It’s Time To Shoot Again

Red Barn and Farm with Ominous Clouds, near Palo, Linn County, Iowa

This scene has kind of a special place in my mind.  I have a winter shot that I took about a dozen years ago (from farther out, and more straight on), and it looks great on the computer screen, but upon close inspection it’s just not sharp enough to sell as a print.  Which is disappointing, because it would make a great panorama.  Then again, it’s not really the same now, either.  The building in front was erected a few years ago, hence the year ‘2014’ on the front.

This is about a quarter mile from my photo club location, so I see it often.  Even with the new building it’s still a good scene.  I keep saying I’m going to stop and take some more shots, yet I rarely do.  Today, after the meeting, I made a left and drove down closer to the barn itself.  There are several really good views, one of which you see here.

I did several vantage points, and I think I’ll publish more as time goes by.  I also think I’m going to go back soon after the trees have more leaves for a sightly different feel.  I always feel that the time between winter and spring is the worst time to shoot landscapes.  Everything is dusty and dingy.  This is showing the beginning of spring, and has a nice quality all its own… but I still want full leaves, too.

Road Trip: The Covered Bridge

Fisher Covered Bridge, Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt Pleasant, Isabella County, Michigan

This past weekend brought Missy and I to Michigan again.  Just a few months ago I had found a photo by another photographer of the Fisher’s Covered Bridge in Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt. Pleasant in Isabella County in Michigan.

It was about an hour drive from our base, and we enjoyed a fantastic sunrise that morning.  Just enough cloud cover to catch some orange hues as the sun rose.  We didn’t stop for any sunrise shots, though, as nothing jumped out at us.

According to the link above the original bridge was constructed in 1968.  I say ‘original’, because it burned in 1995 and was reconstructed in 1996.  It is on a steel and concrete structure, so I seriously doubt it has any “legitimate” old-time original purpose, and was maybe constructed simply for the park for aesthetic reasons.  That’s my guess, anyway, and it IS just a guess.

I will also add that Deerfield Nature Park is a very nice facility.  Hiking trails, a river, and other amenities are available.  I would highly recommend it.

Speaking of recommendations, afterward Missy and I went into town and found a local mom-and-pop restaurant for breakfast.  Stan’s (aka Stanley’s Famous Restaurant) is located downtown, and we cannot rave enough about it.  The place is busy, and for good reason.  Even while busy, we never felt neglected nor did we detect anything less than positive attitudes from the staff.  This was probably the best place either of us have experienced.  It’s basic breakfast fare… eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and so on… and it is simply fantastic.  I cannot say if we’ll ever be back to town, but if we are we know where to eat.

All of this is what makes a good road trip… good photos, interesting locations, and yes, even experiencing new places to eat.  It’s all good.

The Old and the New

The old and the new, near McCallsburg, Story County, Iowa

This photo has always been a favorite of both Missy and I.  We took this about three years ago near McCallsburg, Iowa, in Story County.  The image evokes kind of a nostalgic feel and nicely contrasts the old and the new.  That and the quality and richness of colors is what makes it so appealing, I think.  This photo is yet another example is stumbling onto something when you least expect it.

In our case, we had attended an all-day Toastmasters meeting in Ames.  We chose to take an indirect route home, avoiding the main highway and using still-nice, but rural, county roads.  Took longer, but we had the luxury of time, and we did purposely want to see new places both with photography in mind and simply just to see new things.

What’s strange, to me at least, is that in spite of how much we like this photo, we haven’t done much with it, and I cannot explain why.  I’ve never put it up on my website for sale (that will change soon).  I’ve never really displayed it, except a couple incidental publishings, and I think I entered it into a club contest once.  This needs to go on my wall.

Good HDR?

Rustic sign, Garber, Clayton County, Iowa
Rustic sign, Garber, Clayton County, Iowa

I normally don’t care for what I call “cartoonish” HDR, photos that look overly animated, if you know what I mean.  It’s a very common look for old rusted-out cars and trucks that have been left abandoned in fields.  Then what do I do?  I stumble across this old rusted-out signed nailed to a door on an abandoned building in very rural Garber, Iowa.  Then, to make it worse… or maybe better, I can’t decide… I think, “That would look good in a ‘cartoonish’ HDR.”

*sigh*  I am impossible.  I can’t ever decide or stick with one thing.  But isn’t that a good thing?  Shouldn’t we always have an open mind?  Truth be told, I still don’t care for “cartoonish” HDR, but to every rule there are exceptions.

You should note, too, that I didn’t get too wild with my “cartoonish” processing.  I’m not throwing caution to the wind.  It does look good, though.

Winter Serenity

Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan
Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan

If there is an area where my selection of photos is lacking it is winter and snow scenes.  I have a handful of really good ones, just not a whole lot.  On a recent weekend trip to Michigan for Christmas with Missy’s family I wanted to make some progress toward rectifying that.

Like so many of my shots this one was in a place where I didn’t think I was going to get much, then suddenly I look to my left and there it is.  What I think appealed to me was the combination of frost on the trees, some green from evergreens, and the rust-ish colors from leaves that haven’t fallen.  I took only two shots at this location.

Something new

Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background
Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background

Another visit to Thumb Lake, from our Michigan trip last month.   Tried something new with this shot, and wasn’t sure if it’d work out or not.  Fortunately, I think it did.  I had to look at it off-and-on for awhile, and it kept growing on me.  Plus, I had to ponder how I was going to process it, and finally decided on a somewhat minimal approach.  I did do some HDR and tonemapping, but used a preset and didn’t put a lot of thought into it.

I shot this with an 800 ISO, which leaves it a tad grainy when looking close.  The background is purposely out-of-focus.  I like how your eye is drawn to the fence rail and solitary leaf, then your eye gets drawn back into the photo to the blurry yet still distinguishable lake and autumn colors in the trees in the background.

Another aspect that appeals to me more and more is the “layered” look of the far shore(s).  The lake actually does veer off the the left behind the closest trees in the left of the frame.

The Square Format

Tree and field along US Hwy 75 in Omaha Indian Reservation, near Macy, Nebraska
Tree and field along US Hwy 75 in Omaha Indian Reservation, near Macy, Nebraska

I love the square format.  It is a little harder to compose at times, but when it works it really works.  In fact, sometimes it saves a photo, as it did here.

When I look at the 3×2 format as shot, it’s lackluster.  The fringes detract from the image and basically ruins it.  On a whim I decided to crop it to square and see what happens.  That, plus a little HDR with some tonemapping thrown in for good measure, and it really pops!

Several things speak to me in this shot.  The richness of the colors.  The colors split into defined layers, giving a sense of depth.  I feel like I can reach right in.  The opening in the bushes in the foreground act as a “leading line” to draw you in.

The Tree in the Intersection

Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa
Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa

Missy and I did another road trip this weekend… 20 hours and 591 miles… with Wesley… specifically to go see this tree.  The unofficial story behind the tree goes something like this…

Back in 1850 a surveyor cut a cottonwood sprout to use as a walking stick, later planting it in the ground to mark a section corner.  The roads were no doubt not there in 1850, but since roads are commonly laid out along section lines, the tree ended up in the intersection.  Why the tree was allowed to stay is a mystery, but allowed to stay it was.

It grew into the massive tree that still stands there today. The trunk is roughly 12 feet in diameter.  There are no markers, no signs directing you to it, but it is not all that hard to find.  I will say that the quality of the roads are questionable, though, especially after a rain and doubly especially after a rain and at 3:30 am.  It is at the intersection of 350th Street and Nighthawk Avenue, on the county line that separates Cass and Audubon Counties.  It’s also only about an 1/8 of a mile from I-80, and Nighthawk Avenue crosses the interstate, but there is no interchange.  You cannot see it from the interstate, though, as there is a hill in the way.

As far as layout, it is not conducive to good composure for photography.  We made an effort to get there before sunrise, not really knowing what we would find, and I got some decent shots, but nothing that really wowed me.  This shot was done with my 15mm rectilinear fish-eye lens.  It has the obvious curved perspective, which in this case I kind of like, so I left that part alone.  It helps add a sense of presence and location that is otherwise missed with “normal” lenses that I also used.  With this shot you really can see that the tree is truly in the middle of the intersection.

I’m going to have to think about this location and the shots I took for awhile.  I may decide to re-visit some more shots and thoughts here in the future.  And, please feel free to leave some feedback.  I’d be interested in your thoughts and perspective.


The Road Trip

IMG_4120_1_2_3_4_tonemapped-FBMissy and I took a road trip yesterday.  Our primary goal was a long abandoned one-room schoolhouse near Waukon, Iowa.  We did get some nice shots of that, and will share them later, but the best shot of the day, in our opinion, was the one shown here.

We’re tooling down… or, up, if you follow a map and the north arrow… on Hwy 150 between Vinton and Independence when the sun was coming up.  I did my patented “screech stop” and proceeded to capture some very nice sunrise shots.

You never notice how fast the sun rises until you want it to hold still for a photo?

Anyway, as you can see there was a low cloud ceiling, which gave it an interesting appeal… and also limited my available time.  When we set out I was not specifically interested in a sunrise shot.  We had the schoolhouse as our goal, but when you see something good you can’t help yourself, but to stop.

What do you think of HDR?

Apples in Allen’s Apple Orchard, Marion, Linn County, Iowa

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography isn’t exactly new, but it still seems to stir emotions.  Some love it, some hate it, and there doesn’t seem to be much opinion in between.

Personally, it has grown on me, but with some qualifications.  The primary factor for me is that it needs to look real.  No “cartoonish” effects.  I want something that resembles what I was able to see with my own eye, and HDR helps with that.

I was able to take several shots of some apples, and using HDR combine the highlights and shadows and come up with something that looked good enough to eat.