Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Ephemeral Landscape

Racing To Catch Up With Things That Don't Move

This isn't one of those self-indulgent tales where the photographer seeks appreciation for how much work they did or how many challenges they overcame. No one cares whether a photo required seven days of hiking in the snow or whether it was taken on a whim during a leisurely stroll.

Image quality and emotional impact are the only things that matter to the viewer.

The subject of this article is time. How is time critical to the making of a photograph, particularly an outdoor photograph that depends on fleeting elements such as weather and fading light? How must time be managed, and what planning does this require?

I wanted to capture a photo of the salt flats at Badwater Basin at sunrise. Specifically, I wanted a photo that showed the geometric salt patters highlighted by a backdrop of colorful light from the predawn sky.

This objective suggested a plan of action and defined specific temporal demands.

I would need to determine the hour of sunrise and estimate how long the color in the sky would last.

I would need to know the distance to the approximate shooting location in order to estimate how long it would take to reach that point, first by car and then later on foot.

I would need to give myself time to fine tune the composition, to focus effectively and determine the required depth of field. I would also need to work around the exposure challenges inherent in blending a brightening sky with a still dark foreground.

a photograph of sunrise on the badwater salt flats death valley by daniel south
Daybreak At Badwater Under A Crescent Moon

Everything leading up to the "peak moment" would need to be dedicated to reaching the shooting position and preparing to take the shot. This included loading gear into the car, driving and hiking in darkness, seeking the exact shooting location and finalizing the composition.

Landscape photography doesn't seem as though it would require a race against time. Mountains don't move. Salt flats are relatively static. There were no animals in the frame to become startled and run away. Yet, I needed to cover great distances and work very quickly in order to capture this shot. As it was, I barely made it. A few minutes of delay would have caused me to miss this opportunity altogether.

Light moves and changes rapidly. Atmospheric conditions are in constant flux. If we want to capture a particular light or mood, we need to move even more quickly than the changes in these environmental factors. We need to anticipate upcoming conditions accurately and then adjust in seconds if and when things don't turn out exactly as expected.

This is all part of capturing the magic moment, and it's what makes the image worthwhile. It's not about how much work we did but about what we were about to create as a result of the effort and planning that went into the shot.

When the viewer sees the image printed or displayed on their computer screen, when they feel a sense of wonder and imagine themselves transported momentarily to the location, that's when the photograph communicates. They don't care how hard your had to work to make it happen. If they are moved by what they see, nothing else matters.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Taking Liberty

Statue Of Liberty Under A Golden Cloud

On my very first trip to New York City, I was struck by how small and distant the Statue of Liberty seemed out there in the harbor on its own little island.

The statue is actually quite large, but unless you're on a boat, it will seem small from your vantage point.

Most photos of the Statue of Liberty are taken up close with telephoto lenses.  It highlights the statue's features and crops out all traces of Staten Island and New Jersey.

a photo of the statue of liberty at sunset
New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty at Sunset

When I saw this cloud hovering over Lady Liberty I recognized a chance to shoot the statue in context while still coming away with a pleasing composition.

I tried to place the main cloud in the center of the frame while capturing some of his smaller friends around the edges.  I made certain that the camera focused on the statue and managed to pull the shot off handheld.

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikon 24-70 f/2.8G

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Hot Socks in Times Square

After A Fashion

When your outfit makes a statement, don't be surprised if a photographer is there to immortalize the moment.

a photo of three young women in brightly colored socks in new york city
Hot Socks New Times Square

Have fun out there, and be sure to check both ways before you cross the street!

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Lens: Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Line, Shape, and Color

Fundamental Elements in Photographic Composition

The photograph of the red fire escape is one of my favorites. I visited the site several times over the course of a year before hitting up the right light and composition.

I love fire escapes. They're like functioning urban metal sculptures.

I'm always looking for fire escapes with unique shapes and colors or where light hits them at an interesting angle. I was fascinated by the vivid colors of blue and red on this building, and the way that they shapes and angles worked together.

a photo of a red fire escape in new york city
Red Fire Escape - New York City

I experimented with a number of compositions but decided to isolate a small section with a telephoto lens.

The angle of the stairs and shadows contrast with the rectangular windows. The white trim adds an eye catching highlight. The dangling wires contribute mystery and chaos. One might expect to see sparks flying at night.

Basic shapes attract the eye. They are familiar and easy to perceive. A clean layout appeals to our sense of order and a desire for harmony and balance.

Color and contrast add interest and vibrance to shapes and fundamental forms. Simplicity enhances clarity.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved