Thursday, September 27, 2012

Adventures in Photography: Snowies on Thanksgiving

It was Thanksgiving morning 2011. While many people were still sleeping, my dad and I were walking along a beach at sunrise. We were looking for snowy owls. As we made our way down the beach, we found a snowy perched on a pole, overlooking some grass lands.

While observing from a safe distance, we met one of my favorite photographers, who is also a snowy owl expert. He cautioned us on how to safely approach a snowy owl. His advice was to stay low, move slow, be quiet and don’t get too close (not closer than 50 feet).

After watching the owl for a while, we moved further along the beach. There were some duck hunters, who were cooking up a storm in the back of their truck. They greeted us cheerfully and offered us some ham and eggs. As we chatted with them, they began to cook tuna fritters. This was their Thanksgiving tradition.

One of the hunters had been a cook in the Navy. He knew his way around a camp stove. The tuna fritters were one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had. Even at 7AM! As we enjoyed the culinary delights, the astronomical high tide began to set in. Soon, the hunter’s truck was surrounded by water. It was time to leave.

My dad and I hitched a ride with the snowy owl expert, but first we had to get to his truck. On the way to the truck, we crossed a flooded section of the beach. As we picked our way from dry spot to dry spot, we spotted a snowy, not far from us. The owl was in a gnarled, old cedar tree and it had perfect early morning light shining upon it. Behind the owl was a mix of blue sky and fast moving, softly lit clouds. This was an amazing opportunity to photograph a snowy owl. Everything had come perfectly together.

We moved our tripods into position and gladly stood in ankle deep water to make the image. We spent a fantastic few minutes with this owl until it was spooked by a passing truck. This was a surreal moment that I will never forget!

Driving off the beach, we spotted a snowy owl at a great distance. As we observed it, another owl attacked it! The snowies flew into the air and had a fast moving, talon to talon aerial battle. The owl expert said that he had never seen such a display in all of his years of studying snowy owls. My dad and I were very lucky to have witnessed it!

This turned out to be one of my favorite adventures in 2011. Spending time with my dad, meeting one of my favorite photographers and enjoying gourmet seafood while photographing snowy owls was fantastic!

This month’s tip: Set goals for yourself as a photographer. Learn new techniques and try new styles of photography. This will improve your photography and hopefully inspire you at the same time. Greg Lessard is a professional photographer. You can meet him and view his exhibit “The Year of the Snowy Owl” on November 3, at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s North River Sanctuary in Marshfield.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tuscan Twilight

On my recent trip to Italy, I was able to photograph the sunset from high atop Montelpulciano. This Tuscan hill town has a commanding view in all directions. To the west is the beautiful Val D'Orcia.

The Val D'Orcia is legendary for amazing pastoral landscapes. Winding roads leading through rolling hills and fields of wheat make for unparalleled landscape opportunities. After the sun had set, beautiful colors played across the sky and the land. I spent a long time watching the last light of day play across the land. It was a fantastic evening!

Montepulciano was recently featured in the Twilight series of movies. It is easy to see why. Less than an eighth of a mile away from this overlook was the clock tower where Edward tried to reveal himself as a vampire. A nearby cafe shows many photos of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson enjoying pastries. Fortunately, I didn't encounter any vampires...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall Photography (Its not all about the foliage)

Last night I made a presentation on fall photography to my friends at the South Shore Camera Club. It was great to catch up with some old friends and meet so many new people! We talked about many things including the use of polarizers, how to find the best foliage and how to take advantage of different types of light in your fall photography.

After the presentation on fall photography, I presented a slide show of some of my favorite images from my recent trip to Italy. Then we discussed how to keep our camera equipment safe while traveling abroad. This was done in anticipation of the club's upcoming trip to Italy.

The image posted here was made seven years ago. The fresh snow on the fall landscape made for an outstanding juxtaposition between fall and winter. The reflection combined with the three trunks of the tree make for a compelling composition. This has been one of my favorite and best selling images. I was very fortunate to be prepared with my camera on my way to work. The tree fell later that winter. Thank you again to the SSCC for hosting me last night!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Passage of Time...

This image is a confluence of ancient history and modern day. As I stood in front of the Coliseum, I couldn't help but think of all the famous events and people that filled this mighty arena. It was possible that I was standing in a spot where Julius Caesar may have stood. He was killed less than a mile away. Nero once owned the land that I stood on. He burned this spot to make room for a larger palace and he blamed all Christians, including St. Peter for the fire. He eventually had St. Peter crucified. Once the truth was discovered, Nero had himself killed...

This site was ripe with the energy of time and history. How does one capture these thoughts in a photograph? All photographs are time capsules. They are a capture of a moment in time. For this image, with these thoughts, it seemed appropriate to capture more than a snapshot. I put my neutral density filter on and darkened the last light of dusk, to allow for a 30 sec capture. The buses and cars streaked through the image leaving trails of color and represnting time. These 30 seconds are a mere pittance compared to the nearly two millenia that the Coliseum has stood, but those thirty seconds were my chance to connect with history...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Adventures in Photography: Reflections of the Past

For many years I have been inspired by some photographs in one of my favorite local Italian restaurants. Every time I dined there, I would gaze at the images of the Coliseum in Rome and St. Mark’s Square in Venice and wish I could be there too. This summer I finally visited these places of my dreams.

Having studied the images in the restaurant so many times, I have every detail of them memorized. When I was actually standing in these locations it was difficult to conceive of a different way to photograph these iconic locations.

Photographing iconic locations can be fantastic. Standing in the same spot that master photographers stood at and created great images in the past, is a wonderful way to study the craft of photography. Simply trying to recreate masterpiece images is a great way to improve your skills and understanding of photography.

Another step towards improving as a photographer is to visit iconic locations and create new images. This is harder than it may seem. Iconic locations have been photographed and painted thousands, if not millions of times. Finding a new way to portray them can seem nearly impossible.

On my recent trip to Rome, I was able to visit the Coliseum multiple times. On the first and second visit, I made images that were similar to those that I had seen before. I was happy with those images, but I knew that I had not added anything of my own to the scene.

On my third visit to the Coliseum, I went after a late afternoon rainstorm. Stormy weather often provides the opportunity to create great images. I was not disappointed. I started with some street photography in front of the Coliseum. I kept my shutter open for 20-30 seconds and allowed the traffic to zoom through the frame with bright tail and headlights. These images were very pleasing to me, but I was standing next to another photographer who was making similar images. I knew my images would be unique, but I could only imagine how many times similar images had been created before.

Crossing the street, I headed towards Constantine’s Arch to search for a new composition. I didn’t have to go far before I found a large puddle reflecting the Coliseum in all of its glory. I studied the scene for a few moments and decided to photograph only the reflection. The puddle thinned out at the top of the frame making it look almost like a river flowing into a lake. I placed that thin part of the puddle in the upper right corner to pull the viewer’s eye into the image.

After making a few images of the reflection, a Russian lady asked me what I was waiting to see. I showed her the reflection and the image that I had made. She was very surprised to see something that was right in front of her. Like most people, she had probably only looked at the Coliseum in the same ways that we have always seen it.

This month’s tip: Try seeing familiar locations in new ways. View them from above or below your normal vantage point. Visit these locations at different times of day or in different seasons. Look at them upside down. You may just find some art in your everyday life.
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