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Saturday, 23 February 2013 16:45

Riding the Tide

It is said that Charleston, South Carolina is where the Ashley and the Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean; and this, for all I know, may well be true. There are many things that come together here that make Charleston and the Low Country that surrounds it one of the most beautifully photogenic places in the world; and maybe it was the idea of "coming together" that was the motivation for this image. The blue of the sky and the mixed texture of wispy cirrus and darkening cumulo-cirrus clouds really grabbed my attention, but the attraction was matched by the line of shrimp boats riding the incoming tide where the mouth of Shem Creek meets Charleston Harbor as it begins to narrow upstream into the outflow of the Cooper River. With so much development in the area it was hard to find a location that spoke simply of the timeless relationship between humans and the sea and the activities - like shrimping -  that have been part of that relationship for so long. In terms of design elements, I was struck by how the diagonals of some of the clouds was mirrored by the diagonal line of the boats, both of which gave to those elements a sense of movement through the frame. I was conscious of how much open water I used in the foreground lest it become a distraction, since here the sky was infinitely more interesting than the water. It was a "normal" focal length of 52mm that gave me the desired angle of view for enough foreground water and a pleasing relationship between the size of the boats and the amount of surrounding sky (much like they appeared to the naked eye). An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100 resulted in an overall medium exposure. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013 23:50

The Fertile Crescent in Winter

Sometimes when you look, rather than seeing what is happening, you see what is about to happen; and if you can prepare for the moment in a timely manner, you can often be rewarded. I was standing on my back deck admiring the wonderful cirrus formations when I saw the crescent moon and realized that a beautiful band of clouds was about to pass in front of it. Since a camera and tripod are never very far away, I ran to grab both and returned in time to set up and wait for the denser vertical cloud on the left to uncover the crescent. The thinner, diagonal cloud bands implied a motion the led the eye toward the moon, and once the thick band was against the left edge of the frame I placed the lunar shape in the upper left power point, more or less, and extended the focal length to 93mm, which took out the unnecesssary visual information and gave the composition I saw in my mind's eye. The atmosphere of the winter sky was clear, so the clouds and the moon were defined crisply against the deep blue sky. At f/16 I had plenty of depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/13th second at ISO 100 gave me a medium exposure.   

Saturday, 09 February 2013 23:08

Frozen Abstraction

Sometimes the grandeur of the winter out there tricks us into ignoring the winter at our feet, and it becomes incumbent upon us to regularly look down to see what's happening at boot level. When water freezes in thin sheets across the shallow surface of a wintry pool some amazing things can occur. The frozen glaze seems to follow its own internal rhythms, and the designs it can manufacture would do Jackson Pollock quite proud, even without the intense tones. As I looked at the solid edge of ice I was struck by its similarity to the waveforms I have seen in Hokusai watercolors, and I decided to craft an image that would echo those ideas. I wanted the image to be mostly about the ice with enough of the waterworn pebbles to give support as background and as textural contrast. And I wanted to include enough of the motion in the liquid water moving through the pebbles so that it became an element in the image. The curving lines in the icy patterns seemed to add some warm sensuality to the obviously cold moment. After framing the image in my mind and with the camera, I positioned my tripod so that I could shoot straight down from a distance just at the edge of the lens' working distance. The angle of view that gave me what I wanted happened to be a focal length of 200mm. At an aperture of f/22 (It would have worked with f/8, but the shutter speed would have made the liquid water look too frozen, and I wanted enough visible flow to echo the frozen "wave.") a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Friday, 01 February 2013 09:47

Place of Blue

While it is often said that "Shaconage" is Tsalagi (Cherokee) for "place of blue smoke," it's actually even more basic than that. It simply means "it is blue." What probably matters more is the feeling that is generated from the expression, regardless; for it evokes, in the strongest possible way, the notion of "home." For many years I have been trying to express this notion with an image from/of Shaconage. It is a project that will never be complete, but will exist only in some current manifestation, awaiting its next expression. I guess that means I'll always have something to occupy me in these amazing Mountains of Blue Mist. Winter is the perfect time to take such an image, for the haze of summer is not present and the true, blue mist is more readily apparent. Seeing the blue is a relatively easy matter; isolating it in an image that pleases is somewhat of a different matter. It's about shape and line, and shapes and lines that repeat to become pattern. Repetition does not have to be regular to be real; it need only be observable as repetition. So the receding blue ridges and the shapes of the peaks are definitely observable as repetition, and thus pattern, and what is required is ordering them in some arrangement that feels balanced. There are many ways that this can be done; this image is one that felt that way to me. The decision about the appropriate amount of sky was one that took some thought. Isolation was achieved with a focal length of 345mm. At f/22, a shutter speed of 1/30th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medim exposure. Since there was a relatively strong, but low, back-sidelight, it was natural for the foreground ridge to appear much darker to the sensor, even though in my eye there was considerably more detail.

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