Archive for December, 2011

IN THE FIELD: Sometimes It Pays To Dilly-Dally

December 30, 2011 40 comments

During our last visit to western Montana, we discovered this statue outside the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. It stands in front of the foundation’s museum, where visitors can learn about the elk and other wildlife of the region, plus what is being done to help preserve their habitats.

After touring the museum, we went outside to get a closer look at this larger-than-life statue. Impressive is a good way to describe it.

I had taken a couple of shots, but the statue was in deep shadow from the thick cloud cover. Disappointed, we started packing up the camera gear and decided to return the next day to try for some better photos. As we were finishing up, we looked back and saw the clouds had parted, allowing the sun to shine through and highlight the statue. So I quickly grabbed the camera and tripod. And I was able to compose a few shots before the light disappeared.

I sure am glad we were taking our time putting all the photo equipment away!



IN THE FIELD: The Archives

December 28, 2011 28 comments

During the holiday season I took some time out to look through my film archives. I have thousands of slides in protective pages and in those little yellow boxes that came back from the processing lab. I didn’t review all of the slides, or I would still be at it come this time next year.

Back in the day, before digital cameras became commonplace, we used film cameras. And there were many types of film available, ranging from slow to medium speed (ISO 25-400) slide films to slow to fast speed (ISO 50-800) print films. Film had a quirky trait when exposed for long periods of time. When exposures started to reach the 30 second mark or less, depending on the film and light available, the film’s ability to render true colors would shift throughout the color spectrum. This was known as reciprocity failure and could be used to the photographer’s advantage if abstract images were the main goal. Or the photographer wanted to experiment.

The film I used for the photo in this post was Kodachrome 64. The aperture I used was probably f16 or f22 and the shutter speed was most likely around 25 seconds. Available light was minimal since the sun had already set and it was almost dark.

This photo is a small portion of an ice patch near the edge of a creek. I took several shots at various locations along the water’s edge. The color shift varied from frame to frame, depending on how long the exposures were. The rainbow lens flare in the upper corners of the frame may have been caused the light reflecting off the water. Because of the long exposure, the color of the ice shifted from white to blue, with spots of lavender, giving it a surreal look.

For me, the hardest thing about using film was waiting to see the results from the photo lab. Good or bad.


INSPIRATION: A Joyous Christmas

December 23, 2011 35 comments

For all you readers of my blog that take time out of your day to comment, like, follow, and offer feedback, I would like to offer a sincere thank-you for your kind words and support. It is greatly appreciated.

In the short time I have been a part of the blogger experience, I have travelled the world through your words and photography, and have met some truly wonderful people from all walks of life.

I wish for you and your families, a joyous Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

IN THE FIELD: Shadows And Wire

December 21, 2011 30 comments

One day last week I headed over to a nearby town to photograph the older buildings and storefronts in the shopping district. It was rather brisk outside so I bundled up with a warm coat, hat and gloves. It is December after all.

I had photographed several shops that were all decked out for the holidays and I also squeezed in some shopping. Then I came upon something completely unexpected.

I wandered into the courtyard of a store that sold whimsical garden sculpture made by local artisans. Some of the items were brightly painted and others were made with rusty metal. Other pieces of garden art were made with a combination of metal and glass. While roaming around the outdoor displays, some interesting shadows on the far stucco wall caught my eye. After closer inspection, I realized the shadows were created by several panels of this rusty wire sculpture leaning against the wall. The multiple panels resembled a jumble of tree branches. Looking at them more closely revealed they were actually an artist’s rendition of gigantic leaves.

I really liked the interesting patterns created by the shadows and how the rusty wire contrasted with the white stucco wall. To me, it evoked a tropical feel.

Knowing we are headed for these colder temps for the next few months, thinking about garden sculpture and warmer weather sure beats the memories of shoveling that 52 inches of snow we received last year…all in one week.


IN THE FIELD: Sweetgum Seed Pods

December 19, 2011 24 comments

While out on a walk late Saturday afternoon, I came across one of my favorite trees, commonly called the American Sweetgum. They are large species of tree, reaching upwards of 100 feet tall at maturity.

Sweetgums are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to drop leaves in the fall. Its leaves have five to seven lobes similar in shape to a maple, and turn multiple shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. It also bears prickly seed pods that attach themselves to animals and clothing. I suppose it is nature’s way of transporting seeds away from the host plant.

As children, my sisters and I would to collect the seed pods from a tree in my grandmother’s front yard. Our mother would create indoor arrangements, adding the pods to evergreen branches and twigs with berries, to surround a grouping of beeswax candles. She would also add them to her wreaths at Christmas time. And we kids would hide them in each other’s coat pockets for a prickly sibling surprise…

IN THE FIELD: Another View

December 16, 2011 27 comments

Just in case you are all dying to see what the church looks like, I figured I had better post an image of the interior.

I apologize for the hasty post…I was making dinner last night and tried to squeeze in posting while cooking. Not smart to attempt that.

So here goes. Yes the pews are actually curved (no optical wide angle illusion there) and the lavender light you see is created by the light coming through the windows. I used a tripod and shot all photos using the daylight white balance setting

IN THE FIELD: Subtleties Of Light

December 16, 2011 22 comments

By now you have probably noticed I have been on an architecture kick. Lately I have focused (every pun intended) on photographing older churches. I am fascinated with the steeples that reach for the sky, the traditional arched doorways, and the stained glass windows.

The stained glass window pictured in my previous post is one of a dozen in a church I recently spent several hours exploring. After photographing the exterior and several statues in the cemetery, I went inside. Upon asking if I could photograph the the interior of the church, I was told to have at it…just don’t break anything. I will say I thought that comment was a little odd, but I went inside anyhow.

I finished up the shots of the windows, then began to look for other details, hoping to find a good close-up. The interior was not ornate, and was more simplistic in style. All the pews were angled towards the center aisle. Six hand-made wrought iron and white glass lamps, about two feet in diameter, hung from the ceiling. Wood accent mouldings were minimal, except around the sanctuary, and even that was not fancy. The organ was featured at the front of the church, with its pipes standing out against the stark white of the plaster walls.

The light filtering through the windows illuminating the organ pipes caught my attention and I knew I wanted to capture the subtleties of light and patterns. I made a number of exposures and each one depicted the pipes in a different way. Some brought out the detail in the shadows while others emphasized the contrast of dark and light within the shapes of the pipes.

I chose this photo because I like the metallic texture and tones, and the way the violet decorations are featured. It is more subtle, with less contrast than other exposures, but still has a strong light source, and maintained the drama I wanted to capture.


IN THE FIELD: Finding The Light

December 14, 2011 33 comments

Nature’s light shines in extraordinary ways. But we humans have done a pretty darn good job of manufacturing not only sources of light, but objects that capture nature’s gift of light.

Stained glass windows are a classic example of the marriage of natural light and an object of our creation. Their variety of shapes and forms have adorned churches, monasteries, homes and fancy-dancy lamps for centuries. Motifs range from religious, wildlife and nature to geometric designs and patterns. Intricate designs can be painted directly on the glass or small pieces of glass can be combined to create a mosaic.

No matter what the motif or technique, the natural light streaming through a stained glass window is a display I simply cannot resist.

IN THE FIELD: Discovering The Light

December 12, 2011 39 comments

Capturing the light is a huge part of what photography is all about. Whether it be a sunset, light filtering through leaves on a tree, or reflections on a pond.

I was drawn to the light shining on the golden pebbles at the bottom of this small, but swiftly moving stream. A large flock of Mallard ducks was riding the currents from one pool to the next. They would swim back upstream and then ride the swift water back downstream to the next calm pool. I don’t know how long they had been doing this or how long they continued after I left, but I enjoyed watching their antics.

The light was perfect that afternoon as it danced across the ripples in the water and reflected off the stream bed. I was able to hide behind some large boulders with the sun at my back, and photograph a few of the ducks as they came out of the shadows and swam into the sunlight.

Stumbling across this stream at this time of year paid off. This location during the summer would have yielded a different result. The sunlight would have been blocked be the leaves on the large trees surrounding the stream and I wouldn’t have had all the reflections. And who knows where those ducks may have been.



December 9, 2011 25 comments

This post was written by my lovely wife who is my editor-in-chief. She felt that my version of this topic may just offend a few too many people. I have to admit…she was right. And to quote my editor, “I would not consider the home in this image to be either ugly or attractive…let’s just say, it has personality.”

My husband and I became aware of a reoccurring phenomenon a number of years ago when we were looking to purchase our first house. It became more apparent as we drove around the area we lived and where we wanted to live. We even noticed it when we were on vacation.

We kept seeing these houses that can only be politely described as “unique”. Houses with a multitude of exterior building materials, accent colors that could make your straight hair curl, and quirky additions protruding from front porches. We started identifying these oddities as “Ugly Houses”.

My husband does admit to having an aversion to one house that showcased stucco, stone, vinyl siding, cedar shakes and brick on its exterior…plus three other materials he could not identify. And I do admit to rolling my eyes at a house displaying a Barbie-on-Steroids-Pink front door with matching shutters.

Being obsessed with our discovery, we decided we needed to go Public. We would create a coffee table book with full page photographs and kitchy captions. We would call it “Ugly Houses of America”. We would select a house to receive the yearly “UHOA” award and feature it on the back cover.

Until we came to the conclusion that we would probably get sued. Or depending on what part of the country the house was located: get shot. Upon greater reflection, we realized our opinion was based on what we perceived to be beautiful. Or not.

And who are we to judge? We don’t live there. We just drive by it. Maybe a couple of times a day or maybe just once in a lifetime.

Curb appeal has its place if that is what is important to you. If your motivation is to make sure you please everyone, including yourself, then by all means…knock yourself out. Follow the current trends or maintain a classic style. It is your choice.

But if you want to step outside the norm…think outside the box…be the purple cow in a field of black and white cows…feel free to create your own vision.

And if we think it is ugly, who cares? You should not. And we should get over it.