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Right Time; Right Place Photography

Porcupine Mountains Copyright Andy Richards 1997

Recently, I went through a review and update of my LightCentric Photography photo website.  As I was systematically checking captioning information (among other things), a couple of the images made me pause and reflect on their circumstances as involving a particularly memorable moment of for whatever reason, just being in the right place at the right time.  Sometimes it was planned. Sometimes it was just serendipity.

This doesn’t mean there haven’t been other times and images. There have been too many photographic memories to cover, including trips to New Mexico, Alaska, New England, California, and around the world.

In some ways, the Porcupine Mountains image is my most memorable photo. Taken back in the days of film, I made this photograph on my very first “dedicated photography trip.” I spent a long weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for the first time since my childhood. The trip was planned with much anticipation of fall color imagery.  For the most part, even though I was there during the first week in October, I was still fairly early for foliage, and was largely disappointed in that aspect of the trip. The trip motivated many more similar excursions to the U.P., mostly in the fall.  I arrived at “The Escarpment,” in the Porcupine Mountains late on a Saturday afternoon. From the Escarpment, you can view the Lake of The Clouds, which is often photographed – especially during peak foliage. Conditions were not what I had hoped for.  It was cloudy, with a 40 plus mph wind.  I had seen images of Lake of The Clouds, and that was my goal for this part of the trip.  Foliage conditions were just starting, and I just did not see the image I had visualized. To make matters worse, the forecast called for worsening conditions, with all-out rain by morning.  So I took a number of images, using a much faster shutter speed and lower aperture combination than I normally would have, bracing the tripod against the wind buffets with my own weight (seemingly counterproductive).  Unlike these days, you could not see a representation of the result on the back of the camera.  I would wait until I returned home, and the photographic processor completed developing my slides.  I didn’t expect much from this location. But on the light table, this one image jumped out at me. It is perhaps the only “keeper” from that take. As I viewed it, I realized that the contrast between the lingering greens, the precocious reds, and the developing oranges and yellows, was actually more visually interesting – indeed satisfying – than some of those images that I had seen that were a complete wash of fall color. There is a photographer’s saying:  “F8 and be there.” I don’t think this was F8, but I was there, and this is what I found. The image here, is prepped for printing, and may look a bit saturated. But I did not touch the saturation sliders in Photoshop.  Instead, I used an old technique (surpassed for most of us by plugins such as NIK Viveza 2), converting the scanned image to LAB color space and making adjustments to the A and B curves. This image has continued to be my best selling photo. It hangs in the main conference room of my law firm’s offices, and draws many comments.

Mad River
Waitsfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2006, after much bragging to my best buddy, Rich Pomeroy, about the “best fall foliage in the world, bar none,” he called my bluff and we took a week long trip to Vermont. We had take many business trips together before, but this was our first “together” photography adventure. I am delighted to say that we have made numerous other photo trips, and will make many more in future years.  But this one turned out to be kind of a bust. We went during the last part of September and very early October. All during the week, we wished we had waited a week, as the foliage was again in very early (almost non-existent) stages. We worked hard to find some foliage and though we had a lot of fun and made some memorable images, it wasn’t what we had anticipated. Determined to “find” those colors I remembered from my youth in the 1970’s in Vermont, I returned – alone this time – in 1997, a week later. During that trip, I spend a couple nights in central Vermont, driving along it famed Route 100. Mother Nature can be fickle, and the colors were – once again – not as nice as I had hoped (this time a bit past peak in many places).  One morning, I was headed for a waterfall that has turned out to be (in my opinion) unremarkable;  Moss Glen Falls in Granville. But on my way, I got waylaid by a vision:  some color off in the distance of a scenic turnout.  The turnout turned out (see what I did there 🙂 ) to be a nice series of drops in the Mad River. The Mad River is really just a stream or creek that is not really navigable.  It is also the namesake of “Mad River Canoes,” originally built by hand in Waitsfield, where this very same stream wandered through his back yard. A drizzly rain was falling, but I donned my wading boots and spent 2 1/2 hours shooting there.  The image here was actually on a return trip in 2010, when I brought Rich back to “prove” my assertions about Vermont foliage 🙂 . That morning was a magical time. I was all alone with the subject, which remains a really photogenic series of waterfalls.

Otter Cliffs Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, Rich and I made another memorable photo trip; this time to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a quaint little touristy town with just enough non-photographic things to keep our spouses entertained (well, for about a day that is – but we were there for a week 🙂 ). Acadia is probably one of the most photographed National Parks. There a numerous books about the Park Loop Road, and all the different photographic venues. Otter Cliffs is one, but it is most often viewed more distantly, from another cliff to the north.  From the vantage point, you cannot even see this cobblestone beach. I had a friend who strongly recommended that I “work” to find this spot, which is a cobblestone beach that is not well documented or marked (at least, it wasn’t in 2009). The directions in the books don’t really reveal it, but with some perseverance, and some insight from him, we did find it. We visited it for 3 successive mornings in the pre-dawn, before we got this one. There is really nothing like being in a location like this, literally alone, and watching the sunrise and the morning develop. It was a location worth “working” for.

Burton Hill Road
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Vermont has a special place in my heart. Readers here know I make period trips to Vermont to photograph; usually during the vaunted fall foliage season. I wrote my first eBook on this very topic.  As I did my homework, planning each trip, researching and hobnobbing with members of the Scenes of Vermont forum, I “met” two of my wonderful friends, both of whom also happen to be talented photographers and writers. Al Utzig and I carried on a e-mail correspondence for several years before I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person. We were good friends by that time and the face-to-face didn’t change that (for me at least – I’ll let Al be the judge of it 🙂 ). Carol Smith, who many of you know as my co-author for the current edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” was a frequent poster on the Scenes forums and we were all soon to learn, an extremely knowledgeable and observant resource for wannabe Vermont photographers. She was of immeasurable help to me on the first edition and it was a logical progression for her to co-write a second edition which contains much more information, primarily from Carol. In the process we also became good “online” friends. In 2010, Rich and I returned to Vermont. I was there for a week, but Rich was only able to join me on the southern part of the trip for about 3 days.  This trip began with a group of us (particularly Al, Carol and me) meeting at Carol’s Barton house in anticipation of a next-day, early morning “tour,” led by Carol. This was my first face-to-face meeting with Carol, and to my surprise, she still loves me :-). We started at Bean Pond along the US 5 highway, for a foggy sunrise over the pond. The time and images were magical, but while Al and I gushed, Carol promised that the best was yet to come. And boy, was she right. The Burton Hill Road image is by far my personal favorite Vermont image, and perhaps my most “successful.” After others had left, Carol and her very patient husband, guided me around several other areas, including the Craftsbury Common image that appears on the cover of the Vermont eBook. But that morning is one of the most memorable times of any photographic trip. And I got to enjoy it with two of my very favorite friends.

Eagle in Flight
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Some years were big travel years for me. Others not so much. 2010 was one of those big years. In addition to another trip to Vermont, my wife, son and I went on our first cruise; the Inside Passage from Vancouver, B.C., to Whittier, Alaska. It introduced us to cruising (which to my surprise, I really liked), which has opened travel doors to us throughout the world. There were hundreds of images taken on that trip to Alaska, with some pretty great photographic opportunities.  But the most memorable image of that trip came as a complete surprise to me. We were signed up for a “deadliest catch” look-alike excursion (sans the cold and ice and heavy oceans). When we came ashore, one of the crew who met us saw my “big camera” and said “I see you came prepared. We are going to get some eagle photos for you today.”  Right. He was a tour guide. He certainly wasn’t going to promise me crappy photos.  🙂 I think we were scheduled to be out for 3 1/ or 4 hours, during which they talked about the history of these fishing boats (the boat was an actual boat used in the Bering Sea, just like the ones on the “Deadliest Catch” series, which had been shipwrecked, and then salvaged and retro-fitted with observation seating).  All very interesting, but no “knock your socks off” eagle photos. We saw some, but they were a long way in the distance. At the end of the cruise, they announced that they had a special treat for us, and took us by an uninhabited island, which was in native waters (by U.S. treaty) and therefore not subject to U.S. laws. As I looked, I saw a solitary eagle perched in dead tree. O.k. Then I suddenly heard “plop.” “Plop, plop.” The crew was up in the flybridge tossing bait into the water. The skies next to our boat suddenly turned into what I can only describe as a air to air dogfight as about 30 eagles all appeared, diving and often fighting for the food. I really wasn’t prepared and it all happened in about a 5 – 10 minute sequence. But in spite of my ill-preparedness, I was able to get several good shots. This one is my favorite. I doubt that I will ever get an opportunity to photograph eagles in flight from that close a position again. As our first cruise, it was hard to have it come to an end, with so many amazing and new experiences. But it did. It marked the end of a great trip – and the beginning of many more.

San Francisco Bay Bridge
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

In 2011, instead of a fall foliage trip, my wife and I opted to spend a week in California during the first week in October. My daughter lives in San Francisco, so we used that as a staging point, with an overnight excursion to Napa for some wine tasting. Lots of memories from that trip. My daughter’s place at the time was in downtown, south of Market Street (SOMA). She was just two blocks south of Market and just a few blocks west of the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero and the eastern part of San Francisco bay. I was up early and somewhere on the street each morning by sunrise or earlier (the 3 hour time differential was a positive, making it easy for me to wake up and roust early). What I really noticed was the relative stillness, just before the world “wakes up.” I made numerous images of the Bay Bridge, which is a favorite subject of mine (I prefer these images to those I have made of the more famous Golden Gate). But this one, I think, best illustrates that early morning pre-dawn calm and stillness.

Blue Angels
Fleet Week
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

That trip had other memories. We made friends with a couple of the winery owners, and in later years would travel with one of them, to the Caribbean and to Ireland, as well as returning to the vineyard when back in California. But the unexpected and incredible opportunity of shooting the air show put on by – mostly – the U.S. Navy, during its San Francisco “Fleet Week,” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We shot from the ground for over an hour as the planes flew low over us. I worked hard to capture a “bloom” from the jet fighters as they broke the sound barrier. Because sound and light do not travel at the same speed, it was touch to anticipate. I got just one. But am pretty pleased with it.

New River Gorge Lookout
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Returning to California, Rich and I were able to sneak in a quick 3-day trip to West Virginia’s Babcock State Park, to photograph the often photographed Grist Mill in fall foliage. While we probably missed the peak near the mill, we were able to find peak foliage around Boley Lake in the park. What made this trip special was my first opportunity to meet one of my photographic mentors and a great inspiration to me, James Moore. Jim is an uber-talented nature photographer with many sales and publications; primarily in and around West Virginia. We had become on-line friends a year or two before, and he had a group he was guiding there photographing earlier in the week. Jim was still there when we arrived, but left early the next morning.  We had a nice time to chat and he gave us some great insight about when and where to shoot in the park. In 2012, Jim did me the great honor of asking me to act as a guide for one of his photography workshops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jim had heard a lot about it but had never visited there. We spent a great week, learning, shooting, and watching the foliage develop from pre-peak to full peak conditions. Jim had some health problems later in life and sadly those of us who knew and admired him have lost touch. For the West Virginia image here, my model was Jim, and the New River Gorge lookout was one of his favorite spots in the park.

Oxbow Bend
Snake River, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

2012, marked yet another photography trip with my buddy, Rich (and spouses). We joke a lot because I am a “planner” when it comes to these trips. I have usually figured out what I want to shoot, how to get there, how long it will take, and what time of day to be on site. For the most part, Rich is happy to let me do that, and quite often comes home with the better image. 🙂 A couple years before, Rich had attended a photography workshop in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park. We both wanted to go again. This time I showed up and Rich was the guide. What a fun and memorable week with many great photo opportunities. As an old school photographer (or maybe just an old photographer), when it comes to scenic shots, I think in terms of a print. What we all want to bring back is a “wall-hanger.” Over the years I have made, printed and framed a number of my images. None has been better that this image of Oxbow Bend. We arrived here (I think the second time) in the pre-dawn hours and there was frost on everything. As the sun rose, the warmer water temps created a wonderful low fog over the bend in the river. May some white cotton-candy clouds would have enhanced this, but it was a great morning and I knew walking away from this shoot that this would be a wall-hanger.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

2013 was a huge year for us. My wife came from a military family, so she had done some limited world travel as a young person. But in our adult lives, we had not traveled out of the U.S. except for a couple trips to the Caribbean, and Canada (which really doesn’t seem like it counts 🙂 ). We decided to kick our cruising up a notch, and booked a Mediterranean Cruise. In many ways, it may have been the most memorable of all of our cruises. It was our third cruise on the Princess Lines, and we were booked on their newest, and best ship. We were excited to see the world over the next two weeks, disembarking from Venice and ending in Barcelona. The cruise ship decided it wouldn’t cooperate, and our cruise was cut short. There was, however, a happy ending to that.

Gondolas
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

As is our custom, we planned to spend 3-4 days in our originating port city before boarding the cruise ship. We walked around Venice for 3 days and boarded the ship thankful for an immediate “day at sea,” exhausted.  But what I can say about Venice is that it is wall-to-wall “eye-candy” for the photographer. I have hundreds of Venice images, but the two shown here represent moments that separate themselves from the others.  The Gondolier was a case of right time, right place. I was looking for shots, and heard them coming. I found this setup and was blessed with wonderful early morning sunlight. The covered gondolas is not original on my part. I had seen at least one other photographer do this. What it would need was very early light in order to make an exposure long enough to capture the motion of the rocking gondolas. This meant either very early morning, or evening. I chose morning because there would be less people, and less activity on the Grand Canal, producing just some gentle rocking. I use this image on my Facebook LightCentric Photography Page Cover.

Lombard Street
San Francisco
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

In 2014, we returned again to San Francisco for several days. I made more trips to the Bay Bridge. I also walked to the San Francisco Giants ball stadium. My daughter took us to Lands End, to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, and to Jones Beach. But what I remember the most is walking from our SOMA location, all the way across town and uphill to Lombard Street (the famous s-curved, brick-paved, switchback street that is a “must photograph” when you visit). I made the usual images (except for the nighttime shot with the streaky headlights). Then I looked for something else to shoot. A unique perspective that possibly nobody else had ever done. I think I might have been successful.

Sailboat
Narragansett Bay, Newport
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

In 2016, I made a last minute trip to join my buddy, Rich, who was in Newport, Rhode Island for business. I flew in on Thursday evening and we spent two days shooting.  Friday morning, I was on my own and walked around the downtown area and the wharfs, making lots of photos of boats, buildings, etc. Everything was a more or less nautical theme. That evening we went to shoot a lighthouse that Rich had found earlier in the week (Castle Hill Light). This was a photogenic lighthouse, and as we often do, we arrived early to scout best perspectives for shooting. And then we waited on the light. It is often worth waiting for the absolute last of the light to see if anything magical happens in the sky. To our west, the sun set over Narragansett Bay, with beautiful orange skies, but no real photographic interest. But as we watched and waited, this white sailboat approached and passed. Knowing a little about sailing from my past, I made note of the wind, and calculated that the boat (it was actually a large, tour charter boat on the last leg of the day) would come about and come back toward us. I quickly swiveled my tripod head around, took some metering measurements, and waited to frame the boat where I wanted it to be.  I knew I would get 2-3 shots at best of this quickly moving boat.

Tokyo Tower
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

2018 has been kind of a slow year, photographically. But we absolutely made up for that in 2017. In July, we spent a week in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. We saw many amazing sights and I did my usual early morning walking around both cities. I was intrigued by Tokyo Tower, lit at night, and worked hard to find a good place to photograph it from. I took a few from a couple different places. But it turns out that the best I could do was through the window of our Tokyo Hotel.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In September, we made our 3rd, and much anticipated Mediterranean Cruise. We again spent several days in Venice. One of the other places I had seen and wanted to shoot was the Greek Island of Santorini. We had a wonderful tour guide, who happened to also be a photographer, and he the right time and place for us to be to get shots I am certain I would never have found without his help, in spite of the research I had done.  Did I mention that Venice is “eye-candy” for photographers? Ditto Santorini.

Well.  This was an interesting exercise for me.  I tried to keep it to not more than 15 images. There were many more that perhaps fit the bill. And I am sure there will be more to come. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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Implausible, Whimsical, Photographs

Eagle Nest Lake
(Composite)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

Fake” photographs.  Famous Wildlife and Landscape photographer, Art Wolfe found himself in some controversy some years back with the cover of his book “Migrations,” where zebras were digitally pasted or blended (“photoshopped”) into a photograph. The thing is, he and this kind of thing is not unique (nor, in my mind, is there necessarily anything nefarious about it in the correct context).  These incidents, when they occur, re-ignite the long-lived debate about “truth in photography.”  Few viewers, would find my image of Eagle Nest Lake plausible.  It would be the first ever spotting of a whale breaching in a New Mexico mountain lake (really more of a pond, by Great Lakes’ standards).  And the scale of the balloon isn’t really believable.  This composite was made from 3 images, made years apart, with different media.  I did it for fun.

This post is all about manipulation, implausible edits and, for lack of a better term, “photoshopped” imagery

From almost the beginning of my blogging here, I have posited my thoughts on the use of “digital darkroom techniques” to “enhance” my own images (Get Real,  Has The Digital Medium Changed Everything?, and Photoshop Is Not Evil).  I think “truth” in anything is important.  But the real question is:  “what is the ‘truth’ and when is disclosure required?” That is – in my mind – a grey area.  There are some perhaps well-defined lines, of course.  But if I put a photo out there and do not disclose something I may have done and call it “art,” then disclosure, in my mind, is optional.  🙂

Balloon in New Mexico
(Composite)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

Just to be clear, this post is all about manipulation, implausible edits and, for lack of a better term, “photoshopped” imagery.  I recently purchased and downloaded ON1 Photo Raw 2018, and have been scrabbling up the learning curve on this software.  A part of the software that has intrigued me is its “Layers” module. I had read about it and intended to experiment on my older copy of the software ((formerly called “OnOne Perfect Layers”).  One of the things I like about the ON1 folks is that they have provided plenty of online content (lots of U-tube videos) on techniques and examples, and one the them which piqued my interest was the ability to composite using their layers module.  Of course this is not really something new.  Photoshop has had layers for many versions, and compositing is commonly done using the Photoshop software.  What I was curious about, though, was whether ON1 made it easier.  I think it does (though PS CC keeps adding things and getting better and I know there is an algorithm in the newest update that allows for easier mask – selection for “fiddly” subjects).  The “Perfect Brush” feature in ON1 Layer’s masking brush, is really pretty cool.  It makes masking a relatively clean object really easy as it selectively chooses the pixels around the edge of the object and paints them only, without getting into the object itself.  On more detailed subjects, its utility is not as readily apparent, but I have been fooling around with blending modes, and in some cases, that seems to help (unfortunately, due to some technical issues, the ON1 experiment was ultimately a bust for me and I obtained a refund).

I think “truth” in anything is important … But the real question is:  “what is the ‘truth’ and when is disclosure required?”

The balloon against red rock image is a composite from two different images, photographed at separate times (in fact, years apart).  One is a film image and the other, digitally captured.  Both were shot in New Mexico.  “Perfect Brush” pretty much flawlessly painted the edges on this balloons.  It is “possible” that this scene could actually have ocurred.  It didn’t, but the image “happened” in my mind and then on my computer.  🙂

“Lost” in New Mexico
(Composite)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

On my first trip to San Francisco, we were fortunate to be in town during an annual Navy event:  “Fleet Week.”  One week each fall, the Navy sails some of its ships into San Francisco Bay.  One of the highlights of Fleet Week is its air show.  We stood out in the athletic field just east of the Presidio and got some pretty amazing shots.  One of the things I tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to capture was the “bloom” when a fighter plane broke the sound barrier.  I captured just one that I was happy with; the fighter in the image here.  Obviously, this is not San Francisco Bay.  🙂  This use of “Perfect Brush” was a bit more challenging, as the bloom is pretty transparent, and shrouded the wings, making it difficult to find edges.  There were contrails off the end of each wing in the original image, and the bloom feathers out further.  I wasn’t able to make them look realistic, so I decided not to include them.  This is in a canyon in the Rio Grande and while I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a Navy pilot tell me s/he could do this, I think it is probably implausible. 🙂

Eagle In Rome
(Composite)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

The base image in the Rome composite is one of my favorite images.  I was in the right place and time to catch this young man walking in this alley.  What was really serendipitous was the contemplative expression.  What was he thinking?  What was he looking at?  Could it have been his incredulity at seeing an American Bald Eagle flying through the alley above him?  🙂

If I put a photo out there and do not disclose something I may have done and call it “art,” then disclosure, in my mind, is optional

I have composited before.  The best example is the LightCentric Logo.  This was partly an experiment to play with the ON1 features, and partly an exercise in trying to find subjects there were either implausible together, or possible, but highly unlikely.  Perhaps sophomoric.  Perhaps a waste of bandwith here.  But thanks, Leslie Gore, for inspiring me with my frequent (but admittedly plagiarized – or close) exit line:  It’s My Blog and I’ll Post if (what) I Want to ….. 🙂

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

The Sun Rises; Reprise

Bay Bridge Sunrise San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

It seemed like 16 images were too many for a single blog post (really, 8 is probably too many, and my blogs tend to be longer than a blog should be 🙂 ).  So I split my sunrise images into 2 installments.

Bean Pond Barton, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Bean Pond
Barton, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2010, I again visited Vermont for a fall color photography excursion.  My good friend, fellow photographer, fellow blogger, and co-author of the 2nd Edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage, Carol, acted as my host and guide for the first couple days.  One magical place she took me too was Bean Pond, a small, unremarkable roadside pond near here home in Barton in the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont.  Unremarkable, that is, unless you are a photographer looking for fall foliage venues.  Since my first trip there, I have been back to the pond several times (and I am certain Carol has been there almost daily when she is in Vermont in season).  Our morning broke very cold, with frost on the ground, after a prolonged spell of heavy rain.  We knew the conditions were ripe for fog and steam rising off the pond and she had us there by twilight.  The resulting images (only one here) made the cold, early morning well worth it.

Bay Bridge San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Bay Bridge
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

In 2011, we visited San Francisco, to visit our daughter.  She lives in downtown, which put me in the middle of one of the best photography venues I have ever visited.  Once again, the 3 hour time change worked in favor of early rising, and a 15 minute walk brought me to the Embarcadero, at the eastern boundary of the city, and one of San Francisco’s seaports with a closeup view of one of the two major bridges leading into San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  There are San Francisco Bay shooting opportunities all along the Embarcadero.  We returned again in 2014, and I couldn’t resist a couple more early morning walking trips to the Embarcadero.

Mocassin Lake Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Mocassin Lake
Hiawatha NF
Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I have been traveling to the Michigan Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for many years for fall color photography.  As many readers here know, I think highly enough of the photographic potential that I have co-written an eBook on Photographing the Michigan U.P., with my good friend and fellow photographer and blogger, Kerry Leibowitz.  I have photographed Mocassin Lake many times and never cease to find it photogenic.  My writings on the U.P. and some of my imagery captured the attention of a professional photographer and teacher in Pennsylvania, James Moore.  Inn 2012, he decided to host one of his workshops in the U.P.  He asked me to be his guide.  These images were all made during the 2012 trip.  I appreciate his inspiration and I think that week was the most rewarding of all of my trips to the U.P.  I was there from the beginning to the peak of color, perhaps the only time in my shooting career.

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

In 2013 we went on two more cruises.  In January, we joined a group affiliated with the O’Brien Estate Winery in Napa, Ca, on a Caribbean Cruise.  We didn’t know a soul when we boarded.  We were fortunate to have some very friendly table mates and we ended up not only spending most of our time on board with them and another couple, but we have made lifelong friends.  We have traveled to Napa together, and they have recently visited us in our Florida home.  It was a great cruise.  As we arrived home in the early morning hours, I was able to capture this sunrise image of the Miami Skyline.

Miami, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Miami, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Later, in September, we took what was my first trip out of the U.S. (Canada doesn’t count 🙂 ); a Mediterranean Cruise.  We started with a few days in Venice.  My only sunrise shot during that trip was the famous gondolas in St. Mark’s Square, which took some doing.  We were staying on the mainland, so I had to take the early train to Venice and then find my way through the maze to the square before the sunrise.  I had practiced a couple times.

Gondolas San Marco Piazza Venice, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Gondolas
San Marco Piazza
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I grew up in the Northern Michigan town of Traverse City.  It is a resort town, and by all reports, beautiful in all seasons.  The city sits at the base of a peninsula of land (Old Mission Peninsula) which creates two deep bays (East Bay and West Bay) into Lake Michigan.  It has unique, sandy coastline and a climate similar to that of Northern California (except that winters up there are brutal and snowy).  I moved away from there shortly after I graduated from High School in 1975.  But I still have family there, and only live about 2 3/4 hours away.  It occurred to me at some point that I had spent little time photographing up there, and so, in 2014, with no major fall foliage outings planned, took a long-weekend trip up there.  I was on the high point of the peninsula, where it is possible to see both bays, at sunrise.  This sunrise image faces (perhaps obviously) East Bay.

Center Road Old Mission Peninsula Traverse City, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Center Road
Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

 

The Sun Rises, Too

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I wanted to title this, “The Sun Also Rises,” but given all the preaching I have done here about copyright, I thought Hemingway deserved my respect 🙂 .  Last week, I blogged about Florida sunsets, and waxed philosophical about sunset photography in general.  While much of what I said applies to sunrises, they are unique.

Photographing a sunrise takes a certain resolve and commitment which most people just don’t have

As noted previously, lots of folks (including some I know very well) never see the sun rise.  I am here to assure them that is does, indeed rise.  🙂 .  And sometimes you get really lucky and get to see a moonset and sunrise in the same location on the same morning, like I did at Pete’s Lake in Michigan’s U.P. a few years ago.

Pete's Lake Moon Set Hiawatha NF, Michigan U.P. Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Pete’s Lake Moon Set
Hiawatha NF, Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

One thing that makes sunrises different sunsets is atmospheric conditions.  Sunsets follow the warmth of day and sunrises often follow a cool or even cold night.  The warmth of daylight often produces thinly cloudy atmospheric conditions which can create beautiful pastel colored skies.  Or, a sudden clearing or opening can yield a surprise dramatic lighting condition, as happened at the Ft. Myers Beach harbor.

Port of San Francisco Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Port of San Francisco
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Other times, the fog or cloud cover can diffuse the sunrise and create a “dawn of a new day” kind of look.  The San Francisco Ferry leaving in the early hours is backstopped by such a sunrise.

While much of what I said about sunsets applies to sunrises, they are unique

Sunrises, because they normally follow the coolest temperatures during a 24 hour period, can often be seen in foggy or misty conditions.  This is particularly true near water, which is why water is my preferred sunrise setting.  But sometimes, it is just a matter of perspective–literally.  The shot of the city of Tokyo at dawn was taken from a high floor in my hotel window as daylight was beginning to emerge.

Tokyo Dawn Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Dawn
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Yet there is another, more esoteric dynamic which distinguishes sunset and sunrise.  In most parts of the world, even when the days are at their shortest, sunrise happens before most folks are out and about.  Indeed, in order to see and capture a sunrise at its best, you will need to be up and about, and on location before the big event.  So it takes a certain resolve and commitment which most people just don’t have.

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

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

But what they miss is perhaps the most magical time of the day.  What you learn from experience is that sometimes the most dramatic light–and images–come just before the actual sunrise, in the twilight minutes.  And when the sun does rise, if it is exposed, it is usually much more intense than sunset, which occasionally means very contrasty conditions and challenging exposure issues.  But it also means drama, and sometimes, star patterns.  As we scouted the Split Rock Lighthouse one morning following a rainy night, the cloud cover suddenly broke behind the cloud cover behind the light to yield a pretty dramatic silhouette.  I was able to stop down enough to get a diffuse starburst effect, too.  It was still raining that morning when we rolled out of bed and it would have been easy to just sleep in more, or go to breakfast.  But I were weren’t there I would have missed this shot.

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

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

Another plus to sunrise shooting is that you are out when there is virtually nothing moving.  The only thing that is is the wildlife that is often active at that time.  It can be an incredibly serene time of day and it is without a doubt, my favorite time to shoot.  The morning I made the Cape Hateras image, I (and another solitary fisherman) was the only human for miles of beach.  The surf was quiet and all that could be heard was that gentle wave break and the seabirds.  It was a pretty amazing moment.

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

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

Shooting into the sun is challenging under any conditions.  But it is often rewarding.  One issue that often arises from this perspective, especially with short and mid focal length, lenses, is the phenomena called lens flare.  In many instances, lens flare can be an image killer.  But sometimes, it adds to the image.  Especially when it produces colors.  I got not only the starburst effect, but also lens flare in the Sault St. Marie image.  One of the wonders of post-capture digital manipulation is the ability to retouch these out of the image.  But sometimes lens flare actually adds something to the image.  I like the effect here.

“Playing” with Photographic Imagery

Daffodil Closeup Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Daffodil Closeup
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

As I have said here before, I started seriously shooting in 1977, using mostly color transparency film as a medium. After a hiatus in the 1980’s (some casual shooting only), I rekindled and embraced the new equipment then available, eventually moving on to digital in the early 1990’s. As I got back into the swing of things later in the 1980’s, I developed a fascination with close up flower imagery – not necessarily true “macro,” but close up.

One of the cool things about digital is the freedom to “play”

Maybe it was because it was an easy subject. Close up on the frame, flowers are colorful and there is much less work trying to isolate the subject, place it properly in the frame, and eliminate distracting or detracting elements. And, it was a great way to “study” all of the foregoing. As you examine a close up shot, you begin to see details (many of them unwanted in the image) that your eyes may not have seen. Because of the close proximity, you quickly learn about depth of field. At the same time, you see the beauty and advantage of a lens that renders nice bokeh. In the early years, I used to keep a notebook on conditions and go back to the same place and subject and re-shoot. I still use them as a primary “test” subject when trying out new lenses, and cameras. Flower close ups are a great learning tool, and sometimes make great art.

But after a while, it seemed like it was time to move on to “bigger and better” things. When I cannot get out to somewhere photogenic, but get the “itch” to shoot, I still seek the backyard flowers that are ubiquitous. But I don’t shoot them with the “innocent” joy I once did. I find that these days I discard many more than I used to. Sometimes the images I retain are marginal.

One of the cool things about digital is the freedom to “play.” I mostly don’t, because I mostly prefer more traditional photographic presentation. But the image here, seemed draw me to want to “play.”

Cropped Daffodil Closeup Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Cropped Daffodil Closeup
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

A few years back, I grew lazy (for good reason, I think). I had worked to learn selection, blending, masking, and other Adobe Photoshop skills to work with my imagery. Then along comes a company called NIK Software, and takes all that work and does it for me, with a simple, easy-to-use, interface that works 96.49% (I measured it) of the time. I still need to resort to PS for some things, but less and less. Again, I use my NIK (now Google-owned) package primarily to make traditional photographic adjustments to images. But there is plenty of room inside the software bundle to “play” (it is worth noting that there are a number of other “plug-in” software programs out there today that do similar, or complimentary things. Most of them are made to work with Photoshop, LightRoom, or both).

One of the NIK programs that I use occasionally is ColorEfex. It has functions, like one called “detail extractor” which allows you to make images appear similar to oil paintings. Of course the capability already exists in PS, but again, the NIK program makes it very easy to use and “play” with. I have an image of a Venice canal that looks like a blend between an oil painting and a photograph. It hangs in my office as a 24 x 36 framed and matted print, and it came out pretty nice.

Daffodil Close Up - ColorEfex Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Daffodil Close Up – ColorEfex
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The first image here, is the uncropped, image, originally capture as a raw image, and post-processed to look as good photographically as I could make it. It has some issues, including composition and critical sharpness. I have learned that yellow flowers (and white is a close second) are very difficult to expose and get sharp looking, particularly in contrasty or bright light conditions.

Canal, Venice Copyright  Andy Richards  2013

Canal, Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

So, I cropped it, which is the second image. I like the composition better here (one thing that I dislike about he image as a whole, is that the flower just seems to “float” in mid air. I wish I had done a better job of portraying the stem to anchor the flower to something). To me, it was still kind of “eh.” Certainly, it was not going to make it to my wall or to my website.

San Francisco Fishing Harbor Copyright  Andyr Richards  2011

San Francisco Fishing Harbor
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Time to play. For the third image, I took the cropped image and used the NIK ColorEfex “detail extractor” tool and began to play. The result looks something like a chalk sketch. I would like to have the petals a bit whiter, but that was more work than I wanted to do for this exercise. I rarely like these “play” results. But this one, I kind of do like. I can only think of two other ones that I have felt were successful – the Venice image, and an image of fishing boats in the SF commercial fishing harbor. Both made successful prints.

The Signs are Everywere

The "iconic" Guinness sign Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The “iconic” Guinness sign
Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Signs may seem like an odd subject to photograph. Yet signs are certainly a ubiquitous object. Some years back, I started photographing signs as a kind of cataloging technique. The intent was to use them as place-holder images in my image catalog that would show where I had taken a series of images. In the back of my mind, I may have thought they might be useful in a future photo essay (these thoughts happened long before the word “blog” had any meaning).

Though a standard traffic sign, I thought the context here spoke "Wyoming" Jackson Hole, Wyoming Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Though a standard traffic sign, I thought the context here spoke “Wyoming”
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

The problem was (and is), it didn’t really work well for a number of reasons. Primarily, I just wasn’t very good or consistent about doing it.  🙂   But it is also pretty much the case that not everywhere I photograph has “descriptive” signs. And some places have many signs – so which one should I use?

Lighted for Christmas Frankenmuth, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2009

Lighted for Christmas
Frankenmuth, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Occasionally, a sign would catch my interest, and I would photographic for its own sake. Over time, I began to pay more attention to signs; especially when I was traveling to new places. These days, I actually seek them out as matter of subject.

This historical sign speaks volumes about our history and culture Alcatraz; San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2015

This historical sign speaks volumes about our history and culture
Alcatraz; San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

What is a sign? Like essentially everything else on earth, the apparently simple answer is really more involved. At first blush, one would say the function of a sign is to direct us somewhere, or tell us where they are. At the lowest common denominator, I think that’s a pretty good “definition” of signs. Of course, we can use the word in other contexts.

Sometimes signs can just be funny Knock, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sometimes signs can just be funny
Knock, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The word, “sign” can be used as a noun or a verb. Here I am obviously referring to the physical structure type of sign, with a graphic of some type. Dictionary.com defines “sign,” in the context used here, as “a notice bearing a name, direction, warning or advertisement, that is displayed or posted for public view.”

These days, I actually seek them out

Sign on the Turquoise Trail Madrid, NM Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Sign on the Turquoise Trail
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

So what? For a photographer, it seems to me that a sign can be so much more. Signs can be art. They can be whimsical. They can be humorous and unique. They can depict history and culture. Some signs are (or have become) iconic. And sometimes . . . . they are just a sign. 🙂

A "whimsical" sign Chicago, IL Copyright Andy Richards 2005

A “whimsical” sign
Chicago, IL
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Signs can be affixed to a structure, a vehicle, or can stand alone. Sometimes they can be on very unique media.

Signs can be art. They can be whimsical. They can be humorous and unique

A moving, iconic sign Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta; Albuquerque NM Copyright Andy Richards 2008

A moving, iconic sign
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta;
Albuquerque NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Looking at my LR catalog for the topic of “signs,” I was surprised to see that I have cataloged more than 200 images of signs (some of them admittedly duplicates). I am sure I have others that I have “missed” because they are part of another image and my feeble mind has not “seen” the sign in there. SMILE

Jameson Distiillery Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Jameson Distiillery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

I will bet that a number of my readers would count many times the number I have cataloged.

Sometimes its just a sign Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Sometimes its just a sign
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

I would be interested to hear about – and see – your signs.