Friday, January 26, 2007

Lake McDonald Sunrise

My photographic claim to fame is a single photo published in Popular Photography magazine. My wife and I had attended several of the Mentor Series workshops and in 2001 I made this photo of a sunrise over Lake McDonald in Montana.

Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. Our workshop group was not staying in the park so we had to leave the hotel very early to arrive for the sunrise. It was a cold day in June but I really, really wanted that sunrise picture. My Canon EOS 7 (film camera) was mounted on the tripod and the aperture was set at f16 or so for depth of field. Being uncertain of the exposure, I bracketed by changing shutter speed extensively. After the slides were processed, I was surprised to find that no individual exposure was exactly what I wanted.

Since I was beginning to learn Photoshop, I decided to blend two of the slides to make one photograph. One slide was selected for the sky exposure and another for the foreground. Although my technique at the time was crude, the final result was more or less as I had hoped it would be. The composite was displayed at the Mentor Series website. Later that year, “Lake McDonald Sunrise” was selected for publication in Popular Photography magazine in an article about the Mentor Series workshops. I know I kept that issue of the magazine but now can’t find it.

We enjoyed the Mentor Series workshops. Someday we’ll do another one. Who knows, maybe I’ll be published again!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chair, Boots and Pitcher

These three photographs, although made at different times and using different equipment, just naturally go together. Each photograph depicts a modern day interpretation and reconstruction of life in Antebellum Louisiana. The absence of color helps to establish that period. The strong contrast between bright sunlight and deep shadow is very eye-catching. Each photograph has a main subject in sunlight as well as details in the shadows. Two photographs include a bed and shoes. Two photographs include a chair and a pitcher. Wooden floors and furnishings provide a textured backdrop in each photograph.

The pitcher, basin and shaving gear indicate prosperity when compared to worn-out boots beneath a rope-laced bed but austerity in comparison to a furnished cabin. In turn, the simplicity and sparseness of that one-room cabin is apparent to the modern viewer.

To capture a scene or express an idea requires understanding a wide range of equipment and processes. “Chair” was photographed with a Voigtlander Bessa L rangefinder camera fitted with a 15mm lens and using Kodak TCN-400 chromogenic film. “Pitcher” was photographed with a 1970 era Canon QL rangefinder camera and its built-in 40mm lens and using Kodak TCN-400 chromogenic film. “Boots” was photographed with a Canon EOS 7 single lens reflex camera fitted with a 85mm lens and using Kodak T-Max 100 monochrome film.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Eclipse in Progress

Until 2004, I’d never seen a full eclipse of the moon. To be sure, there were eclipses during my first fifty-seven years but somehow the timing or the weather was never quite right for me to see them. Probably there were occasions when the moon was ready for me but I was not ready for it. All that changed on October 27.

Besides, I had a new camera, a Canon EOS 20D digital wonder with eight megapixels of image capturing electronics. I combined a Canon 100-400 zoom lens with two 1.4X teleconverters and placed that long assembly on my new camera. This somewhat unwieldy arrangement was put on a tripod and placed on the driveway of our new house in Prairieville.

The full moon was bright and the sky was clear. Sure enough, the pre-eclipse moon was large and bright in the viewfinder. I’d read that the moon would still be somewhat visible with a red tinge at full eclipse. My goal was to get a photograph of the red moon and make a large print of it.

With the camera manually focused at infinity, I began to take photos a little after eight o’clock. At that time, the moon was still bright and white; I was disappointed. Since the camera was new to me, I carefully bracketed exposures. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/125 second when the moon was bright to 8 seconds at full eclipse. The ISO setting initially was 400 but was changed to 800 and then 1600 when the moon was dim. All shots were taken at an aperture of either f/8 or f/11. With the moon rising, the camera had to be repositioned regularly. As the eclipse progressed, the moon took on a reddish tinge. By ten o’clock, I had the photo that I originally wanted but was fascinated and compelled to watch the entire eclipse.

To watch the moon disappear – and then reappear! – was a truly amazing and wonderful experience. Even with a twentieth century education, I felt like cheering as the moon began to reappear. I can only imagine the fear and wonderment that our ancestors must have felt during an eclipse.

When it came time to print a photograph, a single large image of the moon just could not convey the emotion of watching the eclipse in progress. These nine images show the various stages of the eclipse in progress. The first image was taken at 8:21 pm CST; the last at 11:12 pm.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


At a photography workshop, one of the older attendees introduced himself by way of a question: "What are the only two things needed by a photographer?"

In response, everyone immediately stated that more than two things were needed. Among those things were included camera, lens, film, print paper, darkroom, etc., etc. A lively debate soon arose. Film photography was in the early stages of being replaced by digital photography. Prints could be replaced by a transparency or digital projection but then a projector or monitor was needed. A pinhole camera did not have a lens. What was the definition of a camera?

Eventually, the questioner provided his own answer. He said that a camera was so self contained and inclusive that all a photographer really needed was a camera and an audience.

"And", he laughed, "the camera is optional!"

Perhaps all a photographer really needs is a blog.