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Bridges

Bridge to Canada Sault St. Marie, MI Copyright 2005  Andy Richards

Bridge to Canada
Sault St. Marie, MI
Copyright 2005 Andy Richards

Of all the architectural structures that lend themselves to photography, there may be no other “wonder” than a bridge. Bridges have been designed, built and used for all of human history. Most often to span a body of water, bridges have brought us the ability to cross water on foot and by vehicle, without getting wet and without the need for watercraft.

Stone Bridge Manassas, VA Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone Bridge
Manassas, VA
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Early bridges were primarily built for pedestrian traffic. Later, they provided a way for our animal-drawn vehicles to cross. More recently, they have been used for train and motor vehicle traffic.  The Manassas Stone Bridge was used to cross Bull Run and was famously used by both the military and “spectators” who mistakenly thought a Sunday afternoon carriage ride out to the battlefield would be great spectator sport and a nice picnic.

Footbridge of Rapid River Rapid City, MI  Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Footbridge of Rapid River
Rapid City, MI
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

Bridges can vary from the most simple and utilitarian pedestrian crossing, to magnificent works of engineering and architecture, crossing seemingly uncrossable stretches of water. They can be grandiose, and they can be very simple.

Pedestrian Bridge Somesville, ME Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Pedestrian Bridge
Somesville, ME
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

From a photographic aspect, bridges can lend themselves to wonderful reflections, and as foils to wonderful lighting events – both natural and man-made. They can be marvels of architecture and art (yes, art); or rather pedestrian (pun intended) utilitarian structures. For the photographer, they can be presented as the main subject, or they can be used as backgrounds, leading lines from the foreground, and leading lines from the background to infinity.
Bridges draw the eye as an imposing structure in many cases. In my travels to San Francisco, I have been struck by the fact that the city is dominated by two such structures, leading in and out of the heart of the city.  The Rialto Bridge in Venice is one of the most famous of bridges and in the early days, in addition to being the only major bridge over the main canal, housed many local merchants.

Footbridge Limerick, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Footbridge
Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Bridges can often be unintentionally symbolic. In many American cities (sadly), bridges often separate the “good” and “bad” parts of the city.  I don’t think any of the bridges here represent that symbolism.

Rialto Bridge Venice, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Rialto Bridge
Venice, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I have mostly shot bridges because they were there – never really doing a study of them. On my bucket list, I hope, on day, to make a concerted study of bridges. The image that appear here are a small selection of the numerous bridges I have shot. My files contain many more images.

Footbridge over Canal Venice, Italy Copyright  2013  Andy Richards

Footbridge over Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

There are numerous styles of bridges, including floating bridges, suspension bridges, arch bridges, and simple piling-supported bridges. Suspension bridges, like the Mackinaw Bridge – spanning Michigan’s “lower” and “upper” peninsulas – and the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges, are true marvels of engineering, in addition to being very photogenic.  The “Big Mac,” as it is often referred to by Michigan residents, was once the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Mackinac Bridge Mackinac City, MI Copyright  2012  Andy Richards

Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac City, MI
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

One of the most intriguing styles of architecture is the covered bridge. Next, I will showcase some of the very few covered bridges I have been able to photograph.

Lighthouses

Point AuBarques Light Lake Huron, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Point AuBarques Light
Lake Huron, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Over the years since I started this blog, I have covered many subjects. Earlier blogs were more philosophical. Seems like I ran out of gas in that area (probably in large part because of my limited capacity for the intellectual). :-)  I have done some “travelogue” blogs, recounting my travels throughout this wonderful country, and more recently, abroad. And, I have done the occasional equipment and/or software review.

Port Sanilac Light Lake Huron, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2008

Port Sanilac Light
Lake Huron, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

As I have amassed a collection of images, I have had to find a way to keep some order. I have used Adobe Lightroom since its inception – but mostly as a catalog. It is a wonderful program and if I were starting new today, I would probably use it as my principal software for processing images. Lightroom has a nice capability of organizing images by subject matter. Looking through the images (and for lack of anything more creative to write about these days) I realize that I hadn’t blogged by image subject. That is what stimulated me to post the last several blogs on flower images. In keeping with that general formula, the next several blogs will be about my “landscape-architecture” collection of images.

The primary limiting factors for these images are access and lighting

Lighthouses have always drawn my “photographic eye.” Like outdoor landscape images, they present significant challenges to photograph. The primary limiting factors for these images are access and lighting.

Bass Harbor Light Bass Harbor, ME Copyright  Andy Richards  2009

Bass Harbor Light
Bass Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The all-important feature for most lighthouse images is lighting. The best time of day to shoot Lighthouses is generally early morning and late afternoon – early evening. This is because it is when the light is normally best. Exceptions to this rule may be when skies are stormy, or during the winter, when light is often at a low angle during the days.

Split Rock Light Sunrise Lake Superior, MN Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light Sunrise
Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

This presents a bit of a challenge, partly because of the second factor; access. Lighthouses are often gated, private property, or parts of state or national parks. They have hours when they are closed to the public. Some lighthouses simply cannot be approached or photographed from the land around them. So, getting the image during the “golden light hours” often presents a challenge.

Point Iroquois Light Lake Superior, MI Copyright  Andy Richards  2005

Point Iroquois Light
Lake Superior, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

In a limited number of instances, I was fortunate to photograph from a boat. Shooting from the water gives a nice perspective. I hope to do more of this in future years.

Strawberry Island Light North Channel, Lake Huron, Canada Copyright  Andy Richards  2008

Strawberry Island Light
North Channel, Lake Huron, Canada
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Some lighthouses simply cannot be approached or photographed from the land around them

Because they are “light” houses, nighttime photographs of lighthouses – especially when working, are great photographic opportunities.

Alcatraz Lighthouse San Francisco Bay, CA Copyright  Andy Richards  2011

Alcatraz Lighthouse
San Francisco Bay, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Many Lighthouses are no longer “active.”  Some have been preserved by historical societies and other are still working lighthouses.  One of the best opportunities to photograph a lighthouse while lit at night was during the anniversary of the Split Rock Light on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.  The Split Rock light is not a regular working lighthouse, but now is part of a Minnesota’s “Split Rock State Park.”  They light it on certain nights.  On this anniversary we were treated not only to the light, but to a fireworks display.

Split Rock Light Lake Superior, MN Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light
Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Living near the Great Lakes has given me the opportunity to photograph a number of lighthouses. However, there are some East Coast and West Coast lighthouses I would love to photograph.

Mackinac Light Mackinac Straits, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Mackinac Light
Mackinac Straits, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Miscellaneous Bouquets

Mixed Flowers Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Mixed Flowers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

One interesting consequence of writing this blog has been my own discovery of weaknesses in my image portfolio.  The combination flower image has always been a challenge for me.  It is relatively easy to select and isolate single blooms.  But after a while, those images become almost hackneyed.

Getting a “bouquet” type of shot in a garden or other area is more difficult to pull off.   Flower beds — while pretty from a viewing distance — are often cluttered with elements that detract from the overall photographic image.  This is particularly true when you get in close for the image.  There are lots of opportunities, but it takes some work and maybe some luck to get the composition right.  Trying to do this has given me a new appreciation for the florists who put together the beautiful arrangements.  But even if I had that talent, it might be rather difficult to find that in the wild.  :-).  The opening image showed up a couple weeks ago.  I repeat it here, because I believe that – in 35 years’ worth of attempts, it is my favorite.

Red Day Lily Copyright  2006  Andy Richards

Red Day Lily
Copyright 2006 Andy Richards

Color mixes that work together are important. Filling space correctly is important. In order for an effective mixed flower shot, the photographer must successfully eliminate distracting foregrounds and spots that detract from the image by creating distracting area.

Blue Iris Copyright  1999  Andy Richards

Blue Iris
Copyright 1999 Andy Richards

It is also important to control depth of field so that the overall image is pleasing.  In the Iris image, I tried to find a pleasing color combination, while using the depth of field to highlight the main subject.  What you can see from my selected images here, is that I still tend to be shooting a single flower or variety, sometimes with others as a background element   I need to make “bouquet” images a challenge/project.  I may report back here at some point in the future.  :-)

Mother Nature does it Best

Cottoneaster Copyright  Andy Richards 1998

Cottoneaster
Copyright Andy Richards 1998

When seeking flower images, there is nothing quite like a “find” of wildflowers. Many of them are quite rare, and a find is exhilarating. At times people who know where these are, can be very secretive about their location.

Columbine Copyright Andy Richards  1999

Columbine
Copyright Andy Richards 1999

Wildflowers tend to be smaller, and it is even more difficult to find that perfect specimen. But they have a very nice presentation and draw to them.

White Trillium Michigan Official State Flower Copyright  Andy Richards 1999

White Trillium
Michigan Official State Flower
Copyright Andy Richards 1999

I have had some very good fortune with wildflowers in Northern Michigan. Michigan’s “state flower” is the White Trillium. I was fortunate to find a great area in Northwestern lower Michigan some years back for these beautiful three-petal wild flowers. When trillium begin to go beyond their maturity, they turn from white, to pink, to purple. I think the right “mature” specimen as every bit as photogenic and pretty as the pure white ones. There are also very rare red trillium. I have not had the good fortune of finding any yet.

Mature White Trillium Copyright Andy Richards 1999

Mature White Trillium
Copyright Andy Richards 1999

Near my Northern Michigan Trillium find, there is a private nature preserve where I found the relatively rare wild orchid known as the Yellow “Lady’s Slipper.” Yellow is one of the most difficult colors to photograph. It is very difficult to capture and display fine detail. My Yellow Lady’s Slipper images illustrate that difficulty. There are at least two other varieties of this wild orchid: the Pink Lady’s Slipper, and the “Showy Lady’s Slipper” (which is a two-toned white and light red color). I have found and photographed the Pink. I have yet to find the showy.

Yellow Lady's Slippers Copyright Andy Richards  1999

Yellow Lady’s Slippers
Copyright Andy Richards 1999

Another entrancing wildflower is the wild swamp iris. Small and delicate, these are very beautiful flowers.  I should have shown more context here, as this closeup image makes the flower appear to be larger than it is “in person.”  All of these images were captured on 35mm film and scanned with my epson desktop scanner.

Blue Flag Iris Copryright  Andy Richards  1998

Blue Flag Iris
Copryright Andy Richards 1998

Coneflowers are Cool

Purple Coneflower Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Purple Coneflower
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

One of the flowers that is the most interesting is the Purple Coneflower. As intrigued as I am by them, I have taken many coneflower images, but have not been really satisfied with most the results.

Purple Coneflowers Copyright 1998  Andy Richards

Purple Coneflowers
Copyright 1998 Andy Richards

These flowers have the ability to reproduce, photographically, as a delicate pastel, or a much more saturated purple. They seem to be best portrayed—as with many flower closeups—with a nicely blurred background.

Purple Coneflower Copyright  1998  Andy Richards

Purple Coneflower
Copyright 1998 Andy Richards

Much of what is written about flower closeup photography suggests that we look very carefully for the perfect specimen. But in nature, there are few perfect specimens. One of my favorite coneflower images has a clear imperfection, but I don’t think it detracts at all from the final image.

Purple Coneflower Copyright  2013  Andy Richards

Purple Coneflower
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I like to look for contrasting colors for a background for these images. It is common to see them planted near yellow flowers (like black-eyed Susans).

Lilies are probably my Favorite

White Daylily Copyright 2000  Andy Richards

White Daylily
Copyright 2000 Andy Richards

I am not botanist, so I don’t know this to be fact, but it seems to me that the lily is the most common garden flower. There are so many colors, textures, sizes and varieties of lily. Their shape, texture and color have always been a draw to my eye.

Pink Day Lily Copyright  Andy Richards

Pink Day Lily
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

We have always had a variety of lilies in our garden, and it seems like I spot them everywhere I go.

Yellow Lily Copyright  Andy Richards

Yellow Lily
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Over the 15 year span from 1996 until recently, I have found different ways to photograph lilies. In the early years, I focused (pun intended) on sharpness and depth of field. As I became more adventurous, I varied my shots from small aperture, great depth of field, to blurred background, lower depth of field. I was to learn that the “look” of that blurred background was referred to as “bokeh.” I read that different lenses produced better bokeh than others.

Yellow Day Lily Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Yellow Day Lily
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Much later, in 2013, I acquired my first very fast f1.8 lens designed by the engineers at the legendary Carl Zeiss and manufactured in conjunction with Carl Zeiss and Sony. I quickly learned the “real” meaning of bokeh, shooting with my new Sony mirrorless camera and the Zeiss-designed lens. It may well be that the wide-open f1.8 aperture was the largest contributor.

Red Day Lily Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Red Day Lily
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Sometime a few years after I re-started shooting in 1986, I felt that I had done all the flower closeups I could. I had burned out on those shots. Then, when I stared playing with the Zeiss lens, I felt compelled to shoot more and more flowers. I really like the new images.

Crimson Day Lily Copyright  Andy Richards

Crimson Day Lily
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There is more to my Blog than “Flowery” Prose

Tulips Copyright 1996  Andy Richards

Tulips
Copyright 1996 Andy Richards

O.k.  That was another one of those blatant, “gotcha” titles that has (almost) nothing to do with the subject.  Not much flowery prose here, but it is about flowers.

Flower Bed Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Flower Bed
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

In 1996, after a 14 year hiatus (life happened for a while), I rekindled my fascination with photography. By that time in life, I was considerably more affluent (which is still not saying much) than I was as a “poor college student.” With that “affluence,” I purchased a new Nikon N6006 SLR camera and a “kit” lens (I honestly don’t even remember what the lens was). I shortly began acquiring additional lenses and after some missteps, finally “sprung” for the top-end Nikkor 60mm “Micro” f2.8 lens. I thought it would be a good substitute for a “normal” 50mm lens. Ironically, I judge the lens to be just a little too sharp (I know – seems like a non-sensical observation for a photographer) for a general use lens.  But it made very nice closeup images.

Wildflowers Copyright 1996  Andy Richards

Wildflowers
Copyright 1996 Andy Richards

Like many “neophyte” shooters, I quickly developed a fascination for close up images. In my case, flowers were easy picking (yes; pun intended :-) ). I spent many hours happily setting up and shooting close-up images over the next several years.

Have you seen the strange neighbor on his hands and knees in his yard with the camera?

I am pretty sure I totally embarrassed my wife with the neighbors, as I crawled around on the ground in my yard, with the camera mounted low on my tripod.  “Have you seen the strange neighbor on his hands and knees in his yard with the camera?”

Lavender Daylily Copyright 1998  Andy Richards

Lavender Daylily
Copyright 1998 Andy Richards

There is perhaps no better practice ground for learning about the nuances of photography: directional lighting, depth of field, sharpness, composition and color arrangement are all possible with this genre. In addition, it is a great teacher of the virtues of electronic flash. You also learn very quickly the requirement of a sturdy shooting platform (a tripod), the relationship between subject movement, shutter speed and—again—electronic flash.

Orange Day Lily Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Orange Day Lily
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I have always loved color. What better place to find studies of color, from subtle to brilliant, than flowers? As my cataloging of images has gotten more detailed—particularly with the advent of Adobe Lightroom—I have begun to look at different categories of flowers, from different domestic varieties, to wildflowers. I’ll spend the next couple blogs posting some of my favorites.

White Daylily Copyright 2000  Andy Richards

White Daylily
Copyright 2000 Andy Richards

During the first several years from 1996, I amassed around 500 flower images. After a while, I felt that I had “been there, done that,” and moved on to other images. This was probably partly driven by my greater ability to travel to more “exotic” locations than my backyard. I have a very good friend and pro photographer who likes to quote another pro, saying that “in order to get good photos, you have to stand in front of good stuff.”

Purple Flower Copyright  1996  Andy Richards

Purple Flower
Copyright 1996 Andy Richards

More recently, as I have experimented with new lenses and cameras, I have found myself drawn back to the flowerbed as a testing ground.  As I selected images for the next several blogs, I was interesting and fun to go back to the “early” years and compare them to recent photographs.  I hope you’ll enjoy the next few posts.  I’ll be off in the Caribbean for the next couple weekends, so see you later this month.

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