Check Please

Looked at the weather report for Chatsworth the night before. A promising sunrise – check

Camera batteries charged, CF card in camera and bag is packed  by the door – check

Truck is gassed up…at 2.39 a gallon. What’s there not to like there – a  save cash check

Set alarm for 5:15am – check

Stagger out of bed, limp to bathroom (having foot issues) and get dressed – check

Easy drive down to Franklin Parker Preserve although I missed my turn – check

As it starts too get a little brighter I notice it’s cloudy.-clearly no check

Arrived at destination safely and I’m all excited. Maybe it will clear – an anticipating check

Walk about a mile to my spot and scope the possibilities – check

The forecast on Accuweather.com missed the boat completely – doesn’t deserve a check

Overcast with a hint of red at sunrise. Not what I was planning for- a concerned check

Flocks of birds making cool noises taking off out of the water – a check for ambiance

_MG_7640-1blogYears of shooting means to keep an open mind and refocus – check

Started seeing really interesting shapes and patterns in the water-check

The environment keeps changing here as water has made inroads to other sections – Remember check

My shots begin to revealed patterns that looked like a modern art painting to me – check

Wait a minute…. shoot at a slower shutter speed – a now your thinking check

Bingo…a 4 second exposure with a light wind blowing the grasses- I think I nailed it check

Drove home listening to Christmas music. Not a bad morning – check

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Fall Foliage 2014 Part 2-Monksville Reservoir and dead trees

While not in chronological order but rather geographical order the next stop for me was  New Jersey. The fall colors  this year were really pretty good. I may have missed it slightly North in the Adirondacks and in Virginia ( upcoming Part 3 ) but wherever I was able to shoot in the Garden State the colors were bright and crisp.

These two images were shot at Monksville Reservoir. I met up with Dean Cobin that morning and we drove to Monksville Reservoir looking for some combination of fog and dead trees. Maybe  on the face of it doesn’t it sound interesting but I like to photograph dead trees in water.  The starkness and how they interact with themselves and the background make for interesting compositions and images. A couple of my current favorite dead trees in water spots  in New Jersey are Franklin Parker Preserve and Merrill Creek Reservoir and I can now add this spot to the list.

This particular morning didn’t produce any significant heavy fog but rather a light fog that quickly dissipated. For the first image we positioned ourselves directly across from a grouping of trees. monk trees-1blogTheir bold white trunks and limbs became very graphic against the wall of foliage on the shore across from us. Virtually no breeze that morning kept the water calm for beautiful reflections, an added bonus. What was hard to see in the morning was how colorful the leaves were but as the fog dissipated and the sunlight began to pour across it became apparent that it was going to be a nice combination. The colors here were similar to all the areas I shot through out the state.

For the second image I moved down the shore and looked at another set of trees further up the lake. As I did this I noticed how the low level fog was becoming backlit and the trees had a rim light effect. At this point I knew I had the perfect vantage point.  I decided that I really wanted a heavy compression of the objects for this composition. I wanted a “flatter look” to the final shot. To achieve this, I  added a 2x converter to my 70-200mm lens. I shoot with a Cannon 7d and it has a reduced chip size vs a standard 35mm sized sensor. What that effectively means is that any lens size has to be multiplied by a factor of 1.6. That makes my 70-200 a 112-320mm. Couple that with a 2x and I’m approaching a 600mm sized lens. Wildlife photographers like to use a reduced chip camera like this one to increase their lens length while still obtaining a high resolution. monk and boatblogOnce I had the composition it was just of matter of getting an exposure that I liked. I had a really strong composition that by itself would have been successful but then an unexpected treat happened. A guy in a canoe was fishing and heading straight into my image. This easily elevated the shot for me. Adding that human element gave an instant sense of scale and connection to the environment  There are times that as a photographer you know you have the image while your shooting. In this case, the exposure never really changed and it was just a matter of clicking the shutter when I felt the person was in the right spot. I shoot in live view mode so I was able to see the person maneuver his canoe on the back of my LCD and clicked away. The final capture is one of my favorite images from this year.

©Larry Zink

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People in your Landscapes

As fall continues to push forward through our area hopefully everyone is out and enjoying the colors, hiking and of course taking pictures. As photographers we always look for some scene that inspires us. Maybe it’s a mountain, a sunset or a lone colorful tree. Usually landscape photographers want their images to be devoid of all things human such as buildings and people themselves. I personally may not always want a building in my landscapes but if I’m shooting and a person wanders in my image and it adds to the overall composition and feeling than I’m capturing it. I’m speaking specifically about a person that is unrecognizable but adds significance to the photo. person on a rockblog-1If you shoot a person and you can clearly recognize them and that image is published you will need a model release. That’s another discussion for another blog.  Having a person in the image provides scale. It also shows us in context to the greater environment. A deeper connection to the mountains , forest and water that surrounds us.

This image was taken in Harriman State Park. The first thing that caught my eye was the light hitting the tall golden tree and how it stood out against the shadowed mountain. I also loved the person standing on the rock taking in the beauty. She adds scale to image and in a deeper sense our place in the environment as a whole. I don’t go out of my way to find people but sometimes it just happens and it really adds the final capture.

 

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2 lakes 1 morning

This past Sunday I ventured up to Harriman State Park. I left my house at 5:15am to ensure I would get there in time to shoot some sort of sunrise. The weather report wasn’t looking too good the previous evening in terms of cloud cover ( I always look at cloud cover on the weather sites) and sure enough it was clear and bright moonlit skies when I walked out my door. I actually debated in my head whether to go or not. Figuring that I made the effort to be up that early I started the truck and began the trip north. As I was driving into the park there were some clouds passing by so I was beginning to feel a little better about my decision. As the skies were brightening I could start to see some really good possibilities taking shape. Lake KanawaukeblogAt this point, I realized I need to find a spot quickly and I chose Lake Kanawauke. Truth be told, it was the closest lake at the time. Normally I have a plan but on this particular day I was photographically improvising. I usually have some sort of sketchy plan on where I’m going to shoot. Scrambling to find an interesting shot I came across a grouping of rocks and quickly worked out the composition. I chose this dominant foreground rather than an over all wide lake shot because I wanted some additional interest and depth. I wasn’t feeling a straight shot of the lake would be all that interesting.

After the beautiful sunrise I walked around and continued to shoot and scout for future visits. I wanted to go down to Silver Mine Lake and see if there were any opportunities to shoot there. It’s one of my favorite spots in Harriman. At this point there were enough clouds starting to build to have some interesting skies. After parking in the lot I took the trail that skirts the left side of the water. Not far down I found a nice quiet spot. SilvermineBlogI like the composition and while I don’t normally go out of my way to shoot with a sun burst effect it does add some additional interest to the shot. When the colors change I will be back in this spot for sure.

Overall, It never ceases to amaze me that this kind of photographic potential is so close to New York City.The variety of the landscapes makes this place a must do in the area. With Fall fast approaching you can bet you will find me there.

©Larry Zink

 

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Lower Van Campens Falls

Here is another shot from my hike on the Van Campens Glen trail in the Delaware Water Gap. The hike is better described in a previous hike to photo ratio blog. This water fall is not far into the hike and is one of my favorite places to shoot. Assuming your careful it can be accessed from both sides and the top. Obviously this image was taken from the top of the falls. For this particular spot you’ll want to be sure that you have solid footing for your camera and tripod not to mention yourself. It’s definitely not desirable to have your equipment or you go over the top and in to the pool below.

lower van campen-1 blogThis image is one of my favorite shots of the year so far. Using some of the compositional elements discussed previously with the addition of another creates  an enormous amount of depth in the shot. First, the foreground rocks/ledge anchor the front of the composition. Second, the waterfall itself has beautiful lines as it leads into the creek below and curves off to the distance to a vanishing point. Lastly, on this morning if was slightly misty/foggy which is always accentuated  in the distance. Atmospheric conditions  affect objects further away rather than up close further adding to the depth. Couple all those elements together with a wide angle lens and  the image has many visual points to look at.

I love to shoot waterfalls and there are not that many many in New Jersey to begin with that offer this kind of beauty and solitude. Everyone’s safety is always paramount when shooting around water but the rewards if everything comes together is incredibly satisfying.

©Larry Zink

 

 

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Long Exposure Creativity

Take a run of the mill scene and turn it into a dynamic composition. Conveying movement in a picture takes something static and makes it dramatic. In many instances this will draw much more interest for the viewer. The most powerful tool we can utilize in photography is our imagination. If you learn to visualize the potential of the scene you will start to have more creative control of the image.

Here is a little how to for shooting a long exposure using clouds as the dynamic interest of your picture:

Since we are trying to create something dynamic we will also need something static (not moving) to juxtapose with the cloud movement. In the case of the example image I used the mountain. Long exposure-2

Once you have identified a possible composition first and foremost you will need your camera mounted on a tripod. Next you will need to be able to decrease or slow down your shutter speed to several seconds. This can either be achieved via available light shooting very early or rather late in the day. This is when your camera is metering in seconds so you can simply stop your aperture down (raising to larger numbers) to lengthen the exposure.  Another method as with the example image I am using something called a Neutral Density filter (ND).  ND filters in simple terms are filters that knock down the light. ND filters are external filters used in front of your lens. They are measured in stops of light. They come in several configurations and are utilized not only in this type of situation but are also widely used in other applications for landscape shooting. They are used to help balance the light in your exposure which is a whole other story for another time.

Remember when you stop down by one full aperture setting you are doubling the length of your exposure. If you’re at f11 and your camera is metering for a 15 second exposure when you stop down to f16 (1 full stop) you will double your exposure time to 30 seconds.

Using ND filters will give you much more control of the light and can be executed at any time regardless of the current conditions. There is a lot you can learn about ND filters by simply googling them.  In the case of the example image I used a 10 stop ND filter adding 10 full stops to the exposure. This image ended up being 228 seconds.

The image here was shot late in the afternoon but with lots of available light so I choose a 10 stop ND to lengthen the exposure time desired. Once I metered the shot without the ND filter I took out my I-phone which has an app that includes an exposure calculator and figured the correct amount of time for exposure when adding 10 stops.  I currently use something called Photo Pills but there are many different apps available. You can do the math in your head for a few stops but with 10 stops a calculator comes in very handy.  Most DSLR cameras will expose up to a 30 second exposure. I find that anywhere from 5+ seconds will usually add the drama and then it is a matter of your own creative taste.

Remember that after 30 seconds you will need to shoot in Bulb setting mode and have a shutter release device to keep your shutter open for the desired length of the exposure time. Once you make your exposure check your histogram and make sure you are getting a good exposure, if not make your adjustments and try again. Lot’s of trial and error on these shots. I also recommend that if you’re shooting real long exposures that you have your LE noise reduction shut off if it’s turned on. You can always control your digital noise in post. This allows you quicker feedback if you need to try again.

All this sounds complicated but it’s not. It will just take a little time, possibly some more research and lot’s of experimenting.  I did not get this shot on my first outing but that is where all the fun lies, in the exploration. Don’t be afraid to take risks and get creative with your image making you will find it will add a whole new dimension to your photography.

About the image:

This is a 230 second exposure shot In Harriman State Park on the shores of Lake Stahahe. ©Dean Cobin

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Composition-Depth

There are many compositional techniques to creating exciting and interesting photography. One such way is to create depth and a sense of space in the image. Depth between the front and back of the image frame will increase visual interest in your composition for your viewers to stay engaged. There are plenty of times when a flat composition becomes very effective but there are ways to make visually interesting also ( more on that in a later post). There are a couple of ways to get depth. A near far composition, repeating shapes and leading lines to name a few are all excellent starting points. For this discussion we will be speaking to the near far technique. The near far technique is achieved by having a dominant foreground element as the anchor of the image. Usually achieved with a wide angle lens to enhance a size difference with the rest of the landscape in the far distance. Hence….. near and far.Red sunset  Delaware at Worthington State Park Blog

In this image , shot on the Delaware river in Worthington State Forest, a wide angle lens was used to make the rocks big. Now clearly the rocks are not as big as the trees in real life but by using the optics in combination with the composition a great deal of depth in the image has occurred. Near objects in compositions can be rocks, flowers or just about anything as long as it relates to the scene. The near object relationship with the background will help deepen the connection for your viewer. Usually an already natural foreground will do the trick. Experiment with this technique with different sized and types of foreground objects and you will begin to see a big difference in your landscape images. It made the biggest difference in mine.

©Larry Zink

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