I have a friend named Charlene who will occasionally comment on a photo that I post on Facebook. “You take such great photos,” she’ll write. “I need lessons.”
It’s a wonderful compliment, but it’s only part of the equation. One can take classes, or read books, or ask questions on Internet forums, and this will help you take great photos. But you also have to be there – you can’t take a photo of something that you don’t see.
Many of my better photos are of sunrises and sunsets. I also favor shooting the full moon. Often these are, from a pure technical standpoint, only fair images. But a fair exposure of spectacular light is usually going to be an impressive photo. I don’t take great photos of sunrises or moon rises because I’m a great photographer. I’m not especially talented. I get some great photos because I prepare for the opportunity and make a point to be there to capture it.
And so it was that I was climbing Montpelier, Vermont’s Hubbard Tower a couple of weeks back an hour before sunrise. The temperatures were hovering just above zero degrees, and I hiked up the steep hill via flashlight.
I made the climb because the full moon would be setting in the west just before the sun rose in the east. I love photos of the moon looking huge over the horizon, and I wanted to get some of my own. And the hour of this event (just before 7 am) was too convenient not to take advantage.
The truth of the matter is that this was the second time in about 14 hours that I had made this climb. The moonrise coincided with the sunset at about 5:30 the previous evening. Unfortunately there were no clouds to juice up the sunset, and the moon rose behind some trees that obscured that view.
Sometimes being there isn’t enough. You can’t will the magic to happen. (I should note that the obverse is also true. Magic light often happens when you’re not looking for it. It helps to have a camera nearby to take advantage.)
But the conditions were ripe for the moonset that Wednesday morning. Clear skies surrounded the bright, perfectly round moon as it gently lowered behind the Green Mountains west of the city. The moon obligingly dropped between Mount Ethan Allen and Camel’s Hump, perhaps the most recognizable peak in Vermont.
I was pleased with the photos I took, though the exposures could be more crisp. There’s more for me to learn, and more practice to be had. But it’s fun to keep trying, to challenge myself, and to live the stories behind the photos.
The show’s visual appeal requires all of the art to be displayed in 10 inch-by-10 inch frames. (The art is not limited to photography – in fact, photos are historically in the minority.) I have chosen two 5-inch square photos, which will be matted to fit the 10×10 frames.
Both images are sparse seascapes with prominent lines and curves, but the similarities end there.
The top image was taken at Maquoit Bay at sunrise. The tide is low and the water is glass calm. A few plovers can be seen wading and seeking breakfast. There is a gentle haze on the horizon. I’ve chosen to show this in black and white, to capitalize on the moonscape feel of the rocky mud flats.
The second image was taken at Land’s End, Bailey Island, just as the sun was setting and the moon rising. The waves are rough, crashing over the rocks. The sunset casts a reddish glow on the moon, and the graininess of the image lends an apocalyptic feel. This image also has fog on the horizon, but in this case it obscures the lower third of the moon.
My hope is that my images sell and help continue a flourishing art program in the local schools. (And I would get a cut too, which would also be nice.) I also hope that these images inspire other photographers and artists to find what touches them inside, and to seek a way to capture and keep it or share with others.
10×10 Brunswick is on September 30 from 5 – 8 p.m. The art will be diplayed at the Curtis Memorial Library on Pleasant Street, or St. Paul’s Church next door. If you’re nearby, do stop in and see me and all the other great images on display.
In lieu of going to the gym this morning, I spent some time in the yard photographing daffodils. Then I noticed the early sun sparkling on the dewey grass.
I’m not sure what the neighbors thought of me lying on the ground in my pajamas taking photos, but they are probably getting used to it. Fortunately I was able to lie on the driveway to get these shots, so I avoided getting myself wet.
The other day I made a makeshift studio on my kitchen table to play around with a variety of shots. Eventually I took out my electric guitar – a Fender Toronado – and took a bunch of photos with it. This was my first try on the guitar with my new camera. It was a fun experiment in light and focus and depth-of-field.
I got some decent shots with my old camera, but a combination of the camera’s and my own shortcomings in dealing with low light usually led to a fair amount of graininess, as in the Tuners photo:
Guitars, with their curves and shiny bits, are a lot of fun to photograph. One day I hope to get a satisfactory image of the whole thing!
No deep thoughts, just a few takes that I liked from the “Car Button Cloth” photo session last night. Still digging the narrow DoF available from the new camera.
Read about all things photography at my Examiner.com column.
I haven’t had a chance to get outside and try shooting landscapes or sunsets yet with the new camera. Instead, I have been taking photos at family holiday gatherings and testing the close-up capabilities of the 18-55 mm lens. This isn’t a macro lens, nor does it have a particularly wide aperture, but I have found that it can provide a very satisfactory shallow depth of field, especially compared to my old Canon P&S.
The photo above was taken at the long end of the lens (55 mm), as I didn’t want to get too close and cast shadows upon my subject. And the aperture of f/6.3 isn’t particularly wide, yet still provides nice bokeh on the background flowers.
I was teased a bit by my flickr contacts for using autofocus on this shot. Rightly so, because the AF really couldn’t read my mind and didn’t want to focus on these buds. (Once the correct light on the lens came on, I fired.) So I promised that I would use manual focus on future close ups. Thus, the one below of our Christmas Cactus was shot using manual focus.
It’s all a terrific learning experience right now, and my lens wish list is growing fairly rapidly. It’s very gratifying to be able to visualize a photo and have the camera be able to pull it off. Thank you, Santa!
I lost my old Canon point and shoot camera a few weeks ago. Naturally I replaced it with two cameras bought off Ebay. One is the Nikon Coolpix that I’ve been using for the last several weeks. And for Christmas, I received my first DSLR – a Sony a230. It came with an 18-55 mm kit lens, but I hope to get a zoom (or zoom/macro) lens sometime soon, hopefully with my Examiner.com earnings. (Subscribe!)
The kit lens takes pretty good macros on it’s own, I’ve already discovered.
I’m looking forward to improved clarity and light control with this camera. I feel like I’ve taken a step toward being a “real” photographer. (EDIT: See comments regarding this statement. I don’t mean to imply that “real” photographers have to use SLR cameras. I’m simply saying that the new camera will allow me to explore more photographic ideas.)
In the past few days I have come across some interesting holiday light displays – some traditional, some less so. Above is the snow plow parked in front of the Minot, Maine town hall, tastefully trimmed out in strings of LED lights. Below is a cement truck that was parked in front of the Montpelier, Vermont city hall. The truck is definitely eye-catching, though I’m not sure the word “tasteful” comes to mind.
Lastly, yesterday’s snow made for delightfully coated trees. Those in front of Fort Andross in Brunswick, Maine were already decked out with white lights, making for a striking image. My camera struggled a bit with the light, but hopefully this shot captures the essence of the scene.
Today is Christmas Eve. For all who are celebrating, have a safe and healthy holiday weekend.
I work in an old mill building in Brunswick, Maine. Once known as the Cabot Mill and home to a textile factory, it is now named after a military installation that once sat on this site, Fort Andross. It’s an enormous building, with several wings and countless nooks and crannies, and it dominates the North side of Maine Street.
It’s a photographic wonderland, inside and out, with fascinating light:
Out-of-the-way hiding places:
And remnants of the building’s history:
I posted a couple other photos from this building in my prior post Exclusion.
As the days have grown short and the air has chilled, I have found it a treat to have ready access to such a terrific subject.
As an aftermath to the abstraction post, I found the above image while I was walking the halls of Fort Andross in Brunswick. This is simply a shot through a frosted door window into a room lit by sunlight through the window. To me it evokes the image of being caged, or at least being kept out by a fence. The light, the window, is within view, but the viewer can’t reach it because of the fence.
Which is literally the case here – I am kept away from the window by the door. But I am not trapped in any way, of course, as I am free to move about the building.
Not completely free, however. In my travels I came across a big, dark, empty room. Light streamed through a window and created interesting shadows from the pillars within. The door to this room was wide open, nothing to stop me from going in, yet I stayed outside. I’m sure the room was safe, but it didn’t feel like a place that I could enter without permission. In this case, the fence was all in my mind.