You know that old saying, hindsight is 20/20? Some days it smacks me right in the head. The other day after a lovely few hours in the woods I thought to myself that I should have been a forester or something. Hubby comes back to say that it doesn’t pay much. In money, no it doesn’t, but in joy it probably would make me rich.
I stood on a little bridge to take this shot and I stood there quite a long time. It’s not deep enough to lose the sounds of humanity entirely, but it’s far enough to drown them out a bit. The brook. The wind in the trees. Birds. It was peaceful and exhilarating at the same time.
We’re at the tail end of winter and I swear I can feel the forest on edge. It doesn’t look it, but stuff is happening and it won’t be contained for long.
In some of our local forest preserves are stands of unlogged forest, often called virgin forest. So far I’ve been in two of them and some of the trees literally stop my breath. One enormous beech (I think it was a beech) drew me off the trail and I stood by it in awe. Thinking about what it had “witnessed” and how I wish it could talk. Just for a minute. Like the Ents. Unfortunately my photos aren’t close to doing justice to the grand beauty…maybe when it’s crowned with all its leafy glory. I did find these stupendous hemlocks though. Practically broke my neck tripping on my showshoes while gazing up at these towering trees.
It’s so hard to do justice to these massive beings…well, maybe not beings, but they inspire awe in me even if they are only plants. Often I stop and just touch them to feel the vibrations as they sway in the wind. I know, I’m nuts, but see…that’s what makes me think I should be working in the woods. Maybe that would take the joy away, but I still wonder…what if?
The tail end of winter still holds some beauty, I just had to look for it. These first two are details of a beaver pond in the woods that appeared to be new. These bushes were still alive, albeit dormant for the season. I loved the patterns the ice made while it was thawing. All those bubbles. The color is striking, too, like beer or champagne. Getting them was a bit of an adventure. I stood on what I thought was the bank since it was covered with snow, but it wasn’t. Turns out there was ice under there, too. Wet socks are not fun, but I laughed my head off, startling a nearby hairy woodpecker. Luckily it wasn’t that cold so I kept on. I bet the beavers were laughing, too.
It was a day for staring into icy puddles, too. This leaf looks as if it’s trying to free itself and I love how different the colors are from the pond pictures. At first I thought that purple hue was just a goof with the white balance, but it isn’t. I even reduced the magenta in the image and the blues, it persists. Just one of the wonders of the forest.
There aren’t too many signs of spring yet, but the birches had a good year. So many of them are splitting their britches.
Also saw some porcupine tracks in the snow, so I hope spring isn’t far behind.
I am planning to head out on Saturday with some friends (the same guys I shot the Flume Gorge with last month, plus one more) and hopefully we get cooperative weather. We’re going to try to find abandoned buildings and do a sunset in the White Mountains. It’s gonna be a long day, but I hope we find some magic.
A while back I said I’d report on my progress from time to time. It’s part of my attempt to be more aware of the state of my photography and where I want to take it. Now if I can only remember what they were. Oh right, here they are –
1. Improve composition; read a book or two, podcasts, tutorials, essays etc.
2. Strive for more distinctive images
3. Maintain post-processing workflow discipline
Hm. Will you look at that.
Yes I have read a few articles that deal with composition, but I haven’t done anything really serious about it. No books have been bought. Mostly because I’m still not working full time and what with the internet being free and all… But I am on the trail of a full time job and when that lands (positive thinking all around!) I will buy a book or two. That being said, I have been more conscious of the rules of composition when I’m out in the field. Hardly ever in the past did I deliberately think about composition in my head. It’s always been very gut-level for me. I walk around, frame, pace, line up, but never do I recite mantras to myself. Now I sort of do. One I keep in mind is relationships…creating relationships between objects in my image. Here’s one –
In this one I deliberately set opposing geometries together. Vertical aspect, horizontal wall in foreground, vertical trees in background, that first horizontal row of nearly square headstones, going from short to tall, the tall monument on the left reinforcing the vertical nature of the shot. All sort of clashes, but also flows really well. I did it deliberately. Oh sure I tried other compositions, but none worked so well. I even left out the rather terrific gate because it broke up the flow too drastically. It blocked the flow. Out it went.
On to the next one. Have I striven for distinctive images? Yes and no. In my mind, this means shooting a more typical view in a different way. Lately I haven’t been presented with much that’s typical so my images remain my own take on the world I see. The only one that approaches anything near this is this shot of Mt. Monadnock –
No, it isn’t that great a photograph. The view to the mountain was difficult and narrow. I had to climb on the top of an escarpment to get clear of the trees in the immediate foreground. The lighting wasn’t particularly helpful either, so I decided to try to make the mountain look small by using a lot of sky. If they sky hadn’t been interesting, I wouldn’t have, but I think as a snapshot, this works. Are there other shots of mountains taken this way, I’m sure there are, but most people wouldn’t even try I don’t think. Maybe I’m foolish to have, but I think even a snapshotty image adds to the impression of a place.
And how is my post-processing work-flow these days? Pretty good actually. Using specific folders, tags, labels, ratings and keywords has made it much easier to find stuff even though I haven’t shot much yet. So far, so good.
So there you have it. An update. Crossing my fingers that the weather cooperates for one last major winter shoot this weekend. I’ll be trying to manage #1 and 2 more fully and hopefully #3 will be habit by now and will fall into place automatically.
It pretty much always happens about now. Especially if we’ve had snow since December. At first it’s magical and a joy to be out in, but after a while. After it snows a dozen times. After there’s 3 feet of it with 5 foot drifts and 6 foot snowbanks. When it’s too deep for snowshoes. When you don’t feel like skiing anymore. The snow isn’t so magical. Now it’s in the way.
Between the uncooperative light and the need to see some color I’ve been adrift, photography-wise. Sure, I’ve been out, but I’ve hardly shot anything. Pretty much the only things have been abandoned stuff by the side of the road.
The naked trees reveal them, but also obscure them. The accumulated snow, well, I’ve dealt with it as best I can. Using it to further isolate the crumbling structures.
Some of them I hope to visit again, come spring. If I remember. This one above is on the list. It’s big enough to have been a hunting cabin or something. Some are small though, like this next one. It’s child-sized. Or maybe just sheltered machinery once upon a time. But why the window? It’s regular sized, so that makes the door tiny. Strange.
I’ve always been fascinated by these strange structures. Here’s one from this past summer. Isn’t it great?
That little turret part had a sink, and maybe a toilet if I remember correctly. Running water in a tiny house like this. Also a bed and an easy chair inside. Solidly built with real construction techniques. I have no idea if it was a glorified play house or if someone actually lived in it. It’s like a free-standing bedsitter. Or maybe a mother-in-law suite.
Anyone else intrigued by little buildings like this? Am I the only one who gets on the brakes to stop to shoot them?
Anyway, I hope all you other northern photographers are making it through the ragged end of winter. Hail spring!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yeah, I know I just wrote a whole big post about black and white photography and how awesome it is, but now I’m starting to crave color. It’s the precursor to spring fever. Happens every year. I try not to let it get to me, but some days I just feel like these leaves –
Kind of dried up and in suspended animation. Drained of vitality. Especially when we get a teaser day that ends up feeling like spring.
I tried to put it out of my mind though and focus on what was cool and interesting about winter. What’s special and unique to that season only. The trees seem to have more patience with it than I do.
When I spied this wood duck house in the undergrowth, I knew I had the tail of it. In any other season this would have been hidden. Unphotographable. Undiscoverable. Unknown.
I’m so glad I found it. The discovery put a spring back into my step. More a leisurely stroll. A hit of joy. That little spark that photography puts in all of us, that you’ve found something worthy of preserving. Something unexpected. Something to tide me over until the greening.
I’ve been doing a little winter hiking and snowshoeing lately so thought I’d share some shots.
The forest is an amazing place to me in any season, but in winter it seems to be draped in finery.
This first one I shot today while out in the afternoon. Those shadows are hard to beat. The sun doesn’t rise very high this time of year, so you don’t need to be out late to enjoy them. And since what little color there was in the scene wasn’t adding to the image, I did a black and white conversion and played with some sliders. I was using my legacy OM 35mm f2 by this time and my fingers were freezing. Autofocus does indeed have its benefits.
This next one I love although I seem to be the only one. While out with a couple of photographer buddies, I let them continue on up the trail while I set up for this shot. The way the light hits the trees is amazing to me. The sun hadn’t yet crested the trees and so everything is soft and glowing. I just love it. Plus I named it after an amazing book by Robert Clark. Bonus.
While both shots are similar in aspect and subject, they have totally different feels to me and I hope to you, too. The forest is always beautiful, sometimes surprising and yes, even elegant.
Today had it!
I love this light. Clouds obscuring the sun, but not completely. Just enough coming through to bring up texture and slight shadows. I love this brook. I go to shoot the falls, but so far no success. The brook however, I manage to get. Shot with the E-30, ZD 12-60mm and the tripod sunk in snow. It was so quiet that almost all you could hear was ice pellets and tiny hemlock cones falling on the crusty snow and rolling downhill. That and the brook, still alive and flowing under its icy shell.
From time to time I go meet up with a few other local photographers. We are all part of the same flickr group and it’s pretty much the same core of people who go to them. We usually try for a sunrise. Winter shooting seems far more popular. Probably because sunrise is at 7am instead of 5. Sunday was such a day. Of course I got about 2 hours worth of sleep the night before. I hate that. Couldn’t get comfortable. I’m coming down with something and kept coughing. The cats kept bugging me. It was brutal. After getting up and reading for a while, I finally went back to bed and was able to sleep for a couple hours. After a bit of a Plan A snafu, we ended up at Adams Point on Great Bay (one of our usual locations) and I got this –
Jeff and I trekked across the meadow heading for the milkweeds hoping for some interesting side light close-ups. I wasn’t feeling it though. Didn’t like any of the compositions I was able to get and didn’t feel like changing lenses for the 10th time (I should have brought my 65-200mm zoom, but had the straight 135mm f2.8 instead – mistake!) so switched tactics instead. Looking up out of my tunnel vision, I saw this beautiful vista. The sun had crested the treeline, but it wasn’t very high and so there are still shadows on the snow. I love the blue of those shadows against the soft pink of the sunlit snow. And the vertical lines of those naked milkweed plants break up the horizontal in an interesting way. The rolling hills and the trees give interest all through the shot. And the sky is equally soft all adding to a hushed, tranquil feeling. Think of it as anti-HDR.
Instead of using my graduated neutral density filter in the field (because my hands were already cold enough) I decided to use the same tool in Lightroom. I added just a little bit of underexposure and saturation in the sky and treeline. Just like a physical filter would have given me. Normally I like doing things in camera, but I just didn’t have the where-with-all yesterday.
I still haven’t gotten a decent sunrise or sunset at this location. Every time I go the sky refuses to cooperate. No clouds or no color. It’s like a conspiracy. Luckily there’s plenty of stuff in the foreground to work with. Here are some from previous shoots –
Boring sky with no clouds, but plenty of color…just look at it reflected in the ice there. That shot is almost straight out of the camera. A little contrast adjustment and I think some sharpening. Now look at this next one – great clouds, but zero color. Sunset bid almost fail. Luckily there was enough interest in the sky for a monochrome. I walked around until I got some other elements to include and later had to climb up that oak tree because the bank was too muddy and slippery.
As a whole, I think they work well to showcase some of the reasons why Adams Point is a nature preserve and also hosts a marine lab. It’s not going anywhere and the pack ice is forming, so one day maybe I’ll get my wish – good color, good sky, pack ice and fog. A girl can dream.
Lately I’ve been twisting in the wind over my photography. All aspects of it. Why do I do it? What good does it do? Is it good? Is it mediocre? Is it bad? Do I have a style? Am I a cliche? Should I try to market my images? Who would buy them anyway? Everyone and their brother is a ‘professional photographer’. Why do I maintain this blog when almost no one reads it? Should I change it? What should I change it to? All whirling around my head…
In spite of it all I went out. I LOVE being out. I can hardly describe it. The things around me astound me.
I’m so conflicted about what I want to do and whether I have the will to do it, never mind the talent. When I get outside though, that falls away. I feel peace. Connection. My mind lets go of worry.
I’m at a crossroads and in a rock and a hard place. Things are complicated. My life does not please me. I feel trapped by it. The longer it lasts, the worse it gets. The futility sneaks up on me and traps me in indecision. Oh how I wish all could be outside.