Ghosts…

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On our regular walk to the golf course, Oliver and I always pass a large stand of pine trees located opposite a graveyard. Depending on the time of day, the light, and the current season, these trees present a variety of interesting opportunities for photographic compositions. The sun had already set when I took the camera out one last time on this particular walk – I set the shutter speed to half a second, and started moving the camera up and down through the scene. I knew that the strong lines of the trees would contrast well with the cool carpet of snow that covered the ground, and it only took me a couple of tries to get something I liked. As twilight washed over the scene, I feel as though the low level of light combined with the dark tree trunks made for a ghostly impression.

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Before and after…

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…from a pretty scene along the road. Above is a scene that I stopped and pulled over to photograph, and below is a version of that same scene where I dragged the camera vertically through the scene while keeping the shutter open. The resulting image is primarily impacted by the length of time the shutter is open, and the path through which you move the camera… in this case I believe that the shutter was left open for a total of half a second. As you can see, the shapes, colors and lines all blur together to create a rather impressionistic image, and in this case, I figured that some of you might be interested in the before and after.

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It’s been a while…

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…since I’ve made one of these types of photographs. From a recent hike in the Bangor Forest, these images were made by moving the camera up or down and through the scene while keeping the shutter open for half a second. I loved the earthy tones of the scene above, and although it appeared to be nothing special in person, I enjoy how it came out when using this technique. Here are a couple more made using the same technique… the first showcases the carpet of red leaves decorating on the floor, and the second emphasizes the dappled light that was bouncing around within a small copse of trees.

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A triple play

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I recently made the drive to downeast Maine for a work event, and in doing so I used Route 9, a road known locally as the “airline”. I’m not entirely sure why it’s called the airline, but it probably has something to do with how much quicker people drive on it than other local routes. Fast-moving two way-traffic, winding up and downs, and around the corner twists and turns all the way, this stretch of road is notorious for accidents… both of the car-to-car, and car-to-wildlife variety. The road to Calais and/or Machias is one of the more rural parts of Maine, and it was no surprise that on this particular morning drive I spotted Moose hanging out near the side of the road on two separate occasions.

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About half way to my destination, as I was speeding past a primitive rest stop, a large grove of trees off to the side of the road caught my eye. There was a strange and eerie uniformity in how the trees were arranged, and although these were likely planted intentionally, there was still something quite unique about the scene they created. I turned the car around, parked in the lay by, and made a couple of photographs with my iPhone. I’m a sucker for trees, and even more so when there are large numbers of them grouped together like there were here. So… here’s the scene three ways… black and white, straight color, and an in-camera movement shot… a triple play.

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Into the fog…

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The unseasonably warm temperatures we are experiencing of late have brought a temporary January thaw, and with it a dense and spooky fog that envelops the landscape. While accompanying Oliver on his early morning walk today, I used my iPhone camera and the “SlowShutter” app to create this image of a local scene we walk through every day. To make this photograph, I chose a shutter speed of half a second, and then moved the camera in a vertical path while the shutter was open. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy this type of image where there’s a mystery about what the photograph will look like every time you press the shutter. Significant in my journey to get back to landscape photography… I’m up before dawn, and there’s no dog in this one!

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On a roll…

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…with the impressions. Apologies if I’m boring anyone, but the camera didn’t come out of the bag much on our summer vacation – other than when I saw some nice light and shapes like here. This is my last one staying in this genre for a while – we’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming shortly 🙂

Trees on Fire

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Incredibly warm sunset light momentarily bathed a stand of pine trees on the Bass Harbor property we had rented for vacation, and I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and doing my artsy thing. The good light didn’t last long, but I managed to make a couple of frames that I liked before the sun dipped below the horizon. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but this type of image floats my boat. I’m thinking of getting a couple of them printed big on canvas, since the textures, shapes and colors would seem to lend themselves well to that medium.

Hartwood dusk

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So… there I was… standing in the long grass after dusk getting chomped on by what seemed like a million, monster-sized mosquitoes – at least it felt that way as their appetite for my blood seemed monstrous! Peering through a stand of tall trees, I admired how the deep blues of twilight were reflecting off what was a very calm stretch of the Atlantic Ocean leading into and out of Bass Harbor. I set my shutter speed to 0.5 seconds, and then purposefully moved my camera up and down in attempt to capture the distinctive shapes and colors that had caught my eye. I kinda like this… what do you think?

Goodbye to Summer

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Summer is almost over around these parts. Preseason soccer for the high school team I coach is in full swing, and as a family we are scanning the calendar for a last few open dates when we might be able to schedule some fun activities together. Sam will be heading back to college this week, plus Lori and Jack’s first day of school isn’t that far away either. It’s a bittersweet time of the year… we are all excited about the fall and what it will bring, but we are also saying goodbye to what has been an incredible summer. Here’s one of my swooshy, artsy impressions made by moving the camera through the scene while the shutter is left open.

May the fourth be with you…

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Just me getting all artsy as I wander off into the woods. As regular readers might remember, I like this type of photograph where the camera is moved while the shutter is open, and trees make excellent subjects for this type of photograph. The in-camera movement renders the shapes, lines and elements of a scene in a different way every time, usually depending on the direction, speed and amount of movement.

I recently purchased a copy of Silver Efex 2 – software used to convert images to black and white – and I am like a kid in a candy store. Hope you don’t mind, but there might be a distinct lack of color around here for the next couple of posts. Don’t worry though, spring isn’t that far off here in Maine, and you know I won’t be able to resist those early, vibrant greens. Until then… as obi wan would say if he had a lisp… may the fourth be with you!

Elements of the forest

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From Sunday morning in the Bangor Forest… can’t resist this type of photograph, and the snow in the cool shadows on the ground contrasted wonderfully with the evergreens and warm sunlight to create a beautiful color palette.

My impression of the Beech Cliff Trail

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Regular visitors to my blog already know how much I like this type of photograph, though it has been quite a while since I last posted one. Moving the camera in a vertical direction while the shutter is open for about half a second creates a blend of the shapes, colors, and light within the frame that I kinda dig. I saw this little scene near the Beech Cliffs Trail parking lot, and couldn’t resist applying this technique to see what I could come up with. The fall foliage colors were in full swing, and I liked the way the side light was hitting the tree trunks. Not everyone’s cup of tea… but I like it, and that’s what counts around here!

I love Lupine

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We went camping this weekend… and despite the rainy weather, a good time was had by all. Late on Friday afternoon we wandered up to the Beech Hill Road to hike the Canada Cliff Trail, and along the roadside we encountered a field absolutely brimming over with my favorite Maine flower… Lupine.

There’s something about the fleeting appearance these flowers make that I really like. They explode onto the scene as the weather warms up at the start of June, but by the time July rolls around they are already starting to fade away. They are scattered all over the side of I-95 as I make my way down and back to work, and maybe it’s because they brighten my commute at this time of year, but I love the splash of color they add to the landscape.

It was gently raining as I grabbed these photographs, and as the light faded and the wind blew, I had a hard time organizing things in the viewfinder in a way that I liked. The overcast skies and light rain really made the colors pop, and in an attempt to find something I liked, I tried: a) using a slower shutter to allow the flowers to move in the wind by themselves; b) timing things so the flowers would be still as the wind momentarily died; and c) intentionally moving the camera through the scene to blur the elements. Despite the swath of stunning colors, I have to admit to feeling quite overwhelmed by what I saw. I felt compositionally challenged by what was a truly wonderful scene, and I walked away shaking my head in frustration and feeling as though it was the first time I had ever held a camera.

Spring impressions

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Memorial Day in Acadia and I was actually surprised to see the park with so many people already… at least over on the Loop Road that is. Sand Beach had quite a crowd, and although we definitely enjoyed some beach time after the long winter, we preferred exploring some quieter places today.

The Jesup Path takes you across the Great Meadow from the Loop Road to the Sieur de Monts Spring, the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Nature Center, and the Abbe Museum. Within about 100 yards of the parking lot, you will find the most delicious scene, with lush grasses and ferns anchoring a scattering of very striking paper birch trees. Gorgeous greens and dappled light… I couldn’t resist moving the camera 🙂

Gearing up…

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Boy do I feel old lately. After dealing with a pesky little kidney stone for the past month before having it surgically removed, I just had a wisdom tooth extracted today, and I feel tired and sore. I know my minor ailments are nothing compared to what others deal with on a daily basis and I am grateful to be generally in good health, but I am just sick of feeling like you know what. Here’s hoping that the old adage of things coming in threes isn’t actually true, because I just want to get back to feeling normal once more. Lately I haven’t had much of an urge to do anything creative, but today was a spectacularly beautiful spring day, and I’m starting to look forward to hitting the trail and pulling the camera out again. In the meantime, here’s one of my front garden specials from this evening 🙂

All mine and I like it…

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I have always been intrigued by what you can do with a camera, but in retrospect, I think much of my early interest was merely in the recording of a particular moment. Usually it was an event… a birthday, a family gathering, or maybe a pretty scene from a vacation, and the camera provided a mechanical – yet always magical – method of doing so. I would point the camera and press the shutter… sometimes I ended up liking what I got, and sometimes I didn’t, but there was usually little to no thought put into why I was making a particular photograph.

I realize that am a little late in life coming to appreciate this whole artistic thing and how it relates to photography, and although I am struggling to put into words what I am trying to say, I think what I have learned is that I make photographs… for me… to satisfy my desire to be creative.

I have to admit I enjoy learning about the technical operation of the camera, and I also enjoy physically being in pretty places when nature is at her best and putting on a show. I have undoubtedly been influenced by admiring the work of other photographers, but I try not to blatantly copy their work, choosing instead to be inspired to use the camera as a tool to create something that is mine… something that is personal. With that in mind, here’s one that doesn’t necessarily fit the traditional mold… but it is all mine and I like it, and isn’t that what matters 🙂

Making an Impression

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Spring is on the way… finally! The snow banks are melting quickly, and as the ground turns to mud, things are starting to get sloppy. You can definitely feel the warmth of the March sun as it gets higher in the sky though… that is, when it actually makes an appearance from behind the gray clouds! A brief morning walk in the Bangor Forest this morning didn’t offer many especially interesting photographic opportunities, so I decided to try making one of my favorite kinds of photo… an impressionistic rendition of an average scene!

Just for kicks, I am including what the scene looked like when photographed using a traditional approach, followed by what it looked like when I selected a slower shutter speed (1/5 of a second) and slowly panned the camera up (or down) through the scene. Even though this might not be one of my best examples of this kind of photograph, hopefully the “before and after” helps show how relatively simple it is for anyone to start experimenting with this technique.

I chose this scene mainly for the strong lines of the trees, hoping that the subtle pockets of green and blue would show up against the warmer brown tones of the tree trunks and the snow-covered forest floor. As you can see, the lines, shapes and colors all become blurred, creating a simplified photograph which – at least for me – is somewhat pleasing to the eye. With better light and perhaps a more interesting composition, this technique allows for the creation of some pretty impressive, and often quite unique, photographs. Give it a try.

Check out more of my “impressionistic” images 🙂

Calm Before The Storm

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This morning was crystal clear with a couple of inches of freshly fallen snow and the bluest skies you could ever imagine. To take advantage of the beautiful conditions, we hopped in the car and visited our favorite local place for a short winter hike… the Bangor Forest.

We are bracing for what looks like being a nasty storm blowing in on Tuesday afternoon. Here in Maine we are used to pretty much any amount of snow, but when we get a mix of snow, ice, and rain together… that usually spells trouble. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather forecasters are only doing what they always do… scaring us into believing we should be watching their channel every minute for updates. It remains to be seen just how bad the weather will be this week, but today we certainly enjoyed the calm before the storm.

Your own back yard

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Regular readers of this blog know that I am intrigued by images like the one posted above. I first saw this type of image created by William Neill in his “Impressions of Light” series, and I was immediately drawn in by them. Moving the camera through a scene as the shutter is open creates what to me is a mystical impression of the landscape before me. William Neill’s work in this style inspired me to try it for myself, and even though I am borrowing his style, I still consider every image that I make in this way to be mine alone.

Depending on how long the shutter is open, the direction and speed of movement applied to the camera, and the arrangement of elements included in the scene… every exposure using this method is unique. Perhaps it is that desire to make something of my own that draws me to his type of photograph? Made in a wooded area behind the local high school during winter, this is an image that holds my interest, and one that I really enjoy.

Simplifying a Scene

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Blending colors, shapes, lines and light together in the camera to produce a simplification of a scene is especially intriguing to me as I create this type of image. Moving the camera through the scene while the shutter remains open can gather all of the available elements together and combine them in a way that results in a style of image that particularly appeals to me. Using this technique, the camera allows me to see something that otherwise would not be evident… something mystical and magical.

In the image above from my weekend visit to the Bangor Forest, there were several patches of brighter light breaking through the trees and illuminating the many colors that were strewn across the forest floor. I played with the exposure settings on the camera to control the brighter spots of foliage, allowing the backlit trees in the foreground to go dark and silhouetted.

When searching for opportunities to create this type of photography, I generally look for strong lines, relatively even lighting, complimentary colors, and the potential for striking scenes with some depth. I then compose the scene looking through the viewfinder as normal, but then move the camera across and through the scene during what is usually a half a second or so long exposure. The direction of the movement and the speed of the movement can both have a dramatic impact on the final image, and of course having the benefit of immediately gaining feedback from the review screen is incredibly valuable. Adjustments can quickly be made to the technique, and I usually only have to make a half dozen or so passes at a scene before I can determine if I am going to capture something I like.

Below are several more from that same morning, and as you can see the colors on show were breathtaking. These simple images might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me they are very appealing… and that’s what matters most, right? Oh yeah, they make awesome wallpaper backgrounds for the iPad 🙂