Monday, January 21, 2013

Big Cypress in black and white

Every January, I lead a beginners' overnight backpack hike for the Florida Trail Association (FTA). The chapter I belong to maintains the section of the Florida trail that begins at the I-75 rest stop (near mile marker 63) and runs north several miles. There are 3 loop trails (blue, red, and yellow) running from the main one (orange). Off the blue trail is a beautiful campsite called Carpenter Camp. It is located within a mixed pine and cypress forest that contains cypress domes and hardwood hammocks loaded with palmetto and cabbage palms.

Normally, I do not photograph with a DSLR while hiking. If I do bring it, I use it only from the campsite when I am free of the backpack and have time to wander away. This year, I decided to bring my alpha-700 (and leave the tripod home) with the intention of taking more photos while hiking as well as around the campsite. I decided to experiment in black and white this time.

Before heading out, I put the camera's "creative style" on black and white. Because I shoot in RAW format, I would not lose any color data; rather, I would simply view the photos in the LCD as black and white. Then, once downloaded into Lightroom, the photos appear with their color. The post-processing includes putting the photo back into black and white, but with total control over the data. If you shoot in jpeg, your black and white photos will remain black and white without color data.

The two days in the Big Cypress were perfect for my experiment. For the most part, the sky remained cloud-covered. This diffuses the light nicely. For a few of the photos, I noticed I had the trail marks in view. I decided to play around with that, keeping the trail mark color in post-processing. Here are a couple examples of that.

Later after setting up camp, I wandered into a hardwood hammock full of cabbage and palmetto palms. The palm leaves (living and dead) and the airplants were intriguing.  Here are a couple experiments with that (notice the blue trail mark in one photo).

While black and white was my goal, many of my photos remained in color. These were the photos shot in evening or early morning with the best light. The evening sky was filled with cloud patterns while the setting sun remained uncovered. The sweet light was irresistible on the swamp forest. Here are a few, all shot within feet of our campsite. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Experimenting with intentional camera movement

Last summer, I began using the intentional camera movement (ICM) technique to photograph mangroves on Biscayne Bay. Here is a link to my pbase gallery with some of those photos. More recently, I used the ICM technique while paddling in Charley Creek, located in the Ten Thousand Island area of the Everglades. I was there on a 10-day paddle trip through the Everglades and spent a couple days going into the creek. The purpose was to photograph birds, but conditions did not allow it as I wanted. While paddling through the dark mangrove forest, I was again inspired to try ICM to capture the mangroves.  On the day that I attempted these, the sky was mainly overcast, which diffuses the light through the forest. This is perfect for ICM for two reasons. One, it reduces the harsh contrasts and two, it reduces the overall light. This is good for ICM because the lower lighting accommodates the necessary slow shutter speed. And the lack of harsh contrast allows a nicer blend of colors and avoids the streaks of blown out whites.

Here are some photos from my experiment. All of these were taken with a 0.5 sec shutter speed and f/22 aperture. The photo above was made with a faster movement than the next two below. You can see a greater blur effect as a result on photo one. I like the colors added by the canoeist. For photo two and three below, I attempted to capture a wide angle that included the creek and the mangroves that line it. Notice the grayness on the edge of the creek in photo three. That's low tide mud!

For this next photo, I focused on the large mangrove roots and zoomed out beginning at 70 mm. For all these photos, I am attempting to capture the mysterious darkness of the mangrove forest. Basically trying to make art out of chaos.

For more about our 10-day trip, I wrote a story and include a slide show of photos at my website cmierphotoandfitness.