Posts tagged “sunrise

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Wordless Wednesday – 6/14/17

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Wordless Wednesday – 8/17/16


The Lazy Fall Photographer

It’s been snowing a little bit here in Wisconsin and yesterday I went out into the yard to see what I could see, but when I got back to the computer I realized I hadn’t posted all of what I shot in the fall. Doh!

Some of the most beautiful (and easiest) images came from my own yard. I don’t always get myself out of bed in time for the sunrise, but sometimes I do when it’s putting on a show –

The water isn’t always glassy smooth, but it is more often when the sun is just over the horizon. The wind hasn’t yet had a chance to get going. For both shots I used the dock as a tripod platform which I can’t do at all when the water is really moving (it floats). So far the fog hasn’t been around too much, but I like it in the second shot – just barely there.

Sunsets are easier and even though we face east, the light is still gorgeous. I lucked out with these images big time. The sun just lit up the far trees which were in the height of their autumn glory, the water was perfectly still and the sky was just the most amazing October blue. I love my backyard!

Normally I don’t go for such symmetrical landscapes, but who could resist? I wonder if Billy’s house has ever been photographed so much!

Of course it isn’t just the beautiful view that rewards my photographic eye. It’s the small things and the serendipity of nature.

I did not put that leaf there, honest. We took the dock out of the water just after I shot this, so it was like a sweet goodbye from the season. But not for this blog, there will be more fall images to come. Some pretty traditional, but some surprising and not what you think of when you think of fall color!

 


A Major Sunrise

Not long ago, Jeff Sinon tweeted that he was going to hike up Mt. Major to photograph the sunrise over Lake Winnipesaukee and would anyone want to join him. It had been too long since we shot together and my husband and I are always up for adventure, so I tweeted back that we’d be there. Crazy.

Well kinda. We are, after all, modern humans with access to gadgetry of all kinds and Mt. Major isn’t exactly tall, although it is wicked steep in parts. So with headlamps firmly strapped we set out for the summit. A lot of the trail is an old logging road, wide and deeply set with large rocks separated from each other by years of runoff. Toward the top it got much steeper and after slogging through boulders running with water, we ended up at some bare granite ledge to monkey over. But less fit souls than I have done it (and probably in flip-flops) so up I went. I think it helped knowing that there was an alternate way down. Breaking my neck is never on my agenda.

Sometimes Mother Nature just laughs at me. At us, really, I suppose, but sometimes I think she’s after me. After our headlighted trek, the clouds we kept hoping would pile up on the horizon stayed out of range, thumbing their noses. The wind that sometimes calms just at sunrise decided that day to party hearty. Even with a backpack dangling from the tripod, it was so windy that my shots are soft and I’m not altogether happy with them. The light is lovely though and the just-off peak foliage is still pretty nice, but dammit if that tripod would not stop moving. Next time I drag the big Bogen up just for the added weight, which sucks to carry, but is evidently necessary at any altitude. Whatta dope.

Cloud wishes

By the time we got the light we wanted down in the valley, I was so cold that I think I was shivering more than my strained camera support. Dammit that wind just wouldn’t quit. No wonder the rock-walled shelter of old had two roofs blown off before people just gave up.

Sunrise over Lake Winnipesaukee

I didn’t know it then, but things were about to change. Through luck and a quick consult with my husband’s iPad, we ended up on the Brook trail for the hike down. It is longer, so we didn’t take it to go up, but it sure made down easier, with limited opportunities for neck-breaking. Plus it went by a brook. Always a sucker for a good brook, as soon as I heard the water, I headed in for a look. First crack out of the box I found what ended up being the best cascade I could find. I guess Nature thought I’d had enough and she gave me a break.

When you stop to listen

As I explored (with my husband standing patiently by) I was enchanted, but there was so much debris in the flow and on the rocks that make up the brook’s borders that it was really hard to find a composition that wasn’t distracting in the extreme. Once again, things were about to change, but I had to wait for it. Jeff had vamoosed to join his family for breakfast and so it was just me, looking in vain for another picturesque cascade. By the time I found one, I was racing the sun. Well, the Earth, really, but you get it. Pretty soon the sun was going to be too high to work with…shining directly on the water and blowing my highlights something fierce. But I found a cascade and began a laborious process of clearing tons of branches out of the way. Believe it or not they were hanging from other branches (blown off by storms) and dangling directly in front of the lens. Not in the water, but in the space between. Standing in the water, tripod on rock, and holding some branches that wouldn’t budge out of the way, I finally shot Minge Brook in all its golden glory.

Minge Brook

OMG I can’t believe what I got. The light so soft and perfect that it almost doesn’t look real. It is though and that little kiss of the light on the upper rocks is pure magic for me. For once my timing was good. I’d like to revisit this spot in the spring with the fresh, green leaves in place of the glowing golden ones. And if this is Minge in the dry season, I can only imagine it in full song, with the snow-melt and spring runoff. That would be a sight to behold.


The best laid plans

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.

Bah.

What’s a photographer to do?

Find something else!

Dance of Shiva

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.

Break of Dawn

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.

Everyone Will Be There

Debutante Ball

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!

 


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!


Daybreak

Here’s some early shots from the last week or so.  I don’t know w hat got into me.

Adams pond and the whole world lit up pink the other day, it was so peaceful and fresh.  I could smell the apples from the orchard nearby, too.

Adams Pond Sunrise

and less than an hour later it looked like this, the fog still hung around which was cool –

Adams Pond Peak Color

A slightly larger body of water the next morning –

Lake Massabesic - Tripping the Far Horizon

on the way home to coffee and breakfast from that last shot, I stopped in a cemetery just down the street because it was so darn beautiful.  The colors just popped big time!  I rested the camera on a granite wall and aimed back toward the road.

Peaceful Passing

Lots more in the hard drive and in my head, so stay tuned.


The Birth and Death of a Day

My eyes aren’t always turned downwards, finding tiny details to show to the rest of the world.  No, sometimes I pretend I’m a landscape photographer.  Here are a sunrise at the coast and a sunset at a lake.  Unfortunately there were no clouds in the sky for the sunrise, but when I saw the clouds yesterday afternoon, I knew they’d light up well.

Fade Away

Before the Burn

Seaside Rendezvous

Prelude

Light Discovering Darkness

Wolf Moon


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