Monday, January 16, 2017

Creating a Photography Project

While attempting to keep the focus on a fast moving beetle, I could capture the beautiful patterns created by their movement.

You hear it often; giving yourself a project is an effective way to learn and grow as a photographer. Projects are such individual things that there are infinite examples of what a project might be for someone. Not only that, projects come in all sizes. Sometimes, a project comes as an attempt to get out of a creative rut or to learn a new skill. In my experience, most projects are found unexpectedly.

I was drawn to the abstract patterns created in the water.
Almost always, it begins with a first or an unusual encounter with an animal. Examples are the goldensilk orbweaver spider and the cassiopeia (upside down) jellyfish.  A couple days ago, I paddled on the East River in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve to photograph birds. The last thing I would have considered doing was photographing a water bug. But, ten minutes on the water and my attention turned to a strange but beautiful scene. Birds stood in the trees or flew overhead in the morning light, but I did not pay attention to them. Instead, I was mesmerized with what was happening on the surface of the water.

By isolating a single bug, I attempted to use negative space to compose an image.
These bugs are known as whirly bugs. In a small area of the river, hundreds of beetles whirled around.  There was something about the way the light was capturing them that caught my attention. The water disturbed by their whirling motions played with the light and it was just so beautiful to see. Not having anything to lose, I gave it a whirl (pun intended). With my telephoto lens, I watched the bugs through the viewfinder. Soon, I was seeing abstract compositions of varying lighting situations. I attempted to single out one or two bugs and capture their wake as they glided speedily away from me.

Back light on these tiny beetles make the water surrounding them glow in the dark reflections of the trees.
Sometimes, I had the sun facing me, sometimes behind me. Sometimes trees reflected, sometimes the blue sky reflected. And sometimes, I purposely created ripples in the water to play with the bugs and their movements. The challenge was focusing on a bug that is about 1 inch in length. Tracking one was very difficult with their unpredictable and extremely fast movements.

I converted this one to black & white for some reason.
I stayed with the bugs for a couple hours. As with any first encounter, I download all the images and begin to analyze and think about what to do differently the next time. And it is for this reason that I now have a new project, the "whirly" project, to add to my list. Why bother? At the very least, I can practice my tracking focus skills. But really, it just gives me another excuse to photograph water movement.

This is what I was going after, the beautiful curves created by the water movement.
Get out there and find your next project!

Frequently, dozens of beetles would become active causing the water to boil with activity.
Workshops available

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Simplicity of Wilderness

I love simple compositions filled with negative space. Good thing, because quite often as I paddle my canoe in large waters, I am surrounded by negative space. I say this after recently returning from a 6-day paddle trip through the Ten Thousand Islands. As always the case, these multi-day trips are characterized by a variety of things; but this particular trip will always be remembered by the hours of paddling through endless calm blue waters joined to an endless blue, cloudless sky.

Nothing but blue.

And I loved it for what it was; calm waters that provided an opportunity to photograph from a steady canoe, gentle and playful ripples that created tones and textures, a cloudless sky that seamlessly consulted with the water interrupted only by something of my choosing. Wide angle lens or telephoto, the possibilities for simple compositions revealed themselves as both panoramic and vertical designs.

Use of a polarizer filter is essential in these shots. It reduces the glare on the water, thus revealing its intimate patterns. It gives the sky a richer blue, but it only works if the sun is at a 90 degree angle from the lens. In other words, the sun should be to your left or your right, and it should be relatively high in the sky. If you have that, you have endless possibilities.

If you are going to go simple, composition is key, because that's usually all you have to work with. Rule of thirds is a good rule for these images. Lines and patterns become key elements. Compose thoughtfully, play with the water and take many shots of varying compositions. But ultimately, create an image to invite the viewer into the scene and to feel the calmness of having infinite space surround them.

The hypnotic and calming rhythm of nature is what I feel when I am in my canoe and what I wish to convey in my images. Learn to photograph what you feel when you are in the wilderness.

Workshops available