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Saturday, 24 November 2012 09:11

Leaves on Blue

One of the great joys of photography is the on-going realization of what a wonderful journey of discovery it truly can be. As the title of a Dr. Seuss classic reminds us, "Oh the Places You'll Go." This fall, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was one of those amazing places, and part of the wonder of the experience was in discovering locations in the UP I had never visited before - and in realizing how many more amazing places to find there still await me. I have read that there are more than a thousand lakes in the Upper Peninsula, and looking at my maps makes me readily believe it is so. Craig Lake is one of the new discoveries that will entice me to return again and again. As incredible as were the colors of the hardwoods that surrounded the lake on this particular morning, it was the deeply reflected blue of the sky in the still water that drew my attention. When I noticed the reeds and the few fallen leaves in the shade of some of the shoreline trees, I momenatrily forgot the foliage and gave my attention to the zen-like feel of a small section of reeds in which floated a small armada of red maple (which happened to be yellow in this case) leaves. The decision came in thinking about how to compose the reeds, their reflections, and the interspersed leaves in a way that seemed harmonious and balanced. After playing with a number of ideas I settled on this one, although I came away with several other compositions as well. I wanted a narrow angle of view, so I chose a focal length of 300mm. I wanted to maximize my depth-of-field, so I chose an aperture of f/29, which was possible because of the lens I was using; although I was leery of using such a small opening with its inherent diffraction issues. Even with this aperture, at ISO 100, a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds was necessary to give me a slightly-less-than-medium overall exposure.    

Saturday, 17 November 2012 23:58

An Intimate View of Upper Cataract

The upper cataract of Bond Falls on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a rapid of many faces, and all of them beautiful. The first time I saw an image from this magical spot was many years ago; and it was a very long telephoto, almost-abstract expression of a very small portion of the rock shelf, with its accompanying water flow. Over the years I have returned here numerous times, on each occasion with the wish to see it in some new way that I have never noticed before. This year was no exception. Though the summer had been exceptionally dry in the UP, there had been a string of very rainy days just before I arrived, which had left the river in a state of full-flow as the upstream lake released its burden. Standing at the base of the cataract, which is really a series of steps-down, I was surprised when the red maple leaf came floating by and lodged precariously at the lip of the lower step. I reached in and pulled it to the side far enough that it would rest in place long enough for me to use it as a foreground element. My original plan had been to shoot across the lower step into the upper steps, and to isolate that area with no background visible except in the extreme upper left corner, where I wanted to reveal the top of the step in its entirety. The leaf was a gift from the river. I chose a focal length of 30mm to isolate the area that appealed to me. An aperture of f/22 gave me the depth-of-field I needed, as I was about 18" from the leaf. At ISO 100 a shutter speed of 0.6 second gave me a medium exposure, between the white water and the black rock. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012 08:53

The Wabi Sabi at My Feet

Long Pond Fire Road in Acadia National Park is an amazing wonderland of diversity. It rises over granitic uplands covered with low-bush blueberries, reindeer and hair-cap mosses, lichens, and hemlock-oak-northern hardwood forest; and then it falls to skirt the edge of Long Pond, whose name is well-earned, where hemlock-hardwood-pine forests dominate. Somewhere in between are marshes and wetlands filled with cattails and marsh grasses whose autumn beauty in late-afternoon light is stunning. Everywhere you look, even when the foliage on the trees is way past peak - and even at your feet - there is loveliness to behold, from the all-inclusiveness of the wide-angle landscape to the intimacy of a small patch of ground covered in fallen leaves, decaying birch logs and lush mosses threading their way through it all. I had stopped to explore the wonders of a small stream, Duck Pond Brook, when I looked down and saw the section of birch log covered with moss and overlayered with the fallen remains of big-tooth aspen leaves in various stages of wabi sabi beauty. Wabi sabi, that rich Japenese world-view centered on the acceptance of the transient and the imperfect in everything: what a vast exploration it offers to the world of photographic art. My lens was set to a focal length of 300mm, which allowed me to isolate only that small section of forest floor that appealed to my sense of what the image was about. At an aperture of f/16 and an ISO of 100 a 2.5-second exposure gave me a medium overall exposure.   

Saturday, 03 November 2012 23:11

Snow Moving Toward Abstraction

One of the joys of being a photographic artist is the opportunity to try to come up with as many ways as you can think of to express conditions that repeat. In the Southern Appalachians, snow is one of those conditions; and it's always great fun when the first snow comes along before the colors of fall have faded from the trees. Instead of seeing the scene along the Blue Ridge Parkway in traditional landscape form, I saw it more in abstract terms with a small amount of realism thrown in as an anchor. In this case the realism came in the form of the dark trunk on the left and the less visible trunks and large branches on the right that to me conveyed just enough of a sense of "forest" to carry the idea. Beyond that, the color of the foliage and the white of the snow and snow-covered branches became an impressionist palette of tones and textures. Using a focal length of 255mm, a medium telephoto, I isolated a section of the snow-bound trees that told the "nearly-abstract" as clearly as possible. F/16 gave me enough depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure. 

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