From a recent trip to Jasper.
300mm, 1/2000 of a second, f5.6
Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) in front of Bellis Lake on a lovely summer evening.
The warm bright sunlight on the bark against the dark blue water caught my attention, and the cloud reflected in the water just topped it off. The hardest part of a photo like this is simplifying — getting rid of all the things that will detract from the feeling I’m trying to capture. There can be so much surrounding a scene like this. There are lots of trees crowding around, I’m standing in a grove of alders and rose bushes, the far side of the lake is just a little above the top of the frame. But I’m capturing what I love, and the surroundings almost fade away — I capture what captures me.
I feel a little guilty about today’s photo. First of all, it’s late, but secondly (and more importantly) it caught me by surprise. I should have known that there would be a full moon. I even have a little iphone app that tells me all the moonrise times and locations (as well as sunrise, sunset, and all about stars and constellations—it’s called “Planets”). But perseverance and awareness of my surroundings saved me this time, and just as it was getting too dark to see, a huge orange moon peeked over the horizon. If you’ve ever watched a moon rise, you know it happens very fast.
I got to a clear spot where I could see more moon than tree branches a few minutes after it rose. It was just starting to disappear behind a bank of clouds. I had to set my camera to mirror-lockup (so my camera doesn’t shake) plug in my remote (so I don’t bump the camera when I press the shutter button), and set up the tripod pretty quickly to get this shot. I like the way the clouds diffuse the light, making it a little different than the average clear-sky moon shot.
People often say that direct sunlight in the middle of the day is not acceptable light for landscapes. There’s a small bit of truth to that, but don’t let that stop you from taking awesome pictures. When the light is contrasty, look for things to shoot that look good with that amount of contrast, or things that create interesting shadows. When there are clouds, look at the shapes of the clouds and look at the subtle details brought out by the soft light. All light (and lack of light) is good to shoot in, you just have to look at things differently and be aware of the light.
I’m not the guy who waits for 8 hours for the right light for a scene picked out days in advance. I’m too impatient and there’s too much to see. In that 8 hours I would have missed twenty different compositions that were perfect for the light at the time. Don’t get me wrong, being at the right place at the right time is a beautiful thing. I’m just not often willing to sacrifice a day of exploring for one good photo. Maybe someday I’ll grow up and calm down.
My first digital SLR was an Olympus E1. That was a beautiful camera. Fairly small and light, incredibly durable. It was old already when I got it, but the completely weathersealed system and amazing lenses lured me in. And it let me get shots like this. I couldn’t do this with my 5D. This is from a 10 hour hike through rain, drizzle, and clouds in the cloud forests of Dominica. There was an inch of water in the bottom of my camera bag. Everything was completely soaked. But I could trust this camera to just keep going.