Get Up Early #2

Get Up Early #2

The Oxtongue river is in the Muskoka area of Ontario, Canada and it is a favourite locations for “leaf peepers” and nature photographers in autumn.

On a cold autumn morning, the relatively warm water of the river “smokes” as it does over lakes. Fog has a magical effect. It gives that three dimensional feel to a flat image, as it separates the foreground from the background. Because of this, a composition happened which was fleeting, lasting only for a half hour after sunrise.

The tree in the center of the image became so distinct from the background that its outline firmly took the eye over to the left of the image. The eye enters in the left lower corner with the point of rocks, moves to the tree in the center and ends up in the vibrant colour of the left side of the image.

The fog also added increased simplicity to the composition which can never hurt.

I have spent a lot of time photographing in this location. More images from this area in later posts.

Get Up Early #1

Getting Up Early #1

“The early bird gets the worm” applies very much in nature photography.

We’re in South Patagonia on the eastern edge of the Andes. Mount FitzRoy is a famous and truly impressive granite spire, totally worth the effort of the trip there. On our hike from the trailhead towards the mountain, we were nearly blown off our feet by some exceptionally strong Patagonia winds and that in itself was an unforgettable experience.

When I later made it to the viewpoint at ‘Laguna de los Tres,’ I was unable to stand up without being blown over. In order to get a picture of the lake, I had to take cover behind a big rock and poke my camera over the edge. Only to discover Mount Fitzroy had vanished in the clouds.

We climbed down and camped in the protected forest an hour’s hiking below the viewpoint. I got up well before dawn. Wind had died, the sky was clear. I hiked back up to the ridge, mostly in the dark, craving my coffee, but excited. I made it to the ridge five minutes before sunrise.

I managed to get the shot. Better yet: I was rewarded with a great composition. A thin lenticular cloud in the eastern sky seemed to cut the sunlight in two layers, one which hit the peak and one that hit the lower part of the glacier. A perfect composition, very easy on the eye.

Back at the campsite this early bird passed on the worm but had great coffee and a big bowl of steaming porridge.

Selective Focus 2

Selective Focus 2

We’re back in Ontario in a forest which does not exist anymore. ‘Progress’, economic growth and immigration have taken their toll. This is the Large White Trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower. It is actually against the law to pick these. Building a few houses on thousands of them seems OK…

For this selective focus shot I used a tripod, a long macro lens, a large lens opening, a spotlight and a reflector. This trillium was, as trilliums do, growing in a large patch. Selective focus alone would have made this a nice picture but I wanted this shot to be super-duper special. I had the time so why not try?

I installed my little spotlight low to the ground, imitating a beam of sunlight one to two hours before sunset. I made sure it lit the heart of the trillium – the part that was in sharp focus. The reflector was placed to avoid excessive contrast. With the light ON, I could see exactly what I was getting. I never, ever, use flash. I bracketed my exposures. I did not need the shade of my large white umbrella as it was a cloudy day.

One of the images was indeed super-duper special…

Selective Focus

Selective Focus

We’re in Kauai, the “Garden Island”. An exuberant row of Parakeet Heliconia is in full bloom along the pool of our hotel. I really prefer to shoot wildflowers but this flower is too beautiful to pass up.

Because of the abundance of closely planted specimen I decide to try the selective focus approach. Selective focus works well if a flower is surrounded by a group of the same flowers. This offers the best chance for colour harmony between subject and background because the colour of the subject shows up, very out of focus, in the background. It also gives me simplicity and soft focus.

All of the above are great ingredients for good flower shots.

The issue I ran into with this flower was the lack of distinct heart of the flower. What should I focus on?

As it turned out it did not seem to matter because the brilliant colour and the composition were strong enough to carry this image, even without a clear center of focus. Diagonal positioning helped by giving the image dynamic impact.

Deliberate Distraction

Deliberate Distraction

We found ourselves on sparsely populated Middle Caicos, in the Caribbean. On the trail to the beach was Sarsaparillus, a native plant of which the older branches were a vibrant red, a welcome circumstance for a nature photographer looking for subjects.

Red is impact, drama, spice and romance. Surrounding the Sarsaparillus was dune grass. Rather than pull it out I tried to use it in my selective focus composition. The result was surprising.

The dominant bright grass blades lead the eye around the picture space and together with the high-impact red, they seemed to distract us from the otherwise rather busy background.

Tonal Balance

Working With Light

Welcome to Maui, Hawaii. Take the narrow but gorgeous ‘Road to Hana’, towards the nude beach. Along the road are a couple of rainbow eucalyptus groves. The bark of these majestic trees is a feast for the eye and it’s too bad they are not more common.

To get successful images, watch how the light hits the bark. Look for simplicity and balance of tone, meaning balance areas of equal brightness with each other. Take your sweet time. The nude beach can wait.

The Unusual


THE UNUSUAL is often an important reason why an image ‘works’ or is popular. It startles your audience and makes it sit up and pay attention.

This is a lone apple tree in a field of snow.

In Photoshop a Fractalius filter ( a plug-in, not originally part of the Photoshop palette of filters) was applied. For some very graphic images this may work well, for most it does not. It is an effect which, if used too often, can start turning people off. Do not confuse the name Fractalius with Fractal. This has nothing to do with Fractal art.