Saturday, July 05, 2014

FIREWORKS!


I went to Saranac Lake last night to watch/photograph the 4th of July freworks. I've only tried shooting fireworks once before about a decade ago so for this effort I was still in the learning/experimental mode. I shot them at around f/8 on manual mode. The shutter speed varied from 1 sec. to 2½ sec. I had the camera on my tripod and was shooting mostly at the wide end of my 18-135mm zoom because I wasn't sure where the bursts would occur relative to the frame. I didn't look through the viewfinder. I just watched the sky, listened to the sound of the rockets and pressed the shutter release at the point I thought they were about to burst. They all have post exposure adjustments in Lightroom 5; cropping, some curves, highlight control, clarity and saturation. It was kind of fun. I might try it again sometime. More photos below, the most I've ever posted at once. Please respect my copyright and share by referring others to this page. Do not repost elsewhere without my express permission.









The one below reminds me of some old rock album covers.


An interesting abstract.



A new galaxy?


The finale


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Afternoon in a Bog


Late this morning I drove down to Paul Smiths and delivered my entries for their annual 'Life on the Lakes' juried show. After getting a lunch in Saranac Lake I headed home but when I got back to Paul Smiths the rain had stopped so I took my camera on the Boreal Life Trail to see what I could find. My first find was the Bog Laurel above but there was lots more.




The Pitcher Plants are all lower than the boardwalk that is the trail across the bog. That had me lying on my belly with the tripod hanging over the side for most of the above shots. The Bunchberry and Dog Bane below were at a more comfortable height.


All the photos are copyrighted. Please respect my work and do not repost without permission.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lean-to Maintenance & Why I photograph


A couple of friends and I hiked to "my" lean-to (I am the adopter of Scott Clearing lean-to) on Saturday to do a semi-annual cleanup and check for needed repairs. The streams were all running high from the heavy rains that had fallen the day and night before. On the way back out we stopped by Rocky Falls and I made the above 3 frame panorama.

When I posted it to Facebook one person thanked me for bringing the scenery into her home and that is part of why I photograph but only part. I know some wilderness photographers who make their photos as a way to encourage preservation of wilderness and Ansel Adams' photographs have been credited with convincing congress to preserve some western parks but Ansel was also a prolific advocate of wilderness. He wrote letters almost daily and was very active in the Sierra Club. While the photos played a role, they were secondary to his activism IMO. I belong to the Adirondack Mountain Club but mostly as a low key member. I participate in the lean-to adopter program and I donate use of my photos but I don't kid myself that my photographs are going to play a significant role in preservation of the park.

So why do I do it? Mostly for myself. Photography is a way for me to connect with the landscape more deeply than just hiking through. It makes me think about what attracts my attention and how best to represent that in an image. There is also the discipline of observation that goes along with photography. That discipline makes me a more keen observer of my surroundings. Practicing any visual art medium can develop your observation skills but photography appeals to me the most.

The photographs aren't entirely for me alone of course. The process is for me but once I have made an image I think is successful I like to share it and while people may enjoy seeing them I hope they will be inspired to go out and spend time in nature themselves. The very best photographs I (or anyone) can make are pale imitations of the experience of being there. If anything is going to convert a person to being a preservationist it is the experience of being in the midst of nature and realizing that we are a part of nature that will achieve the conversion, not my photographs. At best the photograph inspires them to wander off into the wild to see what's there and be open to what wilderness has to offer.

The photograph below was made along the trail on the left bank of the brook as we were going back to the main trail after visiting the falls. After looking them up on the web I find that white Moccasin Flowers are not uncommon but this was the first one I'd ever seen so I felt it deserved a portrait.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Digital Magazines



A review (sort of) that is photography related (again, sort of) but not about photography. After getting a Kindle Fire I decided to try subscribing to a couple of digital magazines, National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer. Both feature very nice photographs and it seems a shame to throw away/recycle print copies after reading them but what do you do with them? Enter digital subscriptions.

I really like the National Geographic digital presentation. They reformat the articles for digital presentation, text is separated and scrolls vertically, moving from section to section is done with horizontal scrolls. Photos are organized in albums for viewing with only captions. They even include interactive maps and audio/video clips. Very cool stuff, very well done, it takes good advantage of the touch screen. I haven't done a side-by-side check of the digital version against the print version but I think the articles are condensed from the print version. They don't seem as long as I remember from when I had a print subscription in the past but they are long enough to convey the stories. I don't finish one wishing they had included more and I read almost all of them. The one niggle I have is their app/delivery system. Perhaps the digital format they have chosen dictates it but I have to guess when an issue is available, open the app, log in and manually download the new issues. Maybe if they sent an automated email to let me know when a new issue was available it would annoy me less but aside from checking, there seems to be no way to know for sure when the latest issue is available. Never the less I give them 4½ stars out of 5 for the great presentation of great content.

Outdoor Photographer got the delivery right. When a new issue comes out it automatically downloads to my Kindle and pops up - BAM! as Emeril would say. No effort on my part. That's the last cool thing about the digital version of Outdoor Photographer. All they do is digitize the print version as whole pages, like a pdf file. Perhaps that would work fine on a desktop computer with a large screen but on a Kindle sized tablet it is a navigation nightmare. If you view the whole page, the print is far to small to read. If you enlarge it enough to be legible you are looking at only a section of page and spend all your time scrolling both sideways and up/down trying to read it. And because OP has a nasty habit of spanning photos across pages you see only a portion of the photo at a time or turn the Kindle sideways for a full two page view which is very small. Consequently I find myself reading very little of OP, a quick scan of each issue and perhaps one article, that's it. Add this to the editor's apparent notion that the only good landscapes are west of Denver (an annoyance I've noted in the past) and I will pass on renewing that subscription.

I've tried other digital subscriptions (news media) and noticed the same issue. They either scan and dump the print version as whole pages, sometimes in a proprietary format like Zinio, or they reformat the content to fit the constraints & advantages of digital presentation. IMO the latter is superior and the former is a poor substitute for print which isn't dead yet and won't be until publishers wise up to the differences or perhaps those who don't will simply cease publishing altogether.

The photo above has nothing to do with the post. It is just there for your viewing pleasure. It is from the canoe trip in the prior post. Like the others it was made from the canoe. Please respect my copyright and do not repost either the photos or the text without permission. Share by referring to this URL of this page.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Another Season Begins

I went canoeing in the Adirondacks on Saturday. I hadn't been out in my canoe in the last two summers and vowed not to miss another season. I started on Mountain Pond on Rt 30 but the wind was pretty strong down the length of the pond and was a headwind on my return to where I had put in.  I wanted to paddle more but decided I needed a more protected body of water so for my second excursion I went to Church Pond in Paul Smiths.

There was some headwind as I set out but it was less strong, or so I thought as I had less trouble paddling into it. Church Pond is somewhat smaller than Mountain Pond but is linked to Little Osgood Pond by a canal that was dug by Paul Smith. There is another canal from Little Osgood to Osgood Pond which by some standards could be called a lake. I have never understood the pond vs lake naming in the Adirondacks. It is so capricious that it must have been a matter of whim by the person naming the body of water. It does not seem to bear any relationship to relative size.

The stump above is along the shore of Church Pond on the side toward St John's of the Wilderness (http://jims-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/08/st-johns-of-wilderness.html). It was the new evergreen growing on the side of the stump that first caught my eye. Upon closer inspection I decided to include the whole stump and surroundings. I especially liked the reflections on the ripples in the water. The image was converted to B&W in Lightroom based on a preset that I created. I tend to tweak all presets taking into account the individual image and this was no exception.


After paddling the length of Church Pond I came to the canal where I found a second interesting stump. Photographing this one was a challenge from the canoe. The canal is completely under the shade of the surrounding trees and a canoe is not a very stable platform. I managed a sufficiently short shutter speed (exposing for the shadows) by raising the ISO and opening the diaphragm to f/8, helped along undoubtedly by the image stabilization in my Canon 7D. The version above has a modified Lightroom Infrared preset applied to it. I did away with the negative clarity in the preset and added some sharpening, also a touch of burning in on the upper stump.

I wasn't able to navigate the second canal to Osgood from Little Osgood because of blow down across the narrow channel. Perhaps another day. On the return trip I stopped to photograph the lean-to and dock that are adjacent the canal in Church Pond. Again I used the modified LR Infrared preset. Returning to the dock where I had put in I had a tailwind but noticed a distinct current flowing in the opposite direction. That may well account for the relative ease of paddling into the wind when I first set out. It was a good start to a new season of paddling and hiking in the Adirondacks.


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Monday, May 26, 2014

Thinking About Art

Recently I watched “The Monuments Men”, a movie that I recommend although this isn’t a review. This is more of a mulling or pondering of the rationale the main characters used for their mission in light of how the world has changed since WWII.

For those who aren’t familiar with the movie the plot (based on real life) involves a group of art specialists who set out to save the art that has been stolen by the Nazis in their advance through Europe. They volunteer to serve in a special unit to find, identify and retrieve great works of art as the Germans retreat after D-Day. The rationale for the mission is that the art represents the culture of the invaded countries and if it is lost or destroyed it will mean the destruction of the culture. As the lead character puts it, people can be killed but new generations will be born and the culture lives on through the art, thus it is important to preserve the art.

As the Germans gathered up the art in their retreat they stored it in mines and it takes the protagonists some time to learn where it is. The rest of the army is too busy fighting to provide more than minimal assistance and pays little attention when the Monuments Men do succeed. The only discovery they make that gets attention is a cache of gold in one of the mines. That gets everyone’s attention including the media. Over the course of their self assigned mission the Monuments Men save and return millions of pieces of art, paintings, sculpture, etc. In the process they lost two of their unit plus two members of the team from allied forces. In the final scenes, Frank Stokes, the leader of the unit is reviewing the mission for his superiors and is asked “Was it worth it?”. He responds that it was.

After the movie I wondered about his premise in terms of the modern world. In prewar Europe I can see where it could be argued that the art and architecture was the embodiment of the culture in which it existed. In today’s global society I’m not sure that still applies. Yes, there are remnants of that old culture but it is rapidly fading and art is more an expression of the individual artist than of the culture and values of the society in which the artist works. Would any art curator today risk life and limb to salvage Damien Hirst’s pickled shark on the pretext that it represented our culture? Or how about Raffaello D’Andrea’s robotic chair? I wonder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back in the Adirondacks


It's been a while (last fall) since I've been down to the Adirondacks to do some photography. Sunday I drove to Old Forge to take in the last day of Paddlefest. The event was disappointing on two counts. One, the weather was distinctly chilly. There were only a handful of people brave enough to try out the paddle boards and boats. Second, there were even fewer canoes than last year. The vast majority of craft were standup paddle boards and every sort of kayak you can imagine. The guys from Slipstream Watercraft had their superlight canoes there (as little as 9½#). Those were interesting but not suitable for my uses.

I did a bit of photography along the way. The waterfall above is right alongside Rt 28. The stream comes out of a large culvert a bit up stream and then runs parallel to the highway for a bit. There is a bit of guardrail in the picture at the very top. I probably shouldn't confess that. I should just let you all think I hiked several miles to reach this place. I will be doing that later this summer (hiking) but not on this trip.

I also drove down to Thendara to check out the RR station there. I was last there when they were just gathering old RR cars to restore. I made some photos of the station, which is architecturally interesting, and a box car that was there.






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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Spring At Last


Real spring at last. Until the first wildflowers emerge it is not spring. It is lingering winter. The first wildflower of the year around here is always Bloodroot, so called because if you pick it the sap from its stem is blood red. But you should never pick them because they are an endangered flower and easily killed. As for the past few years these photos were taken along the Stone Valley Trail  (East side) on the Colton end.


Bloodroot is an unusual flower having two stems, one with the leaf and another with the bloom. When they first come up the leaf is curled protectively around the flower bud, then the leaf opens followed by the bloom. The blooms don't last long and aren't very big, averaging a bit over an inch across when fully open. If you go in search of them remember to take only photographs and leave only footprints. Also be careful where you leave footprints. Remember that other flowers are trying to emerge from beneath the leaves covering the forest floor.


Although I like to photograph single flowers they are generally social like this group at the base of a tree.

Please do not repost without permission. To share these photos refer your friends to the URL for this page. Thank you and happy spring to all, at least in the northern hemisphere.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Full Moon Setting


Once again I have been delinquent about posting. The truth is I haven't been doing a lot of photography. Here in NNY we are in what is commonly known as 'mud season', after the snow melts but before the greens of spring start. Generally speaking the landscape is rather dismal. I did shoot this photo of the full moon  setting one morning shortly after the "Blood Moon" eclipse which we couldn't see here due to overcast. The sun is just peeking over the horizon behind me, enough to lend a lavender hue to the clouds which are mostly still in the Earth's shadow. Dawn and dusk photos of the moon are easier than night time ones because the sky and moon are closer in tone. The moon of course is in full daylight, only about one stop less bright than full sun exposure of subjects on Earth.

The weather is promising spring so hopefully I'll be getting more photos to post soon. If you wish to share this post and/or photo please point your friends here. Do not repost without permission.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Endless Winter


Long time, no post. This has been a tough winter and I haven't been doing a lot of photography. Today is the 3rd day of 'official' spring and the photo above of our old apple tree is the view we had this morning. The good news is that the snow stopped early in the afternoon and 5-6" short of the 7 PM and 8" that was forecast for last night and today combined. It was a strange day. In the photo the wind is driving the snow right to left which is South to North. A few minutes later I was looking out a window on the opposite side of the house and it was also blowing right to left but that is North to South. Another few minutes and it was coming straight down.

I hope this is the last serious snow storm. We had one earlier in the week that dropped about a foot of snow, the most in one storm all winter. Like this one the wind swirled it around a lot  and it sculpted some interesting waves in the driveway that I couldn't resist photographing before plowing them away.



All the photos were made with a Canon G11, shot in RAW mode and processed in Lightroom 5.

As always, if you wish to share the photos please respect my copyright and share the URL of this site. Do not repost without permission. Thank you.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Visual Poetry?

I read a number of other blogs on a regular basis. One is an artists hosting site that frequently posts things from member blogs. Today I read an article about painting by Doug Hoppes that fits very well with the topic I have been discussing in other recent posts, seeing and translating what we see into images that communicate what we see to our audience. In it he quotes one of his teachers, Stapleton Kearns, as saying "The arts are purest as they approach poetry". For the curious the article is at http://doughoppes.com/blog/67282/how-to-fix-that-%93something%94-that-im-missing.

I'm a believer in the idea that artists of all mediums have a lot in common and can learn from one another. The techniques to render what we see and try to represent may be different but the core of what we do is the same. The ideas that Doug Hoppes expounds in that post can just as easily apply to a photograph. Where a painter may take a certain amount of "artistic license" by leaving out distracting elements or emphasizing others to direct the viewer's attention in a representational work, so may the landscape photographer use both in camera and post exposure controls to impart the "feeling" of a scene.

In the case of the image above I used an exposure that left detail in the brightest portion, the sky. But even then the sky was basically a flat grey with little variation. My eye which has the capacity to see a much greater dynamic range than the camera and thus differentiate the subtle shadings in the sky had seen more. In order to make the image closer to my vision of it I selected the bright areas and applied a curve that translated the subtle differences into a range of tones that a computer can display. That left the line of mist behind the islands and some other foreground details too dark so I dodged them on a merged layer in order to bring them back up in relation to the surroundings. The result is how I remember the scene, how it felt. Hopefully it is a poetic representation.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Is Renown an Aesthetic Trap?

Brooks Jensen writes today on Lens Work Daily that he got a copy of the new SabastiĆ£o Salgado book Genesis and expressed dismay at the grain that is apparent in the photographs. As a landscape photographer Brooks likes smooth gradations of tone and wonders aloud why Salgado chose to make the images so grainy and choose to do so he did. An earlier discussion of DXO Film Pack on The Online Photographer revealed that Salgado now shoots digital but runs the images through DXO Film Pack to simulate Tri-X 400 or T-Max 3200 and then prints the images to 35mm recording film from which he makes prints. He does this complex process to make the look like they were shot on aforesaid films as he feels that is part of his style that makes his work recognizable.

If you have been following this blog you may remember that I did a review of several B&W conversion plug-ins and that DXO Film Pack was among them. I commented at the time that I did not purchase the DXO offering after using the trial copy because its primary aim was to simulate film (including the characteristic grain) and that was not my objective so I suspect you will not be surprised that I tend to agree with Brooks Jensen's puzzlement and dismay at Salgado's decision to deliberately degrade otherwise beautiful landscape images solely to conform to the look of his more renown street photographs which were made in the decades before digital photography came of age.

Like Salgado I began photography well before digital and like him I shot a lot of Tri-X  and T-Max 400 35mm film. Unlike him I did not and do not regard the grain pattern as part of my "style". It was simply a by-product of the technology available at the time. Whenever I could I tended to use larger format and slower (smaller grained) films which I then developed to minimize the grain. What I regard as my style is the subject matter I am attracted to and the particular way I see and photograph it.

The photograph above was made on film some years before I switched to digital, probably in the early 1980s. Even with medium format there is considerable grain in both the snowy foreground and the sky. While the grain does not necessarily detract from the image I don't feel it really adds either. Had I shot it with digital I certainly would not choose to add imitation grain. I suspect Mr. Salgado's desire to make it look like his earlier images derives for a need to have a consistent "look" with those for which he is known.

As technology improves so can the work we produce with it. To tie one's style to the limitations of an earlier era so that your audience will recognize it seems sad to me. We are in a changing world and we should all be growing and changing with it. I want to make it clear that I have no problem with modifying images for aesthetic effect when the image calls for it but going to great pains to tie a new and unrelated body of work to an earlier body by imitating the earlier technology suggests that Salgado feels trapped by the earlier work, that he has to create an artificial connection to his earlier work for the new work to be accepted by his audience. Of course he may simply like the look of grainy images but, like Brooks, I wish he had chosen to take full advantage of the capabilities he had available for the new work.

The photo above is of a barn in Gabriels, NY in the northern Adirondacks. It was made with a 645 camera on T-Max 400 and has been cropped top and bottom. I don't know the date. I'm a lousy record keeper and unlike digital, film cameras didn't record such things. I couldn't make this photo today. Although the barn is still there a number of trees have grown up in the foreground and there are the beginnings of a housing development behind it. The world moves on and we have to move on with it.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh Deer!

We have several apple trees in our yard and there was a bumper crop of apples this year, so many that we couldn't give them away much less use them all. Surprisingly a lot have hung onto the tree well into winter and the local deer find them attractive. We've had anywhere from two to eight deer at a time feeding under our trees for the last several days. It's fine with me. I won't have to clean the dropped apples out of the lawn come spring. I don't consider myself to be a wildlife photographer but these deer are making it look as if I know what I am doing. In reality what I am doing is shaking the tree to get apples to drop and then when the deer come around I park myself in an upstairs bedroom window that overlooks the yard and snapping photos with my Canon SX50 HS. Today seven deer came around just before sunset.
They are fun to watch. They usually come in pairs, a doe and a smaller one, probably a yearling fawn. Sometimes a fawn gets a bit too frisky and the older deer nips the fawn on the hind quarters. I don't think they can see me in the window but they seem to sense that they are being watched and frequently go on alert like the young one above. Sometimes one seems to be looking right at me. On the other hand cars can go by and they don't get spooked enough to run away.
Occasionally one of the older ones will decide to pick an apple that is still on the tree by rearing up on their hind legs to reach it. That's a bit tricky to catch because it happens so quickly. I have to anticipate it, be already focused and aimed when it happens.
The nature show in our yard is turning a winter that started off rather unpleasantly into a much more enjoyable season.


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting Better


Winter that is. Winter in the North Country has not been fun so far this year. We started off with a couple of snow storms which isn't unusual but that was followed by alternating freezing rain & sleet storms that left 7 to 8 inches of ice on our roof and on the fields. Immediately after that the temperature dropped below zero F and I could walk anywhere with out falling through (provided I managed to stay upright on the ice). Finally we've had two days of thaw, the first at almost 60°. That took the accumulated Ice and snow down substantially.

I took a walk on snowshoes back to out woods today. The ice is no longer strong enough to hold me but it still bears marks of the sub-zero spell. There are cracks all over the yard, the meadow and the woods from the frost quakes (cryoseisms) that we experienced. When water freezes it initially expands but as the temperature continues to drop the ice starts shrinking again. If it is in large sheets the strains of shrinking can make it crack with a popping or booming sound. Frozen saturated soil can do the same thing. Sometimes it can mimic an earthquake. We didn't feel any significant shaking but there were several booms and the back meadow has the long cracks that caused the sound. Some run for hundreds of feet. Below is a photo of two intersecting cracks. It has begun to melt and is wider than it was when it first formed.


Back in the woods I found more cracks and these prosperous fungi growing on a fallen tree that is "hung" at a 45 degree angle. It broke in a wind storm, Next spring I have to figure out how to finish felling it.


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