have been greatly exaggerated.
The move to Wisconsin is complete and we’re good and settled in. We love our house to bits. The country is really beautiful, the lake is a lot of fun and the neighbors we’ve met have been great. There’s even a local coffee shop where we hang out for some local color and have laughs with other folks who live on this section of river. It’s the Wisconsin river and particularly the Grandfather Flowage. That’s the part of a river between 2 dams, this section has the Grandmother and the Grandfather, both of which make electricity so the water is always moving a little and the level never gets too high or too low; hence the name flowage.
Anyway, being where we are has some challenges. The biggest is the internet. It sucks. There is no cable at all and so that leaves satellite or cellular. For now we’re using cellular, but are limited to 20gb per month. Yep, that’s it. So given that the images I work with are so large, I’m going to batch upload to my photo sites when I get to the library and can use the wifi there. Luckily we have a pretty great library system up here in the Northwoods so it shouldn’t be an issue. It will be weird though and I won’t be able to post nearly as often to those sites. At least I can upload high quality images though. You should see the crap that comes from keeping jpegs under 100k. The horror, the horror.
Here are some shots that are processed and uploaded. They’re from a kayak trip upriver. I really need a longer lens for bird photography. This little green heron was very patient and let me drift rather close, but eventually it spooked and off it flew. We also have a resident loon that I see or hear pretty much every day. It seems to hang out within sight of our dock quite a bit.
Because the flowage is fairly large (750+ acres) and there’s a lot of wind, the chop can be merciless. When a still day comes around I jump on it though and believe me, it’s nice being able just to be able to walk into the backyard and put the kayak in the water.
Eventually I’ll strap it to the car and explore other areas, but for now this section of the river will do. There’s a great little side channel (where I found little greenie) about 40 minutes up river and it looks like it shelters a lot of nesting birds. I found a bunch of sites that are no longer used since the babies are so much older now, but it’s still got a lot of ducks, mergansers, herons and I think, a great horned owl. I’ve scared off a really large, silent bird twice now and that’s what I think it is. Maybe one day I’ll be able to photograph it instead of scaring it. Gonna need a longer lens though. Next time that 100-300 Panasonic goes on sale, I’m grabbing one.
Anyway, some more shots will be coming when I can get back to the library and wifi. My new yard is a haven for macros and other photography, so there’s plenty to keep me busy. Plus there’s tons of abandoned stuff around here – houses, barns, farms, cabins…it’s crazy. Stay tuned and thanks for waiting for me to get back to the land of the living. European vacation post coming soon! Brussels! Amsterdam! Bruges! We’re not in the woods anymore.
Wow is this post late, hey at least it’s still Q1. As usual, I had some trouble coming up with what I felt are the best photos I took last year. Strangely it was because a lot of it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself. So that meant I had to really examine each one and separate myself from the emotion of taking it or experiencing that particular time and place. Focusing on the final image as well as cutting down on the number of similar images also helped. Fall is fabulous, but including more than a couple shots just made the collection seem stagnant.
Let’s get to it, shall we? These are in chronological order, btw.
1. It’s hard to take a bad picture in Big Sur. This one made the cut because it’s got terrific color, tones and atmosphere. The touch of fog made the foreground more interesting than it would be without it and the striations in the sky make up for the lack of clouds (at least a little). It’s not stunningly original work, but so what?
2. I’m not a wildlife photographer so the annual elephant seal invasion at Big Sur was a challenge for me to shoot in a couple of ways. Mostly because even though it doesn’t look like it, the darn things move. Lol. I had to change up my focus style and be patient for little scenes to come about, like these two males having a practice fight. The light isn’t the best, but I love the fact that no other seals are concerned and there’s just the one looking at the camera as if to say, can you believe these guys? Also love the sprays of sand frozen in the air. Just another day at the beach.
3. I try to get to The Garden in the Woods every spring for the profusion of wildflowers on display. Especially since many are rare and I’ve never seen them in the wild. These bluebells for example. I absolutely love the arrangement, the light and the bokeh in this shot. It was pure serendipity that I happily took advantage of. There was a slight breeze and the light changed second to second so I had to work fast. Not to mention the hordes of kids going by with their teachers. If I hadn’t known what I wanted and how to get it quickly, I wouldn’t have gotten it.
4. Sometimes one of your best shots happens while you’re waiting for another. This is Indian Cucumber which I’d shot once before, but this image stands out for me because I was able to get down well below the plant which gave me quite a bit of distance between the camera and the flower. It’s that distance that renders the background so smooth and uniform. The smooth uniformity creates negative space, something I don’t use as often as I probably should. It’s dramatic and focuses your attention more than a busy picture. When I shot it I thought I’d leave it in color since it is quite vivid, but when I started to process it, the graceful shape and wide color tones was a natural for monochrome.
5. This image has been in my head for a while and it was the shot I was waiting for when I took the one just above. When I headed out I thought the cloud cover would persist. It didn’t. I took a few test shots from different vantage points, just to get an idea of the best compositions. Then I decided to find other things of interest, no need to abandon the location just yet. I did not wander far. While photographing the flower above I noticed a couple of raindrops on my screen and pretty much ran back to the waterfall to set up for this shot. The light lasted about 8 minutes. One. Tiny. Cloud. I set up, shot and got what I wanted in that short period of time. I love the balance in this image and the greenery. It seems to glow with life and vitality. Persistence, patience and experience made the most of a sliver of good luck. Thank you tiny cloud.
6. Another shot that took quick thinking and a bit of luck. I scared this little garter snake off the path and there it froze in the undergrowth. I watched it for a bit, thinking it would slither off. When it didn’t, I decided to try to get a shot of it standing up as tall as it could. That meant changing lenses and a few settings on the camera. Amazing that it stood there while I did that and let me get one shot. One. Like the cloud. I got the focus, the DOF and the exposure in one go. Then it was off, dissolving into invisibility.
7. Autumn is a no-brainer for photography, but I love this shot because I took it from my kayak. It was a perfect day and I’d had a couple seasons’ worth of practice for this kind of landscape work. Anchoring to compose is a bit tough when there’s enough current in the water so aligning this image took a bit of work, but I got it. I really like the balance and the colors are so vivid. It’s so inviting. And clouds! Bonus!
8. Not many of my macro photos are this visually striking so even though it’s a common ladybug (with lunch victim) I think it stands out. The focus is darn good and that bokeh (thanks to the Olympus 90mm legacy macro) is just dreamy. I only noticed the little guy sheltering under a leaf after I’d been shooting something else, but when I did I knew I had to give it a go. It’s the singularity of the line that draws the eye, then recognition of the subject, which is cute so appealing. The negative space provided by the smooth background makes that work and the raindrops are a final touch that adds a sense intimacy and a bit of sympathy. The little hunter is just trying to get out of the rain and have a nice meal. Not many of my images are as emotional as this one and so I think it stands out.
9. This one is in here for a couple of reasons, first because I’ve been searching for this flower for YEARS and second because I think the photo works on multiple levels. Artistically and stylistically it works well; the colors are complimentary and the angle of view unusual. The focus is encompassing enough, but the bokeh helps the texture stand out even more. From a purely documentary approach I think it showcases the flower specimen quite well. I could see this in a guide book. Plus check out that little guy upside down in the center blossom. Don’t know what it is, but it wasn’t shy. Ah pinesap, how you made my day!
10. Recently there’s been a stir in some photography circles about over-photographing certain places (like Delicate Arch or Half Dome). To some extent I agree and sometimes I wonder if the world needs another shot of something done hundreds of times. There aren’t many places in New Hampshire that qualify, but Beard Brook in Hillsborough is one. It has a beautiful stone arch bridge that is lovely, but very popular with photographers. I went there anyway and took this image downstream from the bridge. I kept one eye on the light and the other on my footing and pretty much raced to get set up on a huge boulder. Managing the polarizer to minimize glare off the leaves, but maximize reflection in the water took a bit of finagling, but I got it. The sun lights the trees from top to bottom, but stays out of the water. I hadn’t planned to get this shot, but when presented with the perfect set up, I took it.
11. This was an “OMG honey, pull over!” shot. We were heading back to the hotel from the Bridger-Teton National Forest when I noticed the light. Specifically I noticed the aspens against the dark backdrop of the hill. Grand Teton was just a bonus. As the light was changing fast, I shot out of the car window, handheld. A minute later, the trees were in shadow. A little cropping and monochrome treatment in post and I think it’s a dramatic image that isn’t like every other shot of Grand Teton.
12. Ok, Grand Teton is irresistible. We didn’t have too many days of sun during our November trip and on our last day we decided to check out the Snake River using the only access we had since the main park road was closed. Who knew it would be a perfect day for reflections of those great peaks and that blue sky? I love this image for its balance and symmetry. Also for the semi-hidden grasses that are only partially lit by the low-angled sun. You can see a few ducks in there, too, if you look closely. We spent a few hours chasing them up river.
I hope you liked revisiting the highlights of my year. I’ve got a trip to Belgium later on, so maybe there will be some 2015 winners from across the pond!
I thought it would be my last kayak outing of the year, but it turned out not to be. It might not even stay the penultimate paddle, but I like the alliteration so it’s staying. These are my rules, I make ’em up.
Last year I don’t think I did much in the way of foliage shots from the kayak, but this year I decided to try. Trees in and near water are usually the first to change which is very handy for the paddling photographer. Having seen other photographers’ shots from Campton Bog in Campton, NH, I decided that’s where I would go. It was an absolutely perfect day. Blue skies with a few puffy clouds, great color in the trees and only 2 other paddlers on the water, whom I only saw one time and actually heard go by once when I was down a side channel. Summer temperatures, too, so I didn’t have to wear a lot of gear. Behold –
OMG, right? I think I had the camera in my hands more than the paddle. And actually, this isn’t really Campton Bog, that’s connected by a slim waterway (now reimagined by beavers) to this pond called Robartwood Pond. I’ve been here before in winter and had a good time walking on the frozen water and trespassing in the brook on the other side of the bridge. Eventually the landowner saw me (and 1/2 dozen friends) and threw us out. Not before I got some good shots though. Anyway, here’s more of my perfect penultimate paddle (see what I did there).
This year, in an effort to improve my kayak photography technique, I added a custom mode to the GH3 for when I’m on the water. Basically it’s shutter priority, auto ISO (which seems to have the pip and not be working the way I want…more investigation is needed), auto white balance and electronic level displayed on the screen. For the most part it works well and lets me concentrate on composition which, let me tell you, has its own challenges.
I also use a polarizer whenever I’m kayaking. It was especially important on this outing. I wanted good colors, but not that blackish blue of over polarization. Careful managing gave me what I wanted. It does shave about a stop and a half from the exposure, but for the most part that’s ok. This year I finally broke down and got a decent one, too, which helps with accurate color rendition. I’ve started to leave it on whatever lens I’m working with a lot, too. I used to do that when I shot my E-30/12-60mm combo, but somehow got out of the habit when I switched to the GH3. No idea why. Just weird that way. Taking the reflection off of plant leaves really brings up the color and this time of year, color is what it’s all about!
Ok, that last one isn’t from Campton Bog/Robartwood Pond, it’s from Danbury Bog and the day wasn’t quite so wonderful, but I saw a moose on the dirt road leading to the put in. No pictures, but I got to watch its graceful lope up the road and away from my scary Subaru with the big weird thing on top of it. This shot is the only usable one because of the flat light and the mostly cloudy skies. I ended up scaring the same little group of ducks all the way up the channel. Sorry dudes. Then I got the tables turned on me. There was a really big beaver dam inside the giant culvert that goes under the bridge on Ragged Mountain Road. Normally, I think people can paddle through, but not with that there. So it was a much shorter trip than I planned. When I got back to the put in and had the boat all secured on the car, a truck with a rowboat in it went by on the dirt road, then slowed down, reversed and came back. The driver asked me if I was coming or going. Going. He laughed and said that was probably good as he and a crew were going to take the beaver dam out and there would be a big surge of water. That would have been exciting. Darn it. A day late! Oh well, there’s always next year.
I took a day off this week to do some spring shooting. It ended up being a pretty perfect day. Overcast and not too hot and it didn’t actually rain. It had just done though so the colors really popped. Yeah, I was pretty much surrounded by mosquitoes in the Musquash the whole time I was there, but I doused myself in anti-bug juice and they didn’t bite. Of course I had to get in a trail shot –
I liked the perspective of this one. The mystery of the trail disappearing under the canopy. And the canopy itself. Fresh, new leaves. Everything seeming to drive upwards towards the sun. Springtime has a feel of energy being released all around you. Also of hurry. You can feel the rush to reproduce all around you. The urgency to get it done before winter arrives again. One of the best places to feel it is at a vernal pool.
I have an idea of working a project around these. They’re so vital to the ecosystem of a forest, providing breeding grounds for many reptiles and amphibians. And regular water sources, too. I just love how still and hidden they seem even though they’re teeming with life. Just moments before I took that shot above, I scared about every frog in the place. When the ripples subsided, I leaned against a tree and composed. Such a perfect reflection. I flipped the image upside-down and it looks really weird. Like a regular forest scene, but something is just so slightly off. The only drawback to photographing vernal pools is the bugs. I have a few shots with mosquitoes just hanging in the air in front of the lens. Sometimes they land on it, too. I have to remember to spray my hands because they always try to bite my fingers. Bah.
Being May, it’s wildflower season and even though I’ve shot pink lady slippers before, I couldn’t pass this one by. The leaves remind me of wings and the bent stem reminds me of a swan’s neck so I spent a bit of time shuffling the beanbag around hunting for just the right angle. So lucky to get that backdrop, too, a big pine. The flower really stands out because of it. The OM 90mm is probably at f8. It likes it there.
So that’s what I got in the morning of my day off. Wait till you see what I got in the afternoon. OMG. But before I sign off, here’s another shot from my sunset shoot with friends on top of Mt. Foss.
While out the other day I spent a little time on the shore of a beaver pond. It seems lately that there are more and more of them around, creating lakes and overflowing vernal pools. Sometimes they can be nuisances, but beavers evolved to be successful in their niche, and they are part of how meadows develop and forests change so I don’t mind what they do.
Plus their houses are pretty cool.
These are some of the last shots I took with the E-30. Poor old thing. Maybe if I can get the lens repaired it can still be useful for someone. It’s a good rig. Great lens. Easy to work with. Both shots are with the Olympus 90mm at about f5.6. That one you’ll still get to see shots from. As if there was any doubt!