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Saturday, 08 September 2012 07:52

Dawning is the Day

To begin the day at Thornton Lake on a crisp autumn morning has always felt to me like what I imagine being present at the dawn of creation must have felt. Unless the weather is completely foul, there is a serenity in a Thornton Lake morning, even when windy, that is palpable; and yet every time I am there the conditions are different. On this morning a storm was building over Lake Superior and the clouds were beginning to mass overhead. As the sun breached the horizon over my left shoulder, the winds below calmed and the surface of Thornton became a mirror of the turbulent sky as it became tinged with the early rays. I knew I wanted to express as much of it as possible without creating chaos as a result. The scene seemed so perfectly balanced that I chose to ignore the old saw about placing the horizon in the middle of the frame. Having a mirror before me, I decided to create a mirror image. The framing was a matter of deciding where to crop the image on either side and how much sky/reflection to include. There was somewhat more surface glare than I wanted, so I turned my polarizer just enough to reduce some of it without impacting the intensity of the reflection. A focal length of 33mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. In the early light at ISO 100 a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds gave me a slightly darker than medium exposure at an aperture of f/16. At that aperture I knew I would have sufficient depth of field for sharpness throughout the image. Using f/22 would have meant a 12-second shutter speed, and this would have expressed so much of the surface tension that it would have softened the reflection more than I would wish.

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  • Comment Link Fred Applegate Friday, 20 September 2013 08:33 posted by Fred Applegate

    And to think: I've always heard that placing the horizon in the center makes for a boring shot :-)

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Tuesday, 11 September 2012 16:53 posted by Don McGowan

    Hey Dean and John; it's good to hear from you. That's an interesting suggestion, Dean, and an idea worth playing with. Given the relative contrast difference between the sky/reflection and the foliage, I think you are right about saying that a "wee bit" would do it. Too much and it might begin to look like overdone HDR work, beyond what my eye could experience. John, I could probably create a slide show from Thornton Lake, and somewhere in it would be the image you suggest. I've probably filled several cards of various compositions from here, and yet I never tire of seeing it again. I'm glad you're going to have the chance to experience it soon. Thanks, both of you, for your comments.

  • Comment Link John DiGiacomo Tuesday, 11 September 2012 16:05 posted by John DiGiacomo

    Don, I've been looking at this spectaular image for quite a while and noticed that my eye keeps going to the trees. It was such a clear morning and there seems that you captured alot of detail (color and texture)in the trees. I would like to see what the final product would look like if you had zoomed in tighter and lost part of the lake. I hope I get an opportunity in a couple of weeks. Best, John

  • Comment Link Dean Fikar Tuesday, 11 September 2012 16:03 posted by Dean Fikar

    Hi Don, the reflections are fabulous, as is the overall composition. I agree that with large, dominant reflections the effect is usually better centered rather than following the rule of thirds.

    The one thing I might have considered doing would be to very subtly enhance the brightness and maybe the contrast (but not the saturation) of the foliage just to bring out the amazing colors a a wee bit.

    Nice job!

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Tuesday, 11 September 2012 07:30 posted by Don McGowan

    Hi Dorsey, thanks for joining us. You're absolutely right, it's hard to not do good work at Thornton. I've been there on probably 30-40 occasions over the years and have never been completely disappointed. Some mornings were a lot better than others; but simply being there has always been its own reward.

  • Comment Link Dorsey Davis Monday, 10 September 2012 21:16 posted by Dorsey Davis

    Don, a marvelous image of one of my favorite locations. I photographed Thornton Lake in October 2010 as well. I won't pretend that my images are as good as this but I sometimes think it would be hard to take a bad picture here. I have never been fortunate enough to catch the lake with cloud cover. The reflections of the clouds really make this photo.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Monday, 10 September 2012 12:00 posted by Don McGowan

    Hi Nancy Tripp; you were indeed there that morning. Beauty and awe are surely related, and that morning was filled with both. Thanks for joining us.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 09 September 2012 23:12 posted by Nancy Tripp

    Wow! One of my favorite spots. I have many photos from there but mine don't look like that! I love the turmoil and colors in the sky and it is reflected so well in the lake. It is moody and powerful. You captured the fact that stormy and menacing can be beautiful. I think I was there on that special morning. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 09 September 2012 20:28 posted by Don McGowan

    Hi Karen. It's good to hear from you. You're right, it is easy to get caught up in the "rules" and so I always try to go one more step and ask myself if what I have done is balanced. If I feel that I have achieved it, then I consider that my bending the rules will not create offense.

  • Comment Link Karen Lemoine Sunday, 09 September 2012 19:05 posted by Karen Lemoine

    A beautiful place and a wonderful capture. I appreciate your thought process, especially when determining the specifics for a particular scene. I think I get caught up in the "rules" and then get disappointed when things don't come out as intended. There is something magical when clouds have many colors in then.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 09 September 2012 14:52 posted by Don McGowan

    Hello Pat and Jessyca; thanks for joining us. Pat, your observations are especially welcome because they reflect an ever-increasingly thoughtful and critical eye. Jessyca, since I know you attended one of my presentations in Amherst, I am delighted that this has encouraged you to want to explore with your wide-angle eyes. Fall in New England was made for such.

  • Comment Link Jessyca Sunday, 09 September 2012 14:31 posted by Jessyca

    What an absolutely beautiful image. I love what you've done with it.

    Fall is my favorite time of the year. I am looking forward to using my wide angle lens more.

  • Comment Link Pat Crutchfield Sunday, 09 September 2012 14:05 posted by Pat Crutchfield

    Don ... This is a wow! I am enchanted by the shape of the sky colors reflected in the lake and the texture of the sky. Great capture.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 09 September 2012 10:38 posted by Don McGowan

    Thanks, again, Horace. I really appreciate your thoughts. Although I was at Thornton that morning for quite a while, the clouds massed and moved, but were in this formation for only a brief period. It was truly one of the gifts of the day.

  • Comment Link Horace Hamilton Sunday, 09 September 2012 10:30 posted by Horace Hamilton

    I seem to have deleted my original comment rather than sending it. Went something like this...This image is a wonderful example of your mantra that one must develop mastery of one's craft in order to be able to fully capture the beauty that presents itself. I especially like the way the illuminated cloud mimics the line of the horizon below. This is a wonderful capture and a sheer pleasure to just enjoy!!

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