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Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

We ancitipated Bruges, which our research touted to be “The beer capital of the world.” We had a 1/2 day tour scheduled at the beginning, which in addition to some historic sites and buildings, was to also include some chocolate and beer tasting. Belgium is know for its chocolate, its waffles, and its beer. Unfortunately, we recieved a call from our guide who was driving from Brussels, as we waited out by the cruise terminal. He was tied up in traffic from a major accident and it didn’t look good that he would be arriving any time soon. We ultimately cancelled and took a taxi into the city. Even though it doesn’t seem far on the map, it was a good 1/2 hour drive, and during that time our driver – whose English was excellent (though his native language is Dutch), gave us some historical context.

Port of ZeeBrugge
Burges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, was perhaps one of the earliest Belgian cities, rising in medieval times and becoming a major trade center at the Renaissance emerged. It was strategically located near the sea (our port of call was Zeebrugge, which means “Bruges by the Sea”).

The Markt
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There is a continuous canal from the port in to the center of the city. Its most prominent feature is the Markt, a large oval plaza, surrounded by colorful and impressive architecture; today mostly retail establishments catering largely to tourists. Our cab driver dropped us off on a quiet street directly behind the Markt and we made arrangement for him to pick us up and return us to the cruise port later that afternoon. As we walked into the open plaza, it became immediately obvious that this was a photogenic scene. Lining the plaza on one side are some very colorful buildings with Dutch Colonial architecture, belying strong Dutch influence. There are some pretty impressive historic buildings, including a belfry that dates back to 1240, once the center of the town on the other perimeters.

The Markt
Brussels, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry is about 272 feet high and it towers over the surrounding buildings.

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges City Hall also faces the Markt and is an impressive building.

Bruges City Hall
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

WWe arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., to a city that – surprisingly – had not seemed to have awoken yet. We walked around some of the surrounding streets where there were no vehicles, few people, and shops that had yet to open.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges is also a city with numerous canals, and has been referred to as the Venice of the North. Having spent a fair amount of time in Venice, I can say that while the canals in Bruges (and Amsterdam) are impressive and lie in beautiful surroundings, they are very different from the canals of Venice. Notably, there are automobiles everywhere. Having said that, I will be among the first to agree that Bruges’ canals are photogenic.

Rozenhoedkaai Canal
Bruge, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Indeed, canal tours are among the most popular thing to do in Bruges, and certainly afford a great way to see the city.

Canal Tour Boad
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In addition to tasting some of the local brew and chocolate, we did walk around the old city and saw a few other nice sights as we walked.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ultimately, we found some beer, we found some chocolate, and we ended up a nice, rather relaxing day in Bruges at Cuvee Wine Bar, where we had a couple nice wines, and some cheeses and meats, before heading back to the cruise port. Back at the cruise port, as we sat on the back bar enjoying the late sun, a drink and the sail-away, I wasn’t sure whether to feel safe, or threatened, given that the ship moored directly behind us was most certainly not a pleasure cruiser. It appears that they make them a bit smaller than we do stateside. 🙂

Military Aircraft Carrier
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Day Two in County Cork

Tourism; Celebrity Cruises
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our overnight stay in Cobh, gave us the unique opportunity to plan two days. We knew exploring Cobh would be a day’s activity, and it made sense for us to “play it by ear,” and do that on our first day, depending on our arrival time and knowing we had later flexibility. I had made the most of my shooting the day before, and as we had an early appointment that morning, I elected not to try to go ashore for the early morning sun. But I was able to make some images from the ship. The military (naval, I think) facility was actually an island directly across from our stateroom balcony.

Military Facility
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I work hard most of the time to keep people either completely out of the image, or just a small – perspective-giving – part of the image. But the opening image of the camera-wielding tourist (no, not a selfie 🙂 ) underscores that as hard as I work to isolate images and find quiet places, tourism is a huge business and there are very few places like this in the world where there aren’t people – from all over the world – everywhere.

Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The two primary attractions for us in County Cork (after Cobh) were Cork City and Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, we did not do Cork the way we should have and learned later that we had missed a very neat part of the city. We did find a couple local pubs, a candy factory, and a nice church.

Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But Blarney Castle was our primary destination. My wife has become a pretty seasoned and expert travel planner, and based on her research, we knew there would be long lines to get into this very popular attraction. And, once inside, there would be additionally long lines to climb to the top, and to kiss the famous “Blarney Stone.” Her intel told us the best plan was to get to the Castle just before it opened. We didn’t want to depend on the train or finding our way to the castle from the Cork station, so she arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the Cobh port and take us to Blarney Castle. It was a well-informed decision, and we only waited about 10 minutes before we were inside the grounds. We headed straight for the turret and there was no wait to climb the steep, circular stone stairs to the top, and only about a 5 minute wait for the one person in our group who actually kissed the stone. I am told that one of the “blessings” the stone gives is “the gift of gab.” Most who know me will attest to the fact that I didn’t need that blessing :-). Of course, in order to see and kiss it you have to lay on your back while two “spotters” hold you nearly upside down, from a considerable height.

The Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

From the top of the castle, the vantage point gave a pretty good “birds-eye” view (see what I did there? 🙂 ) of the surrounding countryside.

Views from Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The details and construction of these thousand-plus year old castles is amazing, right down to the use of stained glass windows.

Stained Glass
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We spent a few hours walking the grounds, which included a beautiful Gothic Stone house (which is actually owned and occasionally occupied by a private family), nice gardens, stables, and lawns. I was able to make (I think) some nice images of the grounds and the castle.

Home on Blarney Castle Grounds
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Gothic Home on Grounds
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As I noted at the beginning, we really didn’t get to see much of the city of Cork. We only really had a couple hours following the Blarney Castle tour to get back to the ship. Our taxi driver happened to know the owners of a confectionary and took us there, just a few blocks from the city center. Unfortunately, the owner – though there – was not actively making candy at the time. After buying some sweets, we made our way back to the city center.

Linehan Confectioners
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We walked around a bit. It was like many others that we have visited, with pubs, coffee shops (of course, a Starbucks), and other touristy things. We learned later that there was a city tour of part of the old city of Cork that was pretty nice. Perhaps next trip.

Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Returning to the ship was a bit of an adventure. The walk to the rail station turned out to be much longer than we had anticipated, and we then had to figure out which train to board. Fortunately the crowds were small and we were in the company of lots of other folks heading the same direction. It was raining steadily when we arrived, and fortunately, the train platform was almost directly across the dock from the ship. Another good day in Ireland, and our last. We would head now to London, Paris, Bruges and Amsterdam.

As we returned to the ship the previous night, I was able to make a nice image of the approach to our Cruise Ship mooring. Tourism has certainly become an economic boon to many places and has grown (in some cases out of control) exponentially in the last 10 years. Cobh was clearly no exception and they made it clear that they welcomed the influx.

Cruise Port
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In my mind Ireland was the best part of the trip and even a little bit magical. I have little doubt that we will return to Ireland one day very soon!

 

The Rear View Mirror – 2017 in Review

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Most years, it seems like I get to this.  2017 was again, an eventful year, photographically and with related items.  This wasn’t a year when I planned a dedicated photo trip.  But I did manage to get to some new places, and back to some old ones.  For the most part, I carried my Sony RX100 small camera, and it gave me good service.

Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I ended 2016, and rang in the New Year with a series of images from a small public pier, just up the road from our Florida home.

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In January, we visited a “bucket list” location; Key West.  It has held pull for me at least since I became a “Parrot Head,” and certainly after I read a couple of Jimmy Buffet’s novels.  We celebrated my January birthday at Louie’s Backyard, a rather elegant restaurant with a wonderful outdoor deck seating area, and a great menu.  The sunset was – as is common in Florida – pretty spectacular.  Key West is a destination for eating, drinking, and people watching.  I would not put it high up on the photographic destination list. 🙂

Sunset from Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Speaking of sunsets, these images got me thinking how much I have always loved both ends of the day, but generally preferred sunrise to sunset.  It spurred another post featuring some of my sunrise imagery.

Tokyo Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

As I went through my image library, it occurred to me that some of my images had some things in common.  For example: Shape.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

And, Color.

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

And shape and color. 🙂

Just in time for Fall Foliage, my good friend, Carol Smith and I released our 2nd Edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,”  which can be purchased via the link on this blog.  This is the cover image.

Craftsbury Common, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Finally, we embarked on our much anticipated, 3rd Mediterranean cruise.  The single most anticipated image for me was the opening image here of the whitewashed, blue-domed churches that dot the landscape of Santorini.  But there was so much more to see.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As we ring in the New Year, I want to thank all the readers here, especially those who have the patience and perseverance to visit regularly.  I want to thank all those persons who mentor and support me in my photographic endeavors.  I want to thank my great friends (you know who you are so I won’t “out” you publicly), who traveled with us this year – we had a great time with great company.  As I said last week, I am very grateful for my blessings in life.  I wish to all, a Happy New Year, and a prosperous and successful (as you define “success”) 2018!

Playing

Venice, Italy Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Lately, it seems like I have kind of run out of material.  I have never really done this right.  By definition, a blog should be short.  Punchy.  Something that commands the usual surfing reader’s attention (with a typical attention span for online content which is very, very  short).  Short is something I have never done well.  🙂 Other than the odd, current controversial or otherwise interesting content, most of my posts have more recently been almost travelog style, of my photos from places I have visited.  Nothing wrong with that, but I cannot travel to new places, 24-7.

By definition, a blog should be short.  Punchy

Recently, as I was post-processing images from my latest European trip, I noted a couple of photos that might be good subjects for some experimentation.  I have been thinking about spending some of my winter months trying some new post processing techniques for a while now.  So this will segue into that phase.  In 2013, we visited Venice for the first time.  I made an image on the Grand Canal somewhere (I couldn’t tell you where it is) and began “playing” around with my NIK plugin, ColorEFX and its “detail extractor” and essentially by happenstance, “saw” a kind of oil painting look, which became a very large, print which now hangs on the wall of our living room.  I thought I had discovered a new “technique,” but as I “played” with other images, soon realized that not every photographic image lends itself to the treatment.

Short is something I have never done well.  🙂

Unfortunately, I know very little about my main processing program (Photoshop, with NIK plugins), other than how to optimize photographic color images.  So my work here will, in all probability, be pretty amateurish – at least to start.  Critique (constructive – obviously 🙂 ), will be welcome, as will references to sources of learning.  But here we go.

The opening image was taken of the Venice Rooftops, during a less interesting portion of a tour of the Doge’s Palace.  The yellow umbrella drew my attention.  I didn’t really see the “oil painting” until much later, during the post-processing stage.  But is is one that I think lends itself to that kind of treatment.  I am not sure I pulled it off.  🙂

Beach on Amalfi Coast
Amalfi, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Amalfi Beach image looks to me like one that could be a painting.  I added some grain to it, but it still looks awfully “photographic” to me.  I can see I need to do some studying.  I also note that the colors in many of these images are pretty vibrant and I am not sure that they are realistically within a painter’s palette.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

By decreasing the contrast and saturation in the Burano image, I think I may have come a bit closer to a painter’s palette.

Daisies
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

By decreasing contrast and saturation, I was able to create a more “pastel” look for these Shasta Daisies, captured in my yard.  But I not that the NIK software does some color conversions that I don’t care for, and I will have to learn more about how to control that.  I particularly note that the whites tend to turn grey and a bit dingy.

Colorful Buildings
Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

For these buildings, I was trying to obtain a pastel look.  Again, I think the color seems a bit luminous for my taste.  But simply changing global saturation and contrast would not allow me to get the look I sought.  I have work to do.  🙂

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

For the Santorini image, I again fiddled with global contrast and saturation.  I then used NIK’s Viveza to add back some pinpointed saturation for the colorful buildings.  I added grain again.  It is closer, but still appears a bit “photographic,” at least on my monitor.  It may well be exactly what I would like in print.  I will have to experiment a bit with my inkjet printer.

Big Bay Lighthouse
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

I “worked” this one (maybe overworked 🙂 ) pretty hard.  After using the NIK ColorEfx detail extractor, I decreased global contrast and saturation.  It was still too in-your-face for my taste – especially the lighthouse brick.  So I created a layer mask, severely reduced contrast in Photoshop, and then brushed it back in around everything but the lighthouse and the clouds.  Note how the lighthouse trim and top goes to gray?  I need to figure out how to preserve the whites.  I created a second layer/mask and did some work to make the railroad ties less realistic looking.  It will be interesting see how it prints, though I am concerned that the clouds will not print well.

Temple Rokuon-Ji
Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The last of my first run at these; the Rokuon Temple in Japan, again was a lot of “working.”  I found it especially difficult to make the foreground grasses and the water look “painted.”  I used Photoshop’s “oil paint” filter, but will need to do some serious homework in order to really understand what the settings do.

I will come back to this early in 2018.  I also would like to work on some B&W conversion (but find that one pretty intimidating).  Would love to hear comments and be pointed to good resources.

As 2017 comes to an end, I am, once again, appreciative at how many blessings we have.  One only needs to watch the news to know that as often as we bitch and moan, many of us have an awfully good life, and I personally have had many blessings, wonderful family and friends.  It also makes me pause a bit and think about the many folks out there who don’t have such blessings.  I have been able to do a number of small things for others over the year, including participation on some foundation boards, and giving to a number of charitable organizations.  But it is never enough.

Merry Christmas to all.

More Venice; 2017

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Much of what we did in Venice this trip was centered around walking tours, food and drink.  In past trips abroad, we have availed ourselves of a type of a “pub crawl” tour.  This year, they were not operating the week we were there.  So we kind of did our own, walking down one of the neighborhood canals and trying their “small plate” foods, know as chichetta.  We also managed to find a new restaurant with good food each night.

Venice Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

During the day, we were able to do a tour of Piazza San Marco, including the Doge’s Palace, which acts basically as a museum with a lot of classic art, some incredible architecture, and the fascinating prison.  While somewhere up in the “bowels” of the Palace, my mind wandered from the talk our guide was giving, and I saw the rooftop scene out the window.  The lone yellow umbrella drew my attention.

Venice, Italy Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

When I began post-processing of this image, it occurred to me this might make a nice “watercolor” subject, so I fooled around with it in some of the software I have that I rarely delve into.  I need to do more experimenting. Maybe a good winter project.

Tile Floor
Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I did pay attention to the art and architecture inside the palace, though.  When we were there in 2013, photographs, including the tile floor, were forbidden.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that on this occasion, photography was generally allowed everywhere unless our guide specifically noted otherwise (flash was generally not allowed anywhere).  The illusion created by this floor is pretty amazing.

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The photo with feet in it shows the detail in the tile and what could otherwise be viewed as a 3-dimensional pile of bricks.

Gondola Factory
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our tour that day took us by foot along the San Marco waterfront, including a walk by the only remaining gondola factory on the island.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were also some nice quiet neighborhoods we walked through.  There are a lot of photogenic subjects.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

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

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