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Saturday, 27 April 2013 21:21

Ethereal

I love dogwoods, which is to say I also love spring. As the new green begins to unfurl on the branches of the other members of the Smokies great cove hardwood forests, the delicate white blossoms of the dogwoods spread their beauty through the understory for everyone to see. The ephemeral flowers appear in advance of the dogwood's own leafy cover; so when they make their presence known in mid-April they are like giant snowflakes floating through the greening woods. I never tire of looking for new ways to share their loveliness. As I was wandering through a cove hardwood understory near Big Creek recently, I was struck by the contrast between the lacey petals and the dark, spindly trunks and branches of the dogwoods in the context of the larger, straighter, and generally lighter trunks of the poplars, maples, and other hardwood species. The taller dogwood on the right became the apex of a descending right-to-left diagonal line, and because it is larger and nearer than the other dogwoods, that line seems to lead the eye toward the back of the image as it traverses right to left. The new green of some of the background trees added a nice bit of color to compliment the white of dogwood blossoms. A short telephoto focal length of 97mm gave me the angle of view that allowed me to isolate the dogwoods in a meaningful relationship with their surroundings. An aperture of f/22 gave the desired depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.  

Sunday, 21 April 2013 00:18

Day is Done

Mid-April in the Smokies is a time of change. New growth is "greening up" the mountains, and everywhere you look there are blooming things showing off their beauty. But there is another, more subtle, change that occurs at the end of certain mid-April days. As the sun moves toward its rendezvous with the summer solstice in June, it slips behind the crest of the Smokies ridge and begins to set out over the valley of West Prong of the Little Pigeon River on the north side of the crest. When this occurs, Clingman's Dome is no longer a location from which to catch the solar disk as it disappears, because it drops behind the ridge too early in the day. In the last days before this change occurs, however, the Dome is a wonderful place to capture long telephoto graphic images of the ridges and the ball as it slips below the horizon in a blaze of color. On this evening about a week, or so, ago there was sufficient color in the sky to warrant creating a 60-40% proportion weighted toward the sky, with the lines and shapes of the ridges as supporting foreground. The haze on the horizon and the horizon itself served to prevent the occurrence of lens flare from shooting directly into the sun. A focal length of 360mm gave me the tight angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 at a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure.    

Saturday, 13 April 2013 18:00

As Above, So Below

 

Craig Lake in Michigan's amazing Upper Peninsula is an adventure just to get to it. And when you arrive on a pristine calm early morning just after sunrise, in golden light at the height of fall foliage, with a light fog rising off the water, you might declare that you are dreaming. It certainly felt that way to me as I walked down to the shoreline through a forest of maples, birches, and oaks to discover a solitude of light and color I could only describe with reverence. What my mind quickly isloated was the small island in mid-lake seemingly surrounded by blue sky and blue water. It seemed appropriate that I should split the frame with equal amounts of water and sky and place the island and its reflection in the middle of the image. The far shore seemed to be just a continuation of the island spread across the horizon. It was one of those rare occasions in which I was glad there was not a cloud in the sky. A very short telephoto focal length of 75mm allowed me to create the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 with a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter than medium result. 

Saturday, 06 April 2013 21:10

I Took Myself a Blue Canoe

"Seeing" photographically comes in many forms, and technology usually finds a way to adapt to that vision. The panoramic vision is no exception, and many years ago camera manufacturers began to develop formats that would capture the stunning story of the panoramic way of seeing the world. In the world of digital imagery the panorama has also found expression in the increasingly sophisticated ability of processing software to "stitch" multiple images from other formats, especially 35mm, together into a single result. In addition to understanding how to use this capacity of your software - assuming that it has it - the only other requisite is developing the ability to recognize, that is "see", the presence of an appealing panoramic image when it exists. Last week on a visit to Hooker Falls in Dupont State Forest in Transylvania and Henderson Counties, North Carolina, as I knelt looking at the lovely cataract and the flow of Little River with the old, abandoned canoe waiting patiently among the rocks, I was looking, originally, for images that incorporated the boat, the rocks, and some portions of the river and falls into a single interesting frame. As I continued to move my visual point of reference from side to side across the scene, it occurred to me that a panorama was perfectly suited for what I was feeling about what was before me. So, using a focal length of 36mm - at the extreme narrow (angle of view) end of the wide-angle range - I turned the camera as a vertical and created six individual images, overlapping each by about 25% and adding some "extra" area on each end to allow for cropping, knowing that the end result would be the image shown, which, as it turned out, had a proportion of 2.86:1. All of the images were exposed at an aperture of f/20, with slightly varying shutter speeds at ISO 100 to give an overall medium exposure to each. What allowed me to use 36mm as a focal length effectively was the fact that I was shooting from a very low position and was, thus, tilted up with the lens parallel to the scene, which eliminated much of the wide-angle distortion I might otherwise have experienced. 

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