After the Burn

After the Burn 2 CF8A7673

I never looked closely at how a forest looks after a prescribed burn. I saw many burn areas through the years, but mostly smaller sections, where green trees and undergrowth surrounded the small burned area. Somehow it blended into the color around it, taking away from its starkness.  Recently we happened upon an area where a large burn occurred.

Florida requires these prescribed burns. In natural areas the plants evolved around a cycle of growth and burn, and show it in their adaptations. People suppressed the natural fires for years, until they realized that the land and in fact many species of plant required burning to release their seeds, or nudge those seeds into bloom. Not only plants suffer without regular burns, people can too. If the under-story grows too thick a wild fire, usually caused by our frequent lightening, burns hotter and stronger and can kill the trees and spread to nearby houses and other man-made structures.

This burn appeared to be fairly recent but some grasses already grew back in parts of the area. The scene of so many pines receding into the distance stood out starkly. The trunks appeared charred; some more than others, but the fire adaptations showed in the green living pine needles on branches that start further up the trunk to protect the crown, not near the ground.After the burn CF8A7667

The very cold and cloudy morning gave way quickly to bright, clear sunlight and a very blue sky. By late morning that light hit the area in such a way as to show a great amount of texture and detail. I focused at first on the green areas I saw, providing the contrast. As the sun rose higher I noticed the way the light hit some of the burned areas gave many of the trees an almost surreal look. The top photo was not processed to give that look; it is how the camera captured it.

Trying Mirrorless…

mids
Midnight

We both have used digital SLRs since Canon’s 20D came out. Part of the reason for our move was timing. My trusty old Nikon FE film camera took an accidental salt water bath while boating and never recovered. Technology continues to move on, and we keep up to a degree. For the couple of years Karl has watched the mirrorless SLRs progress and finally made the decision to move to mirrorless.

We visited our local independently owned camera shop, the only one in the area, looked and tried some of the models. Karl decided on the Sony A 7 III full frame as he shoots exclusively full frame and preferred to stay there. We bought a lens adapter and he uses the lenses we already own, Canon.

test
First test shot in our back yard

After his first test, above, he worked more on the settings and managed to get a portrait of one of the cats, Midnight. Midnight usually panics at the sight of a camera, so this was a surprise.

We tell our classes that with digital, we have gone from cameras to computers with a lens. This is very true for this camera. We’ll keep everyone updated on how he likes it.

Reflections and Windows

Restaurant Window

Years ago I did a personal project series called “Through A Window”. I thought that concept might work to include people in street photography, or life photography, without making them identifiable as individuals.

I tried these two in a local restaurant, and I definitely have some work to do. In the above, I liked the window treatment and the view, with just a part of the face of the person outside. I would have liked more of the person, perhaps turned away or more blurred, but most shots showed too much. Reflection

In this one, I tried a silhouette type reflection in a framed wall poster. The person is clear and not identifiable, but the angle is really wrong. I took it while sitting. Jumping up to get the angle needed would have disrupted the moment. So, back to the drawing board.

I plan to keep trying on this concept. I recently read some articles in photography magazines about the entire privacy issue, what can be included in photographs, what requires permission, etc. I understand that, and also I like the idea of people being unidentifiable in my photographs (except portraits of course) to illustrate the “every person or any person” idea.

Any suggestions are welcome. I lost my old “Through A Window” series of posts which appeared on the original blog. Somehow (my error I am sure) the posts ended up deleted rather than archived.

 

 

A Moment of Rest

Resting

“A photography arrests the flow of time in which the event photographed once existed”

John Berger

I saw the above sentence reading a book by John Berger called “Another Way of Telling”. It reminded me immediately of this photograph which I took a couple of weeks ago, reviewed, and couldn’t get out of my head.

The bird flew back and forth in the trees and bushes near the water. I couldn’t get too close due to dense vegetation, nor could I get a good focus on the bird. I used both my camera and binoculars, but he moved too fast. I photographed this brief stop with the camera after which the bird moved so fast to the next perch my mind and eye could never have registered what the camera captured.

I am so glad it did. The beauty of the bird stopping for a moment, the shine and patterns on the feathers, and the pose as it apparently looks for its next perch catch my attention. I made a few guesses as to its species, but for this instance they really don’t matter. The whole experience of watching it, and the camera enabling me to see this very brief moment matter.

That is what we do in a lot of our photography. We capture and freeze a part of a second of life, and that life immediately continues on.

Is Post-Processing “Cheating”?

Fall on the Suwanee
Fall Colors on the Suwanee River

Our photography workshop on Saturday went very well. We discussed the various basic settings on digital cameras, and how to use those settings. We found through our hikes, classes, and workshops that many people use only the AUTO setting on their SLR so we run this workshop once a year for those who want to take the next steps, but have questions of what does what.

One question in particular stayed with me: “Is using post-processing cheating?”. By post processing we mean using Photoshop, Elements, or any of of the other programs to edit, crop, adjust settings, color, etc.

The answer is: No. In the film days, photographers did cropping, color or light adjustments, and ‘repairs’ in the darkroom. In addition, many used the processing to achieve special effects. By using a digital camera and digital program, you replicate what they did, and a whole lot more. When shooting in RAW, you will have to use a computer program. JPEG and other formats do some ‘interpreting’ when you take your shot, RAW does not.

On the other hand, getting it right in the camera (focus, settings, angle, composition, light) remains the way to get the absolute best photograph. I have heard people say that they can “just fix it on the computer”. Maybe, maybe not. Karl and I once sat through a presentation by a photographer who over sharpened every image. It was obvious to us, and to others in the room. As it was nature photography, in addition to being obvious the over sharpening often made the bird or animal look fake or just not right.

Photo editing software also opens up creative realms like photo artistry. I attended an exhibition of a photo artist and she made significant changes, combining photographs, etc. to create multimedia type artwork. Some of this was done in a darkroom in the film days but it can be done by everyone now and to a greater extent.

Be aware that many contests, commission work, etc. have very clear rules on which enhancements you may use. For our nature photography, we work to get it right in the camera, but we do use cropping and adjustments where needed. If I have to adjust a photograph too much I don’t use it or re-shoot it, but that is me.

 

Always Nature

Pine Warbler

I enjoy a variety of subjects for my photography. But I always come back around to nature, especially birds. A wonderful photographer we knew, who passed away a few years ago, often kidded us that when it came to photography, we were “for the birds”.

Wet, cold weather delayed our Christmas Day walk to a Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day walk. We went to a local park, discovered they cleared the back hiking loop, and meandered along the path occasionally stepping just off-trail to avoid the large mud puddles from two days of rain. The birds appreciated the break in the weather too. We heard and saw them, in front of us, overhead, and of course usually hid in the foliage allowing us only the occasional glimpse of movement before flying away.

The Pine Warbler, above, went from tree to bush to tree. I followed with my feet and the zoom lens, staying far enough away as to avoid disturbing his hunt for food. At times like that I remember the old days of film. The many near misses to get the above photograph meant money spent at that time.

The Red-bellied woodpecker inched up the snag ahead of me. I shot just as I saw the head, and several other shots including ones of the other two joining in on the snag. Viewing all of them later, I still like the first one, with the head just peeking up and the catch light in the eye.

RBWO

We often tell people that with nature photography, even if none of the shots taken end up something to keep, at least you enjoyed a walk outside!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

20191209 FOL Christmas Trees

Karl and I camped at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Spring, FL last week. For years we attended their annual Festival of Lights, then skipped a year or two due to changes they made. We decided to try again. It changed again, and we loved it.

The Festival of Lights goes on most of December, with Silent Nights some nights which mean just the lights are available and Holiday Nights, which include Santa, a snow machine, the Gingerbread Village with the store open, craft cabins open, free popcorn and free hot chocolate. And, of course, the lights. We attended Sunday for the first time, and saw cars streaming in and parking, and families walking everywhere. We made our way through the wonderfully lit pathways, with creative light displays everywhere we looked. We commented to a ranger on the number of people, and she smiled and said “You should have been here last night, we had even more then”.20191215 Festival of LIghts

We bought some food at the North Pole Cafe and sat at a picnic table to eat and people watch. Suddenly at 6:30 the snow machine came on, and children ran yelling from everywhere in the area, all focusing on the snow. For those in northern climates, Florida rarely sees snow so this is a magic sight to the kids.

We continued to walk around, visiting the model train exhibit which takes up an entire room and should not be missed. Santa visits with children in another room of the same building.

We celebrate several holidays during this short, festive season, including a very personal one, our wedding anniversary.

Happy holidays and best of the season to everyone!

Working on Close-ups

20191014 wasp pollinator

I spent a lot of time trying the closer focus on the Canon 100 – 400mm lens. Most of the shots didn’t work at first, it took some time to get used to just what I could and couldn’t do, but experimenting is half the fun.

I shot this wasp several times. I really liked that I could effectively blur the background. It worked on this hooverfly too.20191013 Pollinator on Blazing Start

This one took a long time. The breeze seems to come along just as I focus. I did change my angle on this one several times not only to get the shot but the blurred background.

20191016 katydid

This Katydid is softer than I would like, but the colors are incredible. I had only seen katydids that were mostly solid green before. I had no idea there were so many different species until I tried to identify this one.

It is almost the end of 2019 already. Rather than setting goals for photography each year as I did before we semi-retired the business, I’ve tried to keep a little more casual this past year. I guess you could say I decide on some general directions. Time to think about that for 2020.

Through the Coffee Shop Window

through coffee shop window
Through Coffee Shop Window 1

I spent some time in NYC during my business years, and spent some evenings reading and drinking coffee in the local Starbucks. We rarely ever did that at home. Our local natural foods store moved from a strip mall plaza to the downtown area of the nearby small town. Lately we shop there early once a week, and then have coffee either out on the sidewalk or just inside the window waiting for the farmer’s market to open.

Still inspired by the street photography lecture of weeks before, I decided to try some through the window shots. Oh, the temperatures were a bit low for Florida or we would have been sitting outside.

Then I remembered the maxim that street photography should have people. No one came into my frame during as we drank our coffee (regular for Karl, Cappuccino for me). so I took a couple with moving cars. through coffee shop window 2 Since self driving cars are still a California phenomena I can be sure this one had a driver. Does that count? I don’t know. Personally I like the other one!