Monthly Archives: October 2014

Five Day Challenge: Day Five

Longs Peak, Last Day of Summer Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Longs Peak, Last Day of Summer
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Well here it is, the last day of my Five Day Challenge on Google+.  I’ve been posting a new black and white photograph for each of the last five days.  For my last day, I thought I would end with my favorite mountain, Longs Peak.

This was another classic moment where preparation met opportunity.  I had been photographing – quite unproductively – the boulders in the water at Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Feeling frustrated, I adjourned for the day and began the two mile or so hike back to the trail head.  Rounding a bend in the trail, I happened by chance to look over my shoulder and caught this grand vista.  The sun was already down over the horizon and the light was fading fast, so I quickly (but calmly) set up my tripod to make some captures.  I only got two before the light was off the peak entirely, and it was all over in about five minutes.

This all happened on Labor Day here in the U.S., so I called the image “Longs Peak, Last Day of Summer.”  Since today is Day Five of my Five Day Challenge, I’m temporarily calling it, for today only, “Longs Peak, Last Day of My Five Day Challenge.”

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Five Day Challenge: Day Four

Moon Over Low Clouds Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2014

Moon Over Low Clouds
Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2014

Well, it’s Day Four of my participation in the Five Day Challenge on Google+, wherein the challenge is to post five black and white photographs in five days.  I mentioned at the outset that this was going to be a pretty aggressive schedule for me, as I usually average creating one new image maybe every two weeks or so.  On top of that, my work schedule is pretty killer this week and next, combined with various other obligations I’ve agreed to besides.  As a result, I only got a chance to begin my final pass at editing the image in this post late last night at about 12:30 a.m., and finished up at about 1:30 a.m.  I generally make a print of all of my work prior to posting online just to make sure it looks good on paper – the print for this image was run just minutes ago, before I began this post.  Aggressive schedule indeed!

Anyway, tomorrow is the last day of the challenge for me, hope to see you on Day Five!

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Five Day Challenge: Day Three

Grasses in Still Water Frisco, Colorado, 2014

Grasses in Still Water
Frisco, Colorado, 2014

I’m posting five black and white photographs in five days as part of the Five Day Challenge over on Google+, and today is Day Three.

Having spent several weeks’ worth of evenings photographing in Rocky Mountain National Park over the summer, I found myself unexpectedly burned out on big landscapes and grand vistas.  So, for awhile now I’ve been turning my attention to smaller, more intimate subjects, such as long exposures of still water of the kind seen in this image.  Unlike the national park experience, where I was trying to convey the grandeur of the scenery and often was working quickly to accommodate rapidly changing light and weather conditions, photographing these smaller scenes has been an unhurried, contemplative experience – just right to fit my current mindset.

This image is the first I’ve posted from these efforts, there may be more yet to come down the road.  See you tomorrow for Day Four!

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Five Day Challenge: Day Two

Fog in Forest Canyon Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2012

Fog in Forest Canyon
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2012

Today is Day Two of the Five Day Challenge I am taking part in over on Google+, wherein the challenge is to post five black and white photographs in five days.  Yesterday I posted an image from the “non-mountain” part of my home state of Colorado, so today it’s back to the mountains, specifically Forest Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Forest Canyon runs roughly below Trail Ridge Road along that portion of the road that goes above the treeline.  When it rains, it’s common for the canyon to fill up with fog as it did on the day I captured this photograph.  The fog can move through the canyon quite quickly and, from the vantage point on the road above, can rise up in dramatic formations like the ones in this image.

See you tomorrow for Day Three of the challenge!

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Five Day Challenge: Day One

Silo No. 1 Near Loveland, Colorado, 2014

Silo No. 1
Near Loveland, Colorado, 2014

So you may not know this, but Google+ has a fairly robust community of fine art photographers, and I’m somewhat active on that site.  My friend and fellow Colorado-based photographer Adam Williams nominated me for something called the Five Day Challenge, wherein the challenge is to post five black and white photographs in five days.  I accepted, which is kind of foolish for me since I only average posting a new photograph once every couple of weeks or so.  Still, I’m in it now, so here goes.

Since Adam and I both enjoy photographing the “non-mountain” part of our state, I thought I would begin with this image of what I presume to be a grain silo.  Grain silos are a pretty common sight on Colorado’s eastern plains, though most don’t look quite like this one.  Hope you enjoy, see you tomorrow!

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Foresight Versus Serendipity

Lonely Path, Rolling Bluffs Near Fort Collins, Colorado, 2013

Lonely Path, Rolling Bluffs
Near Fort Collins, Colorado, 2013

If you look at this photograph and feel like it conveys a sense of motion, then you have made me very happy.  That’s really the point behind this photograph.

Look at the photograph closely, and you’ll see that there are a lot of curving lines in places where they really shouldn’t be.  The horizon, for example, which roughly coincides with the line of dark trees.  If you look at the left end of the line of trees, you’ll see that it curves upward pretty severely, where in reality it should be pretty flat.  If you look at each of the corners of the frame, you also may be able to see a similar, pronounced curvature.

The reason for this curvature is that I photographed this scene with a Canon 24-105 L lens close to its wide angle of 24mm.  Shooting at a wide angle like this introduces barrel distortion into the image, creating the curvature this image displays at the edges of the frame.  This kind of distortion can be easily corrected in digital editing after the fact, but for this image, I really liked the effect precisely because I felt like it created the sense of motion I’ve been talking about in this post.

Thing is, though, I really didn’t plan this ahead of time.  The reason I photographed at this wide angle was simply because I wanted to include all of the elements in this scene.  I really wasn’t thinking about the barrel distortion that would result, in fact, I completely forgot about it.  Its effect on the resulting image, therefore, wasn’t the result of foresight, but rather serendipity.

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Abstraction and Design in Photography

Farr's Co-Op. Ault, Colorado, 2014.

Farr’s Co-Op.
Ault, Colorado, 2014.

The subject of this photograph is pretty obvious – it’s the Co-Op building in the lower half of the frame.  I’ll admit that it was the building itself that drew my eye and was the impetus for making this photograph.  I’m fascinated by old structures like this and the visual possibilities they generate, not to mention the back story and history that underlie them.  Judging by the popularity of this type of subject matter among photographers, I’m not the only one.

Still, simply knowing what your subject is rarely provides sufficient basis upon which to make a compelling photograph.  Rather, it’s important to be able to intelligently arrange the elements in your photograph to make a meaningful composition out of your subject.  Without a meaningful composition, subjects like this tend to end up looking like documentary photos in old newspaper clippings or snapshots casually taken by tourists on the side of the road.

When composing a photograph, one way that I think about the subject is to abstract it into basic, two-dimensional shapes.  I first started doing this after reading some introductory drawing texts, where the lessons emphasized drawing objects by drawing the component shapes that make them up.  A coffee mug, for example, might consist of two ellipses at the top and bottom, a rectangle for the body, and a half-circle for the handle.

However, the principle translates well to photography.  The building in this photograph of course can be broken down into several basic shapes.  However, I was less interested in the constituent shapes making up the building, and more interested in the shape of the profile of the building as a whole.  From the perspective at which I placed my camera, I saw the building’s outline as forming a roughly triangular shape, wherein the tops of the towers formed the long edge of the triangle, sloping towards a point to the right out of the frame.

Having this visualization of the building in mind, and then walking around the scene to see what was available for a composition, I realized the branches of a nearby tree would make a perfect complement to the building because the tree formed a complementary triangle, with the long edge of the tree branches’ triangle sloping upwards towards a point to the left out of the frame.  From there, the design of the photograph came together quickly, by arranging the building triangle on the bottom and the tree triangle on the top, joined together at a diagonal boundary running from roughly the upper left of the frame to the lower right of the frame.

For me, being able to see a photograph’s subject in terms of its abstract shapes is hugely helpful in creating meaningful compositions.  Rather than simply photographing the subject for what it is, abstraction helps me to take control and actively design the composition of the photograph, and my subjects usually come out looking better for it.

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