Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunacy Defined

1 insanity. 2 wild foolishness : extravagant folly

Supreme Lunacy:
noun 1 Going outside at night in winter, when it's -17° C (1.4° F), standing for over an hour taking photographs of the lunar eclipse.

Despite my attack of lunacy last night, I survived without any frostbite -- just very cold hands. I always enjoy seeing a lunar eclipse, and since this was the last eclipse before December 2010, I wanted to go out and capture some photographs. It's a truly impressive event. At first, you just see a "bite" taken out of the moon, but eventually, the whole moon gets covered. The colour of the moon is striking, and you get a strong feeling of the moon being a sphere, instead of a two-dimensional object in the sky.

This photograph was taken at ASA 800, 1.3 second exposure at f5.6.

. . . Rob Williams

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Value of Persistence

Yesterday, I got up early, and went out to photograph in -19° C (-2° F) weather. It promised to be the only clear sunny day for some time, so I was eager to get out.

I headed out to the Ottawa River, to photograph the area around Victoria Island. It was very cold out, but I was invigorated by the light and fog along the river. After that, I went further downtown, and photographed the ice sculptures that were on display for Winterlude, as well as some scenes along the Rideau Canal.

After being outside for over three hours, I was tired and ready for a meal, so I headed home. I decided to drive along the Ottawa River Parkway, a beautiful drive along the Ottawa River. The cold temperatures and open water along the various rapids on the river had produced some fantastic scenery by coating the trees with frost, and I enjoyed the drive. As I passed a bridge across the river, I saw some beautiful trees on an island in the river. I knew that I could cross the bridge and park on the island for another photographic session, but I was tired, and ready to call it a day.

I drove past the bridge, and continued along the parkway. The thought of the frost on the trees stayed with me, however, and after a few more minutes of driving, I decided to turn back, and take a closer look at the island.

I drove back to the island, parked the car, and spent another hour photographing the trees on the island. There were so many great photographs there, it was hard to decide where to start.

I'm really glad I had the persistence to go back and spend more time and effort (and had some spare capacity left on my flash card!) on the island. The weather conditions were perfect, and the photographic opportunities were fantastic. It proved to be the best location of the day.

. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recent Work: Willow Tree in Winter

Here is a photograph that I made last weekend. I went out on a gray day, as I discussed in my previous post. I photographed a number of trees, thinking about the lines, and realizing that the tones available were basically black-and-white. When I saw this willow, my eye was immediately drawn to the colour of the tree, and the red of the bush at the foot of the tree -- the colours looked brilliant compared with the rest of the landscape. I still like the lines and form of the tree with it's grizzled bark, and the lines of the bush, but the splash of colour was more than welcome in the dull winter light.

For more recent photographs, see my website's Recent Work page.

. . . Rob Williams

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Gray Days of Winter

Where I live in Canada, winters are long, cold, and this year, very snowy. In fact, from October to February, there is an average of only 3.2 hours of sunlight per day. It is often cloudy all day, with snow flurries off and on. Temperature is another problem. If it's not cloudy, then it can be very, very cold. Minus 20 Celcius can freeze your fingers in no time flat, and you can't manipulate a camera with mitts on.

For a landscape photographer, winter presents huge problems. Extremely cold weather can be managed -- with the right clothing and gloves that are thin enough to work the camera, I have braved very cold weather to make photographs. Usually, these photographs have at least had the sun and sky to make the photographs come alive.

However, what do you do with dull gray skies? A featureless sky and perfectly even light are not good conditions for landscapes. It's just as challenging as the cold weather, but the challenge is different. When it's cloudy, the cold is usually much more manageable, but the scenery is dull and lifeless.

In situations like this, all too common in winter, one option is to stay at home and work on your photo backlog. I enjoy working on my computer, developing my website, and making prints. However, I can't go too long without getting my camera out, and getting outside in the fresh air.

The dull grey conditions are daunting. Colour is almost non-existant, so you have to concentrate on what is left -- line and form. This is photography broken down into it's simplest elements. It's often good to go back to basics, and think about visual design. Freeman Patterson's book "Photography and the Art of Seeing" has been one of my favourite books for visual design, and I enjoy getting it out to read it over again.

Great photographs are usually the result of hard work and inspiration. This is doubly true for winter photography. Prepare yourself for the cold, prepare for the light conditions, and be willing to simplify your photographs -- the result will be worth the effort!

. . . Rob Williams


Welcome to my photographic blog! This blog will feature some of my thoughts about photography, what inspires me to photograph, and some of the trials and tribulations of photography on a limited budget. Stay tuned -- it should be an adventure!

. . . Rob Williams