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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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4th of July; What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

Split Rock Fireworks Finale

Split Rock Fireworks Finale

Hot dogs, beer, barbeque, fireworks, and the biggest party of the year. Why? What is the big deal?  These things seem to have become symbolic of “everything American.”  On this day, I cannot help but reflect and ask:  symbols of what?

The original fireworks were not pretty, exhilarating, or festive

Fireworks celebrations are everywhere. What is the significance of fireworks? The original fireworks were not pretty, exhilarating, or festive. They were not integrated with music. Indeed quite the opposite. Canons and muskets and humans who were once fellow countrymen and brothers killing each other over “principle.”  A sobering thought as we contemplate the weekend fireworks display.  And so, it seems to me, that “princple” must have been something pretty darn important to go to war over.

“When in the course of human events …..We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today is a celebration of the actions of some courageous men with strong convictions, who acted, on behalf of all “Americans” (as we were to be become), to secure “Liberty.” It is a celebration and acknowledgement of the everyday men who, following their Declaration of Independence, fought and died for freedoms which – in modern days – it is difficult not to take for granted. Since then, many men and women have died in numerous wars, beginning with the U.S. Revolutionary war, most of them dying to protect the freedoms once “secured.”

we live in a nation and society where we are free to openly disagree

Recently, there have been some historical developments in our laws and society. No matter which side one takes on some of these issues, what we can all agree upon is that we live in a nation and society where we are free to disagree – openly, with each other, our government and our laws. We have a process in place for resolving our disagreements. It rarely results in a “clear win” for either side. Perhaps that is the strength of the process? But it is designed to be civil. And there is – it seems to me – an element of balance and tolerance. As I assert my rights, I hope that I can always keep in mind how they may impact and limit the rights of others. As I reflect on the meaning of this holiday, it is my hope that no matter how divided our views; no matter how fervent our opinions; that we continue our disagreements civilly and that we respect the right of others to have differing views.

I hope everyone has a happy, safe, and yes – even thoughtful – 4th!

Copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

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

The 7-Year Itch?

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

There is an old thought about relationships known as the “seven-year-itch” (something about getting an itch to try something new in the 7th year, which ultimately in most cases, terminates the former relationship). Before anyone gets alarmed, I have been happily married for 30 plus years now – that 7-year thing is well behind us. 🙂

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

But, just trying to come up with a clever title for this blog, it came to mind. Next month, I will have been writing this blog for 7 years. So this coming year could be the year I decide it’s over and move on. Given my history, I probably won’t. Besides, I really enjoy writing this thing (the opening image is my very first posted image here).

Stone House; Manassas Virginia Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone House; Manassas Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I really enjoy writing this thing

In the winter of 2008, I began a series of “tutorial” e-mails to one of my sisters who had taken up DSLR photography. I was trying to explain the technical aspects of exposure, depth of field, etc. to her in steps. About the same time, a friend from Vermont began to ask questions about her point and shoot camera, and shortly, she acquired her own DSLR.

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Between the two of them, and some others, I spent a fair amount of time writing and editing and responding to questions and clarifying, and it dawned on me that maybe I should save these “writings” (mainly so I wouldn’t have to re-create them later). About that same time, I hired a company to create a photography website for me to showcase my own images. The idea of a blog seemed a natural follow-up and since everybody was doing it, and there was no cost to set it up, I decided to give it a whirl.

Bernard Maine copyright  Andy Richards 2009

Bernard Maine
copyright Andy Richards 2009

I started the blog as a Google Blogger site, but migrated to WordPress a few months later, as WordPress seemed to offer both a more pleasing theme and more versatility for photographic blogging. Since moving to WordPress, the blog has had more than 50,000 views, and currently has 50 followers – not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening.

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening

Over time, the blog has gradually evolved from my “tutorial” writings (there is only so much of that, and mine were specifically “conversational,” and certainly not intended to compete with the myriad of books and website offerings by the professionals out there), to more of a combination of a travel images blog and the occasional philosophical or political musing, with the stray tutorial thrown it. I have also spent some time reviewing equipment – primarily that which I have owned or used.

Ketchikan, Alaska Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Ketchikan, Alaska
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Perusing my “offerings” from the beginning, I was amazed to see the territory covered. Since the first writing, I have traveled and photographed fairly extensively in the United States, including (in addition to my home state of Michigan – upper and lower peninsulas and my new “home” away from home state of Florida) Texas, Alaska, San Francisco and Northern California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Virginia, West Virginia; New Mexico; Minnesota; Acadia National Park and surrounds in Maine and Vermont.

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It has gotten harder to do this

I have Traveled out of the country to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Greece, as well as 3 trips to the Caribbean. In 2015, we will travel to Japan, the Mediterranean again; and I will go to Vermont again in the fall. So hopefully, there are many more images to come. In some of the places that I have visited multiple times, the challenge will be doing something unique.

Chili Ristra, New Mexico   copyright 2008  Andy Richards

Chili Ristra, New Mexico copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There have been some milestones over the 7 years. In March of 2010, I bid a bittersweet goodbye to my best buddy and fellow shooter and traveler, Rich, whose career took a sharp left turn, as he moved away from Michigan. While we knew we would try to stay in touch, it was not certain that we would. Over the following year, we did. Then, to my great delight, his career took yet another turn and he moved back here to Michigan. We will live to shoot another day!

San Francisco Night Skyline  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Night Skyline copyright 2011 Andy Richards

As I looked for images that seemed to make an impression on me from the places I visited, it ocurrs to me that 2010 was a huge travel and photography year for me in the U.S.

Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

the challenge will be doing something unique

I cannot even count how many times I have mentioned the word “Nikon” in my blog. I have been a loyal Nikon user for thirty plus years. As my more recent blogs have noted, I have completely moved to another name and system in the past few months. I still think Nikon makes top quality DSLR bodies and lenses. But they haven’t moved toward the mirrorless system in a way that fits my thinking.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

On a couple occasions, I mentioned New Year’s resolutions in my late December posts. In one case, in 2011, I noted that I don’t make them (because I don’t keep them). In 2012 I made one (and didn’t keep it).

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It has gotten harder to do this. I still enjoy it, but inspiration for subjects or topics are tougher to come by.  For those who have read, followed and commented over the past 7 years, I am very grateful. I will be traveling again in the next couple weeks, and so may not be consistent with my weekly input. I guess it is one of the nice things about the nature of a personal blog. I can post when I want to.  🙂

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Until next time ……….

It’s Almost “That Time Again”

Shameless Plug: If you are thinking about shooting in New England this fall, please look at my eBook, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” for detailed directions and illustrations of some of my favorite “iconic” places in Vermont to shoot. If you click on the “SCENIC VERMONT” Link in the upper left corner here, it will take you to a series of link for your preferred e-reader format. Thank You!

Pete's Lake Sunrise Hiawatha NF, Michigan UP Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Pete’s Lake Sunrise
Hiawatha NF, Michigan UP
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

I know. I am a “broken” record (for those of you old enough to even “get” that reference :-)). Every year about this time, I start to get restless and excited. And every year about this time, it seems that I am compelled to write once again about my personal favorite time of the year for photography. I doubt that I am alone. I suspect that the vast majority of photographers – enthusiast and working pro alike – would agree with this sentiment.

Fall is my personal favorite time of the year for photography

Color

Fall color presents itself in many ways, but in each of them, photographic subjects are in their “best dress.” My focus (pun definitely intended) has always been on landscape photography, so the fact that the flora turns to magnificent colors creates a wonderful and aesthetic background for any subject (when it is not, itself, the subject).

Warning – These are not “Stuffed Animals,” Cartoons, or “Disney” Characters!

For those less inclined toward landscape, the wildlife is also often at its best at this time of the year. Many of the large mammals mate in the fall, and they are in their proverbial “rut.” This means antlers and winter coats, and generally more magnificent looking animals. Because of the combination of the rut and the quest for food and shelter for winter, they are often less reclusive and less more likely to show themselves closer to the photographer (for those with an ounce of common sense – and for the rest of you, too J, there should be a significant warning in that statement) – these are not stuffed animals and they are not cartoon or “Disney” characters. They are wild animals who, if provoked, can be frightfully violent – indeed fatally so).

Bison in Grand Teton NP are relatively acclimated to human presence (but very dangerous nonetheless) Copyright 2011 Andy Richards Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Bison in Grand Teton NP are relatively acclimated to human presence (but very dangerous nonetheless)
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

And for some, there are other colors, which show themselves in jerseys, helmets, black and white balls, and such. 🙂

There is something “special” about the light in September and October

Light

The sun moves to a more oblique position on the horizon, and the days get shorter. Ironically, for serious landscape and wildlife photographers, shorter days are actually a boon! This means we do not have to drag ourselves out of bed quite as early to get that golden morning light. It also means we are less inclined to burn the proverbial candle at both ends, and often actually get to bed at a “reasonable” time each night, even when shooting. There is something special about the light in September and October. It is warmer and more inviting and “good light” is a critical ingredient to “good imagery.”

There is a foreign hosted site that has this one up on a promotional page

Craftsbury Common, Vermont
copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Conditions

While fall has certainly become a popular travel time of the year, it is still generally less crowded (particularly on week days) than summer, as children (in the U.S., anyway) are generally back in school and families back to the “work routine.” This often means that locations are more accessible to the photographer.

One of the things I marvel at is the variable conditions right here in the North American Continent. I know I haven’t begun to scratch the surface, and that there are places in the world that rival anything we have here, for Fall Color. But here in North America, I have had the pleasure to be as far west as California in October (though I have a lot of work to do to capture even a small percentage of its fall color – yet). I have been in New Mexico, where the intense reds of the rock formations set off against the yellows of the aspen and other variety of fall foliage is magnificent. I have been to Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Canada, and of course, my own Michigan U.P. I have not been to Minnesota yet for fall foliage, but I know it has some scenes that will compare well to the Michigan U.P., especially along its Lake Superior North Shore.

Kit Carson National Forest Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Kit Carson National Forest
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Edit:  My friend, mentor and talented professional photographer, Ray Laskowitz makes a very important observation.  Because of the relative times of “peak” color change during the fall months, if you have the time and inclination (believe me, it is on my “bucket list”), you could chase color all over the continent for almost a two month-period from sometime beginning in September to sometime ending in November!FallFoliageMap2

Emotion

The season is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for me. I don’t mean to say that I am losing sleep, or that I am a basket case or anything :-). But it is always bittersweet, knowing that—at least where I live—it is a wonderful and exciting time of the year—but it is also the harbinger of things to come. The all too short fall display is really a signal for the end of nice weather, outdoor activities (except for the more hardy snow lovers among us) and warm weather. So I always want to try to schedule some time to soak it in and enjoy it during this time of the year. There are, of course, some “warm-weather solutions” to this “problem.” Some of you probably think that rather than whine every year about the coming of the apocalypse (o.k.; that is a bit dramatic – “winter”), I should do something about it (I have, but that’s for another time).

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

This year, it is even more bittersweet, because I am pretty likely to miss most of the show that I am so accustomed to. I will be in the Mediterranean during most of the end of September and probably not “free” to spend more time outside my “real job” this year. So I will be trying to live vicariously through my many photographer friends who will be shooting in those parts of the country that I normally would try to visit. It is, of course, a good news/bad news (overwhelmingly mostly good – as the upcoming trip is one of those “few-in-a-lifetime” events that my wife and I have been looking forward to for upwards of 2 years now). But part of my heart will be with the fall foliage shooters and I will be wondering what they are finding.

Reflection of Fall Color; Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI

Reflection of Fall Color; Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
copyright 2009 Andy Richards

Good luck this season to all my friends (and all you shooters out there) and here’s to a grand, colorful, and meteorologically pleasant shooting season!

“THE Photographer’s Guide To Minnesota’s North Shore”

Recommended
Over the past month, I have blatantly and egregiously trumpeted my new eBook, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage.” Nearly simultaneously, my great friend and talented photographer, Allen Utzig was working on his own eBook Guide, “THE Photographer’s Guide To Minnesota’s North Shore.” Available since early August, Al’s book is available for iPad in the iBookstore, Kindle on Amazon, Nook at Barnes & Noble, Kobo in their own bookstore, and a few other notable places, such as ebookpie.com.

The North Shore is 100 miles of pure magic!

For those who didn’t already know this, Minnesota is a vast state in the heartland of our country, bordering Canada on its Northern Border. The “North Shore” is a roughly 100-mile shoreline that borders the northwest of an arm of Lake Superior’s westernmost end (maybe 1/3 or so of the entire lake) which juts down along the northern borders of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s UP (bordered to the east by Michigan’s “Keweenaw Peninsula.” But it is 100 miles of pure magic!

Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Beginning at the town of Two Harbors, just under 200 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul, there are numerous rivers with spectacular waterfalls as they drop to Lake Superior. And, in my personal view, the “crown jewel” of The North Shore is the Split Rock Lighthouse, arguably the most spectacular and photogenic of all of the lighthouses on the Great Lakes!

For years, Al (who I met on the Scenes of Vermont Forums) has been cajoling me to join him on a photo trip to the North Shore, where he has spent many hours photographing. Two summers ago, in 2010, I joined him for a long-weekend on the North Shore. And what a weekend it was. We only scratched the proverbial surface. But Al knows the area, where and when to be, and how to get the images.

Split Rock Light is arguably the most spectacular and photogenic of all the Great Lakes Lighthouses

Al has been a career teacher, but spent most of his years in the insurance and actuarial industry. He has been fortunate to travel over the country, including to my beloved Vermont, which is our connection. But once a teacher, always a teacher. Al is a teacher at heart, and I have observed him working with beginners, amateurs and his equally talented fellow photographers alike, always sharing his knowledge of places, techniques equipment. His GoldImages Website showcases his personal work, as well as his business, consulting with companies for their logo, brochure and multi-media needs, and sales of his imagery. It’s worth a look – and bookmarking.

But about the book. “THE Photographer’s Guide To Minnesota’s North Shore” is classic Allen Utzig (for those of us who know him well). Before taking us to the places, Al puts on his “teaching hat.” The first part of the book prepares the would-be North Shore photographer for what to expect, and how to capture the images they are going to be presented with. A substantial part of the draw of the North Shore is its many waterfalls. For those who haven’t attempted these images, waterfall photography is notoriously challenging. So we have a chapter explaining how to shoot water and waterfalls, and some tips on how to get those silky, flowing, artful images of water, as well as proper exposure techniques. The Split Rock Light affords some wonderfully diverse opportunities. When I was there, I photographed it in early morning with the sun rising behind the light, in the late afternoon with the “golden light” lighting it, and at night. Because there are some great night time photographic opportunities on the shore, Al gives us another chapter on shooting night time photographs.

Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

In his introduction, Al indicates that the book is intended for photographers of all skill levels. Thus, there are chapters in the beginning covering compositional rules, exposure theory, and essential equipment. The experienced shooter can skip those chapters and move right on to the chapters describing the scenes. Or, they can take advantage of Al’s considerable knowledgeable as a refresher course. It never hurts to go back and review the fundamentals, and I found myself enjoying reading these sections from a different photographer’s perspective.  But the point it, there is something for everybody in this eBook.

Starting in Duluth, (about 25 miles southwest of Two Harbors), Al takes us on a tour of the main attractions, from Gooseberry Falls, in Gooseberry Falls State Park (we spent parts of 2 days there), to Split Rock State Park and the lighthouse, all the way up to Grand Portage, at the northern end. Beyond is Canada. This is about a 100 mile stretch and it appears that a photographer could spend a week there and still only be starting to see all there is to see.

Get the North Shore on your “Bucket List” and don’t go without Al’s eBook

Throughout most of the book, Al gives us narrative, directions, time of day, and GPS coordinates. I have to admit my bias, I know and love Al. And, I spent time with him as my personal guide in this beautiful area. But even so, I find it hard to find any criticisms of this eBook. However, I have shared a couple with Al. First, I want to see more images! The book is well-illustrated, but I know there’s more and I know Al has made them. Second, I would hope that a subsequent addition would “flesh out” some of the areas given coverage (but not as detailed) in the final chapter, “Other Photographic Locations.” I have seen some of the weathered old buildings Al mentions. But we haven’t been there at a time when conditions were right to photograph them. Still, I would like to see directions and GPS coordinates, and, one day, when you hit them right Al, illustrative photographs. I am certain there will be updates, as I know Al will continue to travel to the North Shore to photograph its wonders. If you haven’t planned a trip there, get it on your “bucket list.” And don’t go without Al’s eBook!

Recommended

Do Your Photographs Evoke Emotion?

The colorful rocks, colorful reflections and the water and the graphic elements in this image created a visceral or emotional reaction to me - enough to compose it and click the shutter! Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

It’s just emotion that’s taking me over.” This short lyrical riff from the 70’s era Samantha Sang song, Emotion,” (written and performed by the Gibbs brothers – the Bee Gees) might just be a good photographic theme (just to assure those of you might be worried, no, I was not/am not a Disco fan – but you have to admit, some of the music had rhythm and melody that was just – well, catchy 🙂 ).

A recent photo contest statement illustrates the sentiment. The art director for the sponsor noted that what he was looking for was images that would evoke an emotional response. That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it? Looking through some of my images, I asked myself, do they evoke an emotion? And if I thought the answer was yes, how could I articulate the emotion? Did they make me sad, happy, angry, excited, euphoric or depressed? Almost universally, I could not label any of my images with those traditional emotional responses. So what, exactly does it mean to have an “emotional response” to an image?

That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it?

My conclusions are equivocal. On a purely empirical level, I suppose it can be said that every photograph evokes some emotion. We often see and hear comments like, “nice,” “beautiful,” “awesome,” “great composition,” “well – seen,” and the like. Less often, it may be “ho-hum,” or “yuck, that’s awful,”(though I suspect these latter comments are more often thought than heard or seen 🙂 ).

Photography is all about light. I have always been drawn to moving water and those slow-exposures that create a silky effect to it. But here, the "angel hair" texture to the water with the sunlight and shadow dappling it created an emotional reaction as I looked through the viewfinder: "I like it."
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Recently, I read a statement by a photographer who said we as photographers often put too much emphasis on our work being liked or accepted by other photographers. It was a statement that resonated with me. While I welcome constructive critique, it is not the “camera club” photo contests and observance of “rules of photography” that is a motivating factor for my images. I want my images have impact generally to viewers who aren’t looking at it as photographers and artists, but just looking at it as an observer.

An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction

As I stood on a roadside above, with the October wind buffeting me, all I could think of was the vastness of this rugged, wild countryside. While "vast" is not an emotion, my reaction to it was certainly visceral.
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Emotion” is perhaps not the precisely correct word for this phenomenon. An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction in the viewer. It needs to strike a chord that makes them keep coming back to it and keep looking at it (and in the economic sense, it has to create a feeling with that viewer that they want to have it hanging on their wall, day after day).

And if not, is the image worth making?

This kaleidoscope of color, sky, reflection and fog/steam in the very cold October dawn in Vermont created a number of emotional and visceral feelings in me (not the least of which was cold!)
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

As I thought about this, I wondered how reach that emotional “chord” in people? And as I thought more, a plausible answer came to me. Does the image cause a visceral or emotional response in me? If so, there is a pretty good chance it will create that response in the viewer. And if not, is the image worth making?

Thanks for reading