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Pressure Ridges… January 27, 2013

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…form in the frazil ice on the Deerfield river:

Pressure Ridges

Sunset in East Charlemont, courtesy of Elliot.

Strangely, we’re heading for a fifty-degree day on Wednesday, followed by a return to winter temps. I’m hoping this will lead to some uncommon visuals.

 

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Golda’s Lament. November 19, 2012

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“Herschel, YOU IDIOT!  NOW look what you’ve done!

“I TOLD you not to turn left, but you HAD to turn left, didn’t you?? DIDN’T YOU!!!  Mother always said you were a crappy driver, and now look, LOOK at the mess we’re in! Mother was right, I should never have married you, you’re a CRAPPY DRIVER who will NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING, NEVER!!!

“Now YOU go get us some help, and make it snappy! I’m going to SIT RIGHT HERE UNTIL YOU COME BACK WITH HELP! There are BEARS out there, Herschel! You don’t expect me to go out there with BEARS, do you?? You IDIOT, Herschel!

I have a feeling that Herschel just kept walking…

More views of the Autumobile from a past post, with a possible back-story.

Because enquiring minds abhor a vacuum.

Playing with Elliot in the back woods of upper Monroe.

Where there are bears,  you know.

A Visit To Dunbar Brook. November 12, 2012

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My friend and housemate Lizz and I took a ride out to Upper Dunbar Brook this past Sunday. Ostensibly, we were churning the fluids on her little truck Ubu, who has been sitting idle in the driveway for a couple of weeks, but really we were just out joy-riding, as we overgrown kids are wont to do.

To kinda set the mood, this was a drive out a wash-board dirt road with enough big rocks and “thank-you-ma’am” erosion bars to keep vehicles with lesser clearance at bay, ending with an encounter with Dunbar Brook at a place where it tumbles through a steep set of cascades.

The afternoon light was nice as we glided to a halt in the little dirt pull-off for the brook, and we both had big smiles on as we shouldered packs full of lenses and headed down to the water.

As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered with the pack; I had Elliot on the box, my Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens, and he found more ways of seeing this patch of place than I had time for.

We started with a couple of “overview” shots, kind of getting the lay of the landscape, if you will. The brook tumbles through a little tunnel which probably used to be a natural bridge, but has collapsed into its current presentation of left-side rock set against right-side ledge:

This is a decent example of Elliot’s capabilities. I spun the “tilt” function 90 degrees, then “swung” the objective (front-most) lens 8 degrees right, planting the plane of sharp focus just right of my camera and dialing the focus out until the image was crisp from the lower right through the upper left, with the opposite corners losing crispness. The result, as I appreciate it, is to focus the eye on a series of visual elements which makes me feel like I’m right there in the moment (it’s that mental compilation effect I’ve talked about recently.)

I used the same “swing” to get this larger view of the same scene:

…with the intention of drawing a viewer’s eye right up the crisp middle, while the edges of the photo release the eye by dint of their softness.

I hope that worked as intended.

Just a bit down river, the view excluded the arch but showed the geological tumult of these New England rivers:

This is with Elliot’s forward element spun back into “tilt” mode, and the plane of sharp focus planted along the scene with about a degree and a half of downward tilt. I’m painfully aware that this blog platform won’t show you the details of what that means, but I’m doing this as much for me as for you, and the high-resolution version of this shot totally knocks me out.

Hey, I’m disappointed by my efforts often enough that I feel entitled to gloat on the rare occasions that I get it right.  😉

I’ll end this little self-indulgence with a couple of details which  I liked, including this shot of a stranded pot-hole:

…and this detail of a little cascade, the only shot I have which is from Ollie, my 24-105mm zoom lens, as I needed his compositional flexibility to get what I wanted:

That’s an in-focus shot of a fast-moving subject. Parce that as you will, or just call it “art” like I do.

And that is all.

A Bit Of A Strange Sky. November 4, 2012

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On the way home today, the thick cloud cover which had blanketed the day became a succession of waves coming from the west, alternately thinner and white, or thicker and…

blue.

It was a much more colorful sky than is usual around here, especially when it’s deeply overcast, so I looked for a place to pull over and get a shot of it.

The timing was such that I got to a favorite pull-out of mine, a few miles down river from my home, with a clear view of the river. I scrambled down the bank to a set of rocks which jutted beyond the brush of the bank and set up a shortened tripod in the shallows, kneeling on the second rock to get a shot of the first as a foreground for the sky. I had Elliot on the box and was glad to have a planar near-object to focus on and a relatively flat horizon. At f/16 I figured I had a nice fat wedge of focus to play with, so I expected the river and hills to all be well rendered, and that was indeed the case:

I really intended to just get a shot of an interestingly colored sky, but this shot turned into somewhat more than that, at least in my eyes.

It’s getting harder and harder to just take a snapshot.

From Elliot, with a degree and a half of downward tilt, f/16, ISO 100, .8 second exposure, and a hand-held 3-stop ND graduated filter. This lens vignettes if I use a filter holder.

A Waterfall. October 24, 2012

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This Autumn was a bit of a disappointment to me, photographically speaking; the color was lack-luster, less than vibrant, and painfully brief. Long dry stretches punctuated by prolonged wind and rain kept me from seeing what I’d spent a year visualizing, and made it all go away much too quickly.

As an example of what I mean, the fall colors limped along from faded to trying to brown, then blew away. A photographer friend had suggested we share a ride out to Bash-Bish Falls in the southwestern corner of the state, but that never happened, both because there was no particular time when the colors were vibrant, and because at their presumptive peak, the weather had been so dry that the Falls were reduced to a pitiful trickle.

Ah, well – Cest la guerre.

But today, on the heels of a few days of rain, I took the plunge and drove the circuitous route out to Copake, NY and up into the chasm where Bash-Bish plunges through its spooky little gorge, and hiked down to the falls, knowing damned well I’d missed the foliage season but would at least have water.

The light sucked (that’s technical photographers’ talk) and despite the long drive and steep walk in, tormenting my ruined right ankle, I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to set up a tripod. Instead, I scrambled up and down the river banks, navigating wet-leaf-coated boulders above lethal drops into roiling whitewater, occasionally flopping down to see what Elliot would see should I decide to push his buttons, and eventually settling on this:

That’s hand-held at 1/125th of a second, not how tilt-shift shots are usually done, but hey…

This turns out to be a really clear example of what the “tilt” in a tilt-shift lens does. I wanted to capture the river clearly, from front to back, but the low light really didn’t allow for the high f-stop (small lens opening) which gives great depth-of-field. Instead, I chose f/8, a moderately large aperture opening, which would normally deliver a limited depth-of-field. But because I was shooting with Elliot on the box, I swung the objective lens 8 degrees left (maximum “tilt”) and planted the plane of sharp focus right up the middle of this shot.

The result is a lot like what our eyes and brain construct when we look at a similar scene; we scan the relevant parts, i.e. the cascades and falls, and compile them into a composite image which feels like we’re seeing it all at once (though that’s a physical impossibility.) We disregard the periphery, mostly ’cause we don’t care about it in the moment. You’ll notice that both the left and right edges of this shot are wildly out of focus, despite the fact that the middle is sharp, from the foreground leaves to the background trees.

That’s “tilt-shift” for ya – an engineered algorithm for what our brains do every second we’re awake.

Pardon my getting specific here, but I’ve had requests for more detailed explanations of how I do what I do, and if you’re interested in knowing, I’m interested in telling you.

My apologies to Bash-Bish Falls, which deserves a bit more un-deconstructed reverence than I’ve given it here. It’s an overpowering place, more than worthy of a visit if you’re in the Northeast. But go there off-season, and avoid weekends. It’s accessible enough to be over-run on any weekend when the weather doesn’t suck really hard.

A Stylistic Departure. October 21, 2012

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Yes indeed, a departure from both my obsession with Mother Nature and the landscapes she surrounds me with, and the hyper-intense palette of Autumn in New England.

This past Saturday I headed down to Springfield MA to see a show at the Valley Photo Center, facilitated by local photographic luminary Gene LaFord. Gene works way too hard to bring quality work from world-class artists to Springfield, and in this case outdid himself by bringing in the amazing work of world class printer Bob Carnie and his wife, Laura Paterson, both (duh!) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Bob is among a small handful of printers who get to work with the Beta versions of new photographic papers which might hit the streets. Try to imagine what that means in terms of his knowledge about what goes into making an excellent print even better.

At any rate, the show was jaw-dropping, both for what Bob does in his printing (and photography) and what Laura does with a plastic Holga camera.

As I stumbled dumbstruck through a room full of their work, I wrestled with the question of whether to just throw my kit off the South End Bridge or TRY HARDER, and opted for the latter.

Google any of the names I just dropped and you’ll see just what I mean.

This comes at the heels of coming to know the work of Manuel Vilanova, a co-conspiritor in a Facebook Photographers’ Group to which  I belong. Manuel does a lot of black and white photography, much of it portraiture, but some of it landscape/architectural, and all of it an instant lesson.

So on the way home from Springfield I stopped in Holyoke, where their City Hall had long intrigued me, but for the visual translation of which I lacked a language.

Manuel’s photographic style had suggested a certain set of motions between the objective lens and film plane which Elliot is capable of, and a brief conversation with Bob Carnie made me want to check out the “curves” tool in Photoshop. I employed all of that and some other stuff I’ve gleaned from more experienced photographers to take this shot (converted to B&W) of the Holyoke City Hall:

Elliot’s tilt-shift functions delivered this composition thusly: I aimed the camera (on a tripod) considerably more skyward than what this capture suggests, then scrolled the “shift” function downward to achieve this view (well, ok, I scrolled first and aimed second, but I want you to understand the optics of shifting.) This exaggerated the “vanishing point” effect of looking up at a tall building, making it soar beyond what the naked eye would see. Then I tilted the objective lens downward a degree and a half, laying the plane of sharp focus along the line running from the (red) rose in the foreground to the top of the clock tower.

That gave me the composition I was looking for; the tonal range from blacks to white was achieved by adjusting the values in a B&W layer in Photoshop, bringing up the levels of the red foreground rose and the intermediate yellow leaves until they glowed, then using Bob Carnie’s “curves” advice to bring the mid-tones up.

I know, that’s way  too much information for those of you who come here for “eye candy,” but I’ve had requests for “how-to’s” from photographers who want to improve their art, and while I feel under qualified to be their guide on that journey, I feel that I ought at least to try  to be of some use…

So there it is, a B&W urban image, one which I’ve wanted to capture for a while now, but until this weekend felt unqualified to attempt.

I’m almost satisfied with the result.

Today’s Ramblings. October 9, 2012

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Spent some of this afternoon’s filtered light chasing photos, driving slowly and scrubbing the roadsides for images. The air was heavy, the light was low and the Little Things were glad to have their hands on the shutter release.

These are a few of the shots they made me take.

Gone-by asters beneath an old maple:

Bittersweet takes charge of a hedgerow beside a barn:

Fading ferns surround a few brilliant maple leaves:

…as turning vines adorn a stone wall:

All of these are courtesy of Elliot, who loves to lay his mojo down for any and all voyeurs.

A Show In Ashfield. October 5, 2012

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I’ve been getting my photography “out and about,” as they say, and have recently sold a few pieces. I have a few nice old car and truck pics on the walls of Chef Rob Watson’s Lone Wolf Bistro in Amherst, MA, and a few of the young ladies I’ve shot at horse jumping meets have purchased prints.

It’s not enough to pay the bills yet (I’m still digging food out of the cracks in my kitchen floor) but it’s all moving in the right direction.

I currently have a show up at Elmer’s Store, Restaurant and Gallery up in Ashfield. It’s broadly Autumnal themed, designed to coincide with the town’s great Ashfield Fall Festival which runs this Saturday and Sunday. If you’re in the area and have a chance to visit, please do – I highly recommend their breakfasts, especially the hash – yum!  🙂 ‘ll be on their walls for most of October.

For those of you who don’t live close enough to visit, I’m posting the show’s ten photos here (hey, it’s a virtual world, non? ) for your viewing pleasure.

All of these shots have appeared here before, but never as a group.

Corn and Oak, Hadley MA:

Chickley Gold, Charlemont MA:

West Branch Storm, Deerfield river, Readsboro VT:

Deerfield Dawn, Charlemont MA:

Windsor Hay Wagon, Windsor MA:

Irrigation Ditch, Hadley MA:

Catamount Cascade, Colrain MA:

Autocar Light, Bernardston MA:

Black Brook, Savoy/Florida MA:

Forest Fog, Plainfield MA:

All of these images are printed at 12″ X 18″ and matted and framed at 18″ X 24.” They’re archival presentations with 100-year inks, acid-free/pH-buffered mats and backing and Conservation Clear UV-protective glass, and are available for $275 plus tax (where applicable) and shipping.

If you’re interested, email me: ralph@ralphmunn.com.

Or better yet, stop by Elmer’s Store for a great meal and a look-see.  🙂

And now I’m off to photograph some rock climbing adventures.

Cheers!

Autumobile. September 28, 2012

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I found this noble beast sitting in the woods up in Monroe, MA, in an area which used to be a Department of Corrections work camp:

Image

This is off of a dirt road which is gated and usually locked, but I happened to find it open and chanced an incursion, knowing that there are at least two swamps / beaver ponds which might be showing autumn colors. More on the results of that visit later.

Thanks to Elliot for this perspective, with good sharpness from front to back.

Resident Evil. September 26, 2012

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On my way through Buckland today (yeah, the Lion’s Mane Buckland) I rounded a bend in the road to see a startling splash of color leaping skyward.

Of course, I slapped on the binders and pulled off the road to investigate.

It turned out to be an infestation of Virginia creeper, an invasive vine which I spend countless hours trying to keep out of our trees and lawn, though I know it will still be there long after I’m dead.

Oh well.

Anyway, the drizzle and gloom which make sane folks want to stick their head in an oven are like Mana form Heaven to us crazy photographers, saturating (literally) scenes with intense colors and an immediacy which is otherwise rare.

I assembled a tripod and umbrella and affixed Elliot to the box with six degrees of swing to snag this shot:

The swing gave me tack-sharp elements from center foreground through the distant right edge of this image, passing through the Main Event along the way. And a hand-held graduated ND filter allowed me to expose for the beautiful variety of ferns in the foreground without blowing out the sky.

For all of its negatives, Virginia creeper is dependably brilliant in its fall coloration, for which I appreciate it.

Thanks to Elliot for snagging this one.