I had an opportunity to get out and shoot Sunday afternoon with a fellow RWPC photography, Linnae Carlson, and her husband Steve. Belle Creek has some very nice scientific/natural area and other state forestry lands along its banks. This afternoon’s hike took place just outside of Vasa, MN just off of 315th Street. We had nice weather and excellent walk about…that is until it came to one particular creek crossing. High boots are key when fording even this tame water. It never looks deeper than it actually is; when it comes over you boots you tend to get a little excited. So excited that you can even trip yourself up as you jump towards the other side. Linnae and I watch the whole thing unfold in front of our eyes and never thought once to click a few shot of the unfortunate event. Steve made a bit of splash. He quickly made his way back to the car and headed home to change and return for more…an absolute trooper!
Six days without a shutter click. In my book that is an eternity being away from something that you love. Schedules, weather, lazy, needs, wants – and so many other factors pull you away from time to time. They say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder;” that is a notion I have become familiar with as of late and would definitely have to agree. It make the reunion all the sweeter. It was wonderful (as it always is) to go back out on the road and see what enters my frame.
I woke up this morning fully intending on capturing the sunrise, but I was too late. It was a beautiful January morning. I decided to head to Wisconsin and take a visit with my dear aunt Marge. Out the door after coffee, a bit late and slightly disappointed. A recent memory of a sunrise that was spectacular beyond compare carried me on my way.
The path to my aunt’s house brought me through familiar territory – Pierce County, WI. I love the area and the scenery. I can never get enough of these rolling hills, farm and bluff lands and back roads. I managed to find barns and building that I have not shot yet along with some familiar scenes. It never grows old, no matter how familiar, as it is different each and every time I look at something. That’s what I love about photography.
The image to the left is my original post-processed image. I was pleased with this original rendition at first, but as I looked at it more I saw several areas to improve upon. I decided to go back in and take another look.
Priority #1 should always be to get the correct exposure out of the camera – period. Anyone that has dabbled in the dark arts of post processing has an idea of the magic you can sometimes wield. There are limits though and that is the line you walk if you depart a scene with an iffy capture. This is further complicated if that particular location; that exact moment in time had any sort of significance. These are the trials and tribulations of the ever-passionate and somewhat restless photographer I am. I’ll catch the light in a fleeting glimpse and know that there is something there that I have to capture. I’ll frame it up, take the shot, glance at the preview and histogram, and then move on to the next shiny thing that catches my eye.
Again – I fully support the concept and encourage correct exposure out of the camera, but sometimes that isn’t possible for any number of reasons. Reasons that may include the marginal one I just detailed. Sometimes the light can be extremely challenging as well. Shooting into the sun over bright snow can present its challenges. The one truth that holds true every time is that the histogram doesn’t lie. You need to know what it is telling you and what you can do with it. It provides you with all the info you need to know as the preview on your LCD screen hardly tells the full story.
I have spent a considerable amount of time pushing every button, moving sliders to their extremes, testing all the limits while going too far, and other times falling short of all that is possible in post processing. In my experience it all comes down to knowing what can be done and how long it will take and whether you want to spend that time in the field or at your PC. There are other consideration however. I was reminded earlier today of another important truth with digital photography in an advanced exposure class. You may be able to produce an image that is pleasing to the eye on-screen, but printing it can be a very different story.
The following imagery is the journey of the Sleepy Hallow Road photo I shot on January 18th and the different processes I applied to produce three more images in addition to the one above.
Here is the RAW file straight out of the camera. You can see by the histogram that the image in underexposed. It’s always been my experience, that if you are going to error one way or the other – underexposed you can work with; overexposed is almost impossible to recover from depending on the severity.
I barely took sufficient time to capture the scene, I certainly didn’t take the time to set up the tripod and bracket the exposure the right way. Right, wrong, or otherwise – I fabricate the bracketed exposures in Lightroom for HDR from time to time. I think this works well if you don’t have bracketed exposures to begin with.
Most often when working with HDR I will use 3 or 5 exposures; sometimes 7; it all depends on the exposure and where the detail is at and how far you have to go to pull it out. I use both PhotoMatix and HDR Efex Pro for combining the exposures depending on the result I am looking for.
The first HDR version was done in PhotoMatix and corrected further in Silver Effects Pro to correct the sky in the upper right and pop some other features.
The second HDR version was done in PhotoMatix and further corrected further in Viveza to correct the sky in the upper right, pop the detail on the moss on the trees on the left, detail and shadows on the road, and saturate the brush middle right.
Final after Viveza
The third HDR version was done in HDR Efex Pro and finished exactly the same as the previous version.
HDR Efex Pro
Final after Viveza
It I have to pick a favorite here it would be between HDR 1 & 2. All three have qualities that I enjoy, but I love black and white photos. HDR1 will most likely be the one committed to paper.
Some things are possible with post processing, but don’t rely on the wiles of software to save you when it counts. Put the time in and do it right. I now need to take my own advice and concentrate more afield. Photography, like life in general, is a learning experience. The more you venture out and reach for all that is possible, the more you will understand and continue to grow.
I like to go back and review the previous months shots and pull out the ones that especially caught my eye as they fell into frame. Some of these have been previously published here in color or B&W and I’ve switched them up or just left them as is. A few have not been previously posted at all. Seven outings total; 13 images. December was a wonderful month in photography. Thank you all for continuing to stop by and view the art of my eyes.
Back in its day this little one-room school house must of been something. I can image the school bell perched above its front door and desks lined up in orderly rows. This wonderful piece of history is situated on the corner of acreage belonging to the Kopp family just off Hwy 10 West of Plum City, WI. Its final days waning away, tucked into a small corner carved out of the property among the trees. I was told it will be destroyed soon so the timing off stumbling upon this site couldn’t have been better.
Its simple design and distressed wood captured my attention despite the windy cold nipping away at my face. The failing structure and peeling paint on the old weather wood had amazing texture and color. Although obviously not part of this building, the rusted screens in the stacks of window sashes laying about caught my eye instantly.
James Fetzer, the very friendly neighbor just across the road, was very helpful in suggesting people to talk to about this wonderful little school. Unfortunately the day was getting on and it was time to head towards home. I am not certain why the Wisconsin Historical Society doesn’t appear to have a record of this school. A thorough Internet search yield no results as well. I have spent a considerable amount of time in this area having graduated from Plum City High School. I know I will be back and can hopefully get in touch with some individuals that may know more about the history behind this place.
It is tough to beat a fine Winter day…unless you consider any of the other seasons. As long as there is sun, not much wind and it is twenty-some degrees, I am content. It’s not bad when you are shooting from the car mostly and only get out from time to time to chase down something interesting. A winter day with some clouds is bonus.
Either during or after (can’t recall) the June solstice the Earth’s North Pole begins to tilt 23.5 degrees towards the Sun relative to the circle of illumination. This tilt through our Winter months provides an angle of light that will most likely produce some sort of shadow throughout the entire day, unlike in the summer when the sun will get directly overhead and give extremely harsh light. Outside of the obvious time restrictions involved when photographing sunrise/set (during the Golden Hours), I find the light during a winter’s day fun to work with. The shadows cast on snow through the trees are especially inviting to photograph.
The light just happen to be fantastic as we rolled up to an old bridge spanning the Isabelle River in Esdaile, WI. My shooting partner for this trip, Cyndie Mackowick, spotted something “shiny” as she usually does. The Winter’s light was beaming down through the trees and lighting up this wonderful, rusting and crumbling, old bridge. Rust is hard to pass up as it is so interesting to photograph. The texture and varying colors can be quite nice. I especially enjoyed the way the sun’s light danced around between the decaying steel beams – illuminating the rivets, rust and whatever else seemed to be hanging about. This is such a nice spot to shoot. It’s calming quiet as the Isabelle flows gently by – only briefly interrupted by the occasional Red Tailed hawk calling out, making its presence known.
Another fine day and plenty of sites to take in. From Esdaile to Maiden Rock and on through the bluff lands and back roads through the rolling hills of the countryside. The scenery was rich with barns, rivers and streams and of course the occasional wild life spotting and a horse or two. The real gem of the day was arriving at the old Salem School. That post will be coming up next.
The new year is well upon us…so how are all of those new year resolutions going? I made only two. A seemingly small (a bit of self portraiture) and the other rather, I guess even with its simplistic sound, larger (live life to the fullest; waste no time). As it turns out, I think I had my proportions mixed up. Self portraiture isn’t as easy as I had originally anticipated and living life to the fullest has come rather easy as of late.
I didn’t set a lofty goal such as a 365 day project. I just figured I would dabble in it a bit. After reading about Jeff Harris and his incredible commitment to self portraiture I was very impressed and somewhat motivated to do something no matter how small. The shots with Gene Simons and Billy Idol are hilarious. It is a very awe-inspiring story; take the time to watch the video. He makes a very strong case for “I realized I had 5 minutes in a day to do it.” But…you still have to do it, keep it organized, etc. etc. Very intriguing it is – so maybe someday. My focus is elsewhere at the moment.
You would think looking in the mirror would be very similar to taking a picture of yourself. It is for the most part and that is where I started most recently. It is a rare day that I do not have my camera with me; it is just apart of me now and goes most everywhere. There is a small mirror on my office wall whose job is to guard the door against stealthy ninja co-worker attacks. You know the kind – tip toe up right behind you and startle you (favorite office past time of mine). That, and blowing bubbles over someones cube wall – really freaks them out for some reason…they are just little bubbles.
My very first self-portrait was done in a studio lighting workshop with the RWPC at our studio in The Anderson Center this past November. That was an excellent opportunity to not only photograph others, but to also put yourself in front of the lens. Anyone who knows me – knows that my preference lies on the operator side of the lens, but this was an opportunity to change that up. There really isn’t anything to fear, but the fear itself – so get over it and just do it. Sure, you will see things in your image that you may not like or wish to be different – who doesn’t? It is in our nature for some reason. At the end of the day though, you are who you are. Learn to love it if you do not already. “Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else.” That phrase cracks me up, along with a host of others from a favorite website of mine – they make such wonderful fun of those oh-so-terrific motivational posters that we’ve all seen.
Self portraiture can happen anywhere at anytime. Something I decided to take advantage of since my camera is with me constantly. It may just be the way you are feeling at the time. Perhaps a thought that has just entered your mind. It could be the way the light is shinning through the windshield as you are driving along highway on your way home from work. Or, it could be all of the above that motivates you to take a shot. Whatever motivates you, just run with it.
Take a good look at yourself. You may be surprised at what you see. This very notion is the topic of commonly uttered phrase, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” In doing a bit of research as to the origin of this statement/concept, I found two prevalent origins, Mathew 6 22-23 and further back yet, Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman 106-43 B.C. Whether you agree with the statement or not, I think you can at least agree that the eyes are an incredible human organ that afford us such wonderful visions of the beauty around us and in others as well. The eyes are so very telling and engaged in conveying emotion. Their depth and breadth of scope varies as much as the color and sizes in all things living and breathing.
Delving into a bit of self portraiture was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is sheepish of having their own picture taken. Taking a look at yourself may provide you with some insight when photographing other people and when you look at the people in your life. Above all – remember to have fun with all things photography. It may just change your life.
Here are few other shots from this experience.
I took a trip around Lake Pepin this afternoon with fellow RWPC member, Kendall Rogers. Today’s mission: eagles. There were quite a few lofting about and sitting lazily on the ice around Maple Springs, just South of Lake City. We drove around spotting eagle nests and scanned for activity. It is somewhat challenging to get a great capture of an eagle @ 300mm. They are either in the branches, 100 miles away or moving @ mach 10. I managed a few reasonable shots for the day. It was a bright sunshiny day and the light was great. I found myself wondering from the target to other shiny or interesting things. Shiny wins every time. All in all a good day.
There is something about a sunrise, but a Winter sunrise has a little something more. It is a special time of day when the first light begins to illuminate the landscape around you. The morning blush. You hope for just the right amount of clouds for the sun to play with. I can never get enough of the soft pastel hues before the sun rises. It keeps me coming back for more, time and time again. In the Winter over a frozen lake with no snow at all, when the sun comes up and blazes it rays upon all of that ice…be prepared to be amazed. It’s like thousands of little diamonds twinkling in the warm sunny glow. It is quite spectacular; I’ll trade sites like this for sleeping in anytime.
A special thanks to my photo companions of the day, Linnae Carlson and Cynthia Mackowick. Always a pleasure shooting with you two lovely ladies.
Another finally Friday with unseasonably warm weather. Love it. It was quite comfortable rolling down the back roads East of Prescott, WI this afternoon with the car window down. It was a short run; a detour from my normal commute route. There are so many different routes to take from St. Paul to Red Wing and when you put Western Wisconsin into the mix the possibilities become seeming endless. I ran across a whole bunch of sheep today. I’ve seen a few small heards here and there, but today there were hundreds. Fuzzy wuzzy bugger they are.
It was a great afternoon for a drive.
:the old buildings with the moon – that is an eagle next to the moon…way the heck up there and beyond my zooms reach.