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Here We Go Again (It’s Fall!)

Second Edition!

Here we go again.  It’s fall foliage photography season.  Are you ready?

Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota

Over the nearly 10 years since I started blogging here, I must have blogged about fall color and foliage a dozen times.  Maybe More. Not surprisingly, it remains a favorite subject for me.  For some who are fortunate enough to have great foliage photo-ops in their backyard, what I will say here may not apply. But for perhaps the vast majority of us, these opportunities often come only after travel to a more aesthetically accommodating venue.

Somesville Town Hall and Bridge
Somesville, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

I have traveled to New England (prominently: Vermont), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia and New Mexico, in various years, to photograph fall color. Vermont has long been a love of mine, and I have made numerous trips there; enough to prompt me to take my first foray into “publishing” with the first edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” in 2012.

As the previous blog notes, I am very happy to announce the 2nd Edition of this book, with updates and substantial additional locations (the first edition is no longer available, as the sellers required that it be removed from circulation in order to sell subsequent editions). The New Edition is currently available on Amazon, Apple, in the iBookstore, and Kobo.

Maple Leaf
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Many of the persons I communicate with at this time of the year are primarily leaf peepers with cameras. For those folks, go and enjoy! For serious photographers, I want to make a few observations, based on my own travel experience.

Miner’s Castle; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Preparation is Key

Mental preparation is the most important piece of this. Just because it is fall foliage season, doesn’t mean the rules for good photography change :-). It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the gear you will be using, as the “window” for a great image is often very short, and you may only have one chance to visit the location. In 2010, prior to my planned week-long trip to Vermont, I hit a milestone of sorts, in my own photography.  I had always planned my locations and tried to find as much “intel” about a location as I could.  But this time, I focused less on those details, and instead gave some contemplative thought to what I wanted to present visually, emotionally, and artistically.  I think this contributed to one of my most successful trips.

Hiawatha NF Color Sections
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

What you can take on a trip is also always a consideration. When I shoot near home, or somewhere I can drive to, the photographic gear I will take is generally only limited by what I own (and can afford).  When flying, you really have to consider weight, and bulk. Most of us do not feel comfortable checking a bag with photo gear in it for a number of reasons. So what can you carry on, along with your other needs?  One of the miracles of modern technology is the ability to make great images with a lighter, simpler gearset.  For “casual” travel (I define that as any travel I do that is not specifically and solely dedicated to photography), I now carry a very small, packable carbon fiber tripod and the RXSony 100 iv (a point & shoot sized camera, with some professional credentials).  Even when I go on a dedicated photo shoot, the camera, lenses and tripod are much small and lighter than in the past.

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park, WV
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Photographic gear is a subject that is often over-thought, in my opinion.  Cameras, lenses, filters, and accessories are — for sure — tools that are necessary to the making of an image.  And there is no doubt that higher quality tools can render a technically better result.  If that is what you seek.  I have already read, several times recently, the question:  “what is the best lens for foliage photography?”  I don’t think there is a “correct” answer to that question.  A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2004 Andy Richards

However, that there are other considerations that will have a more direct bearing on the successful image.  Understanding light, and composition will have much more effect on imagery, in my view, than any other factor.  This assumes, of course, that you already have a solid grounding on exposure principles, how to focus the camera, and considerations of aperture and depth of field.  This relates directly back to the first point:  preparation.  If you do not come to your subject in the best light, it will be difficult to make a really great image.  More often than not, this means early and late (or–think:  during breakfast and supper :-)).  Much of my more recent travel has centered around other activities, such as family time, tours, etc.  While I do make images, it is often apparent that they were not take in the “best” light, and I frequently lament that it would be nice to be at a location either very early or in the late afternoon/early evening.  If your trip is photography-focused, you will need to be mentally prepared to be on site at times that may be inconvenient to others you travel with.  When I have made my fall foliage trips, the majority of them have either been alone, or with other, equally serious, photographers.

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, NM
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Don’t forget the “other” gear you may need.  Most fall foliage locations have the potential for very warm weather, rain, and even freezing temperatures (especially at sunrise).  Hat, gloves, sunscreen, and adaptable clothing is important.

Fall Color Reflection
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Most important of all, though is to have fun and enjoy the process as much as the result!  Best to all of out out there and good shooting!

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

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The Vermont E-Book is Here!

Second Edition!

In (hopefully) timely fashion, the 2nd Edition of this book is now available as a Kindle file on Amazon.com and in the iBookstore.  My “intel” suggests that the color is coming on in New England, and that expectations are for a “normal” season (last 2 weeks of September – first 2 weeks of October) for Vermont foliage.

(I do not see it yet on the Barnes and Noble site, but I will put the link on my eBook page here as soon as I become aware of its availability).

 

Thanks for reading!

“Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” 2nd Edition is on the Way!

Second Edition!

It is hard for me to believe that is has been 5 years, since I first published this e-book!  If you are familiar with the First Edition, you will note the addition of Carol Smith as co-author.

In 2015, I published my second e-book on photographing Michigan’s UP. Trying to cover the whole UP alone was a daunting task, and I asked my good friend, Kerry Liebowitz to co-write it with me. I thought the additional coverage Kerry could offer, as well as commentary on the places we were both familiar with, would make it a better, stronger book.

Building on that experience, I asked Carol if she would co-author the 2nd Edition with me. I “met” Carol on the Scenes of Vermont Fall Foliage Board, while researching my trips to Vermont, and relied heavily on her knowledge and assistance when writing the first edition.  I encourage readers here to view her imagery on her own website.  We have regularly compared notes, and since “meeting” on the internet photography boards, have shot a number of times, in-person, together in Vermont.  Carol’s knowledge of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is near-encyclopedic.  And she is rapidly gaining similar knowledge of the rest of the state.  It became a matter of natural progression that she should join me as co-author for this new Edition.

We are very pleased to bring you many new locations, while retaining the bulk of the information from the First Edition.  In some cases, we have been able to report changes to scenes.

The manuscript has been submitted to our publisher and we expect it to be pushed out to the major e-book sellers (iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others) very soon.  The effort here involved re-formatting the original to add new touches, and re-working all of the images, due to the publisher’s ability to work with higher resolution.  It is significantly longer than the First Edition and has been labor-intensive over the summer.  While this is a late announcement for fall foliage shooters, the advantage of being able to download the book “instantly” will hopefully make it possible for shooters planning a trip to Vermont, to make use of it yet this year.  Unfortunately, while the 2nd Edition is in the process of conversion and distribution, we were informed that the major ebook providers require us to take the First Edition out of distribution, so if you go looking for it, you probably will not find itStay tuned for the more in-depth 2nd Edition!  I will announce as soon as I receive confirmation of availability!

It’s Going to Get Better!

Light and color make this gondola image the quintessential rendering of “Venice” in my view
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Wow.  Here I am, yet again, apologizing for a rather long hiatus from writing.  It has been a very full summer, with lots of business and personal activity, and some travel (none of it photo-related).  So I have let the blog languish.  It will be another couple weeks before much additional activity, but I think that is a good thing.  🙂

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Next week, we leave for another Mediterranean adventure.  This time, we will spend several days in Venice, and then board our cruise ship in Civitavecchia (Rome) for a tour of Sicily, several Greek Isles, and Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Beach Resort
Amalfi, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

It goes without saying that I will be toting the camera, and expect to come back with some new material for the blog!  So, I will see you in September.

Restaurant; Mykonos, Greece
Copyright 2013; Andy Richards

Shape

Color

Last time, I wrote about color.  Color attracts.  It always grabs my attention.  It pulls the eye.  But as this image illustrates, it is about more than just color.  This image is boring.  Mundane.  In fact, pretty awful to be displayed on a photographer’s blog.  But I hope it illustrates my point.  Color is a big part of my imagery.  But there are other important ingredients. 🙂

Rose
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Color alone will not make an interesting or compelling image

As the opening image illustrates, color, alone, will not make an interesting (and most certainly not compelling image).  Indeed it is so mundane that I didn’t copyright notice it or claim “artistic” credit.  I am sure I am not the first to have created an image very like this one.  So what’s missing?

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

There are a lot of things that will bring interest to an image.  Line, horizon, animation (either illustrated, or in the case of many animal images, imagined).  I want to talk about shape today.

Elliot Falls
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I started to look through my archive for illustrations, I thought I was going to have a lot more illustrations that said “shape.”  I also thought about writing about “line.”  A topic to come.  But I was surprised that I was able to find many examples of line, or line and shape.  But fewer that shape alone provided the interest.  Some good examples appeared in the last blog.  The pottery in the shop in Istanbul was really all about color and shape.  Likewise the fans in Japan.

Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The Rose image has plenty of color.  Two primary colors in fact; red and green.  A blob (or an uninteresting shape) of red and green would not be interesting.  As a photographer, its presence would perhaps pull my eye.  But upon closer inspection, it would not tickle my photographic fancy.

Parking Structure on Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Nature presents us with unique and interesting shapes and textures.  The Lake Superior rocks image is another example of nature’s unique presentation of shape, texture and color.  This image might be interesting without all three of the elements.  Maybe the shape and texture would still make a viable image.  But the color attracted me, and the shape and texture of the image prompted me to make it.  Likewise, shapes make the Elliot Falls image in my view.  This Michigan U.P. waterfall is oft-photographed and it is difficult to find a unique perspective.  But the scallops in the sandstone really make this image.

Street Shops
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

I was looking for color the morning I took the Shiawassee River photo.  The background was cluttered and not very picturesque.  So I started looking for reflections.  The shape of the log creates enough interest to the eye to make this image work.  Sometimes you have to “help” nature just a bit.  The Noyes Pond bubbles image is a favorite of mine.  Without the bubbles, you have another “record” shot of fall foliage surrounding a pond.  The familiar shape of the bubbles adds interest.  I must confess that although I was involved in making the bubbles, my photograph was not the primary reason for them on this morning.  This image was made in memory of a dear friend, and enthusiastic fellow Vermont shooter.  But I think George would have loved this image. 🙂 .

Moulton Barn
Mormon Row, WY
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Man made shapes often lend themselves to “shape” composition.  Architecture often lends itself to some dramatic images.  I visited Chicago several time over the years and always loved to walk around downtown in the early morning hours.  This well-known parking structure can be seen in the background of many images of downtown Chicago.  Its unique shape and physical prominence makes it visible from a number of viewpoint around the city.  Color once again drew my eye to the back street shops in Madrid, New Mexico.  Pastel colors abound in much of New Mexico’s architecture.  But again, without the juxtaposed rectangles throughout the image, it would be just a blob of color.  I liked that this image is made up of essentially all rectangles and straight lines.

Canadian Air Force
Fleet Week Air Show
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Shapes in a image can sometimes be serendipitous.  Without the contrails in the Canadian Air Force image, we would just see a handful of red dots in an shapeless, monotone sky.  The contrails make this image.

Starburst
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

And, sometimes you just have to make your own shapes.  The starburst image was taken at Christmas time of a lighted outdoor tree display in front of a large commercial building.  It just wasn’t doing it for me, so I played.  The image is shot at a slow shutter speed, on a tripod, while a zoomed the zoom lens.  But in the end, my favorite shapes come from mother nature and her random, unique artistry.  The Whitefish Falls image is but another nearly ubiquitous single drop waterfall in the Michigan U.P.  There are many of them that all look essentially identical.  To make a more unique image, I walked in close for my favorite “intimate” perspective.  I like the result as much as any shape I have ever shot.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Color

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Hey there.  I have been “MIA” lately.  A series of “life events,” together with the general malaise I usually feel during the winter months, have conspired against my writing.  Where I live, we get snow, but it is “dirty” snow that melts.  There is no “snowy landscape” shooting around here.  I was able to get some Florida shots in the early part of the winter.  We still don’t have anything shoot-worthy here right now.  It is cold and mostly wet.  But there is hope.  We do have early leaves on the trees, and green plants and dandelions.  Now we just need some warm sun to produce some flowers.  So here we are.

Residence; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Color.  I think it is pretty well-accepted that color attracts.  I know it does for me.  I see color and I tend to gravitate toward it with my lens.  I have shot and presented in color for the better part of 35 years.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I have shot B&W.  I shot it as a “reporter-photographer” for my college newspaper and yearbook.  I shot a whole roll of of the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. once — accidentally.  But that’s another story  🙂 .  And I tell myself I will spend some time one day seriously looking at B&W as a photographic art.  I am truly impressed by the successful B&W shooters out there.  It is hard.  Especially for the nature and outdoor topics that I like to shoot.  But that’s another topic on another day.

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So, color.  I was recently doing some “maintenance” on my LightCentric Website, and noticed a couple images that–after I worked them up to post to the site–I had not really ever paid attention to.  And I wondered why?  Why did I even make these images.  Yes, they are often typical to the culture where I made them.  And I was there.  Those are pretty good reasons.

Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

But what made me shoot them?  As I looked at them and thought about it, the answer came almost immediately clear:  color.  Color attracted me to them.  And, more often than not, it was some particular colored object within the frame that drew my attention.  And as I considered it more, I realized that is a theme of much of my travel and “place” photography.  I look for color.  Subconsciously.  I see color and I am drawn to it.  And I guess it it no coincidence that color attracts us all.  When you look at the markets, many of the displays are a wash of color.  I saw that in Turkey.  I saw it in Venice.  I saw it all over the Caribbean.  I even see it in places like Milbrae, California, Saginaw, Michigan and Dunedin, Florida.

Shop; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Color is everywhere.  Color attracts.  I like color and I shoot color.  Pretty simple.

A Humorous Look at “Gear”

Gadget.  Gizmo.  Apparatus.  Utensil.  Call them what you want.  But as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination and affinity for these things.  I often refer to myself as a “gadget-guy.”  I especially appreciate quality craftsmanship.  A really fine and well-built gadget, will always trump a poorly designed and manufactured cheap one.  As a young person, my dad and my grandpa both exposed me to tools, guns, fishing gear and such.  And they always appreciated the quality items.  One of my favorite things to do was to dis-assemble things, like old alarm clocks, electric razors, etc., that were “throwaways” (funny though, that I never could seem to put them back together again 🙂  ).

There is nothing like the melodious sound of a Nikon F1 shutter tripping or the tactile feel of a well-made lens ring clicking through the stops

Today I am still attracted to quality tools, guns, watches, and bicycles to name a few — anything that has gearing or complex mechanisms.  And yes, of course that includes photographic gear.  There is nothing like the melodious sound of a Nikon F1 shutter tripping or the tactile feel of a well-made lens ring clicking through the stops.

Knowing my propensity, a friend shared a pretty darn funny website post yesterday: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/03/hammerforum-com/A funny read, this post illustrates how we get so far “in the weeds” sometimes that things like perspective, common sense and civility are completely lost.

And, it must be “gear” week, because Darwin Wiggett posted this pretty funny image on Facebook this morning: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210575707122990&set=a.1188155978151.2027621.1055866333&type=3&theater

Readers here know that I am a self-avowed “gearhead.”  Does that make me a better photographer?  In and of itself; no.  But there is little doubt that some gear makes the task easier, and in the digital age, some also produces measurably higher quality results.  Does that mean “better” photography.  Well.  I guess that depends on what “better” means.

So, no, my gear is not better than your gear and I really have no interest in comparing the size of our respective … er ….lenses.  🙂 .  Instead, lets all just take the gear we have out and make some pictures.