Thinking Ahead to Photographing Fall Landscapes


This time of year I always begin thinking about photographing fall landscapes. As of yet the colours aren’t really how I want them, everything is still hot and dry. I think I’ll be waiting the better part of a month for the changing leaves and landscape before venturing up into the mountains just a short drive north of my home in Pritchard, British Columbia

Books, especially those written by photographers, easily seduce me. I am in the mood for what is going to be weeks of fun colourful photography anyway. So when I walked by the well-worn copy of my favourite scenic photographer/writer, Eliot Porter’s book on landscapes I decided to thumb through it.

Porter’s book, “Intimate Landscapes,” will always get me thinking about taking time to visit some of the many picturesque locations in my part of the world and even though the book by Porter features photographs in north-western New Mexico and south-eastern Utah, it is filled with photographs that inspire me.

I have mentioned him before, but for those readers that don’t remember my past comments on this man, or those that aren’t familiar with him, the following is a quote from this book. “The natural world has always attracted my eye: associations of living and inanimate phenomena, from the tropics to the poles and from rain forests to deserts, have been favourite photographic subjects for almost half a century.  Grasses and sedges, especially, appeal to me – an appeal like disordered hair across a face, or a windblown field of hay before the mowing. When associated with water, as sedges so often are, the magic of restlessness is enhanced by reflections not foreseen. In mixed woods of pine and maple, the needles of pines drop throughout the year, building jackstraw mats of thin brown bundles on which, at the time of the fall of the leaf, the bright maple leaves settle at random, arranging themselves in harmonious patterns that defy improvement as though placed there intentionally.”

Reading this book or any other on photography for that matter, helps me examine the way I make photographs, and encourages me to try photographing landscapes differently.

Although I like to plan my photographic excursions and am apt to stand looking at a scene for a while before releasing my camera’s shutter, (The reason I like using a tripod is because it slows me down.) I do think photographic ideas and opportunities sometimes happen in a moment that once has passed will never be the same and I release the shutter for no other reason than it is fun to try photographing that scene.

Here is another quote from Porter’s book that I like.  Porter says, “I do not photograph for ulterior purposes.  I photograph for the thing itself – for the photograph – without consideration of how it may be used.  Some critics suggest that I make photographs primarily to promote conservation, but this allegation is far from the truth. Although my photographs may be used in this way, it is incidental to my original motive for making them, which is first of all for personal aesthetic satisfaction.”

Sometimes just the process of making a photograph for no other reason than doing it is enough and I have friends that regularly show me all types of pictures that are just made because they enjoy the medium of photography.  Photography, in this era of high tech digital images, has become so very easy. However, in my opinion, good photography is as time consuming as it ever has been, requiring practice and education.

I am hoping for a long, cool fall here in the interior of British Columbia with lots of colour. I’ll be driving to Wells Gray Park in the upcoming month. The environment of Wells Gray, although very diverse from the scenic locations in Porter’s book, has many of the features that I am sure would have appealed to him and if you have a moment check out landscape photographer Eliot Porter in your local library or on-line, and hopefully his photographs will inspire you as he does me.

PS, the two pictures are from last year…I’ll soon have some for this year…..

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Grab your camera and go to the Rodeo

                                                                                                    I had finally reached Olympic games overdose. I enjoyed watching the Olympics, but in British Columbia, Olympics coverage was everywhere. Every radio station, television network, newspaper, and conversation had something about what was happening and I couldn’t get away from it. However, now they are over and I expect many (ok, I guess I’m included in this) might be going through some sort of withdrawal.


Well, for those who enjoyed watching and applauding athletes at their best I found a great way to get out of that withdrawal, however, they just need to be willing to get up off the couch and leave the comfort of their air-conditioned home.  Happening right now all over North America there is that time-honored tradition of the western Rodeo. Each year I look forward to the annual Prichard Rodeo. There are others all over BC that are worth attending, but I’m lucky because, “just down the road apiece” from my country home is the Pritchard Rodeo grounds.

As I strolled down the dirt lane to the bleachers, concessions, and rodeo arena, I looked around and could see some of my neighbors lounging in the fenced off beer garden, and others with their children waiting in the shaded bleachers. Then, of course, I checked out the photographers standing at the railing readying their equipment.  The first friendly face was local news photojournalist Hugo Yuen; we exchanged greetings, talked a bit before he left to get some of the participant names. He had a list to cover for his paper, so he was shooting fast and leaving.

I wandered on, watching photographers positioning themselves along the railing, I wanted to see what cameras they were using, and waved at the arena manager, Don Swift, as he readied participants and turned to see professional rodeo photographer Bernie Hudyma striding towards me. I knew I would see him there. He’s a good photographer and I always like to hear what he has to say. I’m sure many of the rodeo participants were also glad to see him arena side because of the pictures he will have waiting for them.


For those that haven’t yet photographed a rodeo, I’ll begin with the words, “Grab your hat and camera and do it!” You will have fun and get enjoyable pictures to share with friends and relatives.

Here one can see drama, explosive action, anticipation, heartbreak, defeat, excitement, athletic prowess, both male and female physical excellence, teamwork, sportsmanship and, of course, triumph. Then there isn’t, in my opinion, anything much better than attending a rodeo. And for those of us that are dedicated photographers, the action of a rodeo is the perfect way to spend the day.

My advice for first-timers is to get a DSLR. Little point and shoot cameras are great for taking pictures of family groups, and subjects moving slowly in one direction, but you won’t find much of that at the rodeo. When you shoot with the DSLR take the camera off the “P” mode and select  “A”, or  “S” mode if you own a Nikon, or on a Canon select AV or TV. Aperture priority means the photographer selects the aperture and the camera chooses the shutter speed. In shutter priority, it is the other way around, the photographer selects the shutter speed and the camera controls the aperture.

Fast moving, quick changing, rodeo subjects jump into the sky, quickly increase or close the distance from where the action began and, of course, constantly change the exposure by bouncing in and out of bright sun and deep shade.  While following the constantly changing scenarios it all happens very fast, and all one really needs is to control one part of the exposure equation.  Whether that is the shutter or the aperture really depends on what is important.

For example, when I am photographing the directional motion of horse racing or drag racing I prefer shutter priority. When at the rodeo I want more depth of field. That’s the field of focus in front of and behind my subject. Those horses and bulls move fast and I don’t want one moving out of my area of sharpness before I can refocus.

I suggest a zoom lens that goes to at least 200mm. Most modern lenses focus fast enough, following the action, and setting the focus takes a bit of practice, but there is lots of time to experiment at a rodeo, so just shoot and shoot and shoot. As I wrote, if you haven’t yet photographed a rodeo, grab your hat and camera and do it! Find a rodeo near your home and have fun.

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The Dog Days of Summer are Perfect for Infrared Photography


For several days I have been listening to fellow photographers complain about the hot, bright days here in the interior of British Columbia. When they stop by my shop I welcome them with the question “ What have you been out photographing?”  But mostly I have been hearing “Naw, I haven’t been doing anything. It’s too hot, muggy, and the light is crappy anyway. I can’t wait till September.”  Well, I must agree that my personal photography also stagnated during these dog days of summer.  I prefer summer’s end, fall colours and I suppose, the cooler weather.

I had already spent a day doing stuff inside so when my wife mentioned that she wouldn’t mind a quick trip to the grocery store, so I grabbed a DSLR I had converted for infrared and we headed out. The closest town to our place is the small lakeside community of Chase, British Columbia. I like to drive the backroads when I go there and I thought the lake and bright sky would be perfect for a camera that only sees infrared light, plus I knew it would be nice and cool by the lake.

I have a camera that has been modified to only see infrared light and in my experience those harsh bright summer days are perfect for infrared image making. Infrared (IR) light is light that has longer wavelengths on the red edge of the spectrum and is invisible to human eyes.

Here is some trivia: In 1800 William Hershel described the relationship between heat and light and let the world know about his discovery of the existence of infrared light in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The sensors for digital cameras are sensitive to more than just the visible light spectrum. This causes problems with colour balance, so camera manufacturers place a filter in front of the sensor that blocks the infrared part of the spectrum that only allows visible light, and not infrared, to pass through.

The modification is accomplished by removing that filter, and then installing one instead that blocks visible light, allowing mostly infrared light to reach the camera’s sensor.

The camera still functions normally, with full auto focus and auto exposure, except that it’s now able to record the infrared wavelengths that are just beyond what the human eye is capable of seeing.  When infrared photographs are produced as black and white the photographs show trees with glowing white leaves and black skies opening up new visual opportunities for photographing the world around us.

Many think of infrared photography as the stuff of military night reconnaissance, or, as frequently portrayed in movies, as aerial thermal imaging that finds the bad guys. With thermal imaging one sees the heat the subject is producing, however, infrared as photographers use it, with our modified cameras is about capturing the light or radiation that is reflected off a subject and doesn’t involve thermal imaging at all.

I  wander around, and photograph pretty much anything, choosing different angles to see how the light would react. Some subjects don’t work very well with infrared, so I just experiment, take lots of pictures and hope for the best. Everything appears normal through the camera’s viewfinder and because so much light reaches the sensor on a sunny day one can use high shutter speeds and so it is easy to hand hold while exposing a picture.

I like infrared photography and have made prints from infrared film since the beginning of my career in photography, when infrared film had to be loaded and unloaded in complete darkness, and because dark red filters had to be used on the lens subjects were very hard to see through the viewfinder. When digital cameras were introduced all this changed.

For those interested, there is lots of information to be found on the internet. IR photography opens up a new visual dimension for the photographer willing to dust off that old DSLR and get it converted to an infrared camera.

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Try visualizing and then photographing something in a different way.

I received several local comments (My blogs also appear as weekly newspaper column on photography) about my last article, “Do Something Different with your Photography”.  I had suggested doing photography in a different way, and to begin a personal exploration of creating and experimenting with photography to make something new and different from what is most comfortable.

As I reread that I was reminded of something I wrote several years ago about the Modernist Photography Movement that fitted nicely with what I had discussed, so I thought I’d bring that back for readers again.

About the time of the of the First World War the presumption of just what art and photography should be was shattered by innovations by modern painters like Picasso and Matisse. But the fundamentally realistic medium of photography did not acknowledge that photographers could be producing abstract or distortions to the extent that painters were beginning to. However, there were a growing number of artist-photographers like Alfred Stiegletz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand who were working to bring photography in line with modern painting by creating abstract images and processes.

The current age of digital photography seems to have vitalized photography more than anyone could have surmised.  Attend any event and there will be lots of cameras ranging from little point and shoot’s to impressive DSLR’s (digital single lens reflex) documenting everything from every angle. The internet is filled with images, with all kinds of sites available for people to store their documents of everyday life.

In a moment of boredom I decided to do a search for an old friend who lives in the US wondering if I would find his construction company. I not only found his company advertisement, but several pages of family photos he and his wife took. My thoughts were that this is a reasonable document of people having fun, although nothing creative, just a real nice family documentary.

This is not unusual as photographic documentation is more prolific than it has ever been, but I began to wonder about another creative part of photography, the abstract and the unusual.  There are lots of instances of PhotoShop manipulation that readers can find without looking very hard, yet, I wonder at the style of abstract photography practiced by the greats like Stiegletz, Steichen, and Strand.  In my opinion, they were very much involved in looking at everyday subjects from different angles or perspectives. They photographed the usual in unique ways and photographed the unusual in unusual ways. They searched out subjects that many would ignore because they were ugly or boring, and chose diverse photographic views and visually discussed them in interesting and unconventional ways.

I am fortunate in that I get to see photos all the time, landscapes, portraits of people and animals, and the occasional close-up flower shot, etc. Usually they are very nice and some are downright beautiful, but it is unusual and rare for someone to show me an abstract created by using their camera to photograph something using a unique view.

Abstract art and abstract photography may not be to everyone’s liking and I know when we show our photographs to other people we want them to comment favourably about our pictures and that is more likely with picture of a pleasant landscape or an attractive person. But when a photographer takes a chance and tries to visualize and photograph something differently, one cannot worry about whether or not it will receive praise or criticism.  Look for the unusual, the ugly, the boring, and the unique. Then contemplate about photographing it in a way personal to you.  And as I wrote last week, you might well develop a way of photography that starts with the question, “How can I photograph my subject in such a way that makes it different?”

And if you have the interest, take some time and find out about those pioneer photographers Stiegletz, Steichen, and Strand.  Their photography is very interesting.

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