The movement of Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year to photograph. Colors, shapes and lines, cooler temperatures, weekend trips up north–all contribute to the experience of capturing the visuals and emotions of Autumn. There is a certain rush to capture these images before the trees lose all their leaves. I really enjoy seeing the grand landscape images that my peers produce. I’m not much of a grand vista image maker, but instead I like to capture the smaller details of nature, especially leaves. I like to make an images that is different, perhaps unexpected.

Going through some of my favorite “captures” from this Autumn I noticed a sort of trend–movement. Many of my images have an impressionistic look about them made by either purposely blurring the subject or moving the camera. Some of my outings occurred during windy days–in which I let the wind have her way. My intent with these images was to allow the color to steal the show–rather than the form of subject itself.

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Watch your backgrounds

I took this image of a purple tulip at Meijer Gardens in April. I received a lot of feedback, so I thought I would point out what technique I used to create it.

First, I chose an interesting flower with few imperfections that was lighted well. That became the flower I focused on. Next, I chose a wide open aperature setting (5.0) to put the background out of focus so it would not compete with the sharpness of the central tulip. Next, I moved around such that most of the background had some of the colors of the other tulips, and took care so that very little of the background was not filled with the tulips. Finally, I worked to bring out the detail of the main subject in post process using NIKs Color Effects Pro software.

All in all, I think the image turned out quite well.

Tulip Negrita

Tulip Negrita

 

Winter scenes

Winter photography is often boiled down to just lines and shape. Much of the landscape is coated with white, and the gray skies can soak the color out of the surroundings. even so, this is a good time to sharpen some photographic composition skills. Often the brilliant color of the other three seasons can overwhelm the mind and result in less thought out images. I was able to capture some winter images I wanted to share here:

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Facebook and nature: an unlikely duo

I try to set some goals for my photography each year. It may be to make images of a certain type of subject such as still life objects or macro images. It may be to try out some new techniques such as fill-in flash or “dragging the shutter” to create a sense of motion in a photo. It could be to visit new locations to discover what possibilities it would hold for new and interesting subjects.

This year my goal was to visit new nature areas and local parks. It all started with seeing a newspaper article about two Grand Rapids, Michigan, area women who decided to share their love of wildflowers, walking, and local parks. Barb Beck and Judy Bergma created a Facebook page called Michigan Wildflowers. They published a small booklet showing a variety of spring wildflowers and which parks we were likely to find them in. The booklet and the Facebook page were the venue for a “Spring Wildflower Scavenger Hunt.” They encouraged readers to post photos of their findings on their Facebook page and tell us what park they were found it. In many cases readers called on Barb and Judy to help identify a wildflower they had photographed and posted.

In my estimation their venture was wildly successful. While on the prowl for wildflowers, I saw many families walking through the parks, booklets in hand, trying to find and identify the 30 spring flowers in the scavenger hunt booklet. Kids were excited to go on a treasure hunt, and parents were thrilled to see their kids interested in the outdoors. As a photographer, there was another huge benefit. I was able to get daily feedback on what flowers were blooming in a particular park on a given day or week. Many times I changed my weekend plans to visit a particular park based on what other flower hunters reported on the Facebook page.

There is a lot that can be said about how social networking can bring us together as fellow humans. In this example, social media was the impetus towards getting hundreds of people to venture out into nature–perhaps the antithesis of being behind a computer.

Following are some photos from various new parks I had not visited before this year–and a couple places I visit regularly. There are some from Spring, Summer and Fall.  Enjoy!

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Fall reflections

My favorite time to photograph is the Fall. The cool crisp air and abundance of color are refreshing. One of the ways I like to photography fall color is by capturing the color indirectly through refelctions. Here are some samples from this fall’s “harvest.”

These photos are combining fall color with car hoods or windows:

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And these photos are combining fall color with water:

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Noticing…

Grapevine

Grapevine

 

Noticing…

Some of the most rewarding photography comes from the ability to notice something special among the ordinary. It is a kind of “reading between the lines” way of visualizing the world around you. If you train your eye to look for interesting shapes, colors, lines, textures, etc…, these elements begin to pop out at you in unexpected, yet very common places.

This grapevine and white railing were just outside the room of a bed and breakfast my wife and I visited for our 30th anniversary this past June. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t sound so ordinary, but this particular scene could be just outside any of our houses). Our breakfast was delivered just outside our door each morning in a picnic basket, and there was a nice little patio with table and chairs with which we were able to enjoy our breakfast on. My eyes were drawn to the way these grapevine leaves fell across the railing, and especially the little red tentacles that curled around the vines. I composed the image so that the railing ran diagonal through the scene, and the large two leaves to the bottom left counter-balanced the smaller two leaves at the upper right.

As I think about it, an anniversary celebration is a way we notice something special among the ordinary as well. It is a way to “read between the lines” of the everyday and ordinary stuff of a marriage relationship and celebrate the shape, color, lines and textures that have formed over the years. It is a beautiful and rewarding picture.

 

The old red shed

There is something about old barns and sheds that repeatedly draw my eye. It may be how they root us to our past, or maybe the attraction of living in simpler times. I’ve always loved the look of faded barn red paint. On our country road is a old red farmhouse with a small red shed nearby.

Old red shed

Old red shed

The farmhouse and shed were already abandoned when we built our home on this road over 25 years ago. A farmer up the road rented the adjacent land for planting corn. He always planted a few rows of sweet corn along the road on this property for all the neighbors. We got to know this farmer well– Don and Mary Shores. They taught us a lot about growing vegetables, raising and butchering chickens, and about the neighborhood. But we never did learn anything about this old farmhouse.

About 7 years ago I took my oldest son’s High School senior portrait with the faded red wood as a background. Two years ago I noticed how the shed was losing it’s battle with gravity and so I took some close up abstract shot of various parts of the shed.

Weary hinge

Weary hinge

Weathered wood

Weathered wood

Two roofing nails

Two roofing nails

While photographing this shed I could not help but wonder about its story. When was it built? Who built it? Did they have any power tools at that time? What was its purpose–animals, machines, garden tools? Was it owned by a young family or old couple? Did they farm the land themselves? What was life like back then? How many owners did it have over the years? When was the house and shed abandoned?

This past March we had some pretty nasty wind storms, and the shed could no longer fight the pull of gravity. It’s just an old shed and abandoned farm house… but it feels a bit like an old friend is gone. The pile of rubble remains, but the spirit of the place is gone.

Collapsed shed

Collapsed shed

Looking back I am glad I took images along the way. These images help tell the story and  give color, shape and context that words simply cannot. When words fail me–and more and more they do–the camera lens helps me articulate what it is I want to share.

Knowing your subject

This year I am making an effort to know my subjects. So often I will label a flower as “yellow flower 1” without taking the time to learn what the real name of the flower is. I have shot a number of spring flower images this year, and have been able to get the names of a good number of them.

Learning the correct name of what it is I am photographing is the first step. Learning the times of day that the subject is best viewed is another. Some flowers close towards night. I also started a Google Apps calendar listing when different flowers are in bloom, and where to find them. A bonus is that I have visited a few new area nature parks I had not been to before.

Following are some images of Spring from this year. Enjoy!

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Shooting from behind

This spring ice storm provides the perfect lesson in “shooting from behind.” Much of what we shoot in the camera is light reflected off of a subject. But anytime you have a subject that is translucent, the better photo is often shooting “through” the subject.

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What are examples of translucent subjects? Water, both in liquid and frozen form, leaves, flowers and other plants, and glass and plastic, cloth such as sailboat sails, even insect wings such as those of a dragonfly.  I am sure there are many other examples. Shooting through any of these items often gives an image some life and shape more than if shot from the other side straight on.

There can be a downside to this approach, however. Often shooting into a bright source like the sun makes the back side of the subject pretty dark. Depending on the subject, I will often use the camera flash to fill in those dark areas. Another approach is to use a reflector to push some light back towards the dark side of the subject.

These photos are from the coating of ice we enjoyed this past week. Many are combinations of translucence and reflected light. You see through the ice, but the trapped subject inside is reflected light. Enjoy!

Lines of winter

Winter images are often hard to come by.

Everything is coated in white. The leaves are gone. The trees are barren. Much of the landscape is colorless. Photographically, a lot of what there is left to see boils down to lines. Lines in bare trees. Lines that separate the earth and sky, lines in streets and buildings, and lines where the edge of snow meets an object.

But perhaps that is a good thing for photographers too. Lines are what make up perspective. Lines are powerful elements in an image that lead your eyes in to the subject. Lines can simplify a composition, or complicate it. Lines can be the subject. Repetitive lines are also interesting in that they help form patterns, a whole other topic for a future post.

I was out shooting winter scenes in the Upper Peninsula a few weeks back, and came across this stand of birch trees. Typically I would not just take a photo of a grouping of trees, but something kept my eye focused on this scene. I noticed the lines in the snow drifts leading towards the trees. The branches of a neighboring pine tree also pointed to the birch trees. The birch trees seemed to stand like photographic models, displaying an “S” shape that stands in contrast to all the straight lines coming towards them.

So, thank goodness for Winter, and for the reminders of basic photographic technique that comes with it.

Here are some more Winter images I have made in the past few weeks.

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