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January 2014

January 2014 (4)

Saturday, 25 January 2014 23:47

Falling into Beautiful

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Fall foliage on its parent tree is obvious beauty which readily attracts our attention, but when the leaves have fallen to the ground on their journey to decomposition, they are, in my estimation, every bit as beautiful. And they seem to bear a character that is not unlike the wrinkled visage of an elder who has lived a long and fruitful life. The Japanese have a term for it; it is called wabi sabi, the art of imperfection/the beauty of things past their prime; and when you encourage your eyes to see it, it is found everywhere. One morning after an overnight shower during the Upper Peninsula workshop in 2012, we found ourselves in Copper Country State Forest in the presence of ground-littered fallen leaves covered in water drops of every size imaginable. These red maple leaves had taken on an almost coppery hue, and the droplets were like tiny lenses that magnified the veins and cellular structures. Using my 90mm macro lens with my Nikon D2x (effective focal length of 135mm), I placed the camera so that with the angle-of-view I wanted, I was able to achieve focus. In this instance it meant that I was about 8-10" from the leaf. Then I positioned my gear so that the composition allowed the large, main vein to become a diagonal through the frame, but did not divide the frame in half. The joinder of the leaf's veins with the stem became roughly the upper right power point, and the two large water drops became approximately the bottom left power point. The leaves were flat on the ground, so I placed the camera/lens as parallel to them as I could. At ISO 100, an aperture of f/16 at a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds gave me a slightly darker than medium exposure.

 

Saturday, 18 January 2014 22:57

The Light That Lingers

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The concluding passages in the chapter "On Freedom" in Kahlil Gibran's great work, The Prophet, alalogize freedom and its fetters to light and shadow saying, "...all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape. These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling. And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light. And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself a fetter to a greater freedom." Standing on our deck recently in the late afternoon light I was reminded of these words and of the power of images to symbolically evoke such amazing connections between the outer world and the inner. The sheer power that light brings to a photograph was brought home to me once again; and before it could fade I rushed to get my gear to record it on some photosites. The mostly overcast sky overhead seemed to reflect downward the unobscured rays beaming from the west; and the contrast that was created seemed to amplify the intensity. A focal length of 72mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field, and combined with a shutter speed of 0.8 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker than medium exposure.  

 

Saturday, 11 January 2014 17:57

An Okay Corral

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There are wonderful stories everywhere you look: happy stories, sad ones, poignant stories, stories of determination and courage, success and failure, too. All lenses tell stories, but if there were ever a lens made for the express purpose of telling a complete story, an epic adventure, as it were, it would surely be the wide-angle zoom; and the more effectively it is used, the better the story it tells. Hole-in-the-Rock Road, leading southeastward from Escalante, Utah to it's crossing of the Colorado River and beyond, is a road that has so many stories they are almost countless. Along this route the San Juan Expedition of Mormon pioneers passed in 1879 on their way into the history books and the founding of Bluff many miles to the east. Even years after they passed, ranchers scouted and found locations to graze their cattle on the sparse grasses and other vegetation that grew on the plain between the Kaiparowits Plateau and the Escalante River. Here, just north of Hurricane Wash, a small ridge of broken rock formed an angle which could serve as two walls of a fenced pen watered by a collection tank nearby. The remains of a old galvanized trough suggested the water's path from the tank to the pen, and the timbers of the ancient fence outlined the perimeter of the confine in which the animals could move: nothing elaborate, but functional. I set my tripod up within 12" of the near end of the trough so that I could enhance its size and emphasize its use as a leading line.  With my 12-24mm (18-36mm in 35mm terms) wide-angle zoom at 19mm, I had the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

 

Saturday, 04 January 2014 22:37

Rolling Abstraction

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The Massachusetts Audubon (Wellfleet Bay) Wildlife Sanctuary is a diverse eco-system that merges the sandy hills of the Inner Cape with the tidal waters of Wellfleet Bay and the greater Cape Cod Bay beyond: such a small place and such a large presence. From the inner marshlands a wonderful trail leds across a sandy spit of an island to the outer marsh where a thoughtfully-constructed minimalist boardwalk crosses over the tidal salt flats to a lovely beach where photographic possibilities are as endless as the tides. Waiting for sunset I stood along the shore watching the incoming swells as they reflected the sky's blue and the gold of the marsh grasses clustered nearby. I wanted to show only the rolling water and the reflected colors, so I set my tripod near the water's edge at a diagonal to the small breakers and began to observe their frequency and timing, and where the break was more likely to occur. I also tried to keep an eye on what the patterned ripples were doing in the direction of the golden grasses. When a breaker showed promise, I prepared to shoot. There were quite a few images; all were different; and more than a few were interesting. I tried to set my focus toward the far end of where the break seemed to commonly occur, since I wanted the curl to be as sharp as possible within the depth-of-field available; and then I sought to choose settings that would allow me slow the water's motion as much as I could without introducing too much noise in the image. A focal length of 450mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 maximized the limited depth-of-field of the chosen focal length; and an ISO of 400 allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/20th second to slow the movement of the water.     

 

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