JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 62
Saturday, 29 September 2012 21:47

Waving to Whitefish

In the northeastern corner of Michigan's Upper Peninsula Whitefish Point sits like a shark's fin protruding into the chilly water of Lake Superior and pointing itself across Whitefish Bay to the shores of Ontario and the wind turbine-lined hills beyond. It is the Graveyard of Ships of the Great Lakes, where more vessels have gone down than in any other part of these mighy waters. Yet for all of its foreboding presence, it is a place of great beauty where white sand beaches, littered with the lithic remnants of ancient cataclysmic geologic forces, meet head-on the pounding surf that Kitchi Gami throws its way. As I stood on a jutting edge of sand looking back across to the tip of the point I was struck by the patterns formed by the on-coming waves as they raced toward the rocky beach. Placing the camera at an angle to catch the breakers as they hit the shallows, I waited until I saw a sequence that was visually appealing and released the shutter. I had already narrowed my angle of view to a specific area by zooming out to a focal length of 168mm. I maximized my depth-of-field by using an aperture of f/22. In the ambient light of the moment that aperture gave me a shutter speed of 1/30th second for an overall medium exosure. If I had needed a faster shutter speed, an aperture of f/16 would have given me sufficient depth and a faster speed as well. My ISO for the image was 100.

Saturday, 22 September 2012 23:17

An Intimacy of Birches

The wonderful white birch path through Great Meadow in Acadia National Park is always full of surprises. It's so easy to get caught up in the lines of receding forest along either side of the path that you can forget to notice the small clusters of individual trees that so spectacularly offer themselves as you walk along. The lushness of the grass was so omnipresent that it seemed to enfold everything around, and when I noticed this grouping of trunks among the green stems I just stopped in my tracks and stared. The one grass stem with the pair of curving blades in front stood in such contrast to the others that I knew it had to figure prominently in the composition. I discovered that if I moved too far to the left in an attempt to create separation in the trunks, the position of the curved blades with respect to the trunks behind them became such that the relationship between them became too tenuous. So I became very fussy and moved just to the point of creating enough separation that it could be seen and no more. The relationships of the trunks to each other and of the grass to the trees was what I actually saw. I wanted enough depth of field for all of the trunks and the grass to be sharply focused, but I did not care about the grass in the background, so I focused on the large trunk, second from the left in the frame, and at a focal length of 82mm used f/11 as an aperture. At ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1.25 seconds gave me a slightly lighter than medium exposure, which worked better due to the lightness of the birch trunks.    

Saturday, 15 September 2012 22:32

Looking Through Windows of Time

To stand on the flank of Chilhowee Mountain along Foothills Parkway West, looking over the valley of Hesse Creek and ultimately into the uplift of Rich Mountain high above Cades Cove, is to look as if through windows of time. Beyond Cades Cove the Crest of the Smokies rises on the billion-year-old rocks of the Ocoee Supergroup; but on the relatively narrow ridges of the foothills where I stand the shales, siltstones, and sandstones are a mere 300,000 to 500,000 years young. To me they are timeless. When I began photographing from this location seventeen years ago, I was struck with the serene, magisterial beauty of this place and this past week I was reminded of it once again; for it is in the returning that the connections we make with the land become strengthened. I wanted to isolate from the scene before me only that small part that showed the sidelight from the sun's rays filtering into the layered ridges as they led the eye to the mountain and to show the mountain itself near the top right power point. So I chose a 300mm focal length to narrow the angle of view. An aperture of f/20 gave me sufficient depth of field; and at ISO 100 a shutter speed of 0.4 second gave me a slightly darker than medium exposure, which included the use of my 5-stop GND filter to hold back the values of the bright sky above the horizon and to make slightly more darkened the layer of cloud at the top of the image.    

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.

Saturday, 01 September 2012 23:54

From a Distance

This image is certainly about location and light, but it is also, equally as much, about symbol. When we begin to really understand that every image we create incorporates on some level a complex symbology to which our viewers react, if only on a subconscious level, then we can begin to conscoiusly craft images that evoke those symbols. Here the symbolism of civilization created by the small patch of mown grass contrasts with the symbolism of wild nature as seen in the area beyond the fence, while the fence with its opening symbolizes the demarcation and passage between the two worlds. I wanted to include just enough of the fence on either side of the opening to have it serve as a frame for the opening itself; and I did not want to introduce a large area of mown grass, just enough to carry the idea of its presence. Using a normal-to-short telephoto focal length of 66mm from a distance of about ten feet to the fence gave me a magnification and spatial arrangement not much different from the human eye, although slightly compressed. The very early morning sidelight imparted a warmth and texture to the wild grasses and flowers, and I chose to eliminate the sky completely in order to draw attention to the fog-infused ridges and valleys. An aperture of f/22 maximized my depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.     


Site copyright © 2001 - 2017 Don McGowan & EarthSong Photography. 

All Rights Reserved.