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Fall Color in the “UP” – 2012 – Part 4 – Color in Abstracts

Fall Color Abstract; Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Often in our enthusiasm for fall foliage conditions and trips, we single-mindedly seek the “grand landscape” shots, showing a wash of brilliant color set in a dynamic mountain or lakeside landscape. The reality is that this type of photographic image is really, really hard to pull off, except in the best of conditions. There are, of course, places in our incredible land that offer nearly studio-like conditions for the grand landscape, and if we have the good fortune and timing to be at these places when the foliage, wind, sky and light conditions all come together, we will get the opportunity to make such images. But the instances (especially for those of us who shoot in limited time windows) of these proverbial “stars aligning” are few and far between. And if you think it is different for “pros,” think again. There is just plain old perspiration and persistence involved in a great “grand landscape” image. This means dragging yourself out of bed pre-dawn day after day, missing meals in the evening, and often going to the same location time after time to wait, until the ideal conditions come together. What pros have that we often don’t is the fortitude (and sometimes the time) to do that and the skill to be ready for capture when it does come together.

The reality is that the “grand landscape” image is really, really, hard to pull off

So what does a hobbyist who took one of her/his 2 vacation weeks and planned a trip to, say Vermont, in 2012 during the first week of October do, when the conditions just don’t cooperate? (I didn’t make it to New England this year, but I keep in touch with my numerous information sources who are on the ground there every year, whether I am or not. They uniformly reported that it decided to be rainy and cloudy during a week of peak color in parts of the state the likes of which we haven’t seen for several years). Look for abstract images. Try to find the intimate views that exclude the element(s) that aren’t “working” for you. Color is everywhere to be found during the foliage season, even the skies just aren’t right for the grand landscape image you covet.

Birches; Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Even when conditions for the grand landscape are ideal, it is still important to look around for those abstracts and intimate views. This year, the conditions for landscape photography were pretty good during most of my time in the UP. But there will always be times when conditions don’t work for those “big” images. This was a year where the luminance of the colors and the variety of different colors all coming in at the same time was unusually good in my view. So I was able to make some sectional images with colors juxtaposed, some more intimate captures of parts of the forest, and some abstract images, including reflections, working with depth of field, and playing around with the zoom on my lenses.

Look for Abstract, Sectional and Intimate Images in the foliage

The first image above was taken the same morning I made the moon over Pete’s Lake image. Shortly after the sun rose, the quality of light on the bank of trees became “hotter” than I thought was optimum for the “big picture” image–and I had made “my image” for that morning. So I turned my camera to the water, zoomed in on the ripples and made the resulting reflective abstract.

One afternoon, workshop leader, James Moore and I took off, exploring the forest roads. One image Jim had in mind was a birch clump image. After following Jim through more “Deliverance” territory, we eventually split up, as I went to scout the next morning location. Jim later found the clump of birch trees and sent me back to find it for myself. The image he made was very different from this one, which demonstrates how individuals can “see” things differently.

Maple Sapling in Color
Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Another afternoon, while waiting for the group to complete shooting an area they found intriguing, buddy, Rich and I moved ahead to shoot a brilliantly lit red maple he had staked out. It didn’t “send” me photographically for some reason, and I and walked into the forest with my longest lens. I made this image with the aperture wide open, to render the background as out of focus as possible, “suggesting” forest and color in the background, but highlighting the small maple sapling.

played around with this same sapling for a while, setting my shot up for a relatively slow shutter speed and turning the zoom ring on my lens to “zoom out” during exposure.  This shot may require Dramamine for for safe viewing :-).

Fall Color Abstract
Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Driving the forest roads those afternoons, we knew the sky was too blue and and the light too bright to make good images of grand scenes, so we looked for “sectional” images, where colors contrasted, were complementary, or otherwise stood out. As I made the image with the variegated red/orange/yellow leaves, the sun alternatively ducked behind and then back out of the cloud cover. I was able to make a number of differently lit exposures of this scene and this brightly lit one was the most pleasing to my eye, once back home and on my monitor.

Forest Color; Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

I have looked for an image like the landscape-oriented shot below for many years. The mid-morning lighting on this image is unfortunately, “hot,” but the bank of color variation from green/yellow/orange/red/rust and scarlet makes a very nice study in color. This was representative of a lot of the color we saw this year in the distance as we drove throughout the UP.

Forest Color; Hiawatha NF
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

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8 Responses

  1. Sectional Images? You mean details? You know what they say. “The devil is in the details.” BTW, Even though I don’t know very much about photographing nature, I think this little collection of pictures are among your best.

    • Yes, Ray, details is a fine description (and I have no doubt there is at least one devil in there somewhere). I got the term “sectional” from a pro landscape photographer whose work I admire.

      Speaking of admiration, I am blushing. A compliment from you is a pretty nice thing :-). Thanks!

      • I wouldn’t get hung up on the word “pro” very much. It just means getting paid for the work. You’re welcome. But, keep in mind my own thinking. I think anyone can shoot the “big picture.” As you rightfully say, that comes down to luck as much as anything. Seeing the details is another story entirely. That’s the hard thing. Harder till is the ability to extrapolate some small thing into something that makes a statement about the bigger picture.

      • Thanks, Ray. I appreciate your view of the distinction. I think you may be too modest. I take a week or two out of the year and get to shoot what I want to shoot, on my time, terms and conditions. No deadlines, no “make or break.” While I work hard to keep up with both skills and knowledge, its ALL fun for me. I know you enjoy your work – it shows in the product, among other things. My view of a “pro” is that it is a job – usually not nearly as glamorous as lots of folks think, and always the product of a lot of hard work (without intending to minimize your vision and talent). So when you pay attention to my blog, its very flattering to me.

        Thanks, too for the words of wisdom regarding the details. Some excellent food for thought for all of us the next time we are out behind the lens. Best,….

  2. Andy, your pictures are great!!!

  3. Andy
    New to your blog. Enjoyed this edition. Looking forward to more. “Sectional” views captured the primary and analogous colors beautifully.
    Sandy

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