I recently began working on a personal photo project. I wanted to create a series of black and white dandelion pictures. I chose black and white because it helps me focus on composition. I also wanted to avoid the usual clichés. Here are a few of my favorite images from this ongoing project:
The Alum Hallow Trail is located just south of the Madison County Nature Trail at 14032 S Shawdee Rd. SE, Huntsville, AL. A description can be found on the MTB Project site.
Click here for driving directions.
Here are a few images I made on a recent trip.
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is located in Pinson, Alabama. It is a beautiful spot for nature photos and some swimming.
A few of my favorite photography books listed by author and titles
“A Beautiful Anarchy”
“The Visual Toolbox”
“The Art of Photography”
“Essence of Photography: Seeing and Creativity”
The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
Picture This: How Pictures Work
When I was a teenager I would look at the National Geographic and Popular Photography magazines and dream of going to exotic locations to take pictures. I took many imaginary trips through the images displayed in those magazines. There is nothing wrong with wanting to travel and capture great images but it makes us ignore the fact that beautiful pictures can be created anywhere including your “backyard”.
Begin by exploring places that are close by. For example, my wife Sonia loves flowers and has a variety of them around the house and in the garden. Flowers can be a good subject for your photography.
Walk around your neighborhood you may be surprised by the places and things that can create a good image.
A short time after I moved here I discovered that the Aldridge Creek Greenway was a short walk from the house. I have literally taken thousands of pictures there under different weather conditions and time of day.
You do not have to leave Huntsville to find create find great photo locations. Some of my local favorites are
1. Monte Sano State Park
2. Burritt Museum
3. U.S. Space and Rocket Center
4. Big Spring Park
5. Huntsville Botanical Garden
6. Madison Nature Trail
7. Hays Nature Preserve
8. Ditto Landing
These local sites and many more can be found in Trip Advisor’s Things to Do in Huntsville page.
Within a few hours’ drive from Huntsville you can find a great number of photographically interesting spots:
1. The covered bridges in Blount County
2. Palisades Park in Oneonta
3. Cathedral Caverns
4. De Soto Falls
5. Dismals Canyon
A list of state parks can be found here
So do not be discouraged by the fact that you have not be able to travel to the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower. There is plenty of local beauty to be found. Even if you are a world traveler it’s hard to ignore what you have right in your backyard.
If you enjoy photographing nature you should pay a visit to Dismals Canyon. Dismals Canyon describes itself as a “Natural Conservatory”. It is located in Phil Campbell, Alabama. Details can be found at their website www.dismalscanyon.com.
The canyon is about 1.5 miles long. The “Dismals Branch” stream flows through it. There are many scenic spots and a few waterfalls of different sizes as you walk along the stream. I suggest that you wear shoes that you do not mind getting wet or muddy. An extra pair of shoes and socks to wear when you have finished the hike is a good idea.
Sonia, my wife, and I visited the canyon on a partially cloudy day. I found, that even with some clouds in the sky, the light in the canyon had very strong contrast. Probably more that the camera sensor can handle. As you take your images I suggest that you use the histogram on your camera to determine your exposures and decide whether you want to lose some of the highlights or some of the shadows when you capture your image. You may want to bracket your exposure and decide later which image you like best. If you are familiar with creating HDR images this is probably a good place to employ this technique.
The amount of light can vary dramatically in the canyon. I set my camera to Auto-ISO and the ISO varied from 200 to 3200 from one area of the canyon to another. Because of the low light in some areas using a tripod can be a good idea. I am planning to take a tripod on my next visit to deal with the low light and create some blurry pictures of the waterfalls.
I would recommend taking a wide angle zoom or prime lens on your trip. Most of the scenery lends itself to a wide field of view. I used my Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens for most of the images I took. This lens provided a wide field of view and a fast aperture to deal with the low light spots. A short telephoto would be handy if you want to take some portraits while you are there.
Below are a few pictures from my trip. They really do not do the beauty of the landscape justice.
The dictionary defines a constraint as “a limitation or restriction”. So why would we want to create our artwork with constraints? Many photographers, myself included, when we decide to go on a photo walk or other adventure pack our camera bag with a variety of lenses and maybe more than one camera body. As we begin creating our images we start to wonder what lens should I use? What focal length should I use? What aperture should I use? The list can go on forever. After a while this leads to “creative paralysis”.
Many photographers, David duChemin, among them that suggests that using constraints can be good for our creative soul. For example, if you decide to use a prime lens and a single camera then you can focus on creating your images instead of what camera gear you need to use.
On my walk today I decided to use my Lumix GX85 with a 25mm lens (50mm equivalent) and to shoot in black and white. This frees my mind for the important work of composition.
I am not claiming I created any masterpieces but I have a lot less excuses for the quality of my images
If you have some time take a look at David duChemin’s article: The Power of Constraints. Another good article on the topic can be found here: How Creative Constraints Can Improve Your Photos
A few weeks ago I shared one of my images with a professional photographer. As he looked at my picture the first thing he said was “What am I looking at?”. It struck me as a little curious at first but when I thought about it it became clear. As I looked at the picture it became clear that it did not have a clear subject.
So I had to ask myself the same question. What is the subject of this image? After some thought I decided that the water towers were the subject. I did some post-processing in Lightroom to emphasize that fact.
The moral of the story, of course, is that we should ask ourselves when we take a picture what is the subject of our image and if we have done enough to guide others to the same conclusion.
I was reviewing my favorite images from last month and I noticed that there is a common theme: reflections on water.
Trees reflected on Aldrige Creek
Trees reflected in a puddle. A friend mentioned it reminded them of the “Upside Down” from Stranger Things.
All photos were taken with the Olympus EM5 MkII and the 14-150mm lens.
Last Saturday we had a couple of photography workshops at Lake Gunthersville State Park.
During the workshops we took some time to go to different sites of the park and take some pictures. There were plenty of deer running around the park.
The lake provides some beautiful scenery. There are a couple of overlooks you can take pictures from.
The day ended with a great sunset. By then the battery on my camera had died so I took the last set of pictures with my phone.
You can find information on the park and their programs here. You can find additional pictures in the Lake Gunthersville gallery