Wrong Turn

I usually travel to famous destinations well-known for their spectacular views and enticing subjects. Imagine my surprise, upon taking a wrong turn on my way to a locally famous photography spot, to find a hidden gem just in my backyard. When I set out that morning, I was hoping to capture a typical fall subject: leafy trees turning a glorious red lining a quiet, intimate drive. It was a place I had visited many times in the past, and had already stopped by multiple times this season, hoping that the colors would be at their peak brilliance. It’s a beautiful place, don’t get me wrong, and it deserves the many visitors that stop by every year to get a snap of it, their cars parked in a line down the street.

But what I found instead was intimate in its own way, a place without photographers jostling to get the perfect angle, a place that isn’t photographed over and over every year. It is just as stunning, and it captures the ephemeral beauty of autumn just as well as my original destination, but most importantly, it was all mine: clear blue sky touched with a light brush stroke of white clouds, trees covered in mid-autumn yellows reflecting in the still, quiet water in the pond, occasional ripples running across the water and playing with the reflection to create a dream-like view that I had only seen in pictures from far away places.

Somewhere far in the distance, through the wall of trees, I could still hear the noise of the city, the rumble of traffic speeding down freeway, but it all seemed so distant, so surreal. It did not belong in this oasis of quiet and solitude. Rather the sounds of singing birds that had not left for the winter yet, the splashing of water disturbed by the ducks landing or taking off, the quiet whispering of leaves as the easy breeze rustled through the forest belonged here.

There was incredible stillness to the whole scene as if I had walked into a painting, my presence disturbing it and putting it into motion. It had been here all along enticing passerby with its beauty, rejoicing at capturing my attention as I was looking at it and appreciating it. Awestruck for a moment, I just stood there taking it all in before the magic disappeared. Nature was patient with me. It did not disappear. It stayed. It waited. Until I was ready to capture it not only with my eyes but with my camera too.

Pictures taken, I sat on the bank of the pond in the warm autumn sun, breathing in the refreshingly crisp autumn air filled with the sour scent of dry grass and the honey-sweet scent of fallen leaves, thinking about how easy it is to get into the habit of walking the same paths, going to the same well-known locations, photographing known scenes. It offers a sense of comfort and security knowing that I’d definitely get some good images there and if not, it would only be weather conditions to blame: no spectacular light, no sunrise, no sunset. Getting off the beaten path is unpredictable, unknown, and quite frankly scary – there might be nothing worth photographing there. But visiting the same place over and over makes photographs predictable and does not challenge me to grow as a photographer.

P.S. My writing and photography lately has been influenced by my girlfriend who gives me constant support while challenging me to do things differently including this post where she challenged me to write better and gave me some invaluable lessons in language arts.

Emotional Connection

There are good images. There are bad images. And then there are images with which I feel emotional connection.

Last fall I was photographing fall foliage in Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth. I was out for two days, photographing in rain and wind, photographing water and leaves, clouds and rocks. On the last day before going back home I went on a hike up the wall of a canyon. That’s where I found scenes with which I felt emotional connection like with no other. It was a very special feeling that brought me inexplicable joy, the feeling of revelation.

. . .

It takes me long time to process images. It helps doing it a while after making them. Over time the feeling of being there wears off and I’m able to look at images more critically. I’ve just came by the images those images that brought me so much joy back there in the woods near Leavenworth. As soon as I saw them something inside me immediately clicked again.

I look at them and hear music, music of color, tone and form. One note transitions to another like one soft color transitions to another. I’d like glide this waves of color following tender curves of leaves over and over.

Inspiration

I have many photography. I like to dive into someone’s imagery and photo books is the most affordable way to do it. But looking at photo books is not where I get my inspiration from. What gets me inspired is paintings. I can spend endless hours studying one painting, how the light is captured, how the color is captured, how the feel of the scene is captured, the emotions in the brushstrokes. When I photograph I’m trying to achieve the same perfect light as in landscape paintings and I want to get my photographs to the same level of essence and feeling of color as impressionists’ paintings had.

Aspens in Pastel

Aspens in Pastel

Reflections of Colorado Autumn

I’ve finally completed editing photos from my trip to Colorado. Despite my misadventures that I’ve already described I’ve brought quite a few photos of intimate places I really liked. There are a few themes I can see thru the photos. One of the themes are reflections. Here a few photos with reflections. Enjoy!

Overskinned. Story 1

Sunrise at Maroon Bells Lake

(A series of three stories – frustrating, scary and happy – with a common thread.)

At the dawn of photography back in 19th century there was this guy by the name Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr who was a big advocate for photography in general and travel photography in particular. He talked about taking a photograph as taking a “skin” of reality that was based on his interpretation of an old Greek myth. I don’t want to go too far into that direction as it is not the point of my blog post. The interesting part is that he also warned of possibility of overskinning some scenes. He was concerned that some scenes might be photographed to the point when the scenes themselves will be not interesting. I came face to face with that on my trip to Colorado this fall.

***

Pacific Northwest has very limited opportunities for fall colors. You’d need to scramble for interesting fall color compositions outside cities in evergreen forests. Going to Colorado and diving into fall colors was a long waiting dream of mine. This year I finally went there. It turned to be a lot of what I expected, a lot more than I expected and some that I’d rather not have. This three stories with a common theme of what photography is for me and what it is not.

Since it was my first time in Colorado I did not have any places of my own in mind; I mostly traveled to well-known places. One of such places is Maroon Bells Lake. It is considered an iconic place of Colorado. Another photographer who went there last year warned me to come an hour before sunrise as there are quite a few photographers coming there to photograph sunrise there.

I scouted the place I want to photograph a day before and showed up there about an hour before sunrise. There were about 20 more photographers along the lake. The place I had scouted the day before was not occupied. I set up my camera on tripod and started waiting. It was freezing cold but everyone was jolly with anticipation. Over the hour that followed number of photographers slowly grew to 70 but everyone was polite and asked if they’re in the way when they setup camera.

Everything was well right up to sunrise, crowded but well. Right before sunrise a guy showed up and put his tripod right in front of my camera. When I politely noted that I was photographing there and he was blocking part of my frame, he said that everyone else was photographing too and would not move. I was pissed but not sure what to do about it except to frame a different image. There was still no way to completely avoid him, so I removed him from a corner of my image in Photoshop.

Next morning I went there without much enthusiasm but with a hope to still take the image I wanted. When I arrived there were already about 50 photographers. The spot where I wanted to make a photo was taken. I got what I got. By the sunrise there were more than a hundred photographers. It was crowded and did not feel very friendly. A guy on the right was frustrated with his gear which he had too much of; switching it constantly in indecision what to use; getting tangled up in it. I was locked into taking one and only one composition. Anything else would mean getting a bunch of tripods in my frame or getting myself into someone else’s frame. Can I be creative in such environment? No.

Busiest Time of a Year

Fall. So many colors. Changing quickly. Fleeting moments…

I love fall most of all. When I was a teenager my favorite time of a year was spring when everyone springs into action, when air is filled with scents of blossom and fresh greenery. Now fall is my favorite. Is it because of age? Or simply the fact that I live in an evergreen state now?

Fall is the busiest time of a year for me. I like spending hours meditating with my camera in a solitude of the Nature. I love diving into its colors. This year I’ve already spent time photographing fall in Colorado, and in Rainier National Park. This week I’m going to yet another location. Naturally, I cannot keep up with processing all the photos. Well, I’ll have the whole winter for that. But I feel like I have to keep up with writing blog. I promised that to myself. So, here is one image from Colorado.

Colors of Fall
Colors of Fall

Fall Color Along Hwy2

Good images like good wine need time to age. This images have been parked parked on my hard drive for two months. I’ve been coming back to them slowly processing and reprocessing them. They were taken along highway 2 in Washington state near small town Leavenworth.

The fall foliage is beautiful there. This is probably the most beautiful and most popular place in Washington for fall foliage.

Strolling thru Kubota Garden

Sometimes plans don’t work out and I’m glad they don’t. One weekend another photographer and I were planning to hike up a mountain trail to photograph a lake in snow. When time came my buddy bailed out and I did not want to risk hiking in snow after dark alone. Instead I went to Kubota Gardens in Seattle and spent a day there.

Typically, when for places like parks or gardens close to home I try to find time during week or go with family during weekend for one or two hours to do photography. This was the first time I spend whole day in one relatively small garden. And it felt really good – photograph without rushing, lying under a tree, taking time, observing.

I’ve fell in love with this garden.


Early Morning Mist


Let Me Offer My Hand


Passage


Bush on Fire


Due Drops Caught in a Web


Simple Yellow on Red


Lying on the Ground Looking Into Sunny Sky


Explosion


Butterfly


Light

Make Photo

Rick Sammon likes to say “Don’t just take photos, make photos”. It is a great advice. And the photo in this post is a great example of that.

I had photographed this tree a few days before and came back to Kubota Gardens that day with a single goal to make more interesting picture of this tree. I got “inside” the tree. It was cozy and warm inside under the canopy of red and yellow leaves. I started with the same kind of photos at before. They were typical photos of branches with fall leaves.

Then I noticed a single leaf caught in the middle of a tree where many branches were coming out from the main trunk. Now, that was interesting. I took a few photos.

The single leaf did not really stand out it was blending in with the branches. There was a simple solution to that. I grabbed a bunch of leaves that were already on the ground and dropped on top of the single leaf. Now they had a party.

I took a few images again. It was nice but it was plain. The image of something mystical started brewing in my head. What if I make an image of a Heart of Autumn. The heart of autumn would be glowing. And a flash light could help with that.

Fortunately, I had a powerful spot light in my car (well, I always have several flashlight in my car). I overcame my laziness and packed my gear, went back to the car, grabbed the spotlight and went back to the tree.

Now I was shooting with a spot light. It took a few iterations to get light spot right in the middle of the pile of leaves. I still did not feel like I got it. The leaves in the background were as bright as those I was lighting up. it did not feel like leaves at the heart of the tree were glowing. The solution was to make reduce overall exposure of the image, while get more light on the leaves that I wanted to glow.

The end result:

Heart of Autumn
Heart of Autumn

Pastel Colors of Fall

Finally, the colors of fall foliage is behind us. It is my favorite time of year. For photographers October is like August for farmers – time to collect the harvest. The reason I’m saying “finally” is because I felt burnt out pushing myself too much trying to capture it a s much as possible. For some time I tried to keep up with post-processing but then gave up – I was not getting enough sleep that way. And that was combined with two more art shows that I needed to get ready for.

Now, when fall foliage is almost gone in Pacific Northwest and my last art show of this year is behind me, I can catch up on post-processing, blogging, planning.

***

For a few months I’ve been fascinated with pastel colors. I like their subdued soft feel. So, this fall I’ve done several images with intent of having pastel colors.

An important thing about photographing color is to be clear that the subject of a photo is color, not individual branches, leaves or trees. To me it means getting rid of all those details in an image.

One technique to do that is to take photos with long exposure handheld and intentionally move camera in some direction. It seems to work the best when moving camera along visually strong lines such as tree trunks or branches.

On Fire
On Fire

Fall Butterflies
Fall Butterflies

Fall Forest
Fall Forest