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Sunday, 25 March 2012 08:15

Mile-High in Late Light

It is certainly true that photography is about light; and what seems equally true to me is that light is, generally, about weather. Spring was just beginning to green-up the higher valleys of Big Cove below Balsam Mountain late in the afternoon. The new buds were only beginning to be in evidence on the trees at a mile in elevation where I stood. A clearing thunderstorm still held the world around me in shadow, but to the west the breaking clouds were allowing the light to pour through, and it bathed the slopes of Flat Creek Bald in its warmth. I wanted nothing to detract from the experience of the light, so I was perfectly willing for the foreground to be rendered in silhouette; and I moved along the line of the foreground trees until I found a gap in them that allowed a way to see through and into the valleys and ridges beyond. The area lit by the sidelight was placed near the upper right power point for obvious reasons. Isolating the area of light and shadow was essential to holding the viewer's attention, so I chose a short telephoto focal length of 83mm, which gave me a fairly narrow 29.2 degree angle of view. The overall scene was somewhat dark, so I selected a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds, which was 1/3-stop darker than medium. I did this knowing that I was introducing more noise into the exposure, but decided I would rather do it that way and work with noise reduction tools than to expose more to the right. Since I was in telephoto-land I decided to use f/22 to maximize my depth-of-field, deciding that I would rather try to correct any diffraction that might occur. I was set at ISO 100.   The old photography adage that says "go outside when the weather is changing" is borne out time and time again.

Sunday, 18 March 2012 09:59

The Point of Inspiration

Having such tremendous symbolic value and appeal is what makes an icon, well, an icon. And just because we consider certain photographic locations to be iconic doesn't mean we should avoid them as subjects of creative potential. One of the lasting memories of place that I will always carry is this view from Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon National Park taken on a morning last fall after a somewhat early snow had added about 8" of white to the warm colors of the hoodoos. It was 2 degrees, not that it should matter, when I had arrived at the rim for sunrise, and not much warmer when this image was made. I wanted to take in as large of a view of the amphitheater as possible without getting into the sky in the distance beyond the upper Paria River Valley; and I also wanted some element to help lead my eye through the image as the view descended the slopes below me. So I moved back and forth until the erosional opening in the spires was roughly along the left-third grid and was not obstructed from where I stood all the way out to the valley. I was careful to make sure that no hoodoo tips crept into the bottom of the frame to become distractions; and I worked as quickly as possible to take advantage of the wonderful warm light offered by the clearing sky. F/20 gave me plenty of depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second at ISO 100. A focal length of 39mm provided the angle of coverage I needed. Iconic images don't have to be stale repetitions.

Sunday, 11 March 2012 09:35

Abstract at Red Jack

I can spend hours just looking at water. Water reflections, in general, and especially in fall, are always a lot of fun. There are so many ways to express them. And even when you are working with a particular form - in this case abstract - there are many ways to create that form. One of the variables, of course, is how you choose to express the surface tension of the water, which will, in some respects, depend on the degree of movement or agitation in the water, but will also depend on the aperture and shutter speed and ISO combination you select. I wanted the reflection in this image to appear more distinct than blurred, so that the white birch trunks would be seen in sharper detail. So I waited as long as I could for the water to be as calm as it would; and I chose the fastest shutter speed available in that light. This meant that my aperture, given the lens I was using, was f/5.6, which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/13th second at ISO 100. A higher ISO could have given me a faster shutter speed still, or a smaller aperture and, thus, a little more depth-of-field, but also more noise in the image to contend with; and this is the result I was looking for. The focal length of the lens was 3oomm, and with the narrow angle of view I isolated a small section to the larger scene and magnified it, allowing the green portion of the reflection to be roughly 1/3 and the warm color portion to be 2/3 of the image. 

Sunday, 04 March 2012 09:06

Yes sir, I've Been Here a Long Time

To wander through the Battery in Charleston, South Carolina is to take a wonderful journey through the pages of history. Many of the structures here date to the 1680's-90's in the years when the original settlement had been relocated to the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, at whose confluence, as Charlestonians say, the Atlantic Ocean is formed. There are homes large and small, stately churches, quaint alley-ways, and gardens that explode with a riot of color in the spring. Character and charm are the words that come most readily to mind. Walking down Church Street one spring morning I was struck by the faςade of this home and the alley leading away by its side. The fairly young live oak tree and the ornamental shrub, the crumbling layers of the wall of the residence, the line-up of the windows and lively color of their shutters, and the entrance columns of the alley and driveway all formed an integrated whole that spoke directly to what I was feeling about being in this place of history: character and charm. I did not want to shoot the wall flat-on, so I stood in the street to create an angle with respect to the subject; and to add to that sense of three-dimensionality I included just the edge of the front wall. The one completely visible window carried the fact of the windows, so that I did not mind that the others were partially obscured. The biggest challenge was choosing a focal length and positioning myself so that the brick column was away from the center of the frame and the curb was not visible in the image. I also wanted to create spatial arrangements that approximated human vision and moved so that I could achieve my other goals with a 52mm focal length. F/16 provided the depth of field I needed, and a shutter speed of 1/10th second gave me an overall medium exposure at an ISO of 100.

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