Sunday, September 28, 2014

Play Day on the Bay

It has been awhile since being in the canoe, so much so that I overlooked the 10 knot easterly winds and lack of low tide. I hoped to spend time with the wading birds but that never happened. But, I was prepared to set up the tripod and capture the rainy season clouds as the sun rose behind them. I was on the water one hour before sunrise. Headlamp on, I loaded the boat and paddled into the wind toward deeper water so that I could paddle easily along the shoreline toward my mangrove heaven.

The clouds were large in the easterly sky but blues and oranges served as their background. It would not be long before the clouds became illuminated and the colors became saturated with the morning sun light. I set up the tripod and at first composed a shot or two without filters. With a slow shutter speed, the water current that was pushed by the winds made the water look dreamy. To slow it down even more, I added 6 stops of filters and began to compose vertical and horizontal images with a mangrove tree or two or three.

The clouds did not disappoint. While I worked with the light and colors, I realized that any image with a mangrove would have blurred leaves given the windy conditions. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Soon, the sun was high above the horizon. I paddled on toward the creek where a pelican rested on the post that remains standing, even after the memorial plaque that was attached to it disappeared years ago. Today, I decided to simply play with the camera, disregarding a rule or two. Here's an image of the bird, in side light. Thought black and white would suit this one.

The pelican took off and dove into the restless water. It was soon joined by another. I stood in the water and metered for a +1 2/3 compensation and attempted to capture the backlit birds as they dove. A couple shots turned out nicely showing the silhouetted pelicans. I decided to combine them to create this image. I liked the four different shapes that seemed to work together for a nice composition that highlights the diving skills of the brown pelican.

Not a bad day after all. But then again, Biscayne Bay never disappoints. Enjoy these images from a beautiful day on the water.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Backyard anole

What to do in the evening after a long day at work? Not getting out on the water for a couple weeks, I needed a fix. For awhile now I have been observing a little brown anole on our calophyllym tree. After dark, we have a couple LED lights that come on and light up our trees. One light faces the calophyllum tree, which has the most interesting looking bark I have ever seen. The textures are beautiful and when we were told by a Miami Dade arborist that the tree was diseased and would need to be chopped down, we protested to our Condo association. Luckily for us, the association doesn't have the money to pay for tree removal at this time.

A couple evenings in a row, I placed the camera with telephoto lens on the tripod and pointed it toward the lit area of the tree and set the camera in a vertical position. I increased the ISO to 3200, opened up the aperture to 5.6 and got the shutter speed no higher than 1/30. This provided a well enough exposure to see the lizard. I used no additional lighting other than the one pointing at the tree. I then used manual focus to get an area of the tree bark in focus, and waited. Soon, the anole came out and thankfully, between sprints, it stayed in one place for several seconds allowing me to compose a shot.

Not much came out of this photo shoot, but it was fun practicing with my backyard anole. Enjoy these few image.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Plants and Photoshop

Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation. ~Henri Cartier-Bresson
I like to play with the camera and then sometimes, I like to play with Photoshop. With both I am creating an image. Of course, there always exists a subject in the first place; a bird for instance. With birds, I have taken somewhat of a narrow approach to creating an image, and as far as post-processing manipulation goes, I only go as far as removing the bird's surroundings, as seen here.

What remains in tact is the main subject and post-processing is simply taking what the camera's sensor captured and making it look real again. I feel the same way with all animals I photograph.

With plants, I take more artistic liberties by way of post-processing by manipulating their shapes and colors. I began to ponder why that is. Do I have less respect for the plant kingdom than the animal kingdom? I don't think that is it. Rather, I view plants as being exquisite in an abstract way. I see textures, patterns and colors that are not seen in the animal kingdom. And they just beg to be played with.

When I photograph something and then have the power to manipulate it, I basically am using the plant as a palette from which to choose how I wish to display its colors and forms. This is why I can take a perfectly beautiful plant such as the heliconia, and do a dastardly thing like this to it:

I am not sure that what I do with the image is more or less appealing to others, some would be turned off by this form of manipulation. Some would see it as a form of art. For me, it is one of many ways to express my view of the world through the camera. Most importantly, the camera has opened my eyes to the possibilities. Regardless, it is a blast.  I do hope you enjoy at least some of these "Plants as Art" images.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Things happen for a reason

In June 2013, I had an exhibit accepted for the Ernest Coe visitor center's art gallery in Everglades National Park. It was scheduled for September 2014, which is right now. Why September? Only the off season months were offered and September seemed to be the best of the lot. Regardless, for the past 15 months I have anticipated this exhibit with pride. So imagine the let down when I learned a month or so ago that the visitor center building was closed for roofing which was scheduled to be completed at the end of August. At worse, my exhibit would be delayed a few days. OK, no big deal.

You know how renovations go, a few days became a week and then finally yesterday, I was told that it would not be ready for another week or two. I did not see any benefit to hanging my art work for a week in September, especially given that it is the second slowest month of the season. The exhibit coordinator, park ranger Ryan Meyer told me he would give me the first available month, which is January 2016. Whoa! That's over a year from now! Many people might look at that as totally unacceptable and would stomp away taking their art with them.

I considered Ryan's offer to move another artist's exhibit from the month of November 2015 or go with January 2016. So I looked up the park's recent statistics. The monthly traffic count through Royal Palm entrance was 4716 in September 2013, 9,525 in November 2013 and 18,652 in January 2014. September was a tad busier than October coming in with 3559 counts. Which month was the busiest? Well, March beat out January with 187 more vehicles, probably on account of the spring breakers. February ran a very close third at 17,279.

So if the 2015-2016 season is anything like the 2013-14 season, I figure there could well be four times as many visitors to my art gallery in January 2016 than in September 2014 and twice as many as November 2015. It doesn't take an Einstein to figure this out. At the end of the day, Ryan confirmed January 2016 for my gallery exhibit.

Things happen for a reason and the best things are worth the wait.

I am on a quest to improve my Everglades photography and I have 15 months to do it. With new techniques and equipment ready to go, the plan is to spend long periods of time in specific locations. My upcoming paddling trips will not be about covering great distances or even exploring new locations. Instead, I will be focused on a few of my favorite places. I will spend a concentrated amount of time in each and see what happens.

by January 2016, I will present a gallery more worthy of the Everglades than I could have imagined in September 2014. Loving the freedom to make mistakes, having the luxury to move at my own pace, and never getting tired of learning, photographing the Everglades has become my bailiwick. It's where the canoe takes me.

This is going to be a good year.