Sometimes I think….. well, ponder really, about the first camera and the first time people saw a photograph. I often wonder what they thought. In this day of cell phone cameras, we really take photography for granted, maybe more than we ever have. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just like to stay in touch with the roots of photography and what it is.. and does.
I seem to recall reading that American Indians, some of them at least, wouldn’t allow themselves to be photographed as they feared that part of their soul would be stolen and locked in the photograph. Something like that. You can’t really blame them as photography must have seemed kind of magical.
One of my favorite aspects of photography is that, with each press of the shutter, a slice of time is captured forever. Sometimes, as it turns out, the slice in time captures something that isn’t going to be around much longer, even if that isn’t known when the photo is made. I’ve photographed several structures only to find out some time later that they had been demolished or changed in some way. That gives the photograph a special meaning, to me at least.
The shack in this photo, which was already in pretty bad condition when this photo was taken, was eventually reclaimed by nature. It will live on, however, in this image forever.
If there is something more important about photography than that, I don’t know what it is!
I packed the trunk of my car in a rush and headed out. It was much later in the day than I would usually get started, but the sky was gray and overcast and there were dark clouds and rain in the distance. These are terrible conditions for normal photography, but excellent conditions for pinhole photography. As the overall light is dim, shutter times are more manageable with a pinhole camera than in bright sunlight.
Still, I packed my other equipment because… well, you just never know.
I had a location in mind that might work well for a pinhole image, but as I turned on the road that runs along the Mississippi river, I saw something unexpected. There was a think layer of fog! It was really just over the water for the most part, but it was so thick that only the tops of the tallest freight ships could be seen. I did set up the pinhole camera, but decided to make a few images with my digital camera as well.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about trying to incorporate mood or emotion into a photograph. No one can really tell you how to do it, you’re just supposed to feel what you’re feeling and, hopefully, that will be transmitted to the viewer. I’ve also read other accounts where the photographer had no emotion whatsoever during the making of the image, but viewers of these photographs come up with all sorts of ideas as to what the photographer was trying to say. When, in reality, he wasn’t saying anything in particular.
To me, the goal of a landscape photograph is to try to present the scene laid out in front of the photographer in as interesting a way as possible. Through the use of light, composition and depth of field, nudge the viewer towards what you want them to see, and nothing else. Remove all the distractions and highlight the subject. In this case, the fog helped me do just that. It also adds an element of mystery to the final image. I never did make it to my original destination as rain started to fall and I was anxious to see how these foggy images turned out.
I processed this photo in black and white, to me, a fog image just looks better when colors are removed.
If this image causes you to feel anything when you look at it, I’d love to hear what it is in the comments.
I knew I had a long drive ahead of me, so I left the house extra early. You know when you pass a Starbucks and they aren’t open yet – you’re out too early!
I had watched the late weather report and expected it to be a foggy morning. As my subject was in the water along the bank, I expected the fog to be a factor – a very good factor.
As I drove to the predetermined location, I couldn’t help but wonder if the idea and vision I had for this photograph was going to live up to what I was planning.
All along the drive, the fog seemed to streak towards me in waves. There would be periods where I couldn’t see anything, and then the fog would clear for a bit so I could get my bearings again. The only time this was unnerving was along the last stretch of the trip where I was on a two lane highway with fairly deep ditches on both sides. I remember wondering just how many unlucky drivers had ended up in this drop-offs!
There wasn’t too much time to think about that as I was nearing my location, time to get my thoughts in order.
In 2005 an event took place in our area that became a line of demarcation. Even today, memories are described as being before Katrina or after Katrina. Hurricane Katrina made the national and even the world news. The vast majority of news coverage revolved around the well known and popular city of New Orleans. The only problem with that is; the storm never actually hit New Orleans head-on. It only suffered a glancing blow and the eventual flooding of the city and all the drama that came with it was due to levees that failed to hold the water back, which is their only job.
There was little to no mention of St. Bernard Parish. Even now, you may be saying that you never heard of this part of our area. That’s no surprise as I don’t recall the news mentioning it at all. The problem is, St. Bernard Parish took a direct hit from the storm. Flood waters that were 8 to 12 feet tall filled the streets. The flood waters actually moved houses away from their original locations – I saw this for myself.
Homes were reduced to piles of junk which had been the home owners prized belongings. Sheetrock was gone exposing an open view to the attic and ceiling fans were bent down like wilted flowers. The scene was unimaginable.
The are I was quickly approaching was the small fishing area of ‘Hopedale’ and ‘Shell Beach’. Several boats, small to large littered the shallow waterways, some still tied to docks, even though they weren’t going anywhere.
However, my subject this day was a cross that had been placed 20 or so feet off shore. The cross accompanies a large memorial plaque that list the names of the 163 people from this area who we lost, killed by this monster storm.
The gravity of the memorial was in the forefront of my mind as I parked my car and started to gather the equipment I would use to capture what I hoped would be an image that would echo the mood of the subject. Imagine my surprise when I walked up to see 4 or 5 other photographers who were there for the same thing! I thought I was the only one crazy enough to get out this early!
While it was a warmer morning, that’s what creates the fog, it was still chilly at the water’s edge. I remember pulling my hood up over my head and just looking out into the darkness. The first light of the day hadn’t shown itself yet and, between the dark and the fog, it was difficult to know exactly where the cross actually was. With other photographers there, I needed to stake out my spot and be prepared to make the best of it. I fired off a few test shots to gauge the exposure setting I would be using, knowing full well that they would be changing quickly once the light entered the equation. Suddenly, the early, long, dark and foggy ride transformed from a kind of chore into a moment better than I could have hoped for. The first rays of light, diffused by the fog, gave off an orange appearance and the sky above the horizon turned almost purple. The water and the marsh usually visible was completely obscured by the fog. I fired off several images and, just as quickly as it appeared, the view completely changed. The fog started to burn off and, within just a couple of minutes, it was all over. Such a long build up to such a short payoff. However, this is one of my favorite images of all time. The meaning of the subject and the mood of the environment seemed to be in perfect harmony. I rode around the area for an hour or so shooting other photos, but none would match the almost magical feel of this particular photograph. Whenever I look at this image, I still hear the sound of the waves, I feel the gentle breeze moving the fog in a random pattern and the call of the pelicans looking for their first meal of the new day. Sunrise and sunset photos have become something of a cliche’, but there’s a reason that they are still so popular.
I hope you enjoy viewing this image as much as I enjoyed making it Even while the subject is a solemn one, there can still be joy in a successful capture and one that actually does match, and even exceeds, my vision!
In Louisiana, especially southeastern Louisiana, we don’t have mountain ranges or deep, flowing valleys. We don’t have waterfalls or any real dynamic scenery really.
What we do have is plenty of water! When you have water, you tend to also have boats.
As a photographer in this part of the country, when you set out to make some landscape images, you have two choices;
Travel to places that have those things
Use what you have
Most of the time, I just have to choice what I have to work with. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. People travel from around the world to see our swamps, bayous and waterways. We also have some very intense sunsets.
When I pack up my equipment and set out, the main thing I hope to accomplish is to create images that say, without any doubt, “Louisiana” to anyone who views them.
This image was made in July at about 8:30 PM. We get a very late sunset in the summer, VERY late! This image was shot using a tripod and I kept my ISO (which is the equivalent of film speed) at 100. This provides the best image quality when it comes to digital noise. Looking at the image and how smooth the water looks, but how intense the light is reflecting on the water, I feel confident that the shutter speed was around 30 seconds (another very good reason to use a tripod!) I hope this technical information isn’t boring. Some have commented that they appreciate it, so I’ll include it from time to time.
One thing I remember very vividly from this image is that the gnats were swarming and biting as they tend to do at dusk in the summer. As hot as it is in July in the deep south, a long sleeve hoodie isn’t a bad idea to protect yourself from the gnats and mosquitoes. Of course, you’re sweating anyway, so it doesn’t matter that you’re wearing long sleeves!
Using a wide angle lens, I like to try to include something in the foreground to give the images some additional depth. In this case, that clutch of weeds did the trick. I mean, they went to all the trouble of growing there!
Even though this large shrimp trawler looks like it’s ready to head out to fill its hold with tons of shrimp, there wasn’t anyone onboard, not that I could see or hear. In fact, my car was the only vehicle near the boat. That brings on a whole different set of possible issues. When you’re hanging around someone’s VERY expensive boat near dark, you want it to be instantly clear to anyone passing exactly what you’re doing there. I keep my distance and my camera and tripod in full view. I don’t need anyone mistaking me for a criminal looking to rob this boat and shooting me – that would be bad!
So, should you venture out yourself to make this type of photograph, be very careful. Stay out of the shadows and, whatever you do, don’t go on someone’s boat (unless the owner invites you of course). This may sound like common sense, but common sense isn’t the most common thing.
I did move around the docked trawler taking several long exposures, this just happens to be the one that I liked the most. Maybe because you can see the last light of the day in the background or the majestic way the net rigging cuts against the darkening sky. Or maybe it’s the way the boat’s lights reflect off of the water, giving the boat a sense of life.
Maybe it’s all of those things! What do you like, if anything, about this image?
Thank you again for reading my thoughts and visiting my photography website. Please ‘follow’ along with this page or ‘like’ my Facebook page if you’re interested in seeing more.
Most of these recent posts have been highlighting a single image and trying to give you the story behind it or at least a description of what was going on around the area where the image was made.
The last installment, admittedly, was a bit different where I went into more detail about a certain type of photography and some of the techniques used.
This time around, we’ll do something different yet again. This time a bit of shameless self promotion and maybe some borderline bragging (well not really).
Back around Christmas of 2017, I entered a ‘call for entries’ on an art website called; Light Space and Time. This is an online art gallery and this call for entries was for the category; “Cityscapes.”
For a small fee you could enter a few photos and a juror, or probably a jury would go through the submissions and select winners. According to the email I received today, there were 596 entries and, while I didn’t finish in the top 10 or anything, three of my images were selected for ‘special merit’ and ‘special recognition’ awards. I assume it’s kind of like an honorable mention, but I’ll take it as this is the first time any of my images have been selected in any contest. Of course, this is only the third such contest that I’ve entered, so I’m pretty excited about it.
This particular call for entries was different from the others in that paintings, as well as photography was accepted. That puts a whole different spin on it as I don’t know how photos are judged against paintings, but they did it somehow.
These are the three images that were selected;
These are the awards that were issued;
It really isn’t my intention to brag or to call attention to myself. This blog stands as a kind of journal after all, and that’s the main reason that I post this information. This will allow me to have a record of when this took place and refer back to in if needed in the future. As these posts are automatically shared to Facebook, they will also remind me as the anniversary comes around.
The Light Space and Time website posted a gallery of the winners here;
So far, all of the photographs that I’ve shared have been either long exposure or, at the very least, low light landscapes. In any case, each of them required a tripod and I think I mentioned that in each post. This installment will be a little different.
While landscape and long exposure photography call for certain techniques and methods, there are other types of photography that is much more fast paced and it doesn’t involve a tripod. In fact, a tripod would make it impossible to get the shots that you’re after.
This type of photography is fast, handheld and challenging. When you attempt to photograph fast moving, and in this case, flying object, there are certain and very different techniques that need to be employed. Some of this is equipment based, so some people will be limited by their camera. These types of images are possible on a camera phone, but they would be very difficult to achieve.
The first requirement, at least it would be nice, is to use a long lens. In my case I’ll use a 70-200mm f=2.8 lens. This is actually about half of what professional wildlife photographers use. They usually will have a 400MM lens to get in really close.
Still, 200mm is what I have and that’s the best I can do. The f=2.8 is important because that’s the speed of the lens. Lens aperture is probably the most complicated aspect of photography for new photographers to grasp, because its kind of backwards. The way it works is; the smaller the number, the larger the opening in the lens. The f= number that is given is the fastest the lens will open. Most people aren’t concerned about the slowest or smallest opening as most lenses will go down to at least f=22, which is a very small opening.
I’ll get more into detail about these numbers as time goes on, but that’s enough to understand what I’m doing in this post.
So, a max 200mm lens that opens up to f=2.8. For fast moving objects like birds or jets at an airshow, I’ll shoot wide open, which would be f=2.8. I’ll try to shoot with the lowest ISO possible. This is another technical detail, but the easiest way to understand for now, is that the lower the ISO number, the better quality the image will be in relation to noise in the photo. Now, this is where we get into using a camera in manual mode or at least an aperture priority, or whatever you particular camera manufacturer calls the mode that allows you to set the aperture and the camera will set the necessary shutter speed.
The most important thing that your camera is going to need in order to get successful images of a fast moving, flying object is a burst mode. This is what will separate people based on what equipment they own. Once you have your settings all adjusted based on exposure and the conditions that you’re shooting in and your camera in burst mode, you’re ready for action.
If you don’t have a burst mode, you can try to follow the subject and hit the shutter at just the right moment. Is it possible to get a great shot doing it that way? Yes, but the odds are certainly against you.
The first thing I do is watch, especially in the case of birds. Pelicans, for example, will often follow a certain path that will, in time, become quite predictable. As far as jets at an airshow, I’ve been to many airshows and know the routine of the Blue Angels, for example, almost by heart. This allows me to be in position for the next pass and at least have my camera already pointed in the general direction.
For birds, it’s important to keep both eyes open. I put my right eye to the viewfinder of the camera and attempt to track the subject with my left eye. It takes a bit of practice and, often, you’ll miss what you’re photographing. However, with time and practice, you’ll get pretty good at it!
So, the basic steps are; get your exposure settings set up, put your camera in burst mode and track the subject across the sky and hold your finger down on the shutter button, firing off images as the bird, of airplane, streaks across the sky.
One final tip. It helps to keep you feet in one place. For example, if the bird is coming from the left, you’ll start with your feet, body and camera pointed to the left. As the subject flies across your body to the right, track the subject while twisting at your waist. It sounds odd, but this will help you keep the subject centered in the frame. If you try to move your feet, while tracking the subject, you’ll find it more difficult to keep up with the object you’re shooting. This is especially true for jets!
As you can see, no tripod for this type of photography. In fact, trying to track a fast moving object while your camera is attached to a tripod would make the process much more difficult, if not impossible.
I hope this helps if you’ve been struggling with this type of photography. If you’re interested, I can go into more detail about the camera settings and what they mean in a follow-up post.