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.