Photo Exploration: Mountains to Sea Trail

November 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Once back from Rome, we tried to get out and see the leaves and col­ors as much as pos­si­ble. Once very suc­cess­ful out­ing in that respect was a Sun­day after­noon walk on the Moun­tains to Sea Trail just out­side of Asheville. The image below is from that excursion.


Slide film is one of the more recent media I’ve come to explore, and real­ly only in the past year have I done any mean­ing­ful work with that sort of film. This par­tic­u­lar shot was with the Fuji GA645 (same as the cam­era used here)and Fuji Velvia 100f.

There is a strange feel­ing work­ing with a large-ish for­mat film and yet work­ing with a small-ish piece of equip­ment. Com­pared to the RB67 or even the 645 Pro TL, the GA645 is light­weight and ultra-portable. Tak­ing it for a spin in the woods, when one has to poten­tial­ly car­ry plen­ty of oth­er equip­ment, is a real plea­sure. The glass is immac­u­late and focus­ing is dead on (or you can man­u­al­ly focus if you pre­fer). And the result of the slide film is breath­tak­ing. I wish there was a way to relay the feel­ing of hold­ing a slide over the inter­net. Even view­ing a print does­n’t quite have the same “WOW” fac­tor for me as a slide does. Maybe the trans­paren­cy? Maybe the com­pact­ness and clar­i­ty of the slide. What­ev­er it is, in the fall with the col­ors and tex­tures I don’t know if I’ve seen any oth­er pho­to­graph­ic medi­um that mea­sures up to slide.

Regard­less of your pho­to­graph­ic equip­ment, there is also the ques­tion of HOW to pho­to­graph a scene. And pho­tog­ra­phy of strik­ing col­ors are way up on my list of “Hard Shots.” I think a large amount of the dif­fi­cul­ty is that we expe­ri­ence a walk in the woods with sea­son­al foliage quite vivid­ly, and our rec­ol­lec­tion is often even greater in sat­u­ra­tion than real­i­ty. Thus, pho­tograph­ing such scenes in ways that evoke the same emo­tion is sub­stan­tial­ly more dif­fi­cult than oth­er, less “oomph” dri­ven shots. But I do have some basic ideas that can help.

The first is com­po­si­tion. When pho­tograph­ing nature, it is easy for me to get swept up in the “pret­ty” shots that don’t tell any sto­ry. But when I focus on com­pos­ing an image with a lit­tle bit of nar­ra­tive, my sat­is­fac­tion down the road is much high­er. Espe­cial­ly when shoot­ing film which has such poten­tial for qual­i­ty repro­duc­tion that fail­ures are that much more evi­dent. So be sure to shoot every image, or every series of images, to bring the view­er to the scene and envel­op them in the moment.

Sec­ond­ly, unless you are inten­tion­al­ly tak­ing a pho­to of some­thing sin­gu­lar, I’d stay away from small depth of field­’s. I know my impulse is often shoot wide open and get some rock­ing bokeh, but I’ve found that the effect can be jar­ring. Part of what makes col­or foliage so amaz­ing is that every­where you can look and focus there is col­or. Sharp and bright and sat­u­rat­ed. When you blur that back­ground (and/or fore­ground) in the pho­to, the “being there” effect can be decreased dramatically.

Last, I try as much as pos­si­ble to cut through the mist. I use a polar­iz­er, haze fil­ter, what­ev­er I’ve got handy to increase clar­i­ty through the entire scene. That is, unless  it is a long expo­sure with enough time for the mist or fog or what­ev­er to move about. Oth­er­wise I have found that, like the sec­ond point, the reduc­tion in over­all clar­i­ty can do harm to the entire photograph.

With every­thing there are excep­tions to the above, but those three guide­lines above cer­tain­ly increase my grat­i­fi­ca­tion when review­ing the pho­tos after a ses­sion out in the woods.