We’re past solstice, but this is still the darkest time of the year. This year, two gardens near my home put on light displays as part of our collective tradition to cope with this darkness. My sister and I went to the free one together. I could get my large tripod in, but I didn’t use it for everything because it’s kind of impolite and I was practicing for my next outing.
The photo club took an outing to another nearby light show. This one relied more on actual trees and reflected light. Some members were able to get in with small tripods, but I left my beast in the car. Certainly the staff would not grant me admission with such large sticks. I had to use some high ISOs. Noise was an issue. I’ll have to get a smaller tripod. Just being there was pretty enchanting though.
The lights give us hope and beauty in a dark season. We arrange them, tend to them, and marvel at them. Source or reflected, we all need light and hope. Spread light this season to those you love and more.
Today is officially the first day of winter. Does that also mean yesterday was the last day of fall? Didn’t fall end more than a month ago? I considered this early November outing to be my goodbye to fall this year.
The first park I went to that day was pretty bleak. Almost all the leaves were already down.
So I moved on to another nearby park. I wandered and took in the end of the season: the trees turned colors or bare, the dry prairie, the late afternoon light. I parted with the day and the season. My last fall shoot of the year is almost a ritual. Hopefully, finishing my editing and blogging it will help me prepare for the end of 2021. In a way it feels like 2020 and 2021 were one big long very weird year. In another way, it feels like 2021 is ending before it even got going. Whatever the feeling at the moment, it’s time to reflect and part ways with 2021.
Hopefully, I’ll still get a Christmas post in this year. What I have planned would be more appropriate for solstice. I’ve been to some outdoor light shows at parks in my area.
Time flies, and I am a few weeks behind posting. These were taken at a nearby park in late October.
Fall is a beautiful season. Unfortunately, it’s also crunch time for home improvement projects. I have not been out to shoot this year. Fortunately, I have a few photos left over from last year when I wasn’t blogging.
I’m still plotting to get out this year. I’ll have to run away and go south a bit, but I’m still plotting.
A short distance from my home, there is a park with a lake. One lovely weekend morning, I decided to go walk the path by the lake. Morning or not, may other people were up and about fishing, biking, camping, and hiking. Maybe I should have gone out earlier – less crowding and better light. But it was still a pleasant excursion.
I liked the way the light was hitting the new foliage on these trees.
Farther down the path, I spotted these lovely wildflowers.
Humans weren’t the only ones out. Mommy duck and her babies were hanging out in the shade looking for food as the day got hotter.
Next Time: Milk
Yes, milk. June is Dairy Month, and I was a Midwestern 4-H kid for 10 years (no, I didn’t have any animals, not even a cat at the time). This means I spent the entire month of June promoting dairy like crazy for 10 years straight. I’ve never quite forgotten it.
I went out for a hike and fall photography last weekend. I don’t think it was quite peak color. This is a hard thing to judge as the landscape often jumps abruptly from too green to all the leaves down. At least it was a nice day out.
Fall is here. It isn’t peak color yet, but I’m hoping to clear some time for that next weekend, if I’m not too late. Here are a few shots from our windy early fall. It’s interesting what moves and what stays still sometimes.
Photographing squirrels can be a challenge. In my first college level photography class, our instructor strongly suggested we avoid any small, fast-moving animals for our film-only projects. Several students tried squirrels anyway. Only one met with any amount of success.
I’ve never walked out the door with my camera intending to photograph a squirrel. However, a few promising opportunities have presented themselves. The squirrels I photograph must be either exceedingly curious or otherwise occupied so they don’t just dart off. This squirrel is an example of the first case. Last fall, my extended family and I were celebrating my Grandma’s birthday. We were sitting on the porch as she opened her gifts. I think my uncle noticed the squirrel first. Mr. Squirrel was staring at us from the tree outside. He allowed me to approach him and take a series of photographs of him. I would walk a ways closer and take a couple of shots, then come closer still for another few. This continued until I was quite close – much closer than I had expected to get. Then the squirrel’s curiosity was outweighed by his fear of my camera, and he scurried away.
I was going for something that looked like an imaginary world with this. The idea had been bouncing around in my head for several months. Fortunately, the Christmas season intervened and the right tree props became available. The snow is quilt batting, the mirror is from the dollar store, and the “rocks” are flat marbles for flower arranging with nail polish painted on the bottom (like the necklaces I did last year). I decided to put a silver-grey poster board behind it all fearing white would be too blank. It’s supposed to look unreal/otherworldly anyway. In post, I did some cloning on the “rocks”, cleaned up the mirror, fussed with the color, and added some glow filter.
Next Time: More Still Life
I haven’t exactly decided what it’s going to be yet. Maybe more like this or maybe more mugs.
Overall, 2014 was a good year of photographic explorations and blogging. I did some archive posts because of other things I was involved with, and I didn’t finish my video essay (yet). However, I did have some memorable explorations: two new cities, a new park, and some foggy conditions. That and a new camera for higher resolution and video capabilities. I explored and learned a lot. Below are some highlights from 2014:
As usual, I plan to keep blogging every other week and spend a lot of time in nature – all four season are beautiful. I also want to get back into more table top (it’s a skill I need to work at and winter isn’t just beautiful, it’s cold!). Hopefully, I will finish the video, shoot macro, post more good cat photos, and have a few adventures. Only time will tell.
Fall is about over where I live. Fortunately, I was able to get out and take photos a few weeks ago to remind me of the beauty and color of the season.
This fungi is from one of my old favorite places to go shoot. I photographed this the same day as the fog photos in my last post.
Later, I explored a new park recommended by members of the photo club.
The park featured this amazing old oak tree and lovely yellow bush.
Good bye for now Fall. I have a few more photos I might post, but I think it is time to move indoors for a while.
Next Time: More Fall or Still Life
I was going to do something else for the post this week, but I need something specific for a prop that I can’t seem to find. So I’ll share a few photos from a short location scouting trip I took yesterday instead. Several members of the local photo club have gone to this particular park in a nearby small city, so I knew there was potential in the area. I came a bit late in the day when there was a wedding, so the conditions weren’t the best, but it was OK just to see what was there and get a few shots for reference.
There are several small bridges like this:
A variety of trees line the river.
Roses and other flowers add color and present more photographic possibilities.
Next Time: Abstract or night photos.
Last year, winter was mild in my area. This year, it is back to normal. So in honor of an actual winter, I’m taking some time off The Big Project to bring you snow photos.
First, I went to the local forest preserve, a well-known area I can safely navigate in the snow.
Water had oozed out of the limestone bluffs and formed murky icicles.
The creek was mostly frozen, with small areas of running water breaking up the ice.
Back home, I went to check out the spruce. It always has interesting ice and snow deposits.
Winter. It can be annoying, but it can also be beautiful. Live with the bad, love the good.
Next Time: The Big Project Continues – Transparent
It finally snowed in my little corner of the world. Fortunately, there wasn’t much ice. My sister’s car, Howie, might disagree with that last sentence if he could talk.
Last weekend, I went out to enjoy the snow at a nearby forest preserve. Since it was a sunny day, I passed a few other people, including four cross-country skiers.
I’d wanted to photograph these odd pitcher-shaped features on this tree for several months, but I never could seem to get the lighting or angle quite right. Now that the leaves are gone, it works much better.
I love the way this stump sticks out of the snow, covered in fungus for added texture.
Even after the snow, the dried remains of a few flowers hang on.
The world is full of all sorts of interesting patterns and designs. This fallen tree branch is one example.
Ice on the small creek in the park was at various levels of thickness. Loose snow and rippling water gave it a sparkling look.
Next Time: Vintage Camera
It’s about time I do another camera post. Courtesy of my uncle, my father has an amazing new addition to his camera collection. I have arranged to borrow said addition for my next post. I think you’ll like it.
One of the most wonderfully abstract and textured things in nature happens to be bark. Rocks and snow are also up there in my book. Thankfully, we don’t have any snow yet. It’s pretty, but I’m not ready for it. I put a black and white layer on all the shots in Photoshop, then I tinted them to further remove them from normality. I don’t really want them to look like bark. The focus is supposed to be on the shape, texture, and tone.
This last one isn’t very abstract, but it was too interesting to pass up: a naturally occurring number 11.
Next Week: Nature or Antique Jewelry
I’m hoping to go for a long walk in the woods, weather permitting, of course. If not, I may share some cloud shots.
I had no assigned topic this week. I more or less tried out a lens that I’ve had for around two years and never really used. Summer of 2009, I was in the South doing an academic internship on an independent film. A group of us were out at a local secondhand store when one of my friends found an old 50mm Nikon lens. It was cheap and appeared to be in good shape, so it came with me. I tried it out just enough to know that it works, but since then, it’s been confined to the depths of my camera bag (except for being featured in my post on imagination). Not this week. Little lens, your time has come.
The goal was to work with one focal length only, as I fear the zoom lens is robbing me of some sort of discipline. The real challenge was focusing a wider prime. Yes, technically the 50mm is longer than a normal lens on my DSLR, but I like the 70-100mm range, so it is wider than my comfort zone. For years, I’ve been zooming in and focusing with SLRs and using magnifiers on large format. Not to mention that it’s obvious when I’m off on the macro. Fortunately, I met with some success this week.
First of all, I paid a visit to my old faithful test subject: the snowball bush. Admittedly a bit green right now. Really, the 50mm is a bit wide for this subject. It only focuses so close, forcing me to move back.
I moved on to some trees with interesting features, such as this “eye” of sorts, for more focusing practice. Success. Autofocus and zoom lenses haven’t completely ruined me.
Lastly, I focused on my sister’s car. It has some styling details I find attractive. Unfortunately, the paint isn’t so good, forcing me to give the car a Photoshop makeover. My sister was glad that I was painting her car, even if it was only in Photoshop.
Since I could use to spend more time with this lens, I may do a part 2 to this post, but not right away.
Next Week: Time
There are so many directions I could go with this. My hope is to use timepieces and objects around them to say something else about time other than, oh, half past seven.
Last week, I went out to explore a nearby state park. It’s much larger than the forest preserve I normally go to, so I wasn’t able to cover all of it. On the bright side, there’s more for another day. For the most part, it was your typical midwestern trees with the occasional flower, bug, or fungus. There is an unusually large piece of fungus decorated with tree leaves and seeds.
This dead tree had a particularly curvy shape. It was irresistible. It also had to be a black and white.
A river runs the length of the park and provides a nice scenic view, as well as a habitat for birds and other animals. Other animals like the mosquitos that had me for a late breakfast. I left my repellent at home thinking mosquito season hadn’t started yet. Bad idea.
Walking along one of the trails, I suddenly came upon this enclave of pine trees. A small group of conifers is surrounded by their deciduous cousins, making the spot out-of-place. If you look closely enough at the top of the cut off tree, you can see people’s names written on it. Such unnatural graffiti broke the otherworldly spell otherwise surrounding me.
Bark is also missing on some of the intact pines.
Likewise, the bottom of this tree is bare. Something is afoot.
Sometimes, one of the most interesting things about a preserve is how things just come down. How they sit and weather and age unmoved by humanity.
It was supposed to rain all afternoon, and it looked like it was going to haul off and drop several inches, so I began my trek back to the car. On the way back, I saw signs saying “No alcohol allowed in the park” and evidence that the signs were ignored. Naughty, naughty. But the bottle cap was pretty, and I have this weird artist thing about taking pictures of metal objects against pavement surrounded by natural objects. I try not to do it too often, mostly because it doesn’t make sense to me.
I plan to revisit the park someday when the weather is better and I have more time. I also plan to bring my bug spray. However, this wasn’t a bad first expedition. It’s always good for me to get out in the woods for a good long walk, even if it is mosquito season.
Next Week: Fireworks or Small Town Festival
Since the fireworks are part of the festival, I might post a little bit of both. We’ll see how it goes.
My apologies for the late post. Around 6pm yesterday as I was preparing to finnish the photos, my home was plunged into an uproar with tornado sirens going off and humans frantically trying to locate flashlights and kitties. The power came back on around 3pm this afternoon. Other than that, it was beautiful last week. Not many new flowers were out, and the ones that “made the grade” for my blog were not exactly what you think of when you hear the word flowers.
The blue spruce outside my window is unfurling for the spring. The new growth comes out of reddish-brown casings and is a lovely shade of green swirled up so the end looks semi-flower-like.
The dandelion, a common weed, produces the most magical looking fluff towards the end of its life cycle. Here, I used a macro lens to capture the detail.
As for other weeds, I was a horrible gardener and let this one grow in my shade garden because I wanted to see what it would look like when it bloomed. It paid me back by producing a lovely, yet unusual flower. The anthers seem to be attached to small petals rather than the normal stalk like structures on most flowers.
Lastly, these tiny flowers come from a red, thorny bush. I’ve passed those bushes many times without noticing the delicate ornaments. When I finally did see them, I had to wait for enough light to photograph them.
Sometimes there’s beauty in less than obvious places. Life is short, so take time to smell the roses, or whatever else you find out there.
Next Week: My First Camera
Since I’ve been threatening to do it for so long, I’m going to show you what my very first camera looks like. I may have a few others as well.
The world is finally getting ready for summer up north. About time. Our trees are no longer bare, and the flowers are starting to bloom. I love the leaves when they first break out of their tiny buds. They’re so fine and delicate, not to mention the unique hues they take at first.
The bleeding heart bushes are beginning to catch up with their wild counterparts. My fringed bush shows off her clusters of embryonic flowers amidst fragile foliage.
My mother’s more traditional pink bush is way ahead of mine. It displays arching tresses of hearts.
Now is the time to enjoy what we’ve been waiting for: to drink it in knowing more will come. For awhile, at least, it will be here, and then the seasons will turn again.
Next Week: Indoor Abstracts or Rainy Day and Water Drops
The first would be a creative exercise in how I look at objects and how lighting and color affect form. The second would be trying to make something most people don’t like look good. Both have interesting potential.
Last week, I set out to do something different from I’ve been posting for the past month. I turned my attention to some solitary details within the house and then outside to the bitter cold snow with thoughts of monochrome and split toning. One of the first objects to interest me was actually one of the last I shot. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Finally, I decided I wanted to make this plain old everyday object look a tad creepy, hence the odd angle from below. I used the duotone color space option in Photoshop. It’s not like split toning in Lightroom at all. Duotone (also tritone and so on) mode is based on printing, so the more different colors you add, the more ink you would have in printing, and the darker the thing is. Fussing with the curves for individual inks finally gave me what I wanted.
Venturing out into the frozen tundra beyond my door, I spotted a lilac bush in its winter state. The remaining buds reminded me of hearts, and, as fate would have it, it’s Valentine’s day and I’m fussing with monochrome and toning.
Spying some interesting snow drifts from the blizzard, I trudged back to the edge of the yard. The wind back there is often quite strong and moves in unusual ways. In the last storm, it drove the snow away from the bases of the trees. Snowy frames encircled every trunk. I cheated a bit on my monochrome and toning theme for this shot.
However, there were a few spots where the snow did find its way up against the trees just a little bit. This spot worked well in an unrealistic blue as well.
Back inside, I found my kitty. Curled up all warm and cozy in her favorite chair, she probably wonders why on earth her crazy humans go out at all in this weather. Crazy humans get other weird ideas, like doing a photo study of cat paws. Yes, I’ve often wanted to do that, but it would take more than a week, not to mention the alignment of forces out of my control (the moods of two cats). Nevertheless, with that idea in mind, I composed this photo of my cat’s little white paw. I think JenJen would be pleased. She is very proud of her paws.
Next Week: Flower-Like
The days are getting longer and spring is just around the bend. To celebrate, I’m photographing flowers and things that look like plant life next week.