There is an infinite number of ways to interpret that same scene, the same photo, the same subject. The interpretation very much depends on my emotional state.
My photographs are more a reflection of me than a capture of reality. This sounds cliché but it is true. I’m very much surprised but this myself.
Naturally my emotional state changes over time and images that used to speak to me seem to be silent now. The opposite is true. Sometimes I find gems in images long forgotten.
The changes of my emotions even change the way I interpret images in post processing. Look at these two images. The exact same scene the almost exact same photo.
First one is the image I captured. It is dark and grey. It is an image of depression, being lost with no way out.</p
Then the image after processing. When I process images I rarely have a plan; I’m exploring letting it take me wherever it wants to take me, looking for something that resonate with me. In this case I ended up with an image of hope.
One of the reasons I travel a lot by car rather than plane is to see places around on the road to the destination. Unfortunately, in most cases once I’m behind the wheel I get a tunnel effect when I see nothing but the road with its final destination ahead. For some reason getting to the destination as fast as possible becomes the only goal.
On the trip to Alberta I actively fought an urge to drive from point A directly to point B. Instead I was taking some backroads, sometimes unpaved, moving slowly looking at things around. It was taking me much longer but it was a more satisfying study of Alberta outside its famous national parks and big cities. Here is a small selection of photographs of rural Alberta.
The main destination of my recent trip to Alberta, Canada was Abraham Lake. The reason Abraham Lake is so attractive to photographer in winter is because of unique phenomenon of frozen bubbles. While the lake freezes up in winter plants at the bottom of the lake produce methane gasses that come up to the ice and stay there frozen in ice while ice keeps growing downward. This creates fantastic surreal tri-dimensional structures in the ice sheet that covers the lake. There is also a persistent strong wind running thru the valley where the lake is located keeping ice clean of any snow. And the last but not least feature of this lake is winter is that it is artificial lake as the water is slowly drained from the lake in winter the ice cracks under its own weight.
It was quite scary standing on the ice when it cracks. The sounds of it ranged from a pitch high as if a guitar string was torn to a loud boom. The ice was very clean making me feel sometimes as if I was standing on water. And while consciously I understood there is thick ice under me, the sound of cracking ice made my subconscious scream RUN. So far subconscious was on a losing side.
The end of January when I went there turned out unusually warm there with temperatures rising up to 15C making ice melt at the top and thin ice walls separating layers of bubbles were melting away the fastest. On the second day of being at Abraham Lake I witnessed one of the photographers falling thru the ice while standing one one of the spots with high concentration of frozen bubbles. Fortunately, he did not fall of the way thru and was able to get out before anyone of the people rushing to help him (including me) were able to get to him. The whole incident seemed to be forgotten rather quickly. Even the photographer who fell actually staying on the ice and continuing to take pictures even in partially wet clothes.
But it scared me enough that I decided not to go on ice anymore. So, I set off to explore areas around Abraham Lake and find some other interesting spots to photograph. It proven a hard task. The warm temperatures melted most of the snow leaving the ground bare and unappealing to me. Yet I was stopping my car at any parking spot or trailhead, walking out and looking for opportunities. One of such spots was near river bed. It had been probably quite wild river in spring and summer. In winter it was lots of crumbled ice sheets lying on the ground. I thought I might be able to find a line in the ice cracks that would lead to the mountains in the distance.
While searching for that composition I saw a moon rising above the mountains. On a whim took a picture of it. I took only one picture. It was unusual for me. Typically, I work thru composition taking lots of images until I feel like I cannot get it any better. This time I just felt the image was ok not no more than that. Only when I was editing images from the trip at home I saw that image and thought it was beautiful. There are so many elements that work together and yet there is simplicity in it which attracts me.
Moonrise over Canadian Rockies
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!
(This is the last story in 3 story series on photographing popular destinations. This one is the happy one.)
In my travels around Colorado this fall I visited many different places. It was my first trip to Colorado and my first fall trip to Colorado and thus I spend most of the time exploring. In a few days after my arrival a sudden and unexpected snowstorm ran thru the mountains, taking off most of foliage and dusting them with snow.
On the fourth day I drove south in a search for fall foliage. That’s how I ended up staying overnight in Montrose. I arrive late at night. It was already too dark to see anything around. At a hotel I saw a tourist guide mentioning Black Canyon National Park. I was not even aware of it. I thought that since I was so close to it I might as well visit it. The brochure did not have impressive photos of it. I searched online and did not see anything impressive either. One thing for sure was that there was no fall foliage there. Thus I abandoned that idea.
In the morning I could see my surroundings. Everything was green. No fall foliage in Montrose yet. I decided east and then north to Crested Butte. Just a few miles out of Montrose travelling east I saw a sign turn to Black Canyon National Park with only a few miles to the entrance. I thought it was a sign that I should go.
I did not regret I went there. I did not find fall foliage their or amazing well-recognized photo opportunities but I found something way more important. Solitude being one-on-one with the Nature. I was almost the only visitor there. I was sitting on rocks by an edge of the canyon listening to quite singing of birds, facing warm sun and cool breeze. I would look at the deep walls of the canyon dropping down with edges lit up by the Sun. Or I would close my eyes and let the other sense sharpen and form their own world. It was so relaxing and peaceful. That reminded me what photography was too me, filled my mind and soul with creativity again.
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.
There is an old joke that a human being can look indefinitely at three things: fire burning, water running and another human being working. I whole heartedly agree with each of those. Today’s post is about the second one. That’s why every spring I run around looking at waterfalls.
Especially in spring when the snow is melting in the mounting filling waterfalls with water making them more powerful. Most of all I love water running thru a forest making a new path for itself. There is something raw and uncontrollable about this.
I like photographing water because it changes its face constantly. No two image of the same place can be the same. I can take image after image and each of them is different. It keeps changing direction as a long body of an animal.
Playing with shutter speed from powerful streaks during short shutter to silky smooth during long shutter creates even more different images.
Here is a selection of images from last spring.
I had quite an interesting dialog with my seven year old son about this photo.
Adrian: Dad how did you get to capture the last ray of the Sun on the flowers.
Me: It is not a sun ray. I used flashlight to highlight the flowers as if the Sun was lighting them up.
Adrian: Cheater. It is not a real landscape. Nobody is going to buy it. People like real landscapes.
Do I really need to travel far to make photos? Just last weekend I’ve discovered a hike which is only half an hour of driving from my house and yet it has some beautiful waterfalls, creeks and alpine lakes. Well, I have not got to the lakes yet. The two times I went to that hike I got caught up too much with the waterfalls. There are four(!) waterfalls in just the first two miles of the hike.
I still see several image to be made even with closer waterfalls and with the furthest I’ve got to so far I’ve just scratched the surface so to speak. Now I plan to make it all the way just to see everything that it has to offer.
I’m still in awe if the beauty of the place I live in.
I’m still experimenting with this technique of multiple exposures over long period of time combined in one image and I like results better and better. I think I’m onto something. Look at this image. Pretty trivial and obvious composition. The first thing to note is that clouds look like they are painted.
Then I looked closely at different elements in the image and liked this technique even more. Here is a fragment of a field on the right:
And here is the tree enlarged:
Both elements look like painted. The road is the only element that remains looking as a photograph. This combination of photographic look and painting look creates quite an interesting effect. I’m eager to start printing this to see how it looks in full detail print.