Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Physics Lesson Part 2 – Inertia

The last post talked about stopping our momentum and making time to capture an image.  Now let’s look at another topic that keeps us from our best photos; inertia. 

So there we are…we actually stopped to take a look from a majestic overlook with tress sprouting fresh, vivid leaves.  The meadow is showcasing her splendor with swirls of flowers in bloom, and we have puffy clouds in the sky as if Ansel Adams himself had placed them there.  Life is good.

We are definitely going to take a picture here.  Lifting our viewfinder up to our eye, we notice that we can’t quite get the entire scene we envision using the lens that is currently on the camera.  A few minutes ago we were using our telephoto lens as brightly colored woodpeckers were working on a nearby tree.  Now we need a wider angle lens to capture this grand landscape. 

But…that lens in our camera bag…on the ground. 

I mean, I’m not lazy but I’ll have to bend over, take a lens off, put another on, and then stand back up.  I know for me excuses from the camera demon sitting on my shoulder is telling me things like, “Hey, those birds might be back, you will be sorry you changed lenses.  Looks pretty windy and dirty around here.  If you change you lens you may get dust in your camera!”

And then I remember not to let inertia get the best of me.  A body at rest, remains at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.  We need to be that force!  Take a moment and grab that piece of equipment that will help you capture your vision of the scene if you really think it will help.  Be it a different lens, filter, sun shade – you invested in the equipment, feel free to use it!
The physics of falling in action with my son Bryce at Smith Rocks State Park.  You can’t capture this without the correct lens.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Momentum and Inertia in Photography

You may be thinking, “What does this type of science have to do with photography?”  Most of us don’t pick up a camera for the first time thinking about physics or motion equations.  Yet many times when we miss a great image it’s because of one of these two factors.

Let’s begin with momentum.  How many times have you been on a trip, visiting a garden or just wandering someplace with your camera, hoping to grab a nice image?  There we are, strolling down a path when you notice a nice flower specimen or come to overlook on the trail with a great view.  And then momentum takes over.  We know we should stop, at least to take a look and see if there is a worthy image, but momentum propels us onward.  Speaking for myself, I know many potentially great images were passed up this way.

The next time you find yourself hearing that little voice as your camera is whispering for you to stop and at least take a look through the viewfinder, try not to let momentum get the best of you.  Once I stopped letting the laws of physics rule over my photography I found I was coming away with more good images that I know would have been passed up on prior trips. 

Tiny climber on big wall at Smith Rocks, Oregon.  I stopped for this one.
(click on image for larger view)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Our Perception of Color

While wandering the Internet, between kitten videos and political rants, I found “The Dress”.  Link after link, hashtag after hashtag, #thedress.  I relented and looked at what was causing all the fuss.  Something about a dress that some people see as white and gold, where others view it as blue and black; how different could these hues be?  Yet to others it changes colors.

So there I found myself staring at this bright white and gold dress.  I scrolled through the article and read a shallow but enjoyable description about how we view colors and white balance.  As I scrolled back up the page, I couldn’t find the original image of the white and gold dress; now there was a black and purple dress!  Finally something on the Internet that surprised me.

You can wander around the Net and find plenty of information about “The Dress” and it acts as a nice reminder for photographers, everyone sees things differently.  After leading many photo workshops I’ve seen this at work when a group of photographers all go to the same location.  The same scene is in front of everyone, but the person behind the camera sees something different as they press the shutter.  This is one of the reasons why I have photographs of locations I’ve visited, taken by other photographers, hanging on the walls of my house.  There have been many a critique session where I have seen two students like the other person’s photo better than their own. 

I’m glad we all see the dress differently.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Looking Like Winter

Flying into Philadelphia this weekend I spied a landscape mostly covered in white.  It was a perfect time to visit; the roads were nice and clear but it still had the feeling of winter.  Have you ever noticed how sometimes, even with a thick layer of snow on the ground, our photographs just don’t feel like winter?  Other times there may be just a thin layer of powder on the ground yet an image can have the sense we are looking into a snow globe.

There is a bit of a trick I learned on a trip to Vermont several years back.  There needs to be snow on the trees.  Snowflakes settling atop the boughs of trees give us the feeling of fresh snow.  We may not consciously think of it but this light layer on tops of branches, pine cones and other areas of trees only typically lasts a short time.  Photos that include this element remind us of a fresh snow storm.

This photo was captured by Lissa during one of our “spring” trips to Yosemite.  We had several years of snowy spring weather during visits to the Valley.  It snowed all night and just into the morning before this image was recorded.  A few snowflakes streak in front of the lens.  Although a color image, there is a decidedly monochrome feel to this image captured from atop the bridge near our campsite.  Spring break is a great time to visit Yosemite…just remember to bring a jacket!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Low Light = Better Images

I remember when I saw the light, or actually lack thereof.  While perusing images in various publications over the course of several months I seemed to end up looking at images captured in low light.  Nighttime, artificially illuminated interiors, campfires and my favorite – twilight.  This was way back…about a dozen years ago…when digital was just starting to grow.  Film, specifically slides or transparencies, was the media of the day.

So there I was walking around Manchester, Vermont at twilight.  There was a building with a brightly illuminated interior and appropriate exterior lighting to match.  The sky was turning the purply-blue of twilight just after sunset.  Took some light meter readings, set up the tripod, scribbled notes and clicked away.  This was the start of about six months of this cycle and a great learning opportunity.  Unfortunately the feedback took days or weeks while waiting to get the film developed.

Enter digital with instant feedback.  What took me six months to master would now be compressed into a much shorter time.  One of my favorite classes to teach is night photography.  Students walk away from an evening with some nice images of subjects after the sun goes down, after their cameras traditionally would have been in the bag.

The photo above was captured at Portland’s Yard, Garden & Patio show from one of the display gardens.  The lighting is kept low in this area to help accent fire pits, path lights and other “outdoor” illumination.  I found the different light sources intriguing; the fireplace, the spa and light highlighting the artwork on the wall.  I hope this inspires you to keep your camera out of the bag a little bit longer in the evenings. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Inspiration from Portland's Yard, Garden and Patio Show

Once again I attended the Garden Writers Association meeting at the Oregon Convention Center.  I was surrounded by inspiration.  First, at the actual show itself, ideas flowed from display gardens, other artists and, of course, plants.  Plants on display, for sale and used to fill out sample gardens.  The above image of a floating display of “helleborus” stopped me in my tracks. 

I knew there was little chance of an amazing image with convention center lighting and no tripod but there was no way to pass up a capturing this gem.  While standing there, it was interesting to see others drawn to this display (arranged by Lucy Hardiman at Perennial Partners).  It was placed at the corner if the table, no doubt by design, to draw folks like me to the area.  It worked. 

Elevated the ISO a bit, held my breath and grabbed a few frames of pure inspiration.  I’ll have to admit, never really gave these plants much of a look before now…how could I have missed this?!  It took viewing at them in a completely different way for me to finally see them.  Shame on me. 

Thank you to all the sponsors, partners and fellow GWA members at the meeting who were also responsible for refilling my inspiration tank.