Thursday, 24 March 2016 05:51

The Twining Bright Angels of Spring

When most folks stop to gaze across Upper Sugarlands Valley into the steep slopes of the long highland ridge that is Sugarland Mountain, it is easy to look beyond the wonderful old sycamore trees that anchor the near slopes of the valley, which are actually the final, lowering, northwestward runs of Mount LeConte. Upper Sugarlands Valley is a landscape photographer's dream, set between the Chimneytops to the south and the open end of West Prong's drainage to the north; and in early spring there is so much to see it is difficult to know where to begin. As I was in deep concentration on the Carolina silverbells spread across the opposite valley wall, the light broke onto the sycamores to my right, and the new unfolding buds caught the illumination and began to glow in contrast to the dark opposing slopes. The backlit trunks showed dark in juxtaposition with the leaves, and I was captured by the dark shapes and the bright luminosity. A focal length of 129mm, somewhere between short- and medium-telephoto, gave me the narrow angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 created a significant depth-of-field, but since I had focused on the front of the trunks, my depth was partially "wasted" in front of the trees and prevented the far slopes from being rendered in tack-sharp focus. A shutter speed of 0.3 second at ISO 400 gave me an overall medium exposure and a way to still most of the motion caused by the rising thermals. Bright angels from a spring-green world of trees.

Thursday, 17 March 2016 22:32

As Above, So Below

Nestled between Acadia National Park's Cadillac Mountain and Pemetic Mountain is a glaciated trough which now holds the lovely small body of water known as Bubble Pond. The long axis of Bubble Pond is generally oriented northwest-southeast, with the closed end being southeastward. On a calm late-afternoon, just after the sun has slipped behind the slopes of Pemetic Mountain, the reflected light on the pond's surface is like a mirror facing directly into the sky. Ancient granitic boulders litter the margins of the pond providing wonderful foreground elements. It is a scene so pacific as to almost stop your heartbeat. I wanted to incorporate both the mirrored surface of the pond with a small portion of the sky above; so I chose a focal length of 36mm to give the angle-of-view I wanted, which would also allow for the use of some of the boulders as foreground. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. It is a deceptive stillness, for more often than not the offshore breezes stir the waters and the spell is broken.


Tuesday, 08 March 2016 16:47

The Arc of Spring

There are some 2,100 miles of streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and they make up, in my mind, some of the most beautiful watercourses on our planet. Of course, some of that beauty comes in the form of the life that grows alongside those miles. In the spring, as the new life unfolds, we are given the spectacle of that richness in such forms as the beeches and birches that often grow along the banks, sometimes reaching out as far as they can to capture as much light as possible in the narrow valleys that house the channels of Little River and its winding tributaries, and all other Smokies streams. Since I am always looking for ways to integrate streams and trees, I was delighted when I noticed this relational juxtaposition of a greening world of trees, rocks, and water. A focal length of 69mm, just beyond the edge of the "normal" range, gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.8 second at ISO 100 gave me a medium exposure (I considered f/16@ 0.4 second, but since there was no wind, I opted for the smaller aperture and increased DoF). The Smokies in spring are a study of many wonderful things, especially green.

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 17:34

Sailor Take Warning

Southwest Harbor is a wonderfully quiet and quaint fishing village on the southwest corner of Maine's Mount Desert Island. It is a cheerful contrast to the maddening tourist mentality of Bar Harbor and it is my favorite population center on the island. It's also a great location to catch the dawning day, especially when the day dawns with colors such as those that treated me on this one. And whatever truth the old saw may contain, when the first light of a new day is as beautiful as this, the "sailor take warning" caveat is worth the risk. I waited for the sun to come up into the trees so that I could see it, but also prevent flare. Then I isolated a section of the harbor and chose an amount of sky which felt to me that there was achieved a balance between sky and harbor, being careful as I did so to be aware of the foreground elements and what was included and excluded. A focal length of 300mm gave me the isolation and angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth of field, and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly darker than medium exposure while allowing me to stop the motion inherent in even still waters. Harbors are great places to ride out storms, as all sailors know well.

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