of the Dawn

After years of bringing the kitchen sink with me on vacation, now I travel with minimal gear.  It’s rare that I find myself wishing for something I didn’t have.  But what if you do need something that you didn’t bring?   If you are lucky enough to be in an area that has a decent camera store, you might be able to talk your way into a quickie rental.  Or if you’re traveling with other photographers who use the same brand, you can always beg or borrow.  Mostly though understanding your own photography is your answer.  Analyze what you use, really use, not just own.  Think about what you want to produce while you’re on vacation and pack accordingly.  On this trip I brought an older telephoto lens because I don’t have any new Olympus tele-zooms.  Having gotten decent results with it before, I thought it would work.  Unfortunately the camera out-resolves it and I didn’t get a single useful image with it.  Maybe I should have brought the one I have more experience with, but I brought the 180mm because I so rarely use it.  And vacation is not the time to be learning or perfecting techniques.  Work on that when you can have an easy do over.

Interstellar Communique

What about fun?  What about relaxing?  What about enjoying a place without having to photograph every inch of it?  Knowing when enough is enough is so important.  I’m not a street photographer and so my instinct to bring a camera with me into town to get breakfast is weak.  Sure I thought of doing it, but I didn’t because that’s my time.  My relaxation time.  My time to just sit with my husband, laugh, eat and find the course of the day.  Being with a single-minded automaton is a real drag and who wants to be that person?  Putting the camera down and experiencing a place is sometimes more important than snapping away.  Sometimes the camera is a barrier to being, just being in a location.  More than once it’s happened that I come away from a place without a sense of it…I was too busy looking through the viewfinder.

Monocerous

Oh jeez that was rambling, wasn’t it?  Here’s a summary to better prepare for a “once in a lifetime” location –

  1. Study the location remotely – weather, light, terrain and choice locations are all available online to help you get a feel for a place
  2. Be flexible – chances are the perfect conditions will never present themselves and you have to be able to envision good photos on the fly using what you see, not what you want to see
  3. Bring gear that suits your style – don’t try to break out of your zone on vacation, bring equipment that enhances your viewpoint not what disrupts it
  4. Fallback to the familiar – can’t make the original images you want, fallback on tried and true techniques and compositions; imitate the masters, they earned that title, find out why
  5. Work with what you have – if you can’t get to a spot or find conditions different from what you expected, exploit what you find and work it hard, let go of your preconceived photo
  6. Put the camera down for a while and really feel what it’s like to be where you are and with the person beside you – don’t let the camera be a barrier to fun

Spring has Sprung

Remember that scene in The Jerk when Martin ran all over yelling “The new phonebook’s here!  The new phonebook’s here” ?  Well I felt like doing that about spring today.  This is what tells me it’s arrived –

First blooms (E-30 | OM 90mm f2 legacy macro | 25mm ext. tube | f11 or 16 | ISO 100 | 1/30th)

It’s whitlow grass and there’s a big patch of it in my backyard.  They’re the very first flowers to bloom after the snow melts.  I found them covered in frost this morning and when the sun came up, the frost turned to water droplets.  Each plant is 1 inch high right now (some smaller, some taller) and the closed blossoms are 3-4mm.  Tiny, but the early insects are buzzing around them already (they opened when the sun got higher).

I love the light in this one, but it was SO HARD to frame and focus in.  If I didn’t have a live view screen that swivels and tilts I couldn’t have shot it.  Ditto the zoom feature, so critical for macro focusing.  I’m pretty excited to be back in macro season.  Winter is so difficult for that kind of thing.  With new growth and life returning, I’m sure my pursuit of the microscape will go back into full swing.  I tried making a few this winter, but they didn’t work too well.  Not much poked up above the massive amounts of snow we got, and the light just wasn’t right.  But now spring has sprung, I’ll have more success.


Rural Obscura

I’ve always been intrigued by broken-down buildings on the side of the road.  In New England they are everywhere.  Little shacks.  Barns.  Garages.  Unidentifiable buildings that make you wonder what they used to be and why they were hammered together in the first place.  Mostly they’re wooden, but occasionally metal and almost always difficult to reach for any close work.  Sometimes the available light isn’t so great either and it makes the shots almost unrecognizable to someone who doesn’t know what she’s looking at.

This is one I’ve passed by probably a hundred times.  I’m told it might have been a chicken barn since before electric fans they needed a lot of natural ventilation.

Rural Obscura

Unless you’d driven by it in winter, you probably wouldn’t notice it at all during other seasons.  The leaves obscure it almost completely.  They also made it a challenge to find a decent composition, but the light was so yummy that I decided to risk parking on the curve with barely any shoulder and walk up and down while other drivers looked at me like I was crazy.

Vintage Ventilation

I’m pretty used to that by now though.  This cemetery is one of my mom’s favorites and she’s been asking me to photograph it in winter.  So I went out the other day to try, figuring it would be easy.  Silly me forgot about the snow.  Since this cemetery is right on the side of the road, there was a 6-foot snowbank between me and it.  So up I went.  People driving past almost crashed craning their necks to look at the lunatic with a camera on the snowbank.

Relict

It makes me laugh thinking about it because it was funny.  I couldn’t move forwards or backwards because the snow was too soft.  I could only move from side to side and even then I sank up to my thigh a couple of times.  What else can you do but laugh?

So the next time you see something that jerks your head around on the side of the road, stop and take a chance.  You might end up with a gem and a good laugh.

 


OK, I shot

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.

 

Winter Garden Morning

 

Wakeful Dreaming

Wakeful Dreaming

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.

Torture

Torture

Flail

Flail