Enjoying Winter Again

Last weekend Anna and I finally got a chance to get out to the mountains, and it was a trip for trying new things. For the first time ever we tried snowshoeing together, cross-country skiing together, and winter camping. I was also giving my Olympus OM-D a torture test to see how much it could replace my Canon 5D kit for hiking.

Snowshoeing works great and is my new favorite way of getting around in winter. It lets me get wherever I want in any conditions with my hands free for photography, which is perfect for me. Skiing was a lot more fun as an activity, but I found it quite hard to mix with photography. Winter camping actually worked a lot better than expected and we slept cosily through the whole night!

I’ll post a review of my little OM-D in a bit, for now I’ll just start posting pictures from it. This photo is from Panther Falls — icicles forming against an overcast sky. I’m looking forward to printing this pretty large — the details in the ice are fantastic!

f7.1, 1/1600 of a second, 100mm
(I’ll be stating actual focal length here, not equivalent – more on this in my OM-D review)

Abstract Topography Through Reflection

Topographic maps are one of my favorite things in the world. They are so full of possibilities! Who knows what wonders await at every oxbow on a river, cove in a coastline or hidden canyon in a mountain range. So with that in mind, this is not so much a photo of reflections in water to me as much as an imaginary landscape where contour lines can overlap and anything is possible.


I often get wrapped up in a composition. I get so focused on the lines in my subject that the surroundings fade away. Sometimes this focus helps, but sometimes I ignore the fact that including some of the surroundings will give the viewer a context for the main subject. This is still a very tightly cropped image (taken at 300mm), but I’ve included the shore in the background, and I think it makes the photo. It tells the viewer the time of year (fall), the place (rocky river), and the fall colors compliment the blue-green water. The violence of the water is still obviously the main subject and the part that is in focus, but now the eye is often pulled between the water and the shore.

This photo was taken while lying down near the Clearwater River, BC. 300mm, f18, 1/15 of a second.

Wild Asters

150mm, f2.8, 1/1250 of a second

150mm, f2.8, 1/640 of a second

Interesting Macro Fact of the Day:
These pictures were taken a few seconds apart at the same iso, aperture, and in the same lighting conditions. So why the different shutter speeds? Macro lenses, when they start focusing really close are actually a lot darker than the aperture suggests. If we measured the amount of light coming into this lens when it’s focused really close, it is probably about half the light (around an f4 value), even though the aperture blades haven’t moved from their open position. This happens with all macro lenses.

Curling Bunchberry Leaf

OK, we’re briefly back to regularly scheduled programming. I headed out to Bellis Lake Natural Area yesterday for some long awaited time alone in the woods. I was expecting rain, so I was only slightly disappointed when it turned out to be a warm sunny day. Besides the hornet incident, I had a great time and can’t wait to get out again. Here’s a bunchberry (Cornus canidensis) leaf I stumbled on in a swampy area.

150mm, f4.0, 1/160 of a second.

There Will Come Soft Rains

It seems like all my favorite photos lately are taken during storms or on rainy days. Looking back through my photos from this spring, none of the photos from sunny hikes grab me, and I gravitate towards softer, rainier photos. I think water adds a dramatic element to photos (as well as stories – yes, I’m a Ray Bradbury fan) — it sets a mood.

The first photo was taken near Beaverhill Lake on a blustery day with my Sigma 150mm Macro at 1/125 of a second and f5.0. The second was at Chickakoo Lake – 1/800 of a second at f2.8.

Visual Design in Abstract Nature Photography

In some ways this is very similar to my previous post. (You may need to click on the photo to see the entire photo more easily) This photo was taken very close to where the last one was on Abraham Lake. They are both abstract photos of nature using very strong design principles. They both play with positive and negative space, but instead of being very organic, this is very angular. The composition is almost entirely based on the rule of thirds — the dark line in the ice is about 1/3rd of the way down and protrudes about 2/3rds of the way into the photo. The ice in the photo covers about 1/3rd of the area, and the snow covers the other 2/3rds. This visual weighting based on the rule of thirds generally works very well, even if the dark and light areas of a photo are not seperated by a straight line (although here they are clearly seperated by a horizontal line). So, while the rule of thirds is almost over-popularized, it is still effective for creating interesting and new compositions.

Abstract Geometric Nature Photography

Finally starting to make my way through photos from the last few trips. This is from Abraham Lake, which has been extensively photographed by many Alberta landscape photographers. It’s easy to come up with the standard compositions here, but it’s also easy to come up with new stuff. There’s just so much variety in the ice, water and rocks. These are methane bubbles from decomposing organic matter. The bubbles form in the ice as the water freezes layer by layer.

In a shot like this, composition is everything. It has to balance the visual weight of light and dark. The three smaller bubbles on the left have to balance with the two larger bubbles on the right. The negative space and positive space both have to be interesting — here the textures in the ice and bubbles add visual interest. And because it’s nature and you can never control it completely, there will always be random elements to deal with. In this picture, the shadow of something deeper lies near the top of the frame. I like the visual reminder that in photography, art is created between the artist and the subject: you never have complete control.