Monday, October 6, 2014

Bad Light Can Be Good Light

Superior waves, Artist Point, Grand Marais, Minnesota
 Our workshop group had just finished dinner. A warm delicious meal, a glass of wine (or two) mixed with a comfy indoor atmosphere after a successful day treasure hunting for photographs in iffy weather, the day's canvas painted a nice conclusion to a rewarding day.

Just outside blowing in off Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota, the weather was getting windy, cold and misty. Many had decided they had enough challenging light for the day and entertaining a "few more" night photos might push them over the top. I had mentioned that when the waves really start kickin up a fuss, shooting just after dusk can offer some wonderful visual opportunities. I averaged about .500 in talking several folks into one more hour of working the bad light and off we went with jackets and tripods in hand.

(Click On Images To Enlarge)

There is a magic time for photographing in the evening hours. It happens just after the sun sets and runs until it's dark. Once it's dark, it's done. 

Well, that is if you want any ambient light to continue to be part of your photograph. In order for your image to have that all important third dimensional look to it, you need to still posses some ambient light to define your foreground and background. Without it, the light in your image just rests in a sea of blackness with a two-dimensional look.

With subject matter like moving water, especially bigger wave action, long exposures can soften those waves into a fog like appearance.  Using your tripod, you can even keep your ISO at lower numbers retaining clarity. However, you will notice an increase in exposure is necessary every few minutes as light rapidly diminishes. So, keep checking your image.

During the exposure in the above photograph, 30 seconds, f/10 at 400 ISO, I did a few exposures without the add'tl kicker light of my headlamp. Then, for a few frames to mix it up, I used a low setting of red light on my headlamp to paint light over the foreground rocks during the 30 seconds to splash in some color. I love the red/blue combo in night images. To obtain the blue, I set my white balance to incandescent to give me that sexy, moody blue light.

Headlamps from approaching vehicle cast a eery glow in the fog along the Gunflint Trail in N.E. Minnesota.
Driving down out of the Superior National Forest in N.E. Minnesota, the Gunflint Trail, a paved road that runs inland about sixty miles from Lake Superior, is gateway to numerous entry points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Fog blanketed the Trail near the famed "Pines" area and the eery headlamp glow from an approaching vehicle peaked our interest and knew it would make a strong image. 

I explained from a content perspective including the white pines adds valuable  information to the image as it is an iconic location along the 60 miles. This stand of old growth trees is an historic part of the Gunflint Trail and shooting the fog as a vertical provided an image with more than just a pretty photograph. It is a photo with history to it. Don't shoot just the glow, but the sense of place too.

Shot at 1.3/sec. at f/22 at ISO 100. I didn't need f/22 for depth of field. Fog really prohibits any reason for depth. But, my intentions were to offer a variety of options with moving vehicles. What had initially captured my attention was that glow rising up behind the hill. I knew it was a car, but it was the glow I liked so I didn't need to see car itself to identify what was creating it. I kept my fingers crossed that more than one vehicle would drive by so I got my "glow" photo first. Then, with any other passing car I could get streaks of light, as opposed to just a stop-action pair of headlights, thus my reason for shooting at f/22. It allowed me a longer exposure and more length to the streaking lights in the photograph. But, in the end, I stuck with my initial reaction to the glowing light.

Fall colors along Hwy 61, N.E. Minnesota
We've all been out shooting in the Fall wanting to capture the explosion of color. It's amazing how the color changes with the quality of sunlight. And, how it changes with the diffused light of cloudy days. Heck, a bright overcast day usually provides me with more success shooting the fall season than bright sunny days.

But, what do you do on a really f/dark day? One solution is to paint with light. Use a slow shutter speed, hand hold your long lens and move the camera while exposing. Go up and down, side to side, make circles both small and large. You'll be amazed what you can come up and how striking and unique this sort of approach to lousy light can create visual magic. This image was made at 1/5th sec. at f/22 on ISO 200.

And finally, ready for bed, you pull into your lodging location and notice some pretty cool light on the garage and ground in front of you. There's no reason to pull out the gear again and shoot this, right? It's just a parking lot next to your cabin. But, the misty, cloudy light is doing something it doesn't do any other night. So, why not take a few extra minutes and satisfy your curiosity. After all, there's plenty of time to sleep when your dead.


Ok, now go to bed!




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FUSE VISUAL interview with LAYNE KENNEDY






Cameron Davidson's FUSE VISUAL 
interviews photographer
LAYNE KENNEDY this month.

Click on the above link to read:

lk@laynekennedy.com
www.laynekennedy.com
http://laynekennedy.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 7, 2014

iPhone Photography-It's The Real Deal

iPhone capture outside Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis

It's a good bet that you've shot, created and printed a photograph you captured with your smartphone. And, why not? The quality is good, it's instant, the device is small and non-intrusive, and with thousands of app's available to tweak your creative vision, smartphone photography has found its way into assignments, workshops and galleries.

Changing of the Guard, Athens, Greece

Sunset, windmills-Rhodes Island, Greece






I some ways I'm amazed how many people still criticize these devices as flukes, cheap photography, snapshots,  something less than real. This stereotype is diminishing as more and more fantastic images are being published using the variety of smartphones out there.

David City Airport, Nebraska

Certainly, I've been swayed. I adore the simplicity of using my iPhone. I pull it out of my pocket, raise it, fire it quietly and raise no attention to myself whatsoever. Everyone else is doing it so it fits right in. In my mind, I see the end result as if I were shooting to make prints in B/W. With all the app's that I enjoy using, I previsualize many of my iPhone photographs. What is in front of me is only the first step.

I think this is what I like most about iPhone photography, It allows me to experiment with ease, conjure up moods utilizing vintage style app's, layering textures and adding multiple images for making a visual statement or merely to have fun.

Fish & Chips cafe, Fulton, Texas


Rest assured, my iPhone has its limitations. And, I feel those limits deeply at times when I want the compression my 600mm gives me or the wide perspective of the 14mm while aiming my iPhone at a likely image.  

Fear not. I am not going to sell or shelf my Nikon's, Hasselblad, 4x5 or pinhole cameras. I am simply going to choose the instrument needed at the time to make the type photographs I wish to create. It's just another camera in your visual tool bag.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photographing The Eclipse

With images containing so much blank space,
adding a comment can add balance.

Events like the full lunar eclipse on April 15th, 2014 really draw out a large number of people, all for their own reasons. I had no real reason to step into my backyard in the middle of the night to shoot it. I'm not an astro-photography buff and see no financial gain to spend time doing it. There's a lot of gifted experts supplying that visual stream to the world and I cannot compete with that and
don't want to.

But, taking in a eclipse is an opportunity for several things. One, the photo-op. But, I like the idea of simply taking in the experience. Geez, I had neighbors calling me, "Are you gonna be out, should I bring down some beer?" to folks who set an alarm for 3:00 a.m. so they could get up and take a peek at the total eclipse of the Blood Moon, as it is referred to. Fantastic Everyone! Ya gotta love that enthusiasm for experiencing the living universe.

 Another advantage of being out there is once you've captured the images, there are new photos to use in any experimental photographs you wish to create. These can be used for shows and photo-illustrations. In the below image, I combined three photos to create something other worldly and fun.

Combining images from your files offers visual options









































Well, if you missed this one due to weather or warm covers, there are four more this year!
The next one is in October, 2014. 

So, set your alarms, check the weather, grab your tripod and take it in.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Special Portrait


Monday, March 17, 2014

More Bad Light

A quick trip North for a winter magazine assignment went wonderfully. New snow, bright yet diffused sunlight. Everything went off like clockwork.

Since I was already North, I decided to stay on a few extra days to explore the ice piling up along the shores of Lake Superior. This year the lake was more than 90% covered in ice. Normal twenty years ago, this is a rare winter event these days. Photographers follow such unusual natural events. The winds pile layers and layers of ice up to the shore. It can be a splendid visual experience for shooters.

Well, not this time.

Weather was stormy, cloudy and dark. The recent snow had covered the ice with a milky coating eliminating the desired gin clear ice. What does one do?

Driving for miles, I finally located a patch of ice that retained some of that gorgeous glacial blue coloration that attracts artists. But, the skies were dank and the ice almost featureless in this light. There was however a silver lining. I could photograph the blue ice without concern for the sky blowing it out. For all its bland appearance, this flat light was actually decent to work with.

Never give up. With a little luck, things might work out. Having a dramatic scene in such two-dimensional light was indeed a gift.

Lake Superior ice & clouds near Croftville, Minnesota

(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)




NIGHT LIFE
 The moon was edging slightly past half-moon phase. Not enough light I felt to warrant a night on the ice looking for new views of the ice shards piling up. But, some whispy clouds made things compelling enough to give it shot. Maybe with long exposures, the moving clouds will add some interest to a stark and simple scene. 

Inside an hour of darkness, a fabulous moon dog formed. It was huge, one of the biggest I've seen. The diffused light created an atmosphere that felt over worldly. Really strange light out over the ice fields. To add to the bizarre light and add drama to the scene, it was necessary to get the camera angle low giving the ice a larger appearance and see the moon dog. Yes, I did shoot a full moon dog. But, those have been done a million times. I was looking for something different. A look that mimicked the bizarre light cast over the frozen lake that night.

I spied a collection of ice shards, spread to tripod down to its lowest angle, framed the moon dog so it gave the impression or rising. I liked the results. I walked away with a new image, one that was different than any other winter moon dog photograph I've made prior. The effort to venture out that evening was totally worth it.
Moon Dog over Lake Superior ice shards.

EXPERIMENT
Sometimes you just have to take off that editorial cap and put on the creative cap. It allows you a sense of adventure and risk. Try something within the realm of photographic possibilities and see what the imagination can kick out.

Silver Bay, Minnesota


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Iceland Photography Workshop

Once again, ICELAND is making the news. 
This recently posted news tidbit by ICELAND NATURALLY, 
from Iceland's Tourist Industry. There is no question this is the time to visit Iceland. 




Join Us late this summer for an incredible Photo Tour with Focus On Nature.
http://www.focusonnature.is/

We will be photographing some of the most spectacular locations
in Iceland. Be prepared to be amazed.