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Sunday, 27 May 2012 06:11

In Lupine Fields the Lupine Grow

Lupine, as the story goes, are not native to Mount Desert Island, nor Acadia National Park; but many years ago when a new chief park biologist initiated a campaign to rid the park of its beautiful invasive, he was met with such resistence by nearly everyone that the superintendent reigned in the effort - and there are still lupine in Acadia today. This wetland was once private property that was tagged for residential development by its owner, but he was also thwarted by the community in the name of wetland preservation. Now it's a part of Acadia National Park. Preserving beauty is never a bad idea. I looked carefully around the edges of this field before entering, so that I could minimize my intrusion, and when I saw the two flower heads that were bending inward, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I positioned the camera so that those two flowers would frame the bottom left of the long line of blossoms sweeping away toward the back of the field in a reverse c-curve from left to right to left. I also made sure the three blossoms in the bottom right were completely within the frame of the image to fill in that area with color. I wanted to be as low as possible to exacerbate the illusion of the distance from front to back across the field, but not so low that the flowers began to be a barrier to entering the scene. When I tilted up I wanted there to be enough of the trees in the image to show my intent to have them, but I did not want any sky. Depth of field and foreground sharpness were important, so I used an aperture of f//20 with a focal length of 21mm. At ISO 100 a shutter speed of 0.6 second gave me an overall medium exposure.  

Sunday, 20 May 2012 07:33

Moody River

There are so many beautiful streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River as it flows through Greenbrier has to rank near the top of the list. From its headwaters on the north face of Mount Guyot, where Ramsay Prong and Buck Fork come together in a tumult of rock, to the park boundary at Pittman Center, Middle Prong offers a feast for the eyes and an uplift for the heart. Its rocky, often boulder-filled, bed creates a wonderful contrast to the flow of the water and the lushness that guards either bank. In late-spring and early-autumn Middle Prong's valleys are commonly shrouded in fog which adds to the moody setting. Near the park boundary the river drops over a series of small ledges which can be accessed through the many trails worn by fisherpeople over the years. I went looking for a place where I could use one of the outcropping ledges as a line leading out into the stream. When I found this spot, I saw that I would incorporate the ledge as a diagonal that joined the flow of the water, which became a second diagonal at an opposing angle to lead the eye into the back of the image. I wanted to be low enough for the foreground rock to be a dynamic element, but high enough so that the mid-ground ledge on the right did not become a barrier to  the back of the scene with its fog-filled foliage. I moved back and forth across the rock until I was as far from the edge of the river as I could be without creating a merger between the mid-ground ledge and the boulder in the middle of the stream at the top of the image; seeing water completely around that boulder was, in my mind, an important component of the presentation of the water. It was conceived as a wide-angle idea, so a focal length of 23mm gave me the coverage I wanted. An aperture of f/18 gave me enough depth-of-field for sharpness throughout; and at ISO 100, a shutter speed of 0.8 second gave me an overall medium exposure.     

Sunday, 13 May 2012 08:33

The Locust Dance of Palo Dura Canyon

It's not often that I seek to make images that are something other than tack sharp, but sometimes there are subjects that just seem to beg to be created as impressionistic forms. As with film there were ways to create very impressionistic outcomes, so also can this be done digitally, both as multiple exposures and in post-processing. On a Southwestern journey last fall I spent some time in one of nature's magnificent spectacles, Palo Dura Canyon in Texas' Llano Estacado. Palo Dura is a wonderful location for its amazing rocks and stratigraphic forms, and for the headwaters of Prairie Dog Fork of Red River. In the bottom of the canyon there is found a beautiful old gnarled black locust forest with an under-floor of various grasses. In late fall the dried grass stems contrast the lime-green locust leaves and dark trunks in a graphic display of color and texture. It already seemed Monet-like as it was, but I wanted to really enhance the effect. The "clarity" slider in the Basic processing module of PhotoShop's Camera RAW processor is primarily designed as a mid-tone sharpening feature; but if you take it in the negative (-) direction, it begins to diffuse sharpness with the possibility of a very impressionistic result. Compositionally, I wandered among the trees looking for relationships among trunks, limbs, grasses, and leaves that would capture my attention. In this scene I found the dance of elements I was looking for, and negative clarity did the rest. A focal length of 255mm allowed me to isolate just the trees and under-floor that I wanted to include. An aperture of f/11 gave me enough depth of field without creating a sharply cluttered background. At ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1/15 second gave me an overall medium exposure.     

Saturday, 05 May 2012 22:36

The Way Through Great Meadow

Tucked into a wetland that spreads across the northern foot of Dorr Mountain in Acadia National Park, Great Meadow's Hemlock Trail is a path of many delights. The lower part of the trail, as it winds across the floor of the meadow, moves through one of the most wonderful stunted white birch forests on the planet. No matter the season, the run of it's course is a visual feast of shape, line, texture, pattern, and color; and I'm sure form is somewhere in there, too. After my workshop in the spring of 2011 it was one of the places high on my list of locations I wanted to visit on my own, and I spent several hours just walking it from end to end. One of the places I settled on to photograph was this straight stretch of path flanked on both sides by thickly clustered birches, around whose bases lush green grasses grew. I chose to counter-balance the length of the line on the right side with the isolated singularity and relatively greater size of the near birch on the left, along with the remaining line of trees behind it. I also chose to shoot tilting up from a very low perspective to emphasize the height of the small trees and the length of the straightaway. I was glad that the grass on both sides of the path at that location was growing thickly enough that it helped guide the eye onto and along the path. Though the trail begins nearly in the middle foreground of the image, it slants toward the left rear in a slight diagonal that aids in creating a sense of movement. The overall division of the frame is roughly 60-40%. I chose a normal-very short telephoto focal length of 72mm. F/22 ensured depth-of-field throughout the image; and with an ISO of 100, a shutter speed of 0.8 second gave me an overall medium exposure.    

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