Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Louisiana Road Trip

Grace, Beauty, Spirit
The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and fire.                               
--Sharon Rails Lemon   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Favorite Places

The Ouachita from Indian Lookout

The Ouachita River crosses the southeast corner and constitutes part of the boundary of ULM's Charles Allen Biological Station. This is the view from Indian Lookout, a point on the bluffs overlooking the river.

For those who are curious, "Ouachita" comes from two Choctaw words: ouac = buffalo + chito = large. The river rises in the Ouachita Mountain region of western Arkansas where herds of buffalo roamed the prairies. It crosses Louisiana at an angle and flows into the Red River.

When I first moved to Louisiana, I missed the brilliant fall colors of the mountain ridges in central Pennsylvania where I had been living for seven years and the brilliant fall colors of southeastern Iowa where I grew up. But the longer I am here, the more I appreciate the subtle winter colors of Louisiana, in this photo, the tree on the point with its copper leaves still attached, the blush of red in the bushes below, the tinges of red and green in the trees on the other side.

This January day a cold wind came off the river and numbed my nose and fingers. It's hard to take pictures with gloves on! Looking forward to going back when the weather is balmier.

Photographer's Journal


I should know the name of this tree! We have lots of them in Louisiana, and I found this one on the steep side of a hill on ULM's Charles Allen Biological Station down by Copenhagen. 

Because I was standing on a trail perhaps 10 feet above the base of the tree, I was eye-level with a section of the trunk that would normally be way above my head. This particular kind of tree I can't name at the moment has flat, silver-gray bark that is always mottled with lichens, some of which are a lovely subtle shade of sage green.

However, this photo is a black & white conversion with just a touch of sepia toning added to warm the monochrome a bit. This treatment seemed to enhance the modeling effect of the low angle sunlight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's Happening

Iced Tree

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Golden Ratio

Orderly Ivy

Right now in my online photographer's mentorship program, we are working with models and guidelines for composition. The most interesting and detailed one is the Golden Ratio, also often called the Golden Mean or the Golden Spiral. 

It is based on Phi, a proportion or ratio that occurs everywhere in nature and has been used by artists and architects at least since the classical era. The Greeks used it to build the Parthenon, but it was Italian mathematician Fibonacci of the Middle Ages who wrote about the numbers in a widely acclaimed and used book about mathematics.

The Golden Ratio is 1:1.618. It can be turned into a grid, a spiral or a series of numbers. Just Google "Golden Ratio" or "Fibonacci numbers" and you will find dozens of examples, not only of how to create a grid or spiral but of where it occurs in nature and how it has been used in art and design.

My favorite is probably this one: Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci and Being a Plant

I did not get out a ruler to check, but I'm pretty sure the Golden Ratio is represented in my "orderly ivy" in the sizes of the leaves, in the sizes of the lobes of each leaf, and in the lengths of the segments of the vein network.

If you get out a ruler and determine that I'm wrong, please be sure to let me know!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gems of the Sea

Now here's an actual underwater photo I took with the Nikonos II I'm using for the selfy I posted yesterday. The "drum" is just one of hundreds of tiny tropical fish that inhabit the coral reefs of the Caribbean. This isn't the best photo from the standpoint of composition; I barely kept him in the frame. But... getting these little guys in the frame at all is no small feat! And he's in focus!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blast from the Past

First Selfy, 1/1976

Folks, this is me 37 years ago!

Last year my son gave me a good quality negative and slide scanner for Christmas, and I so enjoy finding a little time to scan some of my old negatives and slides. This is from a roll of film I shot in response to one of my first assignments in my first photography class, begun in January 1976. The assignment was to shoot a roll of self-portraits.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is that I am holding (and using, of course) a Nikonos II underwater camera. That is the first 35mm professional quality camera I owned, the reason being it was actually scuba diving that pointed me toward journalism and photography.

I had learned to scuba dive and made my first trip to the Caribbean, and I wanted to be able to show my family and friends who would never see it first hand what a coral reef was like. That is the quintessential journalistic problem: How to show/reveal/communicate a reality/issue/event to people who cannot experience it firsthand.

That's how I got into photography and story telling, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

And BTW, the Nikonos II underwater camera was the only professional 35mm camera I owned for some time. It is a viewfinder camera with no built in light meter. In other words, it had none of the aids to focusing and choosing aperture and shutter settings that even analog SLR cameras provided, much less today's electronic cameras. In retrospect, I'm pretty proud of the quality photographs I was able to make with this camera.

I still have it! And I'll use it again if I can ever find a strobe for it....


Friday, January 4, 2013

Photographer's Journal

Reflections & Silhouettes
Moving around the cat tail pond to the north, I came to a bit of open water. Clouds, the blue of the sky, and details of the trees surrounding the pond form an upside down world on the still, dark mirror surface.

This part of the pond gets less sunlight because of shading from trees. It's also where deer come to drink, leaving deep tracks in the soggy shoreline.

A few feet out, the algae bloom resumes but is thinner and patchy, blurring the reflections but not obscuring them. Only in the top left corner do you get a glimpse of that part of the pond completely covered with a thick layer of algae.

This cat tail pond is just inside the main entrance gate to the Charles Allen Biological Station near Columbia.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Photographer's Journal

Silhouettes & Shadows
ULM's Charles Allen Biological Station contains a small cat tail pond. As I pproached from the east, the declining sun reflecting off the surface looked for all the world like a covering of ice!

Of course, it wasn't. When I got closer, I saw that the pond surface was mostly covered with a major algae bloom. Looking straight down, I could see two distinct kinds of algae, one green in color and the other reddish in color.

I walked past the pond, then back to it from another angle as the sun continued to decline, and was treated to a kaleidoscope of light and color patterns depending on the changing perspectives of me and the sun. I'll post more of those images over the next few days.