The other day I decided to do a little car exploring. You know what I mean, right? When you jump in the car and go down roads you’ve never been on before. Moving to a new state means there’s a lot of opportunity for this, but even so, I found myself on roads I’ve gone by a bunch of times, but never went down. We have some great back roads. Oh and it helped that it was fall.
It also helps that there are so few people here that I can stop on the road and not worry too much about blocking traffic or getting hit. The road in the first shot snakes through some county forest, some private acreage and a bunch of little lakes and ponds. I noticed one had been blocked by the DNR because of invasive species contamination. Bummer.
This second shot is a loop road that winds through parts of the Underdown Recreation area, a place open to many non-motorized sports like horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The track is barely wider than one car width and so I was a lucky I could stop for this shot because I knew I was going to take a little time with it.
The latest version of Lightroom has an exposure blending function that I’ve never used much. I’ve never done much with HDR at all, but just because some made ugly photos with it didn’t mean I had to so I gave it a go. The shot is a blend of 3 exposures, all one stop separated from each other. It’s old school bracketing like I used to do when I shot slide film. I can, and probably will, use more exposures more closely spaced in terms of stops, but for now I think this works. It’s not too overly garish, but does mimic how our eyes actually see a scene like this with its wide range of light values. Our irises are so sensitive that they move constantly as our focus changes and the light changes. So many times I’ve looked at a shot through the viewfinder or on the live view screen and decided not to try it because it was so contrasty. I have to remember my new capability and do more bracketing. Especially since it’s a dial setting on my camera and wicked easy to do. What do you think? Do I need more practice? Is that the wrong scene? Is it garish?
Probably all of the above, right? Well I like it and will keep working with it. Am off to New Mexico for a long weekend shortly and so will try it out at White Sands!
This fall was a great one for foliage photography, especially from the kayak. I got out one more time (ruining my Penultimate Paddle title as I thought I might) and even though the light wasn’t perfect and neither was my technique, it was nice to find some glorious reds, oranges and yellows still clinging to the trees.
It was my first time paddling at Lake Pawtuckaway and while it might not be my last, it was a bit intimidating. It’s a lot like lake Massabesic in the sense that it’s fairly large and allows all manner of power boats. All fine and dandy if you stay in the parts of the lake that don’t suit those boats well (or just can’t get there as in the west side of Massabesic), but if you get turned around like I did, and thrown into the main lake body, it can be a challenge. Choppy, windy with big wakes. I nearly got stuck on some submerged and nearly invisible rocks, too. With some determined paddling, I made it back to Fundy Cove and I took some time finding small slices of landscape. That part was fun.
The textures and colors were pretty amazing and I realize that I need to slow down when I shoot. Often I don’t let the boat come to a halt and instead shoot while still gliding a bit. Not the best technique for sharp images, but hey, at least I have something to work on. After a while, the clouds gave it a rest and we got a little blue sky. I have to say, if you don’t use a polarizer regularly in your photography – start. I keep it on the lens most of the time and especially when I’m kayaking or doing foliage photography. Eliminating the glare just makes the colors pop. On the leaves, the water and especially to calibrate reflections without over polarizing the sky. A key piece of kit for sure.
It’s all gone now. Our ever fleet fall has moved on to the deep gold stage of the beeches and oaks. Somehow it’s knowing how short-lived it is that makes it all the more wonderful to behold. Yeah, I know it will do it again next year, but it’s still special and I’m so glad I got to see another one.
Didja miss me?
Yes it’s true.
I’m a bad blogger.
Autumn is almost over (well photographically speaking) and I haven’t posted ONE shot yet. Haven’t even posted anything from my California trip either. Considering I was inspirationally and creatively pooped out was part of the problem. Several times I didn’t even bother taking the camera out of the bag. Just didn’t want to be that person, you know, the one with the camera. The one who doesn’t really experience where she is, just documents it. I did shoot though, in the one place I can never resist – the forest. And what a forest. Even though it isn’t terribly huge, the redwood grove at Garrapata State Park on US 1 in Big Sur is still pretty amazing. I haven’t spent a lot of time in redwood forests, but every time I do I’m stunned at how different they are from eastern forests. Not only in the size of the trees, but in the undergrowth, right down to the mushrooms (I saw exactly ONE). It even smells different. As fate would have it, I forgot my tripod in the hotel in Monterey and had to improvise like mad. Lots of camera on rock and camera on backpack and leaning on trees. In a way it was liberating; forcing me out of the normal shot and into something different.
Bracing myself and the camera against a tree –
Modified Weaver stance –
Camera on bit of rock sticking out of steep embankment –
Camera on backpack which was on a slope steep enough that I had to stand on one of its straps to keep it from sliding into the drink –
Surprisingly, even though it was so late in the season, I found a few lupines were still blooming. Their color is a bit different from the ones we have here, but the biggest difference is the leaves. Big Sur lupines have tiny leaves and the shade of green is much, much cooler. I couldn’t resist the contrast or the dew.
Even though the light was harsh and the wind wicked strong and relentless, I ventured over to the coastal side of US 1. I’m not thrilled with this shot, but at least I found something to put in the foreground besides scrubby bushes. The birds were a bonus. Couldn’t see them when I shot. Damn the wind though. I had to take my sunglasses off and put them in my pocket because I was afraid they’d blow off. Haven’t been in wind like that since the last time I was in California only that time it was in Mono Lake basin by the Sierras. Phew.
Another reason for no posts is that WordPress stymied me with picture editing. Normally I resize them slightly once I load them, but the icon didn’t appear. I searched the help forum to no avail and so just gave up. Hoping that things would be back to normal I tried again, looking in vain for the picture editor. Visiting the forum did turn up an answer this time and I got things to work. Roundabout way though and I’d have never thought of it so I’m glad to be back.
Are you dead from the suspense yet? Sorry about that. Here is some more from my latest dawn trek to the bog. The wider views are all done with my regular 12-60mm lens, but I spent some time finding some landscape slices which was pretty rewarding. It’s a fun way to see things that is in between the sweepingly large view and my normal, tiny, macro view. But there’s a good macro in here, too so don’t worry.
It’s as much a part of being a photographer as clicking the shutter – the ebb. Maybe not exactly an ebb, but a slack tide kind of time. The time between the rushing. When things are still. Calm. I used to resent my ‘photographic funks’, but now I sort of relish them. I think it was when I stopped beating myself up about them that it happened – the allowing. The forgiveness. It used to be a belief of mine that if you were really passionate about something, the passion was constant. Now, I’m not using the word really as in very, I’m using it as in genuine. As in I genuinely believed that if a person had a genuine passion for something the level of that passion stayed the same.
(damn I wish I was English sometimes…they have all the great slang. Oh sorry.)
Ahem. Bullshit. (now that’s American!)
Passion waxes and wanes. It’s natural. It’s normal. Because your enthusiasm for something has gone off the raging boil and into a mellow simmer does not mean you’ve lost it. It doesn’t mean you’re not dedicated. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you lack depth. It doesn’t mean you’re a poseur. It means you’re human.
And human passion fluctuates. Can you imagine being a raging photographer all the time? Going out every day to shoot shoot shoot. Filling 16 and 32gb cards. Constant uploading, downloading, processing, printing. Ugh. Yah. I get it now why passions wax and wane. Boring. Uninspiring. Monotonous. Burdensome.
When shit I love becomes a chore, I know it’s time to hang it up for a while. It’s like when you binged on your favorite snack when you were a kid and got your first taste of spending your own money. How fast did that once favorite treat become totally gross and like you’d never want to see it again, ever?
You think that would have taught me. But it didn’t and I used to beat myself up about my periodic low points in photography. This was especially true when I worked in a photo store (remember them???). I thought that I should be carrying a torch. I actually felt bad if I didn’t have a roll of film or two every week to analyze and frustrate myself over. Like I had to show everyone who walked in the store how life-fulfilling and soul-kindlingly awesome photography was and how every minute of every day should be spent in the pursuit of this most amazing art form.
Now I go with the flow of my own impulses and if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t push it. I won’t get anything good going out with that attitude anyway. I know that now. Part of my downtime includes a bit of a disconnect with the online photography community as well. I get overloaded and saturated with images and images and more images to the point where I can’t appreciate any of them anymore. Where’s the fun in that?
And isn’t that the point? That your passion be fun? I mean, life is too short for agony over art anymore. Passion and enthusiasm and the desire to explore and create images should be bubbly and fizzy inside. It should tickle your brain and load endorphins into your system, not feel like you’re trying to carry 10 suitcases though the airport without wheels or handles.
So…what do I do with my passion’s ebb? Lately I’ve been reading a lot more than my usual book a week or so. McGrath. Highsmith. Dickens. Shelley. Rice. Stoker. I’ve started a new exercise program to do on the days I don’t go out for my cardio workout. And when my mind turns to photography, it’s to concepts and things I want to try and places I want to go. I joined about two dozen other people on a botanist-led tour through one of my favorite micro-environments – the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and lo – I turned into a photographer for a second!
So the next time you find yourself in a photographic funk, don’t sweat it. Don’t let it get you down. Use the time to indulge your other passions. You do have them, right? Remember the other stuff you loved before you just had to have that bright, shiny DSLR? Go do that stuff. Have fun. Feel fizzy. And when your photographic tide returns, you’ll be renewed and just dying to go out and make the images you’ve been dreaming of in the passion’s ebb.
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 –
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 –
So no ferns to photograph and weirdly, no mushrooms either. Plenty of trees though and while most of them were yellow, some weren’t –
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 –
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.
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 –
In the course of a day I look at hundreds of photographs. By participating in Google+, forums, flickr, 500px and other photo communities it’s easy to do. One thing that has been getting my attention is that people don’t seem to understand white balance and its importance. Mainly I notice it when there is water involved. Blue waterfalls everywhere. Is the world running with mouthwash? Crazy. I also notice it in woodland shots that are clearly taken in daytime, but look really odd and blue. Too cold by far. Mostly it’s white balance which is nothing more than color temperature and can be easily adjusted. Correct white balance and overall color temperature is the most important thing in making sure your colors are accurate. Well, that and monitor calibration, but since you can’t correctly calibrate every monitor in the world, just do your own and let it go.
Folks who shoot in raw often don’t care about white balance in camera because they can always fix it later. To some degree I’m guilty of this, but try to match my wb in the field to what the light actually looks like. It’s tons easier to do it there than after the fact when you might be too removed from the moment to remember what your eyes saw. Most cameras have auto-white balance which is a place to start, but be aware that most cameras aren’t accurate. Here’s an example:
This is my friend Melissa coming down through the Magical Birch Glade in the NH White Mountains.
It was early afternoon and while there weren’t a lot of leaves left on the trees, there were quite a few. The light in autumn afternoons around here is golden and soft. At this time of day it’s not as warm as it gets later, but the yellow leaves made it more so. Take a look at the birch trunks…they appear sort of blueish. They didn’t really look that way. To anyone not with us that day, this picture would be fine, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For an October day it was warm; in the 80s. Does this picture convey warmth to you at all? And that golden afternoon light I talked about, don’t you want to see it?
The first thing to do is to check your scene in the field and try to match it in your live view screen to as best you can. Probably you won’t get it exactly, but close is good. Try daylight, cloudy, shade, flash – all of them are different temperatures and you can see their effects in the LCD screen. When you get your shots into your computer the first thing to do is adjust the white balance. Many photo editing packages have set their tools in order of precedence, in other words they are in a rough order of how you should use them with white balance at the top of the stack. So with all other changes being the same between shots and only the white balance changed, here’s the Magical Birch Glade –
OK, maybe that one was too subtle. Check this one out.
This is the Little River in Twin Mountain where the Twin Mountain north trailhead is. It was taken just a few hours after the shot in the MBG; farther into that mellow warmth. You wouldn’t know it from this though, would you? This is really the bane of my existence when I look at other people’s images. Blue water. Blue rocks. Blue tree trunks. Come on people. Pay attention! Unless these things really were blue, adjust your white balance.
It’s easy to do. Most editing packages have presets like daylight and cloudy as well as a slider that will let you put the temperature somewhere in the middle. It’s not hard. And look what a difference it makes.
Check out the trees, too – the color pops a lot more and the whole scene is more inviting. Only the white balance is different between the two shots. Here’s another one that’s even more dramatic.
My husband and I went walking in a state park the other day. Unfortunately it’s been closed due budget constraints, but we jumped the fence (as everyone is free to do, you just can’t drive in anymore). What have I been banging on about in this whole post besides white balance?
What are we trying to photograph, folks? Light of course. And nothing is more wonderful than soft, warm late afternoon light in October. It’s truly special. Believe it or not that’s what I saw in the shot here. But the camera doesn’t see like the brain sees and so it’s off. Way off. If you weren’t there of course you wouldn’t know, but the whole point of sharing photos is to bring other people into your world. To show them a little of what you experience and find delight in. Personally I don’t find much to delight in with the before picture. Straight out of the camera be damned. Now for the correction –
Now that’s the scene that made me stop. The trees and their shadows, the couple and the light all made me stop and shoot. Look at that light, would you? It’s lickable. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
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.
and less than an hour later it looked like this, the fog still hung around which was cool –
A slightly larger body of water the next morning –
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.
Lots more in the hard drive and in my head, so stay tuned.