July 2016

July 2016 (5)

Friday, 29 July 2016 09:19

...I Am an Island

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In my mind there is no more beautiful beach anywhere than Rhode Island's Moonstone Beach. A delightful combination of silken sand and rocky cobbled stretches, its general east-west orientation means that the setting sun will create a wonderful sidelight on waves washing in and returning to the sea as your image is oriented north-south. In the interstice between rock and sand, singular lithic elements come together with moving water to fashion almost zen-like opportunities for creativity, and the waning light casts a marvelous golden aura over it all. I wanted to isolate a single beach stone large enough to catch the golden light and capture it at the moment an ebbing wave was washing over it. A focal length of 450mm allowed me the angle-of-view/isolation I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field and an ISO of 200 allowed for a shutter speed of 1/4th second to give me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure. Tides may wash castles away, but beach stones can sometimes hold their ground, more like an island.

Saturday, 23 July 2016 11:14

And the Leaves That Are Green Turn to Brown

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Trustom Pond is fairly small as national wildlife refuges go, but then the beauty of Rhode Island doesn't accommodate oversized displays, but rather exceptional ones. And Trustom Pond is, indeed, exceptional. It is, by Rhode Island accounts, a "salt pond," but in technical terms it is an enclosed lagoon separated from the sea by the narrow spit of Trustom Beach. The much smaller, slightly more inland Farm Pond collects the drainage from the surrounding woodlands and old, fallow fields, and feeds Trustom to the delight of migrating waterfowl. Surrounding Farm Pond are beautiful red maples and other hardwoods, and spread across its waters is typically found in late-summer a carpet of water lilies that will turn golden brown as autumn approaches. I felt somewhat on the intimate landscape side of abstract as I watched this cluster of pads lying above the maple-reflected colors in the water. Since I wanted to isolate the cluster fairly tightly, I chose a focal length of 292mm. As there was some slight wind moving across the surface, I chose an aperture of f/7.1 as a setting and an ISO of 200 to achieve a shutter speed of 1/15th second. The depth-of-field reduction was a compromise, and I focused in the middle of the scene to maximize what depth there was, depending, as in last week's Image, on the eye's willingness to forgive some loss of detail in the presence of sharpness close by. It occurred to me that Paul Simon might have been stirred to visit Trustom once on a song-writing adventure.

Thursday, 14 July 2016 11:15

Below Hooker

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For me, waterfalls are not merely places to enjoy the straightforward beauty of our watery world, but they are also wonderful opportunities to express the abstract wonder of that world. Below Hooker Falls in DuPont State Forest there is an expansive area of fairly shallow water whose ripples often catch the morning light in marvelous patterns of abstraction. Since the water is in constant movement, some decision must be made as to how best to express the motion to achieve the desired result. Too slow a shutter and the surface tension is simply too blurred; too fast and the risk is something more "frozen" than desired. Faster shutter speeds typically mean wider apertures, which translates to reduced depth-of-field and, with it, edges too soft and blurry. Since the longer the focal length, the shallower the depth-of-field at a given aperture/camera distance, this presents a problem that has to be solved typically by compromise. Here my compromise was to use a focal length of 375mm to isolate the part of the ripple pattern I wanted. This reduced my depth-of-field considerably, so I chose an aperture of f/8 to do two things: allow for as much depth as possible while giving me a way - accompanied with an ISO of 400 - to achieve a shutter speed of 1/80th second to freeze the motion of the water enough to overcome the blur. The exteremes of the frame are somewhat soft because of the shallowness of the depth-of-field, but by focusing halfway into the image I maximized the depth and placed the sharpest part of the scene in the middle, and depended on the eye's willingness to forgive some softness if there is sharpness nearby. The abstraction of water is an endlessly fascinating subject and problem-solving opportunity.

Saturday, 09 July 2016 15:10

An Air of Agitation

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It is, by my reckoning, one of the quintessential sunrise/early light locations anywhere in the country. Luftee Overlook, looking down into the valley of Beech Flats Prong, with its recessional ridges sloping off the Smokies crest east from Newfound Gap, is as iconic as the high country of the Smokies can offer. And even when the rising sun is too far to the left to be a real "sunrise" factor, its early light can be as magical as a scene from Middle Earth. Our Arrowmont class went looking for the magical light on several occasions during our two-week adventure, and we were not disappointed. The atmosphere in early-July seems to nearly always be on the verge of agitation, and when it is broken with moving clouds so that the early light comes streaming in, especially if there is fog in the valley, the moments it produces are dreamscapes. It's becoming harder to do wide-angle work at Luftee because there is a long, low rail on the south side of the highway, the trees just below the right-of-way are growing, and the grasses on the edge of the right-of-way are often untrimmed. But I worked to show intent with the placment of these elements and used a focal length of 27mm to achieve the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly-lighter-than-medium overall exposure. Nature's gasses and the turbidity they created provided the air show. 

Saturday, 02 July 2016 10:51

Window to a Wonderful World

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Western North Carolina is a land of mountains, almost beyond measure. It is the wonderful world I call home, and I am both fortunate and blessed that it is so. The beautiful American By-way known as the Blue Ridge Parkway winds two miles from our front door and continues its sinuous journey for 92 more miles before reaching its western terminus in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way it passes near the summit of Richland Balsam mountain, the highest point on the nearly five-hundred-mile-long scenic road. And just before reaching Richland Balsam, a view to the southwest reveals the magnificent recession of ridges looking toward the Cowee Mountains. I could spend days observing the beauty seen from this place, and it is sometimes nearly impossible to even know where to begin; but on this occasion the god-beams thrown by the partially overcast sky, helped me isolate the area of ridges on which I wanted to concentrate. A focal length of 157mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. It could be the sound of music I hear. 

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