Monday, May 9, 2016

The Challenges of Photographing from a Canoe: Part II

In the last post, I shared my method of using a tripod to capture waterscapes from the canoe. Since the focus of that entry was on a particular area, I'll continue with that and discuss the challenges of that place; namely, its lack of drama. But to its credit, where it lacks drama, it excels in tranquility. So, how does one photograph this area and make is appealing?

Landscape or waterscape images stand out if they contain the following (this is not definitive, just my take on it); dominating clouds, interesting foreground, leading lines or curves, dramatic light and/or colors (especially red and yellow). When all or some combination of these elements are present, it can make a landscape image very compelling and sometimes powerful. But the elements have to work well together to make that happen. On the other hand, an image can be subtle and still work if the elements come together in harmony and provide a mood. Look at the image below. Do you see any of those elements? Clouds? Inconsequential. Dramatic light or color? No. Interesting foreground? Sort of.  Leading lines? Kind of. The little mangrove serves as foreground and may be the most interesting part of the composition. But, by itself it doesn't balance the composition. That's where the grasses come in. In addition to balance, they do offer diagonal lines that help guide the eyes into the image. While this scene is neither dramatic or powerful, it does, in my mind, strike a calm mood.

If peace and tranquility are what I have to work with, I have no problem with that; after all that is what I feel when I am here. But the subtlety of this landscape makes this so challenging. To overcome this, I try to bring those elements into my images as much as possible. What comes to mind immediately is that you have to capitalize on the Florida sky, which can offer drama and color. Add some water to that with the reflections and now you got something. It doesn't always happen that way. Consider the next image. The fog filled the area during early dawn; consequently, there was no dramatic sky color. I had found a spot where the water trails curved through the scene and set up my tripod. Because of the heavy fog, the sun light was dampened, creating an interesting mood, which I found appealing. No drama here, but very tranquil.

Sunrises only last a few minutes, so I often find myself wandering this area under a bright, cloudless sky looking for something compelling to capture. One day, I noticed the reflections in the water from the ripples created by my boat. Wearing polarized glasses, I was immediately taken in by the golden hue created by the sun's reflection. I put the polarizer filter on the lens and started "playing" with water movement. At first, I used this to create abstract images, such as this one.

Then it occurred to me that maybe the water movement could add an element to an otherwise dull scene. The ripples emanating from my boat can become a foreground interest. So I rocked the canoe and came up with this scene. The grasses once again serve as leading lines, which also work well with the cloud formations.

For some reason, I find that vertical compositions work well. I see the scene in thirds, the sky at the top, the water ripples at the bottom, and the grasses and mangroves in between, like this scene.

The idea has potential. The sky is key to the scene, so there has to be clouds. Dramatic cumulus clouds were passing across the sky quickly, so I attempted to capture the scene as seen here.

Minutes later, the big clouds disappeared leaving behind the less dramatic wispy tails. Using fast ripples, I attempted to create symmetry with the sky, as seen in the image below.

My final thought on all this is that certain landscapes just stand out and take our breath away; but here in south Florida the landscape is understated in many places. Rather than jump out at us, it creeps up on us. It is not so much the 'wow' factor as much as it is the mood it strikes in us. The way I figure, if there is something that attracted you to a scene in the first place, why not learn how to create an image that best conveys that attraction? What better way to learn composition and hone your creativity. That's the lifelong journey I am on, by way of canoe.

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