Tag Archives: Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area


Companions.  Windy Ridge, Near Alma, Colorado, 2015.

Windy Ridge, Near Alma, Colorado, 2015

Every now and then, I feel like I should take a moment to say thank you to the people who have shown an interest in my photography.  I don’t really spend a lot of time on self-promotion of myself or my work, so when people express an interest in it – people who don’t owe me anything and don’t get any benefit other than my gratitude – it means a lot. If you’ve purchased a print of mine, grazie.  If you’ve sent me a kind word, grazie.  If you’ve helped me with my photography skills or artistic growth, grazie.  If you’ve visited my website or looked at the work I post online from time to time, grazie.

The image in this post is one that I made this summer, and I had a request from the person I was with to bump it up to the front of the line of images I have lined up to post.  I’m happy to do so to say thanks to that person, and to have it stand in as a kind of symbolic grazie to everyone else who’s lent me encouragement in my photography these last few years.

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Blue Sky, Blue Filter

White Trees, Series 3, No. 2

White Trees, Series 3, No. 2

I use Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro to do my black and white conversions, and I have to say that I continue to be impressed with using the blue filter when editing landscape images.

Allow me to backtrack a little.  I’ve always been very taken with drama in landscape photography, particularly of the kind where a blue sky goes to black or very nearly so, and any white clouds in the sky end up really standing out.  In film photography, this kind of effect often could be achieved by placing a red filter over the lens.  Colored filters tend to pass their own colors and block complementary colors, so a red filter tends to lighten up things that are red and, importantly, darken things on the other side of the color wheel from red, such as the blue in blue skies.  As a result, with black and white film a darkened blue sky tends to show up as dark grey or black.

In the digital world, most black and white images are made starting with a color capture (because the color capture contains more information – three channels, one red, one green, and one blue – as opposed to a black and white capture, which contains just one channel of information – greyscale).  Because there is color information in the capture, when converting to black and white, you can digitally apply a “blue filter,” which will tend to lighten things that are blue and darken things that are, for example, red.

Using the blue filter in Silver Efex Pro is really easy.  There’s a button you can push, and then a couple of sliders to control how strong the filter is and what hue of blue it is.  Pretty cool, really.

In any case, in the past I routinely would use a red filter to really darken a blue sky.  The image in this post, “Bristlecone Pine, Bare Branches,” would have been a prime candidate for this treatment in the past, because it has nice white clouds in the sky that probably would look really striking if the cloudless blue portions of the sky were dark grey or black.

But, of course, I didn’t use a red filter, I used a blue one.  This had the effect of lightening the cloudless blue portions of the sky, making them light grey in the converted black and white image, and in fact reducing the overall contrast with those white clouds.  It’s just the opposite of how I used to do things, but I’ve come to really like it.  Putting the clouded and cloudless portions of the sky in the same value range – in this case, light greys to whites – creates a nice, delicate feel to the sky, at least in my opinion.  Plus, it simplifies the overall composition, because the more unified values of the sky – again, all tending toward light grey or white – make the sky as a whole contrast more with the black needles of the pine tree, which is where I want the viewer’s eye to be drawn to.

I still like dark skies and am sure I will continue to use the red filter effect in the future.  But it’s nice to have another tool in the toolbox, and an alternate way of interpreting blue skies in landscape photographs.

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What’s in a Name?

White Trees, Series 2, No. 6

Lead the Way (White Trees, Series 1, No. 6)

In speaking with other photographers, I’m surprised at how often the subject of difficulty in naming a work comes up.  It seems that a lot of thought and effort goes into coming up with names, and with good reason, I suppose.  After all, names catch the eyes of viewers, and provide an opportunity to convey information about the work in a way that is separate from the visual communication of the work itself.  Certain kinds of names seem to run in themes over and over again – the insightful name, the ironic name, the funny name, etc.  Not that I’m putting down this kind of approach in any way, mind you, it’s just not how I do it.

For me, naming is pretty simple.  I generally go with the first thing that comes to me when I’m thinking about the concept, and then just add series and numbers for further additions to that concept.  For the image in this post, the concept was very white trees against very dark backgrounds – hence the name “White Trees.”  The first location at which I photographed the white trees was in Rocky Mountain National Park, so all of the images from that location are “Series 1.”  There also is a White Trees, Series 2 (images photographed at the Mount Goliath Natural Area in Colorado), and a White Trees, Series 3 may be in the works (for trees located at the Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area in Colorado, which I have yet to visit).  Additional series may come as I discover more locations for this concept.

Personally, I like the simplicity of this kind of naming convention (obviously, I’m far from the only person to use it).  To me, the emphasis should be on the image itself, and the name should be just a simple, plain statement of what the image is.  There’s a certain elegance to this, and it also saves a lot of time and effort trying to come up with “just the right name” for any given image.

Of course, if you’re paying attention at all, you’ll notice that I’ve deviated from the convention for the image in this post.  In fact, I’ve done so for all of the images in the White Trees, Series 1.  There’s a couple of reasons for this.  First, this particular series is special to me, because it was the first time I was able to develop and execute a cohesive concept linking together a group of images with a common theme.  Second, I see the trees in this series as having strongly identifiable, almost uniquely anthropomorphic qualities – they seem almost human-like, the way they are situated in their environment.  In the image in this post, for example, I can’t help but see the distant tree as a leader, beckoning to a point over the horizon, to which the tree in the foreground is following.  Hence the name, “Lead the Way.”

Rarely do I like to describe my own interpretations of my own work.  I know what my work means to me, and I like to let the viewer take away whatever meaning of their own they want (in fact, I would be curious to know if my explanation here changed, either for the better or for the worse, anyone’s perceptions about the image).  I thought I would make an exception in this post, though, in the interest of exploring what’s in a name.

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