February 2, 2018

Sunny, 9 Degrees, Northwest Wind 10-15 mph

My weather synopsis should give you an idea of what kind of walk it was today. It was pretty, as it is whenever it’s sunny, but it was cold. Not so much on the body, but on any exposed skin, notably my cheeks, which were bitten with cold as I walked back into the wind. In this kind of cold I put a coat on Jimmy because he has such a short coat of his own. It looks goofy on him, and I would rather he not be seen in it, but I doubt he would last long without it. If I get a decent shot of him, I’ll post it so you can see what I mean.

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Jimmy in his winter coat. Maybe a little goofy, but keeps him warm…

I watch him pretty closely on days like this because I know his little feet can freeze and we’re a long way from home back in the woods. If he gets in trouble, it will be a while before we get home. Today, I could see from his body language that he was getting cold, so I moved pretty quickly on the last part of our walk to keep him warm.

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Today, the best shots I took were some moderately tight shots of the sun and shadows in the depth of the woods. It was another pretty morning and the subtle light and shade were lovely. There were some interesting compositions to be found. The sun made slanting lines of the shadows of the trees and the tree trunks stood out against the light and shadow. Nothing to write home about, I’m afraid, but then I said I’m no fan of the telephoto. Today did nothing to change that.

 

I’m feeling less stressed by the idea of so much photography and writing about such a limited topic, but I still can’t imagine continuing to find new things to shoot over that many days. But that’s the challenge. Can I keep looking and looking and looking and find new things in the familiar? And can I document the changes over time and will they amount to something larger than the parts over the long duration of the project.

In a normal project, 50 high quality images on a subject or theme would be quite a bit. It should tell the story. More images probably won’t add anything. Fewer would probably be ideal. We’ll see what happens if I go on and on. I hope it teaches me some new things and that I end up with pictures that I would never have taken had I stopped as normal. The big difference here is from the typical three or four days at a time in a remote and hopefully spectacular location. Will digging deeper into the familiar and accessible yield a more interesting result, or just a lot of boring photographs of the same thing?

Changes in the seasons will help a lot in this. I really look forward to spring, and especially fall. Those two seasons of change are really precious to us Michiganders and to me personally. This idea first took shape in the fall when the changes in the woods were visible almost daily. I can’t wait for the chance to shoot that process. Same for spring, though to a lesser extent. The spring is a time of great optimism and pleasure, but I don’t think it’s quite as compelling as the fall with it’s dramatic changes in weather and the colors in the woods.

But changes in seasons are a long time apart. We’re far from spring today, then there’s the long, visually monotonous summer to get through before the fall finally arrives.

Today I put my telephoto lens on the camera in keeping with the experimentation with lenses that I began yesterday with the wide angle lens. This lens is a 70-200mm lens, which means that it goes from moderate to fairly long focus. What this means in practice is that the area that you can see in the lens is much smaller than with a normal or wide angle lens. It’s good for selecting smaller areas of the view and highlighting them, but it won’t capture any overview.

I’m not really a fan of telephoto lenses. When I hike into the woods and have to be selective about what lenses to take, I usually leave this one behind. I guess I’m more interested in the wider view, perhaps because it’s closer to our human field of vision. Since I have 365 days of photographs to take, I can easily afford to fool around with different lenses to see what I find.

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At first, I didn’t much like what I was seeing. The smaller views I saw were not very inspiring. I tried using the lens to shoot some of the tree trunks I’ve been seeing, but it won’t focus up close and it was difficult to frame a shot with it. A long lens is much more difficult to hand hold than a shorter lens. It’s like pointing a telescope at something with your bare hands. The slightest movement of your hands and the lens swings wildly across the view. It’s a recipe for blur. You’d be amazed at how much your hands move, even when carefully braced against your body. Even your heartbeat is enough to make the lens move a lot.

This means that I need a faster shutter speed to minimize the blur, so I had to turn up the ISO to get those speeds. Increasing ISO means more noise in the image. It shouldn’t be too bad at 800 ISO like I used today, but I prefer not to go that high. On a tripod, you can use the lowest ISO settings for maximum quality.

I see that I’m going on and on about camera techniques. It’s not the focus of this blog, though I will touch on it from time to time. What I would prefer to talk about is image making and the process of trying to make good images and write over such a long period of time.

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After waiting for me, Jimmy’s back on a mission. Notice all four feet off the ground.

On the guitar front, I managed to play with some pleasure yesterday afternoon. I’m probably in a period of transition there that has nothing to do with this project. But I still take great pleasure in it and hope to continue. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about the room where I play music and do this writing. It’s my own private little world where I’m surrounded by the things that I love.

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