BW photograph of a tree trunk laying across a hiking trail.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was a decent rain last night, so the morning was cool, damp, and a bit foggy.

BW photograph of runoff.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given those conditions, it seemed to be a good morning to be near some water.  The sound of running water can be quite relaxing and, given the front page of today’s New York Times, it was nice to have a moment to literally step away from the news of the day.

BW photograph of runoff with a piece of paper underneath the water.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Look carefully at the photo just above.  See anything unusual?  Sometimes I deliberately look for trash…in most cases, it is not hard to find (see below).  At other times, especially when I am searching for different subject matter or a different experience, my brain completely disregards what is there-this is a form of selective attention.  For the photograph just above, I was intent on getting the desired composition, which required some artful footwork on slippery roots and rocks.  Once in place, and with the exposure dialed, that image was made.  It was not until I was processing the image that the whitish rectangle at the lower left was noticed…nature does not do such shapes.   From a photographic perspective, there are two points to be made here:  One, once you have your composition, look away from the camera for an instant to clear your head-in other words, turn off the “creative” brain.  Then, look again with the “critical” brain.  (As an important aside, please read this.) Is there anything in the composition that is not wanted?  Two, work the scene with multiple compositions.  I had used a slightly different camera position for some earlier shots, one of which is the second image posted above, which does not include the offending rectangle.  Given that I was not looking for trash this morning, I was glad to have the tighter composition-that is more representative of my feeling at the time, and for what I was looking.  I guess a third point would be that the image could  be cropped to remove the offending object…but get it “right” in camera.

BW photograph of Morgan Run after a rain.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Back to the walk…I continued on until reaching another of my favourite places for photographing running water.  I have photographed this scene many, many times as I like getting a touch of rock in the foreground to anchor the image, while still extending into the distance toward the soft, foggy, light.  The slow shutter speed blurred the rushing water. Quite nice.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a twisted plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle stuck between a root and a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What was not so nice was the trash left behind by others.

BW photograph of a pair of broken sunglasses laying near a root.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It also seems to have been a rough few days for sunglasses…

The conclusion?  It is useful to find ways to relax amid this stressful, stressful time.  Sometimes that also means, literally and figuratively, looking past that which is annoying so as to not spoil the moment.

Be safe and well.

Follow-Up

April 13, 2020

BW photograph of the interior structure of a tulip.

2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the same tulip from the previous post.  Being in the warmer indoors allowed the flower to fully open.  I will also photograph it once it, too, begins to fade.

This is another metaphor.  With regard to news, it is helpful to follow a story throughout to its natural conclusion.  Too often, once the splash of the headlines fade, the story is forgotten.  With regard to virology, once the pandemic ends, interest in the bug responsible (mostly) evaporates-at least for the general public, politicians, and pharmaceutical companies.  Such appears to be the case with coronaviruses-SARS and MERS preceded COVID-19.  The New Yorker published this, which provides a more detailed history of how such viruses work and the efforts to develop treatment protocols to address them.  The final paragraph of the article, a quote from Dr. David Ho, encapsulates the point.

Please be safe and well.

Storytelling

March 27, 2020

BW photograph of a light standard in an empty parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Storytelling is essential to any culture.  This is one way to convey the history and traditions of a group from one generation to the next.  The questions become, which stories to tell?  From which perspective? What is embellished, and what is removed? What is the point?

There are many stories from which to spin from the photograph above.  What do you see?  Does the day, date, and time make a difference?  It is certainly does capture a reality, but is it also a metaphor?  If so, of what?

From a purely photographic standpoint, why this particular composition?  Why B&W?

Take care and be well.

Staying Indoors?

March 24, 2020

BW photograph of a single white daisy against a black background.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One of the true advantages of photography is the extremely wide variety of subject matter.  That is complemented by a similar wide variety in the manner by which to present those subjects.  The above could be considered a “studio portrait”.  A single flower was placed in a small vase, which was wrapped in black fabric, and then set against a black background (a fleece jacket).  That the flower is white provided the desired contrast.  The equivalent of a 75mm focal length lens was used.  A small LED light was held to the upper left (from the photographer’s perspective) and slightly above and in front of the flower.  The shadow would have fallen to the right and behind the flower were it visible.  Setting the black point in Photoshop smoothed-out the background.

BW photograph of a back-lit single daisy.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the same flower.  However, I added a close-up diopter to the same lens to allow for a closer point of focus.  The other major change, obviously, is the lighting.  This time, I held the same small LED behind the flower (“backlighting”), which is quite nice for the production of a dramatic effect.

A bunch of years ago, I used to teach a number of photography courses-one of which dealt with macro photography.  The capstone assignment for that class was to make a photograph of something found in the refrigerator; however, any object from any room could be used.

This is a nice, contemplative, way to spend some time.

Take care.

Creation

January 27, 2020

BW photograph of a single mum as a still life.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A photograph for a chilly, damp, overcast late January day.

One of the advantages of photography is the ability to create a feeling, a mood.  The ability to set the parameters is completely under the photographer’s control when making a still life.  Everything, from subject selection to the lighting, can be modified to suit the desired image.

Take care

 

Interpretation

November 17, 2019

Colour photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There really is a fundamental choice between working in colour and working in BW.  One of those points worth considering is how the viewer will interpret the image.  For example, in the photograph above, it is readily apparent that this is light at the extreme of a day-it happens to be a sunset, although it could have been a sunrise.  (This scene, though, is looking west, so that would be a giveaway that this is a sunset.)  The tell-tale colours make the point.  The hues provide a sense of “warmth”, which may then produce a feeling of comfort.

BW photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

If, however, you take the same scene, but create a BW image, the visual clue of the colour is eliminated.  The tonal qualities of the clouds could now be signifying incoming weather.  This is a much starker rendition and creates a very different “feel” to the scene.  To me, it is still beautiful, though.  I like the purity that comes with BW.

It is important to know that neither photograph presents the “reality” of the moment.  The colour photograph was made using the Velvia emulation, which produces very saturated colours-they were not quite this rich.  The BW version was made using the Acros emulation with a green filter to darken the clouds a bit.  Most see in colour, so a BW photograph automatically changes the perception of the viewer.  The focal length used also provided a narrower field of view than would the human eye.  In both cases, to avoid over-exposing the sky, the foreground elements were allowed to record as deep shadows/silhouettes-the eye has a much broader dynamic range and could therefore present much greater detail in those darker areas.  I am fine with the silhouettes.  There are a number of techniques that could be used to hold detail in both the sky and the foreground, but I do not like to do so.  These images are more dramatic.

At this point in my career, I tend to immediately think about the BW version of any scene.  My cameras are configured to align with that preference.  Therefore, it takes a conscious effort to make the changes necessary to create a colour image.  (Sometimes, I neglect to do so as it does not occur to me.)  That is one of the advantages of shooting digital-one camera provides all of the options.  When shooting film, I often carried two bodies-one with colour slide film (Velvia, when photographing the natural world), and one with BW film (usually, TMAX 100).  That system was useful, but sometimes created a problem with the lens I wanted being paired with the film I didn’t.

It is helpful for the photographer to have a clear intent in mind for the final image.  That may, or may not, include the interpretations of the view.

Take care.

Squall

November 8, 2019

BW photograph of a snow squall looking into the rising sun.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Awoke to a 34 degree morning that had followed some rain yesterday.  Therefore, it was damp and a bit chilly.  As if on cue, a snow squall blew in.

Photographer’s note:  The lighter dots in the above photograph are the reverse of what specks of dust on a sensor would look like.  As such, they can be quite an annoyance and are one reason to be careful when changing lenses in the wild.  In this photograph, though, those spots are snowflakes, which have been dodged a little to be more visible (Dodging is a darkroom technique to lighten content.  Burning is the opposite-that is used to darken content.).  Interestingly, if you change the seasons and swap the sun for the moon, then the snowflakes could be fireflies.

BW photograph of some downed leaves against a log with a light dusting of the first snow of the season.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was the first snow for the area and created quite a peaceful scene.  I like when there is a blending of the icons that mark the transitions between seasons.

BW photograph of a downed tree with rocks and leaves in the foreground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a downed tree leading into some brush.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was ample evidence, though, of the damage wrought by the wind storms that had blown though the area in the not too distant past.

Perhaps all of this is a foreshadowing of the winter yet to come.

Time will tell.

Take care.

More Blue

November 3, 2019

BW photograph of several brick structures.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The cold front that moved into the area made for a nicely sunny, but bracing, morning.  It was a good day for a walk.

BW photograph of a newly renovated building.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The two photographs here are more examples of the use of a red filter to darken blue skies.  Having white buildings creates strong contrast while the direct sun forms well-defined shadows; both of which produce a full ranges of tones that make for pleasing BW photography.

Take care.

Choices

August 25, 2019

BW photograph of Devil's Den on a clear morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The other night’s thunderstorm cleared the humidity and knocked down the temperatures-nice conditions to be outside.  The above photograph is of Devil’s Den, which is on the Gettysburg battlefield.  This was the composition I had in mind on the drive there-the rock formations appear as giant stepping stones leading from the lower left to the upper right, which pulls the eye across the frame.  The lichen on the rocks contrasts nicely with the middle tones of the rock and the darkness of the sky (which was created by using the red filter in the Acros film simulation and a polarizer), and serve as a leading line that also crosses the frame.  The morning sun was high enough to showcase the textures, but not direct enough to wash them away.  Absolutely perfect conditions for this photo-that is one reason to pay attention to weather forecasts and climatic conditions.  This scene would look very different with a uniformly overcast, grayish, sky.  Most importantly, it would not have yielded the desired image.

BW photograph looking down a bridge span on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Aside from the obvious difference in subject matter in these two photos, the ambient conditions are also quite different.  This photograph was made the morning after the one above, and was created prior to the sun clearing the trees.  It was cool and foggy, so the light was quite soft-the relative absence of clearly defined shadows is indicative of this, as is the whitish sky in the distance.  The converging lines are what pulls the eye through this photo and conveys a sense of distance.  This is a fairly pedestrian (meaning that this is a common angle) image, but one that I like nonetheless.

BW photograph of a section of bridge highlighting the rivet work.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A detail image of the same bridge highlighting the rail and diagonal span.  In one sense, the diagonal movement is the opposite of that of the eye when reading English-that is, it leads the eye from the right to the left and so introduces just a bit of tension to the image.  It is also possible, though, to view that same line as moving on a downward diagonal from the left to the right-this restores a sense of balance.  It is important to note that some cultures read right to left, which reverses the points being made here.  Adding in the flat railing introduces another dimension.  When making the photograph, I saw the flat railing as leading the eye from left to right (that “reading” point again) across the bottom of the frame, with the span then making a sharp upward movement back to the left and out of the frame.  This, too, can be reversed.  The downward diagonal to the right, then flat across the frame to the left.  In any case, the vertical tension wires close the frame at the left, essentially creating a triangle.  A third option is to view both the diagonal and the horizontal as meeting at a point to the lower right.  It can be interesting to pay attention to the initial response created by the mind’s eye when viewing a photograph.  Should the image lend itself, it is worth forcing the brain to take a different look.  From a compositional standpoint, the photographer does well to consider the manner by which to engage the viewer-is there to be a focus (literally and figuratively) on one point in a photograph, or is the viewer encouraged to roam through the entirety of the scene?  Both have their applications-the photographer has to decide.

Finally, there are no people in these photographs.  That, too, was by design.  In fact, I had to wait in the making of the lead photo for some visitors to clear the area.  Frequent readers (thank you very much!) will have taken notice that the images presented are most often characterized by that lack of personage.  This is one reason for arising early and getting to where I want to go-folks tend to sleep later.  I like the emotional impact of that absence-it can be possible to interject feelings as disparate as loneliness or solitude depending on the current disposition of the viewer.  Again, what is included or excluded is up to the photographer.

Choices must be made.  This is part of what separates photographs from snapshots-not that there is anything wrong with the latter.

Take care.

Out of the Rabbit Hole

August 19, 2019

BW photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In the previous post, I mentioned “going down the rabbit hole“.  I usually attach a negative connotation to that phrase-it is for situations over which there is little or no felt control.  One of the ways I deal with that feeling, as a means of regaining control and perspective if you will, is to take a road trip, often in search of roadside or farmer’s markets. The sensory stimulations of fresh produce are rejuvenating to the spirit.

Colour photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As with sunrises and sunsets, sometimes it is helpful to also use the colour version of the file.  The BW version, arguably, gives the viewer a bit more about which to think.

Take care.