March 18, 2018

Sunny, 34 Degrees, West Winds 5 – 10 mph.

I started late this morning after being out late last night, so the sun was well up in the sky by the time I left. Despite being only one degree warmer than yesterday, the sun was warm and the day felt very mild. By the time I’d walked a couple of blocks I stripped off hat and gloves. When I got to the woods I unzipped my jacket to my waist.

You can really feel the seasons progressing now, with the sun so high in the sky and the afternoons warming into the forties and even the fifties. This is nice for comfort as I’m walking, but not the best thing for photography. The light is getting brighter and brighter and that makes everything look pretty ordinary.

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I’m starting to think now about going out for a second photography session in the evening when the light will be softer and I can take my time until sunset. I’ve also decided that I will expand the area of my photography. Almost two months into this project, I’ve scoured my five or ten acres well enough that I know where specific trees are and what their bark and branches are like. There are really only two places where I can take wider scenic shots and they’ve gotten pretty old by now.

I think I will continue my morning walks in the woods with Jamie and photograph what I can there, but there are two large parks near me that offer a much larger area and more variety than my little woods. I have to take advantage of them. I’m not sure I want to load Jamie in the car and go out to these parks in the morning. The light isn’t great anyway, so I think I’ll go out in the evening as the light softens toward sunset.

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I love the white highlights at left and the amazing structures at right.

I photographed one of these parks fairly extensively some years ago but of course I will come to it with fresh eyes now. I am really looking forward to going there again. There are a wide variety of woods and some meadows and the Huron River runs through it. There’s still not a lot of scenic places that might make good landscapes, but there are a huge variety of woods and trees that I can enjoy shooting as the spring comes on.

The part of Michigan where I live (Southeast) is largely woods and farmland. I’ve photographed the farmland quite a bit in my early years as a photographer. The spectacular landscapes in Michigan are along the lake shores and in the wild forests of northern lower Michigan and especially the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’m not planning to go to those places for this project, so most of my photographs will tend to be details and coverage of the woods and trees.

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I’m fine with that. I love to develop the intimacy with nature that comes with spending a lot of time getting to know your immediate environs. This passion goes all the way back to my childhood living on an island in Florida. I was immersed in the world of beach and water and all the wildlife that lived in that world. After a stint in Detroit, where there was no natural environment, my family moved to thie country near here and bought acreage covered in woods, orchards, and a pond.

We immediately set about getting to know our new environment. I spent countless hours in the woods learning about the trees and wildlife. It was no formal study, though I did learn the major tree species. It was just a matter of absorbing, exploring and loving the outdoors. From our house, we could look out over a meadow toward the pond and watch deer move through the forest. It was magical to me.

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How exactly I will deal with two photo sessions a day and the onslaught of images that I’m capturing, I’m not sure. I probably won’t go out every evening, but there is a lot of area to explore in these parks and there are lots of things I want to shoot there and, as I’ve already mentioned, we are coming into spring when things will be changing fast. So I will likely go out quite a bit.

I continue to find that this project is really demanding on my time. My walks are longer because I’m stopping to shoot so much. I have this writing I want to do, and then I have dozens of images to consider, edit and ultimately upload. It leaves room for little else in my life. I’m trying to make time for my wife on the weekends, but I hate to break the continuity of this idea. I still want to shoot and write something every day, even if it’s shorter on the weekends.

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Yesterday, having left my camera battery behind, I got no photos on my walk, but I spent a lot of time in the afternoon testing various combinations of camera and lens and tripod and technique to get sharp photos of bark. I was surprised to find that nothing I did seemed to yield pictures as sharp as I expected. I now think that it’s just the nature of the bark itself that doesn’t look sharp, even when it is.

I tried both the Sony NEX-7 and the Canon 5ds, both on tripods with mirror lockup and time release of the shutter. I have L series lenses for the Canon and all that still didn’t look sharp on screen at 100% magnification. Eventually, I found a hair stuck in the bark on one shot and it was sharp, so I concluded that the bark itself just didn’t look sharp by its nature. A 50 megapixel camera with good lenses certainly should do the job.

By now, you must think I’m obsessed with bark. It’s strange to say, but I do find the variety of texture and form and color to be fascinating. Compositions are also interesting. So I continue to shoot it until I feel like I’ve exhausted the subject. I shot bark again today, using the NEX-7 and my 18 – 200mm lens. The 200mm equates to 300mm in 35mm format, so it’s a long lens.

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I can set up the tripod five feet from the tree and scan the trunk for interesting passages. The image are is only four or five inches across at that distance. This makes it pretty easy to use a tripod for maximum sharpness while minimizing the number of times I have to adjust the tripod.

It did take more time to shoot each tree, but I think I got more and better compositions than I did shooting freehand. The NEX-7 is light enough that carrying the tripod is not a problem, though the 18-200mm lens outweighs the camera by a fair bit and is rather unwieldy to use.

Jamie, bless his heart, has grown so patient with me that I can just put the reel to his leash in my pocket when I stop to shoot a tree along the road. He stands patiently by my side while I shoot. Once we’re in the woods, he can wander around off leash while I shoot, so he’s happy.

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Nice shifts in color and moss on this bark.

When we returned to the road, he did one of those cute things that I love. I took one last shot of the road and he waited nearby off leash. When I was done, I fished the leash out of my pocket and he came right over to poke his head through the choker. I didn’t even have to call him. He just heard the jingle of the leash and volunteered. He does this all the time when he knows he should be on the leash. It’s cute as heck and I lavished attention and thanks on him for doing it.

On the walk home, we passed a woman walking down the sidewalk. Jamie started lowering his head in submission and wagging his tail about thirty feet before we reached the woman. She must have been a dog person because she said ‘I see you wagging your tail there’ and she stopped to pet him for minute. He lifted up his head and allowed her to rub his jowls and ears. Then she said ‘You’ve made my day’ and walked on. So nice.

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Jamie is a very sweet dog with people. The funny thing is that if he sees a dog anywhere in his vicinity, his hackles go up and he starts prancing around and making huffing noises to let the other dog know he thinks he’s boss. If we get within fifty feet of the dog, he starts yanking on the chain as if he would kill and eat the dog given the chance. He wouldn’t, but it sure looks that way. It’s so funny to see this very macho dog become this sweetheart when he meets people, especially children, who he particularly loves.

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