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: