February 13, 2018

Sunny, 7 Degrees, Calm Winds

It’s another beautiful day today, after having sunshine all day yesterday. There are a few thin clouds developing now that portend (ten dollar word!) a change in the weather tomorrow. Despite the cold temperature, the walk was pleasant. Both Jamie and I are so accustomed to the cold now that seven degrees is no big deal. I think it would have to be below zero to get our attention. Or windy, which makes the cold intrusive and threatens frostbite.

I notice I said much the same yesterday, but I haven’t been in the best of moods. The walk always helps. Once I turn on the camera, I start seeing the world differently and I am immediately engaged. Although yesterday was also sunny, today the feel was different. The slight haze over the sun made things softer and I wanted to shoot again. I’m hoping for an entire year of this kind of variation. I really look forward to the more substantial variations that come with spring and fall, but they’re a long way off yet.

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Beautiful hazy morning light with significant vignetting and color shifting

I have been keeping the wide angle lens on the camera and focusing on wide landscape shots. I keep seeing interesting things to shoot. I see different compositions or I notice different effects due to the weather. Today I noticed the haze causing the trees out across the marshes to look blue and gray. They made a beautiful effect behind the pine trees.

I don’t know if that effect will come through or not, but I shot it nonetheless. These kinds of subtle effects tend not to show at smaller scales. You almost certainly won’t see it if you’re reading this on a phone, as you likely are. Even on a computer screen this kind of subtlety can get lost. It might be felt on a large print, but I’m not sure if the shot will be good enough to justify a big print.

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I like this edit with the altered color

I’m finding that these scenes often look gorgeous in the viewfinder, only to look a little ordinary on screen. It’s probably the greater intensity of looking directly at the sun versus a computer screen or paper. Still, it seems like the shots should translate.

Maybe I’m just being too critical. I am accustomed to shooting in some pretty spectacular locations, even though I don’t travel to classic photo destinations. I’ve shot entirely in Michigan, but we have our share of beauty, perhaps more than our share. You have to be critical if your goal is to sell photographs. Only the very best shots are likely to move people enough to part with hard cash.

I can certainly use these shots in this format, and I might use them in a self-pubished book or pdf some day. It’s possible that I am too critical, but I don’t know. When you take prints to a good gallery, you’d better feel pretty strongly about them. It’s maybe an artist’s worst nightmare to not know when their work is mediocre.

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For some reason I like a lot of these shots in vertical format more than horizontal

It depends on the gallery, but taking work to a gallery can be nerve-wracking. You’re essentially going there to have your work judged and selected from. You might take a lot of work and the gallery is only interested in a few pieces. It’s embarrassing and painful when that happens. It doesn’t happen with the gallery I work with now, the LaFontsee Gallery in Grand Rapids. They’re super nice people, artists themselves, and they take all of what I bring them and keep a lot of it in inventory to show to clients who are interested. Very rarely, they might return some of it, but for the most part, they keep what I bring them so I don’t feel uncomfortable when I go there.

Today I also shot a lot of overhead tree branches again. I felt I needed some better compositions and more interesting designs after I shot the last batch, so I looked for those today. I tried using a single tree as the anchor for a composition. I stood close to the trunk of one tree and shot it against the neighboring trees. I think it might have worked fairly well. We’ll see after I edit todays shots.

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The precise arrangement of trunks and the shapes of the branches are critical to these shots

I really enjoy these shots. They’re compositional challenges and they’re potentially more varied than the landscape shots I take each day. There are a limited number of places on my daily walk that are suitable for conventional landscape shots. The tree branches are almost unlimited. There are a lot of trees out there and I could probably try something with almost all of them.

When I shoot these overhead shots, I have an idea when I start with any one spot. Today I picked a tree to stand closer to so that I got more trunk in the shot. I tried a lot of places with the trunk coming both from the bottom and the top of the shot. I also rotate around quite a bit to see what it feels like with the various trees coming from different directions. It’s pure compositional experimentation and design. This is the stuff I really get off on.

The same is true for pretty much every shot I take, but these overhead shots are almost purely about design. A more conventional landscape seems to be more about the subject matter, but I still go through the same process. Of course I don’t generally shoot them upside down or twist the camera at odd angles, but I do experiment with many different framings before taking the shot or shots. Higher horizon, lower horizon, wider, tighter, off to the right or left. People think it’s just stop and shoot, but there’s more to a successful image than that.

That’s it for today. I’ll talk to you tomorrow after my walk.

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