Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Capturing Wind

Yesterday, the low barometric pressure in Minnesota, and throughout the Midwest, broke all sorts of weather records. This massive storm reflected low pressure readings similar in large destructive hurricanes over the oceans.

These type of weather events stimulate the motivated photographer. Storm chasing has become a business in of itself. Here in Minnesota, two gals, called the "Twister Sisters," guide people close to severe weather with hopes of getting a close-up glimpse of nature's fury. Its both risky and exciting.

Yesterday, I found myself calling & emailing all my pals and Govt. sources like the NOAA, seeking information on where the waves on Lake Superior might be kicking up a fuss. For me, Lake Superior is the place I go to shoot big storms like this. The combination of Superior's size, familiarity with it's shoreline, give me a chance to position myself in locations that offer a greater percentage for successfully capturing the wrath.

Unfortunately, my schedule didn't allow me to scoot North to hunt for wind images. I feel blessed that last year about this same time, I was gifted a Superior storm (see below images) that I was able to photograph. To date, those photographs are still my favorite images from this great lake.

With all the furious communications yesterday, a few discussions about capturing wind came up. I love shooting wind and the challenges to capturing it are easier than you think. And, you don't need low light and long exposures to define it. If your camera has multiple exposure capability, you can shoot wind in the middle of a bright sunny day and still seize the movement. Simply shoot several frames over the same frame, perhaps of blowing grasses in a field, to show the windy conditions. Like magic, you have a wind photograph in the middle of the day!

In the images seen below, you will see a variety of situations that capture wind. The pain of not being able to head North yesterday failed to keep me inside. The winds were still howling here in Minneapolis and at the end of the day I stole about an hour to head down to our local park to see what I could find at night.

I grabbed my heaviest tripod and went wind hunting. Most of the trees were stripped of their leaves from the stinging rain and wind throughout the day. Fortunately, I found a Maple that still, believe it or not, had it's leaves clinging to Fall unwilling to give up just yet. There was a streetlight behind the tree illuminating it with a freaky glow that attracted me. I stopped down to f/22 and got a 30 second exposure. This long exposure allowed the windy movement to blur. The solid trunk of the tree remaining sharp, gave me my foundation. I do like to have something sharp in the midst of all that blur.

While shooting an assignment in Iceland, I experienced wind like I've never seen before. It was so windy, it was spooky. It never let up. It relentlessly pounded and pounded. It was the kind of wind that if you stopped your car to grab a shot, you had better be pointed into the wind. If you parked with the wind behind you, it would rip the car doors right off it's hinges. Don't believe me? Check out the photo I snapped of the waterfall being blown right back up into the sky! Another image created that same day of the trees blowing, I used my rental vehicle as a wind break to take a long exposure to bring out the strength of these winds.

Shooting an assignment for Smithsonian Magazine on Wind Power, I was criss-crossing the Midwest where wind farms were finally getting a foothold capturing the blowing prairie winds. I noticed that most of my coverage happened during the day, when the winds typically blew the strongest. I quickly observed that while I was getting good images of the giant turbines, I had stopped the action of the blades. I wasn't showing the wind being harnessed. I looked for other ways to show the breeze. One option was using a dollar bill with a wind turbine in the distance. I knew the dollar bill would flap in the stiff wind, and I liked the visual metaphor of generating dollars from nature. I held the dollar against a 20mm lens and fired away. The second option was waiting until nightfall and using a powerful spotlight, I illuminated the blades as they slowly moved in the darkness.

Finally, a clearing storm in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) exposed a rainbow while the upper level clouds were still croaking. A long exposure allowed the clouds to show movement. The image was more complete for me. It exhibited a change in weather systems, not just a rainbow created by one.

Its still blowing today. So, I gotta run!

More Capturing Wind images

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PADDLE NORTH.......... is here!

The privilege of having a pristine wilderness in my backyard is never lost on me. The pleasures of canoe travel go beyond it’s ease. I delight in the sensations of floating. Paddling close to shore is my favorite. Gliding over ancient rock atop gin clear water is like watching a movie created right before my eyes.

Enjoy this new book detailing a wonderful wilderness. Paddle on!
This is the Title page. The Cover can be seen in earlier posts on this blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fabulous New York City

Last week I was teaching a Mentor Series Worldwide Photography Trek along with New York based photographer Steve Simon and Atlanta shooter Mark Alberhasky in New York City. Its been several years since I've photographed in the Big Apple. And while teaching workshops, my efforts of shooting are usually centered around shooting examples for participants to peek at while out in the field. The beauty of digital photography allows us to show examples immediately. A valuable teaching tool for sure.

Nonetheless, creating photographs in NYC is always a thrilling and rewarding experience. We photographed in numerous locations around the city. Some of which included Central Park, Grand Central Station, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, skyline images, ect. Each location offered a unique set of situations to explore and test our visual concepts.

Here's a few examples I photographed during the Workshop session to share with the group. The skyline image, shot from Fulton Landing in Brooklyn, is a 8-image panoramic stitched together using Photoshop's Photo Merge feature. And, the image taken in Central Park of the mosaic called IMAGINE, after John Lennon's song, I converted most of the image to a watercolor in Photoshop after returning to the office here in Minneapolis. Only the center of the mosaic remains normal.

Sometimes its just fun to experiment with other techniques.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just Laugh Out Loud

Last week, while up teaching my annual Fall Equinox Photography Workshop out of the famed NORTH HOUSE FOLK SCHOOL in Grand Marais, Minnesota something unexpectedly happened that caught me totally by surprise.

I learned how to create artificial geomagnetic storms! My goodness, could this be a new form of global travel opportunities and fill buckets of money?

Of course not. But, it was sure a hoot discovering how it happened.

It all started when we doing light-painting up on nearby Maple Hill. At the top of the hill is a small wooden church and more importantly, no lights anywhere close by. We need the blackness of night to selectively shine our flashlights and spotlights where we choose to "paint" with light the areas we want to show up. Long exposures are necessary so we can also include the stars in the photograph. It was working quite well and everyone was creating wonderful images.

After we completed our tasks of night shooting and learning to paint with light, it was time to call it an evening. Or was it?

I offered the idea of driving a little further down the Gunflint Trail to the Elbow Lake road where within 15 minutes we could shoot more stars over a calm lake. The idea of capturing reflections of the Big Dipper on the lake surface, since it was so calm, was appealing. Three hardy folks, Steve, Gredo and Carly took me up on the proposition.

We drove down the dirt road to the lake, headlights illuminating a dark narrow road, and after several twists and rises, the lake broke into view. The high beams shined over the dark water. And, at the same time we all commented, "Oooooh, look at the fog on the lake!"

The headlights illuminated a wispy, three foot thick blanket of fog steaming over the lake. Evening temps were cooler than normal, and a frost was imminent. We entertained the fog might thicken as temps dropped. We grabbed our tripods and cameras, lined the shoreline, attached the cable releases and begin opening shutters for 30-second exposures. We shoot 30 seconds because its the amount of time needed to expose stars. Any more time and the stars start streaking. Thirty seconds at 3200 ISO/ASA also allows the Milky Way to come alive. The reflections were nice, even through the fog. It was fun to be out.

With head lamps and flashlights cutting through the night, the fog illuminated like shining a pen light through campfire smoke. Wonderful beams of light danced around the foggy lake. We were way too excited about this fog coming to life. I grabbed my spotlight and during the next series of exposures, held the spotlight next to water level to lite up the fog. The results were awesome! We shot more and more, changing the direction of the light, coloring the light, hitting only portions of the lake, the distant shore, the dock, ect. We milked it as best we could.

Just about the time the chilly air was starting to bite and we calmed down a bit, the last set of exposures I pointed the spotlight up into the sky over my camera to see if it might show up. OMG! There it was. Beams of light were exposed in the misty air creating near aurora like images.

We all laughed out loud! How cool was this?

So, our science experiment begins. The chill was broken with excitement. We did several more exposures shining the bright beam towards the heavens, Each time a new and magical light painting appeared on our L.E.D. screens. Holy smokes, we were creating artificial aurora borealis. This night, the northern lights belonged to us.

It didn't take long for the discovery to turn to reality. We can't use these images. They are not real and we would never pass them off as real. But, for those 15-20 minutes, seeing what light can do was magical. It sets in motion a whole new way of seeing. Its one more item in our visual tool bag to utilize when the right time comes along. A new light discovery for sure.

So, we concluded our evening with some fine wolf howling over the stillness and listened to ten echo's bounce through the darkness. I wondered if the Space Station caught our light show? If they did, I'm sure they laughed out loud too.