Sunday, 22 May 2016 00:04

The Beauty of Roaring Folk

The smoothly-worn, deeply-pocked outcropping of Roaring Fork Sandstone, which has surfaced over the millennia in the bed of Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River near the Greenbrier entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is one of my favorite places. It is one of those amazing juxtapositions of water and rock that lends itself to the increased beauty of both elements in endlessly fascinating ways; and when the waterpockets and folds are filled with recent rain, there is born a fairyland of visual delight. As soon as I arrived I began considering how I might express the blue sky and white cumuli passing overhead in a joinder with water and stone. I moved carefully over the somewhat slippery surface until I found just the pockets I wanted at just the angle to the camera, so that what I mostly saw was "blue." Then, while waiting for the clouds, I arranged the other elements: the outcrop, the mid-ground ledge with its small flowing pourovers of stream, and the background of streambed and forested banks. In the very late afternoon the contrasting light on the opposite banks was quite visible, but not so stark that the shaded bank became detail-lessly dark. I set my focal length at 24mm to give me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure and an apparent motion in the water that was pleasingly smooth and slightly textured at the same time. Roaring Fork Sandstone is of late-Proterozoic age, roughly 500-550 million years before our time. It is a venerable elder to be appreciated and respected.

Thursday, 19 May 2016 07:29

Visions of Eliot

It seems impossible to think about spring in the North Country without thinking about bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), one of my very favorite northern bloomers and wonderfully common in places like Acadia National Park. It was the intimate landscape work of that master of intimate landscapes, Eliot Porter, that introduced me to this tiny beauty and compelled me to head north in June to explore the Downeast coast. It is not uncommon to find fallen white birch logs among the patches of bunchberry wherever they are encountered; and the combination of the two makes intimate beauty into a work of art. Using my 90mm macro lens at 1:1, I carefully isolated the view of the groundcover that I wanted. An aperture of f/22 gave me depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. The biggest consideration other than choosing the angle-of-view was getting my camera as parallel to the scene as possible in order to create edge-to-edge sharpness. One of the great joys of being an artist is being inspired by the masters of yesterday, and there is not one more inspirational than Dr. Porter.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 11:56

As I Walk with Beauty

To walk the Hemlock Road Loop Trail, as it meanders through Great Meadow in Acadia National Park, is to walk with beauty regardless of the season. The white birch path that traces a portion of the meadow is very much akin to being in a cathedral. I could spend days in this place walking first in one direction and then reversing my steps to go in the opposite, knowing that the view will be entirely different and equally pleasing. On the occasion of this Image, I was walking south just before reaching a slightly noticeable turn in the path to eastward, and I was consciously looking for a longer stretch of walkway in which to create something entirely different; but when I reached this point I was stopped by the wonderfully intimate scene before me, and I immediately knew that this was the image I wanted to express in that moment. I knelt on my knees so that I could point directly at the bases of the near-ground birches, but I also tilted upward so that I could include as much of the canopy as possible without including sky in the frame. I used the run of the path itself as a division between the two clusters of birches, allowing it to create separation between them. The tall, lush, spring-green grasses served to emphasize the visual line of the pathway. A focal length of 90mm, short telephoto, gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field (due to the nearness of the grasses in the foreground I needed all I could muster). A shutter speed of 1.0 second - thankfully there was almost no wind - at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. May we all walk with beauty wherever we travel.

Wednesday, 04 May 2016 10:33

The Zen of Schoonerhead

Part of the beauty of Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island lies in such a wonderfully rich diversity contained in such a fairly small place. I never cease to marvel at what is to be found there, and I never tire of returning again and again because each view from the same location yields a unique experience that always brings joy, laughter, and a song to my heart. This June I will lead my last workshop there, and I am already very excited. Another of those easliy overlooked and out-of-the-way places is Schoonerhead Pond, which may have begun many years ago as an actual pond, but is now becoming, more than anything, an exotically beautiful marsh and wetland. What little open water remains in Schoonerhead is, in spring, often a water lily paradise, which, in early-morning before the wind picks up, can show the face of zen to anyone watching. On this morning, I chose to ignore, momentarily, all of the other visual stimulations calling for my attention and to concentrate on the lovely triad of pads with their lone bud just beginning to flower. A focal length of 300mm allowed me to isolate just that grouping floating on the dawn-still water. An aperture of f/16 gave me sufficient depth-of-field, considering the camera-to-subject distance. It also gave me a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 - fast enough to freeze motion and an overall medium exposure.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 16:01

Timeless Comes as an Icon

It would almost be criminal to spend time in Acadia National Park and not visit Bass Harbor Lighthouse sometime during your stay. It is such a special icon of the Maine Coast that I cannot imagine never having visited it, even with the almost-guaranteed daily crowd that will gather there to watch the late light with you. Space is very limited, so plan to arrive quite early to find a perch you will appreciate artistically; and that may well mean two hours ahead of the event, so it will be prudent to check conditions ahead of time before making such an investment. You might also want to check the tide chart to see if it will be incoming, or outgoing, and by how much at the appointed hour. Being forearmed with this knowledge will put you there at the right time to select your right place. And the remainder of your vision is up to you. Of course, it always helps to time the beaming of the beacon with the arrival of a wave. A focal length of 28mm gave me the angle of view I wanted which included the entire cliff front at the base of the house and enough of an opening to the left that allowed for a small view of the open ocean. An aperture of f/16 provided depth of field; and a shutter speed of 4.0 seconds at ISO 100 provided enough blur in the on-coming wave to provide a sense of the water being drawn over the rocks fairly slowly. I actually waited for the wave to begin its crash before releasing the shutter, so that I could catch some of the backflow coming off the front of the rocks in the midground.

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

All Rights Reserved.