Frozen Friday

A cold shot to wrap up the week…

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Winter Revisited

A Cold Shot

As we’re wrapping up the week, I figured it might be a good opportunity to look back a couple of years, when I took this photograph.  Although I didn’t give it a title right away, I have come to call this image ‘Winter Revisited’; this sprang forth more from going back to this image again and again than anything in the subject matter, other than the obvious.

This shot was taken on February 7, 2014, at Rocky Pond in Boylston, Massachusetts; this is along one of the variants of my commute.  I had pulled over, because I wanted to see what could be done with the sun’s warm glare off the ice, juxtaposed against the blue of the morning sky.  Nothing really satisfied my desire to create something worthwhile, so I walked a bit along the edge of the pond.

That is when I noticed the frost still on this small brush and how the frost had grown into fractal patterns along the branches and twigs.  Looking through the frosty brush toward the sun, the overhanging tree provided a nice bit of framing to the photo.  All in all, I felt, and still feel, pretty good about the end result.

Random Notes

You’ll notice that a good percentage of my photography doesn’t adhere to the standard edict of keeping the sun in your back to properly light your subject.  There are plenty of times when that is a good idea, but I find that allowing light to come from some more unconventional angles can provide dramatic images.  Of course, for portrait photography it is not at all unusual to put the sun behind your subjects and use flash to light them; that provides for pleasing edge lighting (aka hair lighting) and full control of the light you put on their faces.

Using the sun to a similar effect in landscape images provides rather nice results, such as in this image, where the hoar frost gets to stand out rather than disappear.

This photo was taken with an iPhone 5S.  With a minor bit of Photoshop work, I was able to enlarge the image for a large print with rather dramatic results.  Thus far, I have printed it on 2’x2′ acrylic, which lifts the glow from the sun’s glare off the ice even more.

Hopefully you enjoyed this image, and, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Dogstar Thursday

Should we let Thursday go to the dogs? Let me know…

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High Flying Golden

Agility Competitions

As frequent readers of my posts might be aware, I spent a number of years photographing dog agility competitions (How did you learn photography? (part 2) talked about it a bit).  One of the great comments I received included a request to share some more of my dog photography, so here’s a start…

My assumption is that most of you are somewhat familiar with dog agility competitions, where dogs, with the help of their handler, compete against each other over jumps, through tunnels, across see-saws (teeters) and other obstacles to run without mistakes and as fast as possible.  These competitions are a lot of fun for the dogs, as most of them love running around and doing challenging things for a reward; just like people, different dogs like different rewards ranging from food to tugging with their handler.

About the Photo

This photo is from about 5 years ago on a beautiful day in early May.  Note that this Golden Retriever is jumping rather high; the top bar is set at 24″ (appr. 60 cm) and is being cleared by quite a bit.

As my practice is to set up for shooting the action at certain obstacles, I made sure that for this jump the dog would be backlit to get some nice edge lighting on the ears and hair; it’s not often that this shot opportunity presented itself, which made for a fun shot.

Photo Geek Information

As some of you have asked for shot data and I had it readily available:

– shot with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III using a 70-200mm F2.8 lens and 1.4x extender at 1/1250s/F6.3

Hope you enjoy this, as I am thinking about making this a regular Thursday feature.

Wednesday’s Wonderment

You’re not a man, you’re a mushroom!

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The Gentle Mushroom

“You’re not a man, you’re a mushroom!”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Sometimes, the simple things in life reveal the true beauty of the world around us.  Such I often find with mushrooms, oft overlooked denizens of the forest floor and other opportunistic locations.

How this photo came to be

Those of you, who read the latest post in my series on how I learned photography, will not be surprised that this was a purely happenstance find, as I was photographing an agility trial that day.  In between events, I sauntered through the neighboring woods and chanced upon this beautiful specimen; this is where awareness of one’s surroundings really pays off.

Getting down to its level gave me a beautiful view, particularly with the light coming from the left and the muted, darker tones of the forest floor behind it.  A shallow depth of field really separated the mushroom from its surroundings, so it was just a matter of not over-exposing the shot to get it the way I wanted it to look.

One minor confession: I did remove a pine needle or two that were just in the wrong place…

For the inquisitive photographers among you, I will update this post with the EXIF data, when I get back to the source file, but I can tell you that this was shot with a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens.

How did you learn photography? (finale)

Some of what I have learnt that helped improve my images

Developing an approach

Thus far, we have journeyed through some of my early photography, how my interest got rekindled and blossomed through lots of learning methods and activities.  In this final episode, as promised, I’ll go over some of my approaches and methods for getting the images that I do.

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The Alley

The first item I want to clarify is that everything I do to get an enticing image can be learned and practiced until it becomes second nature.  There is no denying that some people will learn quicker and develop their abilities faster, which is often referred to as talent.  However, talent alone is not enough to produce great results in any field.  There is no substitute for making bad photos and learning from your mistakes.

So what are the not-so-magical steps to my process for getting the images that I want?  No surprise, but they are pretty straightforward:

  • Find something that is interesting to photograph
  • Have an idea of how you want to portray what you have found
  • Decide what steps in execution get you that result

Like I said: it’s pretty simple, when you break it down this way.  So let’s take a look at them in a bit more detail.

Discovery

It is pretty self-evident that without finding something interesting to photograph, there is no photo.  While this may be obvious, how often do you drive or walk by some place without noticing that there is a photo there?  Of course, all of us know how to recognize lots of photogenic subjects, such as El Capitan, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Great Pyramid, or the leaning tower of Pisa and the list goes on and on.  However, most of us don’t live right by these locations or have the budget to go travel to these places on a whim; so what to do?

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Blue Pond

A significant amount of my landscape photography is done during my commute to and from work.  As I look to vary my route, so that I don’t get into the same rut day upon day, there are a number of spots along the drive that have become some of my favorites to photograph.  The key to finding those special locations is awareness of your surroundings.  Don’t be afraid to stop on your way and check things out!

Another key item in finding that interesting shot is that sometimes your best shot is behind you rather than in front; such was the case for Blue Pond, which you see to the right.  I stopped to photograph the marsh and passing train, which didn’t really impress me, so I turned around and noticed how I could get the sky to play off the pond; a much more pleasing shot!

The skill needed to find images everywhere can be developed through exercises that challenge your vision to explore scenes in new ways.  Always look for more!

Visualization

Now that you have found that really cool subject that you can’t help, but photograph, it is time to decide how you want to show it to your audience.  It is all too easy to shoot a beautiful subject in a way that detracts from its brilliance; I’m sure you have seen snapshots from friends of that amazing waterfall that is so poorly composed that it’s lost its power.

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Bath Harbor Light

So how do you go about ensuring that your shot doesn’t suffer the same fate?  The first step is to frame a picture in your mind that brings out the exact sense of beauty that you feel from what you see.  Look through your lens to see what it shows you; if it is a zoom lens, see what zooming in or out presents to you.  Change your perspective by moving around or lowering your vantage point (this can be particularly effective when looking at a reflection).

The image of Bath Harbor Light demonstrates this principle.  If you have ever been to Acadia in Maine, you may have vistied this sight and you’ll see lots of photos of this particular lighthouse.  Most of these photos do not show it from this angle, but rather from a vantage point that eliminates the trees.  The rocks were filled with photographers looking for exactly that angle (it’s a ways to the left and lower, if you ever want to find it).  As the light was not ideal on this day, I decided that framing the lighthouse between the trees provided context and more visual interest.

Again, this is a skill that can be gained through ample practice!

Execution

Naturally, all your work to this point should not be allowed to go to waste with a poorly exposed image.  Therefore, the final step is to decide how you want your camera to read the light (assuming you’re not going 100% manual), the depth of field that gives the right feel, what shutter speed might work best.

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The Lady Gazes

Even if you use a 100% automatic, such as an iPhone, which I often do, there are still ways to control exposure; good material for future posts, maybe.

In your visualization, you may have given thought to what parts of the image should be sharp, while other parts should blur somewhat.  Think about what F-stop will give you what you’re looking to portray.

If your camera is even in partially automatic mode, you will want to make sure that your exposure reading is not fooled by bright white or very dark colors.  Learn to adapt for that by using pre-exposure compensation (DSLRs will have this, but not all point-and-shoots do).

When this all comes together, you get to express your vision and amaze your friends (no guarantee of that!).

Where to go next

Development and continuous improvement are a never-ending mantra for anything, about which you are truly passionate; once the bug bites you, you’ll spend countless hours improving.

There are two things that you should never stop doing in your photography:

  • Study, not just books, but learn from every photo that you like by determining what you like about it and why it works.
  • Stay inspired, both by what others do and what you do!

This is the last in this series, but I think there may be some follow-on posts from this.  Of course, I love to find out what you like to read more about.

P.S. yes, I left out post-processing…  I will do some posts on how I like to tackle that.

3 Day Quote Challenge (Day 3)

Where the train takes us may not be important…

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Past meets present, as we reach infinity.

 

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.”
– Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Selected Poetry

THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE

This is the final day of the 3-day quote challenge that I was given by Mysticalwriter.  First of all thank you for given me the challenge.  As you can tell, I stuck to my plan of using photos to lead me to quotes.
Today’s quote is from American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay; her poetry has always stuck a chord with me.  These lines are a perfect description of life’s journey, which ties back to the image.

HERE ARE THE RULES:

One quote a day for three days. They can be your quotes or quotes from other people. Post one a day for three days and nominate three bloggers per post. Also, thank the person that nominated you.
My nominees for today are:
  1. Instamatic Gratification
  2. With Only One Life
  3. Things Understood

Have fun!

Shot of the Week – vol 3

The path leads forward…

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The Path

This week’s shot of the week was taken this past Thursday during my commute.  As I prefer backroads when driving to work, there are plenty of opportunities to find spots that have some photogenic qualities.

My favorite spots are those that are not apparent to all who pass them; this is definitely one of those, as this is a road that goes up to a state mental hospital that is no longer in use (of course it is about time that the good old mental hospitals from the 50’s and 60’s are being shuttered).  Just out of the shot to the left is a ‘No Trespassing’ sign, which didn’t deter this person walking their dog.

This photo was taken with my iPhone 6S with the standard camera app and adjusted with Instagram.

3 Day Quote Challenge (Day 2)

The sound of the waterfall…

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Chapman Falls in Devil’s Hopyard State Park, East Haddam, CT.

“When I was walking in the mountains with the Japanese man and began to hear the water, he said, ‘What is the sound of the waterfall?’ ‘Silence,’ he finally told me.”

– Jack Gilbert, Collected Poems

The 3 Day Quote Challenge

This is the second day of the 3-day quote challenge that I was given by Mysticalwriter.  First of all thank you for given me the challenge.  My plan is to use one of my photos each day and find some quote to go with the photo.
Today’s quote is from American poet Jack Gilbert.  I like it for its simple depth and zen quality.

Here are the rules:

One quote a day for three days. They can be your quotes or quotes from other people. Post one a day for three days and nominate three bloggers per post. Also, thank the person that nominated you.
My nominees for today are:
  1. Zero Creativity Learnings
  2. silverpepperofstars
  3. MIDI Mike

Have fun!