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This weekend I went to Algonquin Provincial Park with a couple of friends/family from our little photography group. Our plan had been to see the spectacular fall colours that, on average, reach their peak on the last weekend of September. Well, unfortunately, Nature has been so good to us over the summer that she’s now taking back when it comes to the Fall, so the peak change is going to be later than average this year. But, we had our hotel reservations which are impossible to change at this time of year, so it was then or never for us. Determined to make the best of it, we set off early on Saturday morning. When we reached the park about 3 hours later we saw that there was a decent amount of colour change, not anywhere near the peak that we’d hoped for, but enough to give us some excitement.

The two girls in the group had never been to the Park before, so this was all new for them. I’ve been a number of times so I’d actually wanted to do something a little different this time, and I’d planned a weekend of long exposures, ICM, multiple exposures and all-round ‘arty-farty’ (as my wife calls them) pictures. I had also just read up on a new technique being pioneered by a couple of photographers, Pep Ventosa and Stephen D’Agostino, called Photography In The Round which consists of circling a stationary object, say a tree, taking shots from all points of the circle and then combining them in PS to produce a very impressionistic single image. I was excited to try this and the other techniques, so the lack of colour didn’t matter that much to me.

Then there was the light. Everyone knows that landscape photographers only go out at dawn and dusk and never shoot anything in between because the light is so bad. Correct? No. At a seminar given by one of my inspirations, the Canadian landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett, he said – and I paraphrase – that there is no such thing as bad light, there’s only what you choose to do with it. So when we found ourselves on top of The Lookout in blazing sunshine in the middle of the afternoon with not a cloud in the sky, well then, we started to practice backlit portraits and fill flash, intentional camera movements and abstract photography. No, we couldn’t get the scenery we wanted, but we certainly could take photographs. We drove a long way to spend the weekend making pictures, and that’s what we did.

Editing is key too. I shot around 300 pictures. Most of them are technically sound; around 10% are what I consider keepers. They are the ones that show me something I haven’t seen before or that I haven’t achieved before. The rest, well they’re part of the journey. They’d make nice snapshots, but they wouldn’t generate a lot of interest. I’d rather have 25 good-to-great (in my not-so-humble opinion) pictures than 200 shots that were simply OK. But heck, it was fun and we made the most of the trip, the landscape, the environment and the opportunity to shoot for ourselves without boring the pants off our poor families.

Same time next year?

Algonquin road trip

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What else could it be? Nature photography. I would hazard a guess that more people consider themselves nature photographers than would classify themselves as any other type of shooter. There’s an unending wealth of opportunities out there for those of us who love to take our cameras into nature in any of its many forms, flora, fauna, landscape vistas, skies, trees, ranges, etc etc. And it’s a constant learning opportunity for the photographer who needs to deal with ever-changing light sources as well as trying to capture that shot that will make people sit up and take notice. It’s extraordinarily difficult to produce something out of the camera that truly reflects the glory of what we’ve seen while out walking, or sailing or climbing, or even from inside our cars as we take yet another magnificent drive through whichever country we happen to be in.

I have to remember that this is a blog post and not an essay; I could ramble on for pages on where I’ve been , where I would love to have gone, where I still plan to go. I’ll keep it short and just add that yesterday I took a walk on the Hockley Valley Trail just north of Toronto. I hadn’t walked here previously, but set off at a reasonably early hour in order to try to get the best light I could. It’s a sacrifice that I was willing to make! At one point on the trail I came across a potential shot that I’ve had on my bucket list for ever – the sunbeam through the trees. As I shot and then moved around the light, more beams and angles came into play. I took a number of shots before I thought I had enough, and then took a few more just in case. When I walked back along the same part of the trail a couple of hours later the beams had completely disappeared. And that is why we go out in the early morning. And yes, I know, the sun is blown out. I said it was a bucket-list shot, not a perfect shot.

Hockley Sunbeam photography

Sunbeams photography

This shot is a more painterly photograph of the fall colours that are now beginning to appear in Southern Ontario. While Algonquin was at its peak this weekend, our neck of the woods is a little more sedate in its rate of change. I expect to head out over the next couple of weekends, weather permitting, but this one was taken at a pond on the Hockley Valley trail. The painterly style isn’t produced by camera movement or any Photoshop filter. It’s the photograph of the reflection of the trees in the water, flipped 180 and then cropped. Easy and real.

Reflections photography

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