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Saturday, 29 December 2012 10:12

Coming Home

Somehow it seemed appropriate to end the first year of "Image for the Asking" at home; and home, of course, is anywhere in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Greenbrier area of this park has long been one of my favorites, and much of that affection has to do with Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River. From where I stood - knelt, actually - for this image, it is hardly more than a mile-and-a-half upstream to the confluence of Ramsay Prong and Buck Fork, where Middle Prong is born. As it slices beneath the uplift of Greenbrier Pinnacle, Middle Prong is one of the most boulder-laden stretches of water in the Smokies, and a place where spring always beckons an artful eye. What I wanted to express was the magnitude of the rocks, both in their size and number, as well as to offer a way to explore upstream into the background of newly-leafed-out foliage in the surrounding forest. I moved along the bank until I found a small pour-over that could be placed in the bottom right. This became the beginning of a watery line that led at a slight diagonal to mid-image and then beyond the boulders into the forest on both sides of the river. So that the left side of the image was not "wasted" space, I used a wide focal length lens and an angle of view such that the main flow of the stream exited to the left and bottom. A focal length of 22mm gave the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 gave the depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 gave an overall medium exposure result. I had been somewhat concerned that the length of the shutter speed would produce too much "white" in the water, but that did not seem to be the case because on this particular day the flow-rate was moderate and the turbulence was not very high.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 09:22

On the Road to Wyoming

Human presence in the natural world has been a source of great beauty and, sadly as well, of great destruction. I find it uplifting to dwell on the first of these aspects as much as possible, whenever possible. There is nowhere I have ever felt this more strongly than in the explosion of fall color on a short dirt/gravel road part way up Michigan's incredible Keweenaw Peninsula. Once in the middle of the Keweenaw's great copper mining boom of the early twentieth century, Wyoming Road now leads a short distance to a small homestead with a couple of rental cabins; but in that brief trip it passes through one of the loveliest stretches of white birch forest I have ever seen. The birches find themselves surrounded by a larger forest of maples, a few oaks, and other assorted hardwoods which all conspire to create an artist' palette of color. There are so many possibilities here that in a dozen years I have just begun to discover them. For this composition I wanted to use the road as an interesting and leading diagonal through the image. I chose to get fairly close to the trunks on the left so that their visual weight would balance the line of trees on the opposite side of the road; and I wanted to surround them with enough maple sapling color to get across the reality of the intense hues that were present. The dark fir on the right provided a nice tonal contrast. A focal length of 123mm gave the angle of view I wanted, which eliminated all sky, but left plenty to see. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 3.0 seconds at ISO 100 resulted in a medium overall exosure.  

Friday, 14 December 2012 09:15

There Be Goblins


To be in Goblin Valley at sunset is to be convinced that you have landed in an alien world much like the one that inhabits the mind of Peter Jackson. The Entrada Sandstone, of which the valley's fabulous goblins are formed, is a younger sibling of the famous Navajo Sandstone which caps the cliffs of Zion's awesome canyons, separated in age by a mere 150-180 million years, or so. Both were playmates in Jurassic's Park so long ago. You almost expect that at any second they will begin singing "Hi ho, hi ho" and march off to work; but that would take dwarfs wouldn't it. On a clear Utah day they are interesting enough, but in the golden hours at dawn and dusk, they seem to glow a warn brown-orange. When we arrived it was still bright, but it soon became apparent that as the sun went further down something special might happen, and so we waited - and were rewarded. There was enough texture in the clouds that I wanted to include just a bit of sky above the horizon; and I had measured the angle of the light and had chosen a spot on the valley's rim where the last rays would sweep over and among the hoodoos from the west. It was magical just being there. I created images with a wide range of focal lengths, but the one which I liked most was a wide-angle composition whose challenge was placing all of the elements in meaningful relationship to each other without becoming cluttered, and deciding how to close the frame without cutting off an element - hoodoo, cliff, or sky - in a way that made it seem unnatural. There was also the decision of how to use the slope of the rim in front of me as an element of interest. I chose a focal length of 27mm. An aperture of f/22 gave me the depth-of-field I needed, and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly darker-than-medium exposure overall.    

Friday, 07 December 2012 23:25

May They Never Pave Paradise

It is known to the locals as Paradise Beach, but the presence of any sand, whatsoever, is purely accidental. Paradise Beach is a long, occasionally broken rock shelf that stretches along the shore of Kitchi Gami west of Grand Island for several miles. And though it may not seem like a beach in any traditional sense, it is certainly reminiscent of paradise in my mind. When the Big Lake sends some of its famous breakers crashing ashore, the show in Paradise can be spectacular indeed, and finding a good spot along the shelf from which to photograph and stay dry becomes the biggest challenge. There is every opportunity present from wide-angle to macro and in-between. In October when I was there, there were a couple of wonderful days when the waves were being driven ashore with such a sublime ferocity that I often just stood and watched, but also managed to find an appealing moderate telephoto landscape composition with which to express what I felt about being there. The process was to pick out a section of shoreline with some interesting shapes and forms, and then watch to see where the biggest splashes were occurring so that they could be placed in a dynamic location in the frame. Of course, knowing the ideal time of day to be there for good light doesn't hurt. I chose a focal length of 225mm to magnify and compress the scene and draw attention to the crashing waves. An aperture of f/22 gave me the depth-of-field I needed and a shutter speed of 1/6 second at ISO 100 created an overall medium exposure and a texture in the water that I liked.    

Saturday, 01 December 2012 15:09

Abstract In a Mud Puddle's Eye

Looking down can sometimes be looking up. You just never know what you may find on the ground, so it's always a good idea to pay attention to the humble earth, especially when it has become a catchment for recent rain, otherwise known as a mud puddle. Mud puddles contain some of the most wonderful reflections to be found anywhere. As I was leaving Craig Lake I approached a small depression that was nearly as wide as the single-track road. Coming in, the light had been completely different and there had been no reflection from the approach angle; but going in the opposite direction was a whole other story. I played with several strength settings of my polarizer, but the one I liked was one that provided enough polarizing effect that I could begin to see the muddy bottom of the puddle with enough reflectance to show the rainbow of colored foliage being reflected in the water. I really liked the thin line of elevated mud rising above the reflection and the pebbles in the upper right corner, catching the blue wavelengths of light. In order to have enough of an angle of view to catch a variety of colors, but stay within the puddle, I used a focal length of  200mm. An aperture of f/22 gave me as much detail in the reflection as possible; and at ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds gave me an overall medium exposure.

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