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- AboutMy interest in photography started with influence from my dad. Wherever we went, he took pictures of my family and the scenery around us. As I grew up, more and more times, he let me be the camera man. Maybe the habit just stuck. I took up photography in the summer of 2006. I really am not sure what spurred the idea, but since then I have made a hobby of taking photos of what I find to be beautiful. What do I find to be beautiful? Mostly, nature. I find beauty in the subtleties of the Earth. When I take the time to think through the complexity of the Earth and the life within it, I conclude that there must be a reason to existence. However, Earth is only one small piece of the larger puzzle; much more beauty exists in places and shapes we have never imagined. What is that larger puzzle? What other beauty lies out in the Universe? What is the driving force behind life? These are questions that run through my mind when I witness nature. What makes the Earth beautiful to me? I can’t really say. I feel a quiet passion as a crisp…
I conducted another Intro to Nature and Landscape Photography course this past Sunday at Great Falls National Park, on the Maryland side.The weather was looking promising, with high clouds in the forecast and a window to the horizon. I was hoping for a colorful burst at sunset, given the recent more muted sunsets I’ve seen at the park.
Unfortunately, the clouds dissipated and a blue, cloudless sky remained. Not the most colorful.
But, lately I have found myself drawn to closeup abstracts of violently rushing water. A great place to find this is Great Falls, with it’s dramatic rapids always proving to have interesting action. And given the uninteresting sky, it was the only way to go for me.
The rapids of Great Falls weave water in and out, and into interesting shapes.
Oh and if you’re interested, Another class is scheduled for this Sunday, still with some open slots:
Till next time!
Wow, it’s been nearly two full months since my last post. My apologies to any who frequent my blog looking for updates.
Unfortunately, my other career has taken most of my time – business trips, training classes, and just a lot to do. It certainly is hard to keep up two “professional” lives and often I have found success in one comes with sacrifice of the other. At some point, I might meet a fork in the road where I will have to decide more definitively where my end path will lead.
Regardless of what my “job” is, I have never felt more fulfilled and vivacious as I have felt through this gift of photography. It’s funny how something ubiquitous as a camera can allow one to explore channels within the self that were otherwise unknown. If nothing else, simply the self-searching has been worth all the effort I’ve put into the craft.
Onto today’s post. A frequent subject around this (and many) areas is the weather. Of course, we experience it every day so it’s natural to be a major discussion topic. One discussion that often intrigues me is the argument against the cold, winter weather we see here in the mid-Atlantic.
So many people hate the cold so much! The idea of wearing a coat and hat, a blustery wind, ice/sleet/snow you name it, and they are up in arms. They swear they can move to Southern California today and not have a care in the world.
While I can appreciate the sentiment, and the apparent luxury of not dealing with uncomfortable temperatures, I personally love the winter. Actually, I take that back. I love the SEASONS. What is the point of monotony in anything in life, especially something so impactful as the weather? As a sentient and sentimental person, I like seeing the change that slowly and constantly engulfs our environment as seasons change. Green turns orange, orange turns bare and back again. Weather patterns change – wind and cloud formations. The whole mood of the scene is drastically different from one season to another. I find that lately, a reliable group of people who share my views are meteorologists. No surprise there though: their whole profession is based on the environmental conditions.
What’s not to like about winter? OK, I don’t like being cold either. But I know no better peace than what I feel when I walk outside at night after a fresh snowfall — the silence is nearly sacred. But even other winter weather — icicles, sleet, frozen lakes/ponds/rivers… I could go on.
To the joy of most and the dismay of me, our winters of late have been pretty warm and dull. Granted, I haven’t had the chance to venture much out West during these times – into the areas of NW Maryland and West Virginia. Fortunately, this year I headed up that way, AND we had a few good days of cold to get some photographic opportunities closer to the city. Maybe this compilation will get your juices flowing about the winter? No? Ok, I tried.
The first image is from here at the familiar stomping grounds of Great Falls, Maryland. A few weeks ago, we got some pretty cold weather that stuck around for about 5 days. After about 4 days, I figured the waters were cold enough to start at least some parts of Great Falls to ice over. Given the lack of rainfall at the time, some of the formations on the Maryland side revealed themselves and allowed me to take a closer look.
The clouds fizzled out just about immediately after I arrived at the scene, slightly contrary to what was forecasted. But, I found a really cool set of broken trees crossed upon each other right in front of a significant “step” in the falls. The icicles were really compelling here – and we don’t get freezes often so I had to take the opportunity:
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, .3 sec, ISO 50
I took a panorama of the same scene for those of you who are interested in larger sizes. This particular image is a mosaic of 20 exposures to achieve both extreme scale and focus:
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, 20 exposures blended for depth of field and scale, 1/5 sec, ISO 200
As I mentioned, this year, I had the opportunity to venture up north to the mountains of Western Maryland. This wasn’t a photography trip, but I tried to take advantage nonetheless. The whole weekend we were in the area, we were treated to beautiful winter weather. A constant light snow and very calm winds. A real treat for me given our lackluster winters of late.
Out of one sunset outing, I came away with 4 keepers! That’s an extreme amount for me nowadays. I thought each image was unique enough to warrant inclusion on this post.
This first image is a wide angle of Muddy Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in Maryland at 53 feet. Maryland’s geology is not all that dramatic (especially compared to the relics out in the Western USA), but each natural site, however small, has its history and beauty to be respected. The site was affected by Sandy to the point that the park closed the area from which this was shot. I had to be very prudent not to step on the ice and through to (potentially deep) water.
I just missed some really nice warm light, so I decided to B&W to emphasize the shapes and contrasts:
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, .4 sec, ISO 50
As I continued to observe the scene from a rock not far from the shore, I paid more careful attention to the falls, and the contrasts in shapes and textures between the sandstone rock, dramatically long and sharp icicles, and the rushing water. The way I decided to depict these contrasts was not in one, but two images that I think serve different purposes:
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/8, 1/4 sec, ISO 400
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/4.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 3200
I continued to wait and watch the scene. As you may have noticed from the last image, the light snow began to pick up as I continued shooting, and the white flakes contrasted very well with the darker background that were appearing as the sun sank behind the horizon. I turned my attention to the tree captured in the right hand corner of the first image with its shape and stance standing starkly in front of a shallow cave dripping with long icicles. I played with a few exposures of varying shutter speeds when I decided I wanted to freeze the diagonal motion of the flakes falling down on the scene. The light had dissipated so much that I had to crank the ISO (light sensitivity) on the camera to maximum. It’s times like these where I am thankful to have a low-light champion like the Nikon D800:
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/9, 1/125 sec, ISO 6400
Two months have passed since my last post, but I promise it won’t be two months again until my next one. I hope to capture more of winter before it turns away from us for another year and my thoughts move to the next beautiful transition of our world’s seasons.
I made a quick trip to Shenandoah with my brother in law to catch what remains of the foliage there. The sunrise did not disappoint!:
Fall foliage is abound during a glorious and classic Shenandoah National Park sunrise, with the diffused sun filling orange in the hazy blue rolling hills.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, two exposures at f/11 blended for dynamic range (HDR).
More to come!
This past Wednesday, we had a fierce thunderstorm come through the area. I’ve been wanting to capture some lightning over Great Falls, and thought it to be a good opportunity.
I came pretty well equipped, with my rain coat and pants, umbrella, and waterproof flashlight, but none really did anything to cope with what I encountered.
I scampered down the rocks from the 1st overlook and the rain started to come down. First in steady drops, then as sheets. I continued my way towards the shore as the thunder & lightning arrived.
I got to a nice position on a large, flat rock and noticed that kayakers, like me, were inspired by the weather! They continued surfing and rowing against the water, even as the currents slowly gained steam.
Water was really coming in from everywhere, so I had to veryyy careffullyyy remove my camera and lens under the precarious safety of my umbrella. The winds were picking up so the umbrella was swaying a little too much for comfort.
I finally positioned my camera towards the falls and waited for the lightning to come more often. It didn’t happen. The lightning came in quick and spontaneous bursts, not the steady flashing strobe I was hoping for. As the deluge continued, I decided to capture what I could before the water damaged my equipment.
Far out in the top of the most interesting section of falls in the park, a lone Great Blue Heron stood overwatch, and was stoic in the storm. He was obviously more composed than me, still searching for his food somehow despite my thought that his direct and peripheral vision would be way skewed from the water coming from every direction. With the backdrop of dark clouds and mist, it made a pretty dramatic scene:
“Through the Deluge”
A Great Blue Heron poised stoically over Great Falls during a heavy thunderstorm.
Canon 5dm2, 70-200/4L IS @ 187mm, f/7.1, 1/6 sec, ISO 2000, tripod
On another note, these herons, which frequent the park in summer months, are wily and courageous creatures. They will seemingly dive through the most violent of water to get their catch. For example, see this image from last Friday:
“Risk and Reward”
A Great Blue Heron rises from the violent rapids with a prize.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 70-200mm/f4L @127mm, f/16, 1/5sec, ISO 5000
Pretty amazing to see a writhing catfish in the Great Blue Heron’s mount. No chance I could have ever spotted a fish like that in the rushing rapids of Great Falls.
Anyways, back to the shoot during the thunderstorm. It was a really exciting experience for me! I was completely soaked, but with a warm, late spring storm it was kind of like a cool bath. To me, it was like playing in rain as a small child. Though I was happy to be soaked, I will say I am lucky that my equipment came out unscathed and dry. My new F-stop Loka bag held all of my lenses and equipment dry… even without that rain cover (which I probably should get….. .. .. …. yeah.).
TILL NEXT TIME!
Being a photographer has changed the way I walk through life. Slowly but surely, I find myself being more observant of my surroundings and more appreciative of the subtle beauty of the Earth.
A favorite place of mine to visit in the DC area is Great Falls. Of course, Great Falls National Park offers sweeping vistas and dramatic views that even the most seasoned expeditionary would appreciate. However, there are more intricate details and beauty to enjoy if only you choose to look.
On this evening, I was trying out my new lens (Canon 24-105 f4/L) on a group of rocks on the Maryland side of Great Falls. There are so many cool formations around, but what held my interest this evening was a group of lichen moss, brilliantly contrasted in color. I have been frequenting that side of Great Falls for a number of other photos I have in mind, and I think I’ll revisit something like this again as well.
I hope you enjoy this image, and enjoy the beauty in detail all around us!
The past few months, I’ve concentrated my efforts on capturing Great Falls National Park. It’s simply the most beautiful and majestic natural wonder in the DC area. It surprised me (and continues to surprise those I meet) that such a sight can be seen just 10 miles outside the Nation’s Capital. If you live in the area and have not yet visited the park, I highly recommend you do so! You will not regret it.
As a landscape photographer, one must frequent an area to ‘scout’ the best possible compositions of photographs. This includes visualizing a future image based on conditions that may not be present during one visit. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve come up with some spots I hope to return to based on changes in weather and water level (e.g., fall foliage or snowfall). In the meantime, I wanted to share a few views of the falls I found most beautiful.
This first image was taken early in the summer, from the walkways on the Maryland side of the falls. An easily accessible location, I enjoy this image because of the soft tones and subtle clouds that filled the scene just past sunset:
Sunset at the Maryland side of Great Falls. The Potomac River fills from water from these rapids. [Purchase Print]
This next image was taken that same day. As you climb down the Maryland side towards the water, there are flooded brooks along the river that graceful, Great Blue Herons congregate and hunt at. Though this particular Great Blue Heron was right in the middle of the action near those violent rapids, he was not taking as much risk as his brothers and sisters, who were daringly skipping between dry areas in rock, searching for fish.
“Living on the Edge”
A Great Blue Heron scales a strip of bedrock alongside the violent currents of Great Falls. [Purchase Print]
This next shot was taken right after some intense flooding in the DC region at the beginning of September. Just below one of the main overlooks, this shot shows how the rocks in the distance were inundated with especially brackish floodwater. I wanted to highlight the textures of the water and the daunting rock when presenting this image.
“Great Flooded Falls”
Brown floodwater overwhelms the falls, and spins in furious circles at Great Falls Park in Virginia.
This last image was taken right at the end of summer. Up near the main Virginia side gorge, this image shows how the river cuts right through the textured bedrock and down the falls. The lines of the intense rock lead you upstream, to where the water bashes through large sections of stone.
“Forces Through Stone”
The fierce Potomac River cuts through bedrock as it makes its way down through Great Falls to the Atlantic Ocean. [Purchase Print]
I hope you enjoyed my past few months of images of Great Falls National Park. For as long as I’m in the region, I hope to continue building out a portfolio of unique and high quality images of this gem of the mid-Atlantic. Please drop me a line and let me know how you liked this set!
Until next time!
Just a quick plug here
Two of my shots from my trip last year to Shenandoah National Park were chosen as finalists in the Views of Shenandoah Contest. My shots, among others, will be printed and hung in the Charlottesville Community Design Center in Downtown Charlottesville, VA and has a chance of winning the contest.
The winner will be chosen on August 5th during the reception ceremony. More details can be found here.
Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town that day! In any case, I hope for a good result.
Here are the two images that were chosen as finalists:
Fall colors show on rolling hills of the Shenandoah Mountains at sunset