Inspiration – it’s All Around You

As a landscape photographer, primarily, you’re always looking for the best scene. More importantly, you’re looking for the best light to capture that scene. One quickly learns that the best light can be found at sunrise and sunset. These times aren’t called ‘golden’ for no reason. We’d all like the drama of a setting sun lighting up the sky with a warm glow, or the sparkle of the sunrise shinning through some distant trees.

However, the weather, sun and sky don’t always cooperate. Of course, we mere humans have no control over this. So, you have to work with what you’ve got. This past weekend, the weather was well….. not too good. There was some rain and the skies were overcast for most of the time. Still, that doesn’t mean that you leave the camera in the bag and sulk.  

The included photo didn’t even involve travel, I just walked right across the street from my house!

I simply walked over and snapped a few images. I already knew what I wanted the final image to look like, so the lack of directional light – or any light for that matter wasn’t a problem.

We had a pretty stiff breeze going so, wanting to avoid motion blur, I knew I would have to get the fastest shutter speed possible. With low light, that meant two things; 

1) bumping up the ISO (usually not recommended, but necessary in this case)

2) shooting with a wide aperture. This second part was no problem as I was shooting with my macro lens and it has a very fast aperture (f=2.5).

I didn’t want to open up quite that much as I wanted some latitude where it came to depth of field. f=2.5 is VERY narrow and it would be possible to have only a small portion of the image in focus. So, I stopped down to about f=3.5.  As for the ISO, I greatly dislike shooting at an ISO above 100 as that provides the best quality. However, as the sun was blocked, and it was a dark overcast, I knew that ISO 100 wasn’t going to give me the shutter speed that I needed to stop the swaying subject in its tracks. I decided to bump up the ISO to about 400 for starters.

I also wanted to be very specific with the exposure, with this in mind, I set the metering system to spot metering (so only the center of the focus area would be included in the metering). This caused the image to stand out while the rest of the image goes darker. This looks like a night photo, but was actually made at about 2:30 – 3:00 PM.

With all the setting aligned as needed, I started to look for the best angles and compositions of the scene at hand.

I ended up with a shutter speed of about 1/2500 of a second – certainly fast enough to stop a moving subject!

I knew I was going to convert this image to Black & White so the noise form a higher ISO image wouldn’t be a problem.

The challenge is to see the interest in all things. After all, Inspiration is all around you!

web dandylion 001

Gretna Art Walk

Having been a photographer for several years, I’ve made the decision to try something new. It all started when I got the idea to affix some square versions of my images to some ceramic tiles and display them on an easel. Truth be told, the idea came from my mother when she did something similar.

As more and more people saw the tiles, I kept hearing the same thing; “You could probably sell these!” Never one to turn away from an opportunity, I took the plunge and invested in the needed items to set up a booth that could be used at art fairs and festivals. What started with photo tiles has grown into several sizes of matted prints and even framed prints to round out our display area.

The included photos are from one such “test” set up on our back lawn.

As you can see, this is quite an undertaking! With help from my wife Mendy, her friend Mona, my Sister Denise and my Mother (as well as long distance support from my daughter Ashley), I think we’re just about ready. A lot of time and care went into every aspect of the design and I think it turned out pretty well!

The first occasion when we’ll be able to set this up ‘for real’ will be Saturday April 14th at the Gretna Art Walk (on Huey P. Long Ave. between 3rd and 4th streets (under the pavilion).

The art walk is only 4 hours long (8:30 – 12:30), so it’s not a very long day. The perfect situation to get our ‘feet wet’ and see if we even enjoy this type of thing!

I’d like to invite everyone reading this to come out and see us if you’re available. We’re even doing a free raffle and you could win a framed print – again for free!

We won’t be the only vendor either (of course), so there’s a lot to see.
I’ve also created a Facebook ‘event’ that will have all the information.

I’m looking forward to it and will post a follow up to the art walk with my thoughts after the fact – those are always interesting!

Come on out!web art booth college

Sometimes you win…. sometimes you don’t

In my last article I mentioned that you sometimes get lucky when you roll the dice and take a chance on a sunset. Well, If I’m going to share my “success” stories, it’ only fair that I also share when things don’t go as hoped.

Now, as everyone knows, we can’t control the weather. We can’t control most things in life actually, but the weather is probably the least of them.

Yesterday afternoon was partly cloudy and when the sun wasn’t behind a cloud, it was bright. Historically, this is a good recipe for a great sunset. So, I searched out a location that would hopefully have a clear view of the sky as well as some visual element of interest on the ground. That’s always a challenge, but if the sunset works out, it’s secondary anyway.

So, I had my spot picked out and checked the time so I could arrive in time to set up and still not be there too early. Waiting for the sun to set (or rise) can be fairly boring to tell the truth.

Once I arrived and took a look around, it still seemed that this was going to be a great sunset. The clouds were starting to clear, but there were still enough to give the sky visual interest and the sun was near the horizon already, so there was no time to waste.

Well, I shot off a few images. Worked a bit on different compositions to get all the element lined up where I wanted them.
The Mississippi river has be very high of late, so I was surprised to see some (sort of) dry ground on the water side of the levee.
Well, the ground was pretty muddy to be honest, but hey…. if you want the shot, you gotta do what’s necessary. That’s how a lot of photographers get into trouble. Once you get an idea of a shot in your head, you’ll go to great lengths to get that shot. That often means putting yourself in places where you normally wouldn’t.

So, I kept watching and waiting…… and waiting…. and waiting.

it never happened. The spectacular sunset that I set out to capture and was fairly confident would happen – never did.
Here is the resulting image.

Stay tuned as I’ll try again, but I wanted to share that not every adventure is successful.

web huey p sunset11x14

It’s not a ‘bad’ photo, just not what I pictured or had hoped for.

Roll the Dice

Now that the time has changed back to daylight saving time, the sun sets much later and there are more opportunities to get out and make some images in the evening. Tonight I kept watching the sky, waiting for a sign that the sunset would be spectacular. It was between 5:30 and 6:00 PM and the sky was looking kind of hazy.

I checked an app I have that shows me where the sun will be setting based on what location I enter. I also use a web site to see what I can expect on the ground level.

The sky still wasn’t looking very promising, but I decided to take a chance, to just roll the dice (as it were). After all, it’s Friday and the worst thing that would happen is I would waste some time and a little bit of gasoline.

As I drove to my predetermined location, all the while keeping an eye skyward, I started to notice a kind of ‘cobbling’ of the clouds. I’m not sure that’s the right word, but what I was seeing was that they were starting to kind of clump together. This is a positive sign, but the sun was still surrounded by a pretty think haze.

I realized that this could go either way. The sunset could be drab (as the app warned me it would be), or something good could happen.

That’s why you got get out there, because you just never know.

As I parked and started to walk to my desired location (I had this shot in my head for some time). I kept looking towards the directing that the sun would be setting and it was starting to look promising!

Usually, symmetry in photography is “against the rules”… however, sometimes it’s a good thing to break these rules.

I’m happy with the sunset that greeted me. I hope you like it too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.web twin bridges william wolfe

Motivation

web pier sunset 002

What makes a person do the things that they do? What are they thinking or trying to accomplish when they take an action and set out to fulfill a goal. What drives a person to ‘get out there.’

In the world of photography, an individuals motivation may be simple or very complex. If the photos to be created are for a client, that’s a completely different motivation. If, however, the images to be captured are for the use of the photographer, what makes them take the necessary steps to actually go and do it. After all, it does take some ‘work’. Work is a strong word. Perhaps preparation is a better description of what is needed in advance of a photographic venture.

Personally, for my own photographic work, my motivation is quite simple; I want to try to create pleasing images that will transport the viewer to the location and, hopefully, they will imagine themselves in the scene and feel what I felt when the image was created. Of course, no one can control what another person will find pleasing or what emotion, if any, they’ll have when they view an image. Still, that’s my hope for my work. I don’t usually have any particular ‘message’ or hidden meaning that I’m trying to present to the viewer.

In Louisiana (at least South Eastern Louisiana), we don’t have any towering mountain ranges or deep lush valleys to provide us with powerful subjects to make images of. We just don’t. What we do have is no less interesting or unique however. In this image we see a pier leading out into the lake. I imagine that this pier was built for fishing and a place to dock a boat. As I stood with my camera waiting for the sun to get in the best position, I couldn’t help but think about the people that built this pier. It was probably built after Hurricane Katrina as most of these piers were destroyed by that storm. I wondered just how long it took to complete the pier, what skills a person would need to have to build such a thing to withstand the elements for years to come. I imagined excited children running the length of the pier towards an anticipated boat ride or fishing trip. I wondered if, perhaps, the pier was built for an older couple as a place for them to sit together and watch the sunset. If you look closely, you’ll notice a couple of crab traps hanging off of the pier. Those reminded me of my daughter as she loves to go crabbing.

While there are no people in this photograph, it is all about people!

Boating, fishing and other water activities are woven deeply into the fabric that is the South Eastern Louisiana culture. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of similar piers jutting out into waterways all over in this area. This image is uniquely Louisiana. I hope when you see it, you can imagine yourself there, wind and saltwater spray splashing up and wetting your face as you wait to get a bite on your fishing line. Or perhaps, you’ll imagine yourself with a loved one sitting and talking quietly as you wait to watch one of the best shows we have on earth…… A Louisiana sunset!

Above the Noise.

web harvey locks 002 noiseless

They say everything is about timing. Being in the right place at the right time. No where is that more true than in photography. It’s all about the timing and, more importantly when it comes to outdoor or landscape photography, it’s all about the light.
Overhead, flat, lighting isn’t good for almost any subject. There needs to be at least some shadow to give the image some depth.
The light may be the most important factor to consider, but it’s just one of very many. Equally important is the subject as well, of course.

While most of the images that I’ve been posting have been ‘traditional’ photographs taken at ground level. This time, however, I wanted to put out another image made with my UAV (drone). Most photographers that I know are always looking for new ways to get a different perspective on the images that they make. As challenging as traditional photography can be, it helps to step out of the norm sometimes to spark a new level of creativity. Whether it be underwater, time-lapse or aerial, it helps to ‘mix it up’ from time to time.

Aerial photography and videography bring with them other challenges beyond just getting images or footage. You have to be able to fly the thing for starters. Luckily, that isn’t very difficult these days. Still, to get it into position at the right time can pose some issues.

Also, there is still a bit of a stigma with drones. People are still a little uneasy about them. They shouldn’t be, but they are for some reason.
With this in mind, I’m always quick to explain what the drone is all about, what I’m doing and show anyone around the display and just what the drone is ‘seeing’. This really helps them to get a grasp on the wide angle of the camera and they seem to feel more at ease that it really isn’t capable of ‘spying’ on anyone (not at the altitude that I fly). Most people are really fascinated when they actually get to see one up close and get a look at what it can do.

This image was taken from my DJI Phantom 3 (4k) of a barge being pushed out of the Harvey Locks into the Mississippi river.
From this angle, you can get a really good look at the locks and how everything works…. well, kind of.

Under a Blood Red Sky.

I think that’s a U2 album or something. (?)

Taking a photograph of a sunset is a little bit ‘safer’ than attempting to photograph a sunrise. The reason is, you can get an idea of what the sky is going to look like throughout the day and, to some degree, determine if the sunset is going to be worthy of being photographed. It doesn’t always work out, but you have a much better chance.

Waking up well before sunrise and, usually, driving some distance to a predetermined location and hoping to capture a stunning sunrise is really a gamble. You can either have a boring, cloudless sky or, you can have an overcast, lifeless sky with no sunrise at all.

In this case, I woke up and got on the road a little bit later than I would have liked, but hey, it’s very early. I made my way down the treacherous stretch of highway 90 towards Des Allemands. I arrived on the east side of the bridge over the bayou and started to select my final location. The sun, of course was going to be coming up behind me (duh, sun rises in the East!).

So, I jumped back in my car and made my way (quickly) across the bridge. I pulled up right across the street from this docked shrimp boat. I set up my tripod and the sky just lit up! The image you see was what I saw and it only lasted for about 2 or 3 minutes! When I got back to the studio and started working on the images from the morning, I was pleased that I decided to wake up early and was rewarded with a sight that few people get to see. That is another great aspect of being a photographer, sometimes you get to see something spectacular, you may be alone when you see it, but that’s to your photographs, you can share the incredible image with others! How great is that?!boat 001 edit

 

Bitter and Biting

screen night lighthouse 002

When people think about being a photographer, I imagine they think about exotic locations and warm sunny beaches. It’s true that you can find yourself there from time to time, but that’s not always the case. Whenever I look at this picture, I’m transported back in time to the night that I took this photo. As you can see from the flag, the wind was gusting. I remember I had my tripod set up and my hoodie pulled over my head to try to block some of the wind.

The cold was bitter and biting! We may not get as cold here in Louisiana as other areas of the country and we usually don’t get snow. We do however have a different kind of cold. It’s a cold that goes right through you and chills you to the bone. As I age, the effect seems to be even greater – just one of the downfalls of getting old!

The lake was very choppy, but the long exposure helped to smooth out the waves. Even the clouds are just streaks across the sky. Surprisingly, one of the most interesting thing (to me) about this photograph is the reflection of the light through the hand rail of the walkway to the right of the image. I saw it there when I was setting up to capture this image, but you never know, for sure, how reflected light will look in the final image.

The light on the water just to the lower left of the image is from the South shore harbor just behind my position.

This lighthouse is one of my favorite subjects. The shape is so unique and it has a place of prominence in this area. It’s a symbol of the restoration that has been taking place over the years to the lake, which has been quite amazing to tell the truth.

Captured Forever

old bayou shack

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!

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