Spark

December 14, 2018

BW photograph of trees silhouetted againt the rising sun.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When going to the mountains for a hike, I am often up-and-out of the house and on my way well before sunrise-this becomes more of a task when temperatures are below freezing and it is still fully dark.  However, the trade-off is the stillness and solitude that has been written about previously.  Still, it feels like a bit of a slog when first starting out and much effort is involved in getting the legs moving.  The morning when these photos were made was certainly no different in that regard.

BW photograph of trees silhouetted againt the rising sun.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, what was different, or perhaps better stated as being more noticeable or remarkable, was how energized I became when setting up the camera for these photos.  The brain engaged to manage the process of composition and exposure-the intentionality of photography drives selective attention to make all else fade away.  (Photographer’s note:  the image directly above is the same general composition as the one leading off this post.  The only difference is a pan to the right to include the closer tree, which is why it appears to be more prominent.  This cue adds a bit more depth to the composition.)

BW photograph of trees in front of a vertical rock formation early in the morn.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Back in the day (and I am old enough to use that phrase…), there was a distinct thrill that occurred when watching the image appear in the developing tray when working in a chemical darkroom. (The chorus of the song “Anticipation” is playing in my head as I type this.)  That kick is the result of a bit of dopamine being released in the brain, which has been referred to as a “dopamine squirt”.  Working digitally changed that as one no longer has to wait to see the results-they appear almost instantaneously on the monitor of the camera.  The kick remains the same, though.  This is especially true given that I work (mostly) in B&W now, which presents an image quite different from what is seen with the naked eye.

BW photograph of an overlook into a valley between two trees.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

After having worked in B&W (in both film and digital mediums) for so long now, I have the ability to pre-visualize the scene as greyscale and not colour.  Of course, one only has to snap a test photo to see the difference a B&W emulation makes when using a digital camera.  Still, there is that spark of creativity that comes from seeing a scene, mentally creating the B&W interpretation, and then doing the work to realize the image as conceived.  That aspect is what makes the process just as important as the final image.

Take care.

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Themes and Variations

October 1, 2018

BW photograph of an overcast sky looking out toward Thurmont from Hog Rock.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A theme is a common thread that is woven throughout a body of work.   This blog contains posts that address several themes:  climate change and trash are two of the major subjects.  Being in the mountains is another.

A variation reflects a modification of some sort-something is added or taken away or presented in a different fashion.

I have written before about photographing the water at Morgan Run.  It is quite difficult to take the exact same photograph-even with using the continuous drive setting on a camera.  While the theme remains the same (Morgan Run), each image is a variation due to the instantaneous changing of the water as it flows.

The same can be said for the atmospheric conditions when looking out from the Catoctin Mountains.  The photograph above was made this past weekend.  If there are any clouds in the sky, they are often morphing into new shapes and sizes.  If the wind is blowing, they may move across the frame.  During a sunrise, such as this one, the light on and behind the clouds alters the illumination.  There may be crepuscular rays.  Variations all.

This is, in part, why I look forward to visiting the “same” places time after time.

Take care.

Flora and Fauna

September 18, 2018

BW photograph of the Hog Rock Trail heading toward Cunningham Falls on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One of the other real advantages to being up and out before the sunrise is that you get to experience the waking up of the world around you.  Yes, in some situations this means more people, and more cars, and more mechanical noise.  Out in the woods, though, this changes.  For example, the various species of birds begin to sing their songs.  The aroma of the air and the texture of the ground underfoot change.  Various plants open and/or reorient themselves.  It is quite a sensory experience.

BW photograph of the split end of a tree limb laying on the ground.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Speaking of such, I am currently reading A Year in the Maine Woods by Dr. Bernd Heinrich.  The author is able to provide ample details as to which species makes which sounds and when or which tree is in which stage of development.  He is quite learned and has put extraordinary effort into being so.  Early in my photographic career, I spent quite a bit of time attempting to develop such knowledge.  Arguably, as per photographer John Shaw, being a well-informed naturalist would be as asset in the pursuit of photography.  This is most certainly true for one making specific photographs of particular species-you can learn when to be where for the desired image.  On the other hand, I have gotten to a point where I do not need to know which species are making what sounds as I am not interested in that degree of selectivity in my photography.  I prefer a greater degree of serendipity to my process-I wander and photograph what catches my eye.  However, I absolutely need to know that the species are.

This latter point is quite important, because we are in an age, the Anthropocene, which may very well mean they aren’t.

Please be sure to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThis is Ms. Kolbert’s The New Yorker article addressing the same topic.

Take care.

Greys

August 23, 2018

BW photograph of an overcast day in Mercer, ME.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having deep distinct blacks and bright white highlights provide the end-point contrast for striking BW photography.  However, the gradations throughout the middle-tone greys are necessary to provide the full range of tones for this medium.  Otherwise, you would have what BW photographers refer to as the “chalk and soot” look.

BW photograph of an old Ford tractor with a front end loader.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The black-grey-white transitions, combined with the absence of colour, which is often overworked via the Saturation controls in photo-editing software, provides a sense of purity, a sense of “completeness”, to the imagery.

Take care.

Fallen

June 9, 2018

BW photograph of a fallen, broken, tree.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Over the past few months, and especially recently, many images of deadfall and the result of the interaction between weather and trees have been posted and discussed.  The one above is in keeping with those themes.  As this is being written, the sky is darkening as the latest round of thunderstorms is building.

Photographically, diagonal lines can draw the viewer’s attention.  While vertical and horizontal lines imply stability, diagonal lines induce a bit of tension in a scene.  The tension in this particular photograph, though, has already been released as the tree has fallen.   Still, there remains a bit of drama as the tree is neither vertical nor completely horizontal.

The existential question remains:  did it make a sound when it fell?

Take care.

Ellicott City et al

May 29, 2018

BW photograph of flood debris along Big Hunting Creek.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Pursuant to the last post regarding the power of water, Ellicott City, MD experienced what will most likely be labeled its second “1 in a 1,000 year” floods within the past two years on Sunday.  The discussion of re-building and how to mitigate this pattern has begun anew.  The storm standards and the manner by which to meet them is reminiscent of the debates that have continued since the devastation of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  For those in Ellicott City, one can only imagine the difficulty of sorting the emotional and economic impact of facing these decisions after such a relatively short period of time.

On a related note, NOAA has forecast a “…near-or above-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.”  Importantly,  the first named storm of the 2018 season, Alberto, has already hit the Southeast portion of the U.S.

Both of these events (Ellicott City and Alberto) have cost lives and have created enormous damage in their respective areas of impact.

Shutter speed tricks cannot smooth that away.

Take care.

Weather Whiplash

May 24, 2018

BW photograph of a tree's shadow cast over a dry portion of Morgan Run rock field.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

During the month of May 2018, we have had heat (several days of record-setting temperatures) followed by cold-or what certainly felt cold after those highs.  The comment about “felt” is a key clarification, as everything is relative.  The “just noticeable difference”, or Weber’s Law, is the amount of change required to be remarkable a certain percentage of the time.  While I am not sure the exact temperature gradient for the just noticeable difference, going from 90 degrees to the 60s or 70s was certainly noticeable.

BW photograph of Morgan Run after days of heavy rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Over the past week or so there has been much rain, which resulted in localized flooding.  The dry stone patch photographed in the lead image above is to the lower right corner in the above photo of Morgan Run and covered by water.

BW photograph of Big Hunting Creek after several days of heavy rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The above photograph is Big Hunting Creek, which is in Thurmont, Maryland.

This recent article from The Baltimore Sun summarizes the recent amounts of rain for various regions in Maryland.

BW photograph of water run-off after torrential rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Frederick, MD was hit especially hard.

The manner by which to creating the smooth, almost dreamy effect of the water will be explained below.  Importantly, though, while this can be beautiful for imagery, it very much masks the enormous power of so much water falling for such an extended period of time.

BW photograph of a section of tree trunk laying along an embankment after a flood.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That was quite a chunk of tree deposited along the bank of Morgan Run.

BW photograph of tree debris against an overpass after heavy rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of tree debris against an overpass after heavy rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 

BW photograph of tree debris against an overpass after heavy rains.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trees in rocky soil or those along river banks often have shallow root systems.  Given the saturation of the ground and the extraordinary height and weight that mature trees possess, once they start to list, gravity will then finish the job.  Should they fall into the water, the current will carry the trees downriver until blocked.  The above photographs were made in Thurmont, MD. and are multiple images of the same tree.

BW photograph of a sycamore root system after it has fallen against an overpass.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This sycamore was in Detour, MD.  Detour sits in a hollow along the Monocacy River-in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes went through the area, the town of Detour was itself inundated by the floodwaters of the Monocacy leaving its banks.

BW photograph of a fallen sycamore tree against an overpass.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While it was not evident that this occurred at this time, it was still hazardous to be out and about.

As an aside, while this post was being drafted, it was again raining hard.

Today, as the blog is being posted, it is sunny and in the 80s again.

Weather Whiplash.

Take care.

Photographic Note:  It takes a slow shutter speed to create the smoothed-out texture of the water shown here.  Having a voluminous amount of water that is running quite fast is a good start.  To that, add a smallish aperture (f/8 in these cases), both a polarizer (to remove glare) and a neutral density filter (to cut more light), and as low an ISO (200 or 400 in these cases-the extra stop provided by the higher ISO was sometimes desired to create a not-such-a-long shutter speed) as possible, and the shutter speed is easily reduced to about 30 seconds or so.