Archive for the ‘fall colors’ Tag
This farm, with its mossy old barn, lies at the foot of the Olympic Mountains, a truly beautiful corner of America.
After a short break I’m going to return to blogging with a change in focus. I’m getting away from photography tips and how-to for awhile. In all honesty I was beginning to think that most of what I could impart in terms of photography expertise I’d already set down in this blog. Search “Friday Foto Talk” in the blue bar at left to see how many articles I’ve posted (hint, it’s a lot!). Of course there is always more to relate, and the fact that I’ve been in a photo drought probably has the most to do with my waning interest in Foto Talk posts.
What I will continue to do is feature some of my favorite images. I hope you enjoy them, and remember if you’re interested in hanging one or two on your wall or otherwise using any for other purposes, just contact me. I’ll be glad to quote a good price.
Politics and the Urban-Rural Divide
Since the last election in this country I’ve been thinking often about rural America, in particular the ways in which it has changed. If you live in another country, or are a newcomer to the U.S., you probably became quite confused when we elected Donald Trump for president (someone I usually call “Mr. Pumpkinhead”). He obviously sold a bill of goods in order to get elected. In some ways that should come as no surprise. He is, if anything, an accomplished con artist.
But it goes much deeper than that. I’ve traveled extensively through small-town America in recent years, and I’ve discovered that things have changed in significant ways. I did a similar amount of road-tripping in the 1980s, and while some things remain the same, a lot has changed. Of course I’ve changed a lot too. But it’s hard to deny what has happened over the past 40 years, and especially in the last decade or so.
America is politically and culturally polarized to a great degree right now. This divide has always existed of course, but the degree of mutual distrust along with a general inability to find common ground, or even to simply speak to each other is unusual and disturbing. The divide doesn’t simply equate to city versus rural. Even within metropolitan areas, a divide exists between those living closer to the center and those in the outer suburbs and bedroom communities. This last factor had much to do with D.T. being elected president. Without those suburban voters he would have never won. There simply are far too few people in truly rural areas of this country to get anybody elected president on their own.
This old mill and accompanying covered bridge lies in eastern Missouri and is protected as part of a historic district.
In general the more liberal Americans live in cities and (more extensively) on both coasts. The rural west, the southeast and (with a few notable exceptions, California being a big one), outer suburbia throughout the country is where conservatives are concentrated. But today’s conservatism would be unrecognizable to conservatives of just a few generations ago. Mr. Pumpkinhead was no conservative before he decided to run for president, and it was only as the campaign ran along, and especially now that he’s in office, that he played chameleon. He is now a prisoner of stronger forces than he in the legislative branch and among the super-rich.
Politics, however, is not where I want to go in this blog series. I find the nature of people and their communities to be of much more interest. Rural America has traditionally been a place where people move at a slower pace; where they are more trusting and welcoming of others, including travellers and strangers. In that way it is not much different than any other country. For instance if you’re French or have traveled much in France, try to say with a straight face that Parisians are as friendly and easy to get along with as the people of the countryside along the northern flanks of the Pyrenees.
I’ve said enough to serve as an introduction. Next time let’s dive into the details and look at different parts of rural America and the important ways in which they have changed over the years. I hope you get away from work and responsibilities this weekend to have some fun. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
The rural Willamette Valley of Oregon was the destination of pioneers who journeyed the Oregon Trail in the1800s.
Hello everyone and Happy Friday!! I’m in the midst of a significant shooting drought. A number of things all combined are preventing me from shooting, but most of it is down to a simple lack of desire to shoot the subjects around me. I am currently working full-time and in an area not typically known for its nature photography. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not offering any excuses whatsoever, and freely admit that I’m not taking advantage of the time and opportunities that I’m getting.
I believe very strongly that it is never a good thing to force yourself into something if you’re not “feeling it”. I figure it this way: if you are going out to shoot things that don’t particularly interest you, in light that does not get your photographer pulse going, then the results are most likely going to be bland. And why do bland photography? It makes little sense to me.
Now I realize that you may worry that your skills are going to erode while waiting for the subjects to appear and the motivation to return. If you are still a novice and very much learning, this may be a valid concern. But for the most part it is a non-issue. You’ll get it back soon after you start shooting again. Besides, you can always read books on photography, whether instructional or illustrating the works of other photographers. You can also keep your observational senses sharp by remembering to be a keen observer – of things, people & animals, and of light, whether you have a camera or not.
So I’m going to post a couple images I stumbled upon that I didn’t process until now. They’re from a few years ago, in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Colorado. What a view the builders of this cabin had! Have a wonderful weekend and happy shooting!
Scenic ranch country, SW Colorado.
This is the second of two parts on how to approach your photo subjects. Check out Part I for an introduction to this fairly subtle but important topic. Thinking about how you tell the story of your subjects is a key step in any serious photographer’s journey. The reason why I’m not calling this “literal” vs. “abstract” or “interpretive” is that it’s a much more subtle distinction than that. Now let’s look at a few specific examples.
Example 1: Fall in Colorado
Last autumn I traveled through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which is my current favorite for fall colors. The image at top is an objective take. It’s a level-on, standard composition. It’s shot in good but not unusually awesome light. I zoomed in to exclude more of the same. I’m just trying to show the mountains and trees being their spectacular selves.
In the shot below, I zoomed in again, focusing on the contrast between the golden aspen and green spruce trees, all set off against new-fallen snow. It’s somewhere between objective and subjective. The light is flat and there is mist in the air, perfect for showing colors and textures. The composition excludes all but the trees, giving it even more objectivity.
Fall color and the season’s first snowfall: San Juan Mtns., Colorado.
However, the photo is partly subjective because of its focus on the snow. It shows the transition from fall to winter. I feel pretty strongly that transitions are the most interesting photo subjects. So this overlap of seasons, common to mountains, naturally attracted me. That’s a subjective viewpoint and one that plenty of people share. I timed my trip in part to see this transition. I also knew that most other photographers, who time their visits for the peak of fall color, had come and gone.
Towards the end of autumn, I was in the far west of the state poking around the Colorado River. I found an off-trail route to some bluffs overlooking the river, with beautiful cottonwoods lining the banks. Being late fall, clear cold nights caused dense fog to form each morning along the river. The fog combined with the viewpoint shooting downward gave me the chance to abstract the form of the trees, which being cottonwoods were still in full leaf. I think in our enthusiasm for fall color we often lose sight of the beautiful forms, which is one reason why I like going post-peak when leaves begin to fall, revealing the ‘bones’ of the trees.
Cottonwoods form silhouettes in dense fog along the Colorado River near Fruita, CO.
Now for two examples from a recent stay in one of my favorite places in the world, Death Valley National Park in the California desert:
Example 2: Wildflower Bloom
Winter rains from the current El Nino have led to a great bloom of wildflowers in Death Valley this year. Some are calling it a “super-bloom”. I’m not too sure about that. We’re already calling nearly every full moon a “super-moon”. But you can’t deny that the flower display is unusual this year and certainly worth photographing.
One subjective take on it is fairly obvious. Death Valley is well named. It’s an arid and hot place with sparse life adapted to the harsh waterless conditions. When colorful flowers burst forth literally overnight from the dusty-dry desert floor (and later die off, just as suddenly, after going to seed), it’s hard to avoid thinking about themes of renewal, impermanence, and the yin-yang of life and death.
A simple bloom breaks through the desert floor of Death Valley, California.
The image above highlights this subjective view of the bloom. A fairly narrow aperture helped, but increasing the camera-subject distance relative to the subject-background distance did even more to give the cracked desert floor a prominent role in the image. Otherwise with the macro lens it would’ve been too blurred.
I also did a few objective close-ups, with defocused and indistinct background (image below). This was to highlight the flowers for their objective qualities. After all they’re vibrant and colorful no matter where they happen to bloom.
Desert Gold, Death Valley, CA. Canon 100 mm. macro lens, 1/250 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.
Example 3: Pupfish Pools
I’ve been to Death Valley National Park a bunch of times but have never really focused on pupfish and their habitats. Pupfish are small, active little fish that resemble guppies. They are evolutionary left-overs from Ice Age times when enormous lakes filled the valleys here. The one that occupied Death Valley is called Lake Manley. Through the millennia, as Lake Manley slowly dried up, the few surviving fish split into separate species that now live in spring-fed perennial pools and small streams scattered around the region.
The species of pupfish here are all endemic. Endemic means they live nowhere else, and because of that they’re quite rare and protected by U.S. law. Pupfish are also quite the cute little guys! They’re named for their playful antics. But if you look closely you can see the scars. What looks like play is actually aggressive territorial behavior. Their small size and active movements make pupfish difficult to photograph, at least without getting into the water with them (which is illegal of course).
Pupfish habitat: Ash Meadows, Nevada.
I can’t think of the wetlands where pupfish live without imagining what things were like when Lake Manley existed. It was filled with fish and other life which attracted huge flocks of birds and other animals (including humans, scattered bands of hunter-gatherers living along the lakeshore). Today’s pupfish pools can in a way be thought of as windows into that distant time.
These ideas have a way of influencing photography in a subjective and often unconscious way. In the image above (which also appears in a previous post), I drew close to the deep blue pool, shooting to capture the steam rising over the warm water on a frosty morning. I furthered the slightly mysterious nature of the image with editing on the computer.
The largest spring-fed pool in Death Valley: Saratoga Springs.
In the next image (above), I got close to the ubiquitous reeds lining the wetlands and set them in stark contrast with the deep blue water. I consider this one partly subjective because it almost looks as if it’s not really a desert environment, like it could be part of ancient Lake Manley. That was really luck. During that trip early spring storms moved through the area, filling the springs and decorating the high Panamint Range with snow.
Reeds at Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park, California.
When I shot the image above I was observing the pupfish. I decided to get subjective in an abstract way and used camera movement to impart the feel of being there. I was surrounded by reeds taller than I am, waving in the breeze.
I wasn’t purely interpretive though. I captured a few documentary (objective) shots of the springs as well as the fish themselves (mostly getting frustrated by the little scamps!). For the last photo at bottom, I climbed up a nearby hill at sunrise and used a wider angle in order to show the springs in their desert surroundings.
Pupfish showing off his iridescent blue flank.
Let me know what you think. How important is this to you? Do you mostly have an objective or subjective approach to photography? Or something in between? Have a fantastic weekend and happy shooting!
Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park.
Book Cliffs, Colorado. A landscape image shot just this morning at an unconventional focal length of 310 mm.
I’m starting an occasional series on common photography myths and misconceptions. This one is pretty widespread. It goes something like this: “If you want to shoot landscapes, you need to do it with a wide angle lens.” That’s often extended to “and the wider the better”. It’s mostly assumed and not stated outright. But it’s yet another case where good advice is stretched well beyond the original scope and meaning.
When I posted the series Learning Photography, in the part about lenses I recommended that if you’re serious about landscape photography, you really need to get a wide-angle lens. Does that mean all good landscape photos are done with a wide-angle? Certainly not!
I know (very good) photographers who shoot almost nothing but wide-angle landscapes, some loving the ultra-wide. This is what they like, so I’m not knocking them at all! But even though many of these pictures are amazing, there’s a risk of getting stuck in a rut, with images that begin to all look the same. Little or no variety means eventual boredom, on the part of the photographer if not their viewers and fans.
Columbia River Basalt, Washington scablands. Wide but not too wide at 28 mm.
The fact is that landscape photos are simply images of the land (I’m including seascapes). That’s it. The only other limitations are what you put there. And if you accept limits as an artist you’re shortchanging yourself. I shoot landscapes at every focal length I have. I’ve even done landscapes with my 600 mm. wildlife lens.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t feel good going out to shoot landscapes without a wide-angle lens, one shorter than 35 mm. in focal length. A sharp zoom lens that covers about 16 mm. to at least 24 mm. is just about perfect for many landscapes. I love that close, detailed foreground and the sense of depth you can achieve.
Panther Creek Falls, Washington. Going wide at 16 mm. because I was so close to the falls.
Note I am talking about 35 mm. equivalent focal lengths. If you have a full-frame DSLR, 24 mm. is 24 mm. If you have a crop-frame with a 1.6 factor, multiply your focal length by 1.6 to get the full-frame equivalent. In that case a wide-angle zoom of about 11 mm. to 16 mm. would be good for wide landscape shooting.
But if you capture pretty much every landscape with a wide-angle lens, too many photos will include a lot of uninteresting stuff around the periphery of the most interesting part of the composition. It’s a case of seeing that good photo within the larger average photo.
Many times I’ll start out with a wide-angle but then, bored with the foreground, I’ll switch to a longer lens in order to focus in on an interesting part of the scene. Tip: If you’re shooting wide, keep an eye on the light and be ready to quickly switch lenses or zoom in to catch smaller areas when the light falls just right.
For so-called intimate landscapes like the last two images in this post, everything is fairly close to you and elements tend to be evenly weighted in the frame. Because of this you have to be even more careful about going too wide. Depending on how close you are, a medium focal length (35-50 mm.) is often best in these cases.
Fall colors in rural Oregon, captured at 200 mm.
The fall colors above were captured at a long focal length (200 mm.) mostly because I didn’t want to trespass. But if I’d bothered to get permission, I would have gotten close and gone wide, to add some depth. But I like how it turned out. The river image below was shot at 24 mm. But I cropped it on the computer, just a little. I would have used 35 mm. if I had that available at the time.
So there you go! I hope the accompanying images have convinced you how misguided it is to go out shooting landscapes with the mindset that there’s a ‘proper’ lens and focal length to use. Happy weekend and happy shooting!
A mossy spring on the Hood River, Oregon. 24 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.
Quaking aspen in peak color not far from Telluride, Colorado.
Earlier this year I took a break from serious photography for a few months. Finally in late July I purchased a new DSLR and began shooting seriously again. Although my break was essentially forced on me by the loss of a camera, I now see the benefits (and cautions) of purposefully taking a break from shooting. Here are a few things I learned.
Why take a Break?
- Burnout: If you are shooting a bunch for a long time you will undoubtedly become better with all that practice. But you may also reach a point of diminishing returns. It’s possible, even for the most enthusiastic photographer, to get tired of it. And as soon as you begin to lose even a little motivation, you are not doing as good a job. You stay in your comfort zone. You don’t work quite as hard for that image. If you find yourself not searching as much for unique compositions; if you’re shooting the same subjects in the same sort of light, if you aren’t working the subject like you used to, you could be burned out. And it could be solved simply by taking a break.
- New Creative Outlet: Although you can certainly continue to shoot while trying your hand at painting or writing, for example, it may be best depending on your personality and time demands to focus your attention and efforts solely on the new undertaking, without the distraction of shooting.
- New Subject or Genre: If you want to transition from one type of photography to something completely different, you’ll need to learn some things. Of course you will need to shoot to learn, but before you do this it may be advantageous to take a break from all shooting. Then you can read about and view images of the new genre. Also, you’re going to define a different style, or at least a variation on your shooting style. This takes some time and some thinking. It may help, before you jump right into the new genre, to pause and view it from an outsider’s perspective. While doing this you can do some serious thinking about how you want to approach the new thing.
- Renew your Passion: This reason is relevant to all of the above points. For example, if you will be changing photography genres, taking a break will help you really get into it when you return to shooting. This goes double if you are borderline burnt out. In fact, it may be because you are burnt out that you consider a new type of photography or a new creative outlet in the first place. I’ve found that photography is no different than anything else. In order to do well you need to really go for it. You need to be passionate.
Sunset approaches at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Driving up into the mountains of SW Colorado in autumn, and Chimney Rock looms ahead.
Things to Do While on Hiatus
- Think: One thing I’d recommend while on hiatus from photography is to think about how you’re going about it. Are you developing a style you are comfortable with or merely chasing popularity on Facebook? Think about the way you’re shooting, the types of subjects you’re naturally attracted to vs. the ones that elicit the “wows”. Envision the way you’ll go about photography when you return to it.
- Read: This is also a great time to do some reading on photography. While there’s nothing wrong with reading up on technique and how-to, this is the best time to read about the history of photography and some of the great early photographers. Anything that gets your mind working as you reevaluate your approach and style is a great use of your time. And while shooting, especially if you are shooting every day, it’s harder to find the time for this.
- Look at Images of other photographers: I’m not really talking so much about the internet here. It’s more related to the above point. As you read, for example, about Edward Weston or Dorothea Lange, you will naturally be viewing their work too. Of course you can do this while shooting too, but during a pause the effect on you might be different, more conducive to objective analysis of your approach.
- Try something else creative: Even if this is not your reason for taking a pause, it’s a great way to recharge your batteries and broaden your outlook on the arts. Even something as simple as model railroading or origami can pay unexpected and unpredictable dividends when you return to shooting.
- Get your Portfolio squared away: There are plenty of ways to improve your portfolio of images, from re-editing a few of your older pictures to a wholesale reshuffling of the images displayed in your online galleries. Is it time to design or redesign a website? All of this is more easily done when there are no new images coming in. This subject is worth its own post. But a break in shooting is the perfect time to go through your existing portfolio and improve it.
- Get your Images in front of more eyes: After going through your portfolio, the logical next step is to look at ways to promote it. Whether you want to start selling some images, want to get some of them critiqued, or simply want to connect with new people via your images, you now have time to focus on getting your images circulated. Now is also a great time to print some of those you’ve been wanting to print, to look into art shows, farmer’s markets and even galleries.
- Catch up on the Blogging World: You knew this was coming! Now you might be also taking a break from the internet. While that’s worth considering too, there’s no reason it has to be the same time as a photography break. This is a great time to expand (in moderation – see below) your reading and image-viewing online. Find new bloggers and connect more with those you already know. If you don’t blog, why not start one now?
A blustery-cold snow-squall moves in and the fall colors just soften.
A waterfall near Creede, Colo.
Cautions and Caveats
- Getting rusty: It’s very likely that your photography skills will, depending on how long your break is, suffer a decline. But this “rustiness” is only temporary. It’s certainly not a reason, in my opinion, to forego a photography hiatus. Just be aware of it when you return to shooting. Don’t beat yourself up if you screw up some shots that you would’ve nailed before. You’ll get it back.
- Equipment envy: It’s amazing to realize how quickly new camera gear comes out these days. Especially if you decide on a months-long break, there will be new “breakthrough” cameras and other toys to tempt you. Friends you shot with before may have fancy new equipment when you get back together with them. My recommendation is to ignore it. Invest in new gear only if you feel you’re at a point to make it really pay (whether in real money or in significant advantages in your ability to make the images you want). Returning from hiatus you’re unlikely to be at a point where new equipment will pay off. Shoot for awhile first.
- Image envy: It’s probably inevitable that a pause in shooting will enable you to view a lot more online imagery than you previously had time for. Depending on where you are as a photographer, you’ll need to rein in this inclination to a greater or lesser degree. It’s a good idea to search for new and different photographers while on pause, but moderation is the key. Don’t fall into the trap that others are racing ahead of you, or that you’re missing out on a great time of year to shoot (they’re all great!).
- Shooting Casually: I did this but I’m not sure how productive it was. I had a little point and shoot and occasionally shot with that during my break. It was pretty casual but I found myself trying to make the camera do some pretty heavy lifting. While I did get some nice images this way, it sorta defeated the purpose of taking a break. If you’re sure you can do snapshots only and not get too serious, I say go for it. But realize it’s a little like taking a drink or smoking just one cigarette. Realize also that when you return to shooting you’ll need to get completely out of snapshot mode and back into serious shooting. That’s not always easy.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison just before dark, Colorado.
Getting Back into It
I recommend not rushing it. Make sure you’re ready to get back to shooting. It’s okay to miss photography; just don’t use that as an excuse to end your hiatus too soon. When it’s time, you’ll be chomping at the bit but also ready in a patient and measured way. As mentioned, expect some rustiness for awhile. Keep your expectations modest and don’t stress missed shots. Just work at the basics and, as always, let your own unique vision guide you. Have fun!
I have the distinct feeling there is more to this than what I’ve written here. So if you have anything to add, please don’t be shy about commenting. Have you taken a break from photography before? Was it forced on you or voluntary? You may have an argument for or against going on hiatus. Or perhaps you’ve an additional caution or caveat to relate. I will definitely consider it again in the future, despite the drawbacks.
Storm clouds gather and the quaking aspen aren’t bothered at all: San Juan Mountains, Colorado.
Evening comes on after a glorious sunset at Dallas Divide, Colorado.
It’s funny how the shortening days have played havoc with my good intentions to do a Friday Foto Talk this week. But by next Friday it will be different, promise. This is the area I’ve been hanging around lately. Because it’s so darn beautiful! It is an arm of the San Juan Mtns., themselves a part of the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Telluride is just the other side of those mountains.
I was hoping the aspens would still be going here but I didn’t have very high hopes. What a great surprise: they were in their spectacular peak! I’m not one to be on the hotline as far as these things go; I’m sure there’s an app for it. I’d rather be surprised. And I don’t want to avoid going to a place I know is lovely, fall colors or not, based only on some narrow-focused recommendation off the internet.
This was captured atop a ridge when the sun finally cleared the storm clouds lingering over the higher part of this range, which is out of view to the left. I climbed atop this rock and used it and the nice pinyon pine as foreground. I think this image has everything the Rockies are: rugged mountains, golden aspens, pinyon pines and lichen-encrusted metamorphic rock.
I’ve been exploring this area more completely than I have in the past. In fact, I’m right now burning daylight! Since this is my last full day here, I am going to finish this post, stop watching football, and drink the beer I ordered faster than I want to. Hello golden hour! Have a great week everyone.
A beautiful morning and fall colors go together well in the mountains of SW Colorado.
It’s Christmas Eve and I’d like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas: excitement and good cheer early in the day; that magical peace mixed with anticipation that seems to descend late on the night before Christmas; fun times with family and friends on Christmas day! Enjoy this picture from my current wanderings. I may have included it in a previous post, but it’s the most “Christmasy” of my recent images.
Snow-dusted aspens & spruce of the Colorado Rockies. Click on image for more info.