Like a Pianist

Recently (four months ago) I bought myself a new camera. Just then I understood just how much my previous camera had become an extension of me. I did not even think about controls, I just thought about picture I want and fingers did all the work.

There was a lot to learn with the new camera. I’ve read thru the manual repeating all the steps that I thought were important to me. I started making photos. I stumbled over and over, had to think about what buttons to press, what dials to turn. Many pictures went straight to trash – they were technically very bad: out of focus, under-exposed, over-exposed.

I kept practicing. I had to re-read parts of the manual because I forgot how to make certain adjustments. At last during the trip to Alberta I noticed that my fingers do all the work automatically again. It was such a pleasant feeling to be in control of the camera again. I somehow think it is similar to how pianist is playing on a piano.

Here is the final set of images from the trip.

Never Can Take the Same Photo Twice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice” – Heraclitus

There is a set of small lakes near Banff called Vermillion Lakes. They are easier to access and a nice spot for sunrise photography. I visited them several times: on my way to Abraham Lake and on the way back. They are mostly frozen during winter that is if the winter is actually cold but there are a few of hot springs coming into them that never seem to freeze up.

I found myself a nice cozy place there which I kept coming back to photograph over and over. Initially, I wanted to repeat the photo I took the first time, just with a slightly different composition. When I came the second time though I discovered that the weather changed the look completely. After that the change itself was more interesting to me. So, I kept coming to the same place to see how it looks like at sunrise or sunset, how it looks in warmer weather and in colder weather.

Here are a few photos that I like the most out of my study of the same place.

Sunrise after snowfall:

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Twilight before sunrise with warm weather:

Sunset with clear sky when the temperature dropped below 0C again. I’ve waited for this one until gradient of color reaches its peak. (BTW, I love watching Earth’s shadow moving across the sky.)

Never Give Up

I’ve just got back from a week long trip to Alberta, Canada. The trip was tiresome as it involved more driving that I wished for due to road closures.

My main destination was Abraham Lake. I was coming from Banff and was going to take Icefields Parkway to get to Abraham Lake. Unfortunately, when I got to Icefields Parkway I discovered that it was closed till at least noon of the next day due to unsafe driving conditions. The only way left to get to Abraham Lake was all the way around thru Calgary and thru the north route. That meant extra 5 hours of driving. It also meant I would unlikely make it there by sunset of that same day.

I had little choice but to drive that long way around. I got to a small ghost town called Nordegg where I had a hotel reservation just before sunset. I had a choice before me: to stay and relax for the night or to go to Abraham Lake (another half an hour driving). The sky was overcast with no breaks in the clouds.

I went to the lake anyway. I thought I at least check out ice conditions for the sunrise the next day.

I got to the Abraham Lake just after sunset. The sunset was purely theoretical as the sun was not visible thru the clouds. The wind was strong albeit warm. As I open a door a gust of wind almost knocked me over. The ice was covered with melted water. Everything seemed to tell me to get back to the hotel and be done for the day.

Nevertheless I put on spikes on my shoes, took my backpack with photo gear and tripod and went down to the ice. I always take photo gear with me, it has become part of me. Even if there was nothing happening I could take a few test shots to figure out what’s best lens, settings, filters to use and get sketches for ideas I might implement later.

I’m quite cautious person when it comes to water. I almost drowned when I was a teenager. The memory of that still makes me afraid of water. So, I carefully stepped on ice and was staying by the shore to gain some confidence. But then the last rays of the Sun broke thru somewhere beyond horizon and lit up the clouds from below. That was the kind of things I dream about as a photographer. The light was surreal violet. I forgot about my fears of water and ran in a search of bubbles frozen in ice to complete the image of surreal landscape.

Violet Sunset

Violet Sunset

Last Ray

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.

Many Faces of the Same Place

It is amazing how many different photos can be made in the same spot and of the same subject. Look at this photos for example. The same sea stack at Second Beach, just different atmospheric conditions, different light and different exposure.

And here is a couple of photos with a different angle:

Yet one more angle:

More photos of this place from my earlier trips can be found on my website: http:///www.vitphoto.com/?folio=Olympic.

Perfectionist

I’m a perfectionist in everything I do. And I’m twice perfectionist in photography. In the field I keep taking photo over and over changing my position, perfecting composition, and changing settings perfecting my exposure. In post I can spend endless hours on a single photo perfecting every pixel of it to tell a clear story with my photo.

This was the case with this photo. It looked like illuminati sign for me. The problem was that pink spot in the sky was too weak. I wanted to make it clearly visible. Except I could not get it too stand out more without color shift and without impact on surrounding clouds. I’ve spend many many hours on it, printed proof after proof all of them going to garbage.

Finally, I think I got it. One thing is that it is unlikely you’ll be able to appreciate it since it pushes the limits of what uncalibrated regular monitor can show. That’s the problem with subtle color variations. Even on my laptop where I type this post I cannot see pink in the sky. I can see it on wide gamut calibrated monitor that I use for photo editing and on prints that I produce.

Illuminati
Illuminati

Chasing the Wave

Photography for me is about having fun, experimenting, trying out. It jump starts my creativity. Many of the photographers of the past and of today talk about previsualization, trying to compose and envision photo in your head before taking a photo. For me trying to do that with every image would be a limiting factor because we can only previsualize based on experiences we already have and we won’t learn anything new, gain new experiences.

The element of “randomness” is very important for me. Seeing something for the first time is what brings me joy. So, when one evening when I was ready to photograph sunset that did not happen I looked around what else I might take pictures of. I saw waves running to the shore and surfers occasionally running the waves. And I thought what if I pan the waves by rotating camera horizontally on the tripod with long exposure.

I took one image there was something in it. I started doing more and more. It was fun since I could not predict ahead of time what the image would look like. Trial and error, trial and error. As Jai Maisel once said “there is a reason why it is not called trial and success”. Here is a couple of the best trials:

Lahaina Sunset

As I mentioned in my first post about my family’s recent trip to Hawaii I bring my photographic gear with me in case opportunity of a lifetime presents to me. I would not want to miss that. And there was such opportunity on this trip.

Most of the time I have my camera with me. Of cause I take memorable family photos with it. One afternoon we went to Lahaina for some late lunch and walk around the town. Lahaina is one of old towns on the west side of Maui with its heritage and famous Banyan tree that makes up the whole park that has become the center of the town.

We were strolling in the Banyan tree park in the warm Hawaiian evening. It was an overcast day. Our son was enjoying his Maui Rainbow shaved ice. Nothing promised a sunset. Then all of the sudden the whole sky lit up with bright red colors. It was amazing.

We rushed to the the boat harbor from the cover of trees and building to get a better look. I started taking photos along the way at least to be able to remember this sunset. Our son got onto excitement and was running ahead of us.

I did not have tripod and other stuff with me but that just made me to push myself and camera to get the best with what I had. I was using whatever I could find to steady the camera for longer exposure. I was taking panoramas handheld rotating it with my body. I was pushing ISO to get sharper images.

I’m proud of what I got. That’s one gift the Nature gave me that I did not miss.

Close by

The first place to look for photo opportunities on a family trip is of cause right next to the hotel. There was quite large area of lava rock right next to the hotel with a sandy beach next to it. Last time I made this photo of that place (Sleepy Beach) my focus was on the beach. This time I focused my attention on the lava rock.

At sunset:

At sunrise:

Never Get Tired

I never get tired of the same place. I might think I got most of the place on a single trip but after a while I want to revisit the place, see it again with new eyes, experience it with me being different than last time.

About a month ago when the weather was absolutely dreadful in Seattle as it typically is at the end of November my wife, my son and I went to Hawaii. It was a family trip but as I always do I hauled all my photo gear with me.

My focus during a family trip is of cause on family activities such as building sand castles with my son (ironically, first time I misspelled it as ‘sun’, which is very much the case, he is our son and our sun). I take all the gear with me on a family trip nevertheless just for a chance. If the Nature gives me an opportunity I would be able to use it.

My wife understands my passion for photography (after all she is into photography herself). Thus she gave me most sunrises and sunsets and was rewarded with nice breakfast and romantic nights. I was limiting my range of subjects to the ones that are close by, so, I would be back in time of my wife and my son waking up in the morning or in time to kiss my son good night in the evening.

Having such limits is an interesting challenge. It makes me find something interesting in otherwise mundane landscape; pre-visualize what place might look like at sunrise or sunset; carefully plan where to go by looking at maps and areal photos ahead of time. The limited area of travel also meant that I would visit the same places multiple times, see them in different weather and in different light.

So, get ready for a series of photos from that trip, see how I dealt with the challenge, and experience the same places in different ways.

I’ll start with this one which I really like for how the waves of clouds in the sky repeat the waves of the ocean, the row of yachts resting on the water and great light breaking thru the the clouds.