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August 2014

August 2014 (5)

Saturday, 30 August 2014 00:00

Lines in the Sand

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In New England, the Labor Day holiday weekend is unofficially considered to be the final weekend of summer and it is certainly the busiest. Maybe that's why I love Cape Cod in the post-Labor Day calmness. Strolling along Duck Harbor before last year's workshop I noticed the ripples in the sand left in the wake of the receding tide. In the late-afternoon slanting light they were highlighted and the sand was warmed by the golden rays. After considerable care to not step where I might photograph and more care to find the angle in the running lines that evoked the greatest emotional response, I set my camera low to the ground as if preparing for an extreme wide-angle landscape. Such an angle of view offered too much real estate, so I extended my focal length to 42mm, which, though technically in the "normal" range, still offered a lot to see and with good focusing technique allowed me to create sharpness throughout. Aligning the shell and the seaweed on the best diagonal possible, given the perameters of the lines, was also a strong consideration. An aperture of f/22 with a shutter speed of 1/10 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure.

Thursday, 21 August 2014 00:00

The Marshes of Wellfleet

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One of the jewels of the Outer Cape is the Massachusetts Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay. A 937-acre preserve, Wellfleet is a diversity of habitats that begins in pine woodlands, traverses a beautiful salt marsh, and ends in a barrier beach at the shores of Wellfleet Harbor and the fecundity of Cape Cod Bay. As the late afternon light spreads over the grasses of late summer, their colors seem to light up and glow in a palette of pastels and earthtones, a wonderful prelude to the sunset-to-come. I wanted to emphasize the variously illuminated and diversely colored stands of grass with their watery intervals, so I chose a moderately long focal length of 450mm. An aperture of f/22 and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. At the focal length described I could isolate an angle of view of about 4.25 degrees, and I found a location that gave me the separation in the grasses I was looking for and put me perpendicular to the axis of growth of the grasses themselves.

Saturday, 16 August 2014 00:00

Sun Standing Still

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Having moved from left to right across the high, narrow valley of Walker Camp Prong, the sun, on the day of the summer solstice, comes to rest midway up the flank of the spur ridge of Mt. LeConte that will continue ultimately to Peregrine Peak. After pausing for a couple of days, the solar disk begins its journey back across the valley, which will eventually take it behind Sugarland Mountain for the winter. This is the time of year when Morton Overlook offers the quintessential Smokies sunset location. I wanted to open up the shadows of the foreground ridges a bit, so I used a graduated neutral density filter to accomplish this. Then it was a matter of using focal length to place the ridgelines and the sun in positions of interest and balance. From the many possibilities, I chose a focal length of 232mm in order to compress the scene and enlarge the elements. An aperture of f/18 gave depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 5.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave an overall somewhat darker than medium overall exposure once the GND was accounted for. Feathering the GND filter helped even out the gradient.

Friday, 08 August 2014 00:00

Broadway's Neon Can't Compare

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Sometimes the ordering of chaos into imagery can take you into all sorts of directions even while standing in a single location. Not long ago I went to Cowee Mountains Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway exactly because the afternoon atmospherics in Asheville looked quite promising; and even though there is never an assurance that conditions in one location will hold in another forty miles away, especially forty miles across the Southern Appalachians, on this day they did. And as I stood before the layer upon layer of receding ridges, there were so many possibilities, so many images within images, so many parts of the greater whole, that it was a challenge to isolate the pieces of the expansive scene simply because there were so many choices: wide-angle, normal, telephoto, intimate landscape, even abstract. As the sun dipped lower and lower toward the horizon, its rays began to penetrate the overcast, sending "God's-eyes" spreading across the ridges, even while ridges further south and east remained bathed in daylight-green and -blue. The area that I wished to convey was not a large part of the whole, and so I used a 60mm focal length, rather normal as it were, to isolate what I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave an overall somewhat-darker-than-medium exposure. One of my primary compositional considerations was to include the area of light in the top-left part of the frame, which, because of its orientation, seemed to direct the eye back toward to place where the sun was shining. 

Saturday, 02 August 2014 00:00

Set in Stone Mostly

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Whenever I think about the Little Pigeon River I try to place in my head a map of what I imagine the East Tennessee terrain must have looked like before there was Douglas Lake or Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge or even Sevierville. And when I do that it's much easier to understand how the "Little" Pigeon might have received its name. As you travel downstream from the confluence of the mighty French Broad and its bigger child, the Pigeon, in what is now Cocke County, Tennessee, the first sizeable tributary you encounter on the south or east side (which is to say the same side) of the river is the "Little" Pigeon in today's Sevier County; and it's easy to see how the Lesser Pigeon could be understood as a smaller version of its larger relative. The branches of the Little Pigeon - West Prong, Middle Prong and East Prong - drain much of the northeastern section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as most of Sevier County and much of Cocke County. The Middle Prong watershed includes all of Greenbrier Cove, where the earliest settlers to the area, with names like Whaley and Ownby, came in the early 1800's. Much of Greenbrier is underlain with an ancient Precambrian metamorphic formation called Roaring Fork Sandstone; and where Middle Prong flows over that venerable basement rock, wonderful juxtapositions occur; and water and rock coalesce to create amazing beauty. Recently, a day or so after a soaking rain, I went to Greenbrier to play in the potholes of the rocks, which I knew would still be full of water. Looking for new ways to express this place is always fun. While I wanted to use the pothole and its reflected cloud as a foreground element, I did not want such a wide angle of view as to include any sky in the image. So I chose a focal length of 37mm to give me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave enough depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 2.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

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