Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Get soft "cotton candy" stream photos

I have always loved those images of mountain streams where the water is flowing over rocks and has a cotton candy effect, but living in southern Louisiana I don't see many of these photographic opportunities. So needless to say getting a few stream shots was high on my list of photographic subject while in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

After getting settled in our cabin and getting the sunrise from the top of Clingman's Dome out of my system, I set out for an afternoon of stream photography. I picked an overcast afternoon that quickly turned into a rainy overcast afternoon. As soon as I left the Cabin it started to rain and didn't stop until I returned. I considered waiting, but had already left the family napping in the cabin and didn't want to miss the opportunity to concentrate on photography for an afternoon.

There are a couple of techniques that will help when out photographing moving water that allow an enormous amount of creativity and experimentation. First of all pick a day with overcast sky or early/late lighting. This lower light level will allow you to use slower shutter speeds (up to several seconds). The softer light also provides less contrast and allows the camera's sensor (or Film) to record the full dynamic range of the scene. When I set-up at a location I like to start with a wide angle lens and look for foreground elements to lead the viewer's eye into the scene. I will usually follow with a medium telephoto lens (17-200 mm is a great choice) to isolate elements of the scene and selectively compose smaller cascades. You will want to close down the aperture of the lens to a smaller setting (say f-22 or smaller) allowing for a slower shutter speed to expose properly. In the images I have posted the shutter speed was between 2-4 secs. With shutter speeds this slow you MUST have the camera on a tripod or resting on a stable object of some kind, there is no way you can hand-hold a camera still for more than a fraction of a second.

The rule of thumb is to use a tripod if the shutter speed is slower than the reciprocal of the focal length. as an example if you are shooting at 100 mm then you can hand-hold up to 1/125 sec shutter speed. Of course the newer Image Stabilizing systems allow hand-holding to a couple of stops slower, but this still only gets you to 1/30 sec.

The other advantage of using a tripod is that it slows you down, giving you time to refine the composition, level the camera, bracket exposures, etc, etc.....

I find that using a Polarizing filter not only reduces the light entering the lens (allowing for even slower shutter speeds), but it removes the glare from rocks and leaves creating more saturation and color depth. Another filter that can help if the light levels are too high for slower shutter speeds is a Neutral density filter, this is a neutral gray filter that does not change the color of the image, but lowers the light level entering the lens.

Finally, I shot several compositions and found that looking upstream produces the most pleasing images.

Go out and take some pictures,

Thomas Even

Please post a comment and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Great Smokey Mountain National Park

We took our family vacation a little later than normal this year and decided to head up to the Smokey Mountains for a little RR and leaf peeping. I will be putting several blog posts up relating to the trip and photographic possibilities I discovered while hear in the Smokey's for a couple of weeks.

This image was taken from the parking lot at Clingman's Dome shortly after sunrise. As you can see the trees were in peak color. This image struck me as two photos, it looks like the bottom mountain range could be one photo and the upper blue range another. It is however one image. Well, I have to get back to the family and continue the vacation.


Thomas Even

Monday, October 09, 2006

Shooting Star Essay Puplished on Beautiful-Landscape.com

On August 19th of this year I posted a photograph of a Shooting Star over Lafayette, LA. Well, Alain Briot has published my essay describing the image and thoughts on "luck" on his web site, www.Beauliful-Landscape.com.

Alain is one of the most successful landscape photographers in the US, I was fortunate to be able to attend his Navajo Lands Workshop Last October.

Please check out the essay here on Alan's Site.

Thomas Even

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Dynamic Landscape - Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is located on the southern side of Georgia's coast. I spent a couple of days on the Island in March on a family vacation to Florida. The Island offers unique photographic opportunities due to the graveyard of oak trees on the beaches. Over time these trees have died and become "driftwood" stranded in the sands. The beach on the northeast side of the island is aptly named "Driftwood Beach". The location offers interesting and dynamic compositions with the organic shapes and silhouettes offered by these foreground elements.

For sunrise images the eastern coast offers compositions with the rising sun silhouetting the driftwood against the sea and sky. There are infinite compositions available with driftwood of all shapes and sizes to choose from.

In the first image I framed a large tree against the rising sun creating a very graphic image. I chose to convert the image to monochrome to eliminate the distraction of color and allow the eye to focus on form and shape.

The second image was an attempt to capture the graphic random shape of a snag on the beach with the smooth silk motion of the water. I made several attempts with this concept and this one was the most successful.

Thanks to Craig Tanner of the Radiant Vista for the Critique of this image. Click on the video below to view the critique (the video aspect ratio is compressed, but you get the idea.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Ordinary

I grabbed this shot out of the window of my car last Saturday morning. I was driving home with my camera on the front seat and pulled into a parking lot and this window shutter grabbed my attention. At the time I really couldn't say what caused me to take the shot, but I have decided that when a subject grabs my attention to go ahead and take it and think about why later.

As I was reviewing the images, this one struck me as a rather ordinary subject. There is nothing striking or exciting about the image, yet I enjoy looking at it. There is a play of light and Shadow with interesting lines and texture that seems to keep my eye moving. One of the ways I judge images is by the time I spend looking at them and whether I am drawn in. This is a subjective and personal criteria, but that is what it is about for me. There is something powerful about viewing the ordinary with different eyes. Stop every once and a while and look at the ordinary in terms of shape, texture, pattern and tone.

Until next time,

Thomas Even