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Sunday, 29 July 2012 11:52

Just Normal, Not Boring

Between Otter Bay and South Bay the vista of Raquette Lake opens to reveal a view of the timeless beauty that is Adirondack Park. It is a reminder of the herculean effort that went into the preservation of the largest publicly protected land area in the contiguous United States. It is also an opportunity to capture some of the most stunning sunrise imagery anywhere. In late summer and early autumn, morning fog is a fairly common occurrence; and when it is not so thick as to obscure the scene, it can become a marvelous leading element in an unfolding drama. Add in some streaming cirrus clouds overhead, some windless-calm reflective waters at your feet, and a dazzling lightshow display; and you have everything you need to share the essence of this place. There are many ways to express it, from wide-angle to telephoto, but the normal focal lengths, from 40-65mm, can serve quite well, too. I wanted to include the area of reeds in the lower left of the image, and since I could include the fog-diffused sun without much concern for flare, I panned to the right just far enough to bring it in. While the reflected colors in the water were important, I felt that the streaming clouds in the sky-becoming-blue were more appealing to me, so I divided the frame as to be weighted in favor of the area above the horizon. A focal length of 57mm gave me the elements and relationships I was looking for,  and an aperture of f/14 gave me sufficient depth-of-field. A shutter speed of 1/40th second was fast enough to freeze the surface tension of the slightly rippled water; and with an ISO of 100, that all combined to create a slightly darker than medium exposure.

Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:10

A Journey Just Begun

Wilma Dykeman loved the French Broad River so much that she wrote a wonderful book about it which has become a classic. And her affection was well-placed; this is an incredible body of water. Arising high on the Pisgah Ridge in Transylvania County, North Carolina, it descends in a corkscrew, flowing south as if headed to South Carolina, then east, then northeast, then north, and finally northwest into Tennessee. There its journey has just begun, for it joins with the Holston to become one of this country's most beloved streams, the Tennessee River, which will undertake its own circuitous pilgrimage through Tennessee, Alabama, back through Tennessee, and into Kentucky before merging with the Ohio River near Paducah, only a few miles from its confluence with the mighty Mississippi. This branch, the North Fork, is still within a scant few miles of its source in Transylvania County. It is parent to some incredibly beautiful waterfalls and a granitic bed that will steal your heart. As I wandered along the path beside the river I noticed the places where the rocky bed was wider and found a spot that combined the sense of flow with the lithic story of its home. The small overflow drip immediately attracted my eye, and I thought, "There's my foreground." Getting low allowed me to place the drip in the bottom of the image and tilt up until I had the horizon where I wanted it - across the top of the rock on the left, with enough foliage in the background to give a sense of the surrounding place. At 48mm this is technically a "normal" focal length image rather than a wide-angle, but hyperfocal focusing can still be used to maximize depth-of-field. F/20 was a small enough aperture to provide the depth; and at ISO 100, a shutter speed of 0.4 second gave me an overall medium exposure.  

Saturday, 14 July 2012 22:46

Riding the Curl

This past spring I made plans to spend a day shooting in the most special place on earth to me, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The weather forecast called for a mostly overcast sky for most of the day; so I was excited at the prospects of what I anticipated I would find. That morning as I arrived at Luftee Overlook for sunrise, it was already becoming apparent that the weatherman had miscalculated. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it did not appear that there would be any coming along at any time soon. So I decided to re-calculate and change my idea about shooting in the open reaches of the higher elevations. Descending the ridges, I got as low as I could, while still being above ground, and wound up in Little River Gorge. Even there, the contrast presented a challenge; but as I continued to observe the light, I began to isolate areas of open shade created by the gorge's walls. Into those areas there was light being reflected off the highlit sides of the walls creating some interesting reflections in the flowing waters. I wanted to isolate as small of an area as possible to emphasize the reflected colors of the more smoothly flowing water in relation to the curling whiteness of the more turbulent areas. In order to slow the rate of the overall flow, I raised my ISO to 400 and achieved a shutter speed of 1/13th second, which was fast enough to achieve the desired result. An aperture of f/18 gave me enough depth of field, even though a focal length of 300mm has a very narrow total depth of field as it is. Anticipating the light is one thing, but adapting to the light that you find is always a result to be desired; and it sometimes means the difference between a ruined plan and a successful outcome.  

Sunday, 08 July 2012 07:44

Just Keepin' on Dancing

In 1879, Mormon pioneers, heading to establish a new community in the unsettled (by Whites) lands of Southeastern Utah, left the town of Escalante and traveled south toward what they hoped would be a relatively easy crossing point on the Colorado River nearly 60 miles away. They traveled in wagons and on horseback. Reaching a point several miles north of the river, flowing through the precipitous chasm of Glen Canyon, they stopped to camp so that the route ahead could be scouted. Their camp, known as the Fifty-Mile Camp, was about a mile below a great sandstone monument whose west face had been deeply pocked and scalloped over the millennia, but which had a fairly level floor at its base. In good spirits as they awaited the report of the scouts, they entertained themselves with music and dancing, and began to refer to the monument as Dance Hall Rock. Only later did the reports confirm the arduous tasks and danger that lay in their path, that would become one of the great episodes in Mormonism known as the Hole-in-the-Rock. The countryside around Dance Hall Rock is an eroded orange soil overlay of the same Navajo Sandstone that forms the rock, and it hosts few species; but there are a few small cottonwoods in the depressions where the intermittent water flows, as well as what appears to be a kind of dwarf oak that turns bright red in autumn. I could not help but notice the relationships and connections among and between the plants, their soil, and the still great rock, which in its diminution had led to the existence of the others. I placed the camera very low over an interesting dwarf tree, which offered itself as a foreground element and was positioned so that it seemed to be along a pathway through the sand leading over to the base of the monument. At 18mm of focal length I was as wide as the lens would allow; and being as close to the tiny tree as I was, I needed f/22 as an aperture to ensure enough depth-of-field. In the existing afternoon light, a shutter speed of 1/13th second gave me an overall exposure of medium at an ISO of 100. And the rest, as they say, is history.         

Sunday, 01 July 2012 03:16

The Stones of Little Hunters

Little Hunter's Beach is one of the most beautiful cobblestone beaches I have ever seen; and its beauty is apparent regardless of the status of the tide. I happen to prefer an incoming tide about midway between high and low, in late-afternoon with clouds or a high, thin overcast. Then it's a matter of choosing a place along the beach where the waves breaking in relation to the amazing rocks create a dynamic that speaks of the relationship of rock, water, and light that is Acadia. In this place that is no more than a hundred yards wide, I could spend days. On this occasion I wanted to set up looking more out to sea than down the tideline, so I found a spot where the incoming surf was breaking over some larger boulders and then washing over the smaller pebbles that make up the beach. I set the camera low over the pebbles so I could enhance their size and emphasize their color and water-washed texture. I was able to use the boulder off-shore as a mid-ground element to lead the view over to the tree-covered promontory, and thence out into the open ocean. A 27mm focal length gave me the angle of view I wanted: enough sky to avoid truncating some of the trees on the cliff. With an aperture of f/20 and an ISO of 100, I needed a 1/13th second exposure to give me an overall medium exposure. This speed was slow enough to avoid appearing frozen and fast enough to avoid appearing as a blur.

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