Autumn — a Time for Reflection

Skeletons, vampires and ghouls will soon wander our streets in search of candy and treats. It’s a fun, if not a morbid way to say goodbye to another wonderful season. Yes, autumn is coming to an end yet again. It’s a time when Mother Nature shows us her true self, in all her glorious splendour; red and gold, yellow and orange. Photographers hit the trails to capture their vision of Mother Nature before she fades into her winter sleep. For each of us, as photographers, we try to capture this vision in our own styles. For many budding photographers this is a daunting task, not knowing what your style is, or how to begin to express it.

A View from the beginning of the Dufferin Bruce Trail

This is a view from the Dufferin Bruce Trail head. Overlooking farms and rolling hills.

How does one find their style? When will it become known? The answer lies only within us. I know this is a vague explanation, but when you finally do find your own path and style, it all makes more sense. The path that each of us must take is the path of practise. With practise comes two things; the first is a thorough knowledge of our tools of the trade. Our camera gear. Know it like the back of your hand and you will begin to experience your photography in a whole new way. Only when you have mastered your gear, can you look beyond it. No longer will you worry or toil over camera settings and lens choices — these all become second nature.

The second is an appreciation of the connection you experience through your photography. I spoke about this in a previous blog (What Photographers Feel When They Take a Photograph — September 11, 2012). The point when your inner self connects with the landscape, nature or wildlife subject is the moment that counts; it all culminates into that one moment. When this happens you’re essentially experiencing an emotional connection with Mother Nature. When you’re able to give yourself freely to this experience your style will begin to emerge and make itself known.

Fall colour near Lavender, ON

Autumn, for me, is a time for reflection as it was during this season it all clicked for me. I finally got it. Shooting during this season brings back fond memories and an emotional connection that will stay with me forever.

 

One Dreary Day

Everyone has probably heard by now that the best times to shoot landscapes and wildlife are early morning or late afternoon to evening. The best light is at sunrise and for two to three hours thereafter, or two to three hours before and including sunset. So armed with that knowledge, many photographers will check the forecast the night before a scheduled sunrise shoot. If the weather looks like it will be overcast and dreary they will opt to stay in bed and sleep through it; after all, the light won’t yield anything special. I don’t subscribe to that theory. Every sunrise and every sunset will yield something — you just have to look for it.

 Image

I remember shooting this scene a couple of winters ago in Alberta while I was on a photography vacation. The morning was as dreary as you could imagine, and cold — the perfect recipe for staying in a nice, warm bed and dreaming about beautifully lit mountain peaks during a perfect sunrise. Today this was not to be, so I gathered my gear, as did the other photographers in our group, and we made the best of it. We were shooting Abraham Lake during sunrise. We arrived at the lake in the dark, chose our locations and prepared for the sunrise. Did I mention it was cold, and dark, and dreary? Yeah. Real nice. Why was I here again? Oh yeah, making something work, no matter what. Part of the process was to get out of this mood and begin enjoying what good ol’ Mother Nature had prepared for us. Once I did this I began to see. The dreary sight became converging lines in the clouds. Then I began seeing in my favourite compositional shape, the triangle. I composed my shot with several triangles in mind. Can you see them? Now this was coming together for me.

Sure, the light was not super-magical, but it was pure and clean and as crisp as the cold morning air. The ice had a beautiful turquoise cast to it, which played nicely off the browns in my foreground. To finish off my scene the shadowy mountains in the distance provided a mood, which was echoed in the clouds. A winner? It is for me.

 Image

Sometimes large landscape vistas may not speak to you, and you just don’t feel the moment. In times like that I change my perspective and shoot something more intimate and close up. Take this image, for example. I isolated the ice and the water, creating a juxtaposition of hard, static ice and moving water. To further accentuate this juxtaposition, I used a slow shutter speed on the water to give it that soft feel.

I also used a polarizing filter, which made the water darker by removing the glare. My image then had the elements I was after – hard vs. soft, static vs. movement and light vs. dark. This image was originally shot in colour, but I changed it to black and white to further tell my story.

What do photographers feel when they take a photograph?

Recently I had a reader ask me a few questions: Why did you take up photography? When are you the happiest while shooting? And what do photographers feel when they take a photograph? I answered in the following way.

I have always had the artistic bug within me, so to speak. I tried drawing and painting and found I didn’t have the talent for it. I realized, at least for me, I needed to do something that I could identify with, something that would allow me to speak through my art. It was not so much my hands that would allow this expression, but my eyes, mind and heart. Photography allows me to do just that. In the beginning the technical was a bit frustrating to grasp, but practise, practise, practise got me through it. Then one day it all came together and I was able to express my innermost feelings of a place through my photography.

I’m the happiest when I am in nature – anywhere in nature away from the city. Nature’s sounds, the temperature of the air, and the quieting of my soul is what draws me there. Nature brings me a sense of peace that’s found deep within me. When I need to recharge my batteries, I go shooting. To take this one step further, I’m most happy when I’ve composed my shot and I trip the shutter. Whether the shot turns out or not isn’t what draws me, but rather the process that leads me to that point. The peacefulness that photography brings me is my reconnection with nature, and that’s my happiest time. The “good” photography comes with practise, but the process, which allows me to reconnect with nature, is what matters most to me.

So to answer your question of how photographers feel when they take a photograph…I can’t speak for all photographers, but I find that nature speaks to me through its trees and babbling brooks, so I answer with a photograph.

Photos: ©Roy Ramsay
Top photo: Main Chutes, Chutes Provincial Park, ON
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 35mm, ƒ18@0.3 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer
Bottom photo: Minor Chutes, Chutes Provincial Park, ON
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 105mm, ƒ18@1/6 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

Bikes, Photography and a Murder of Crows

When a photographer friend of mine invited me on a recent photo trip she asked me if I have a bike. I do, but haven’t ridden it in over a year. The idea was to ride our bikes from the car, parked at one end of the intended trail route, and ride along the roadways to the other end of the trail. We would leave our bikes at the far end of the trail and hike back to the car along the five-kilometre portion of the Dufferin Hi-Land route of the Bruce Trail.

   The Bruce Trail is Ontario’s longest hiking trail, beginning in Queenston, ON to the south and ending 885 km away in Tobermory, ON to the north. The idea of incorporating my bike into my photo-hiking was an intriguing one, so I eagerly agreed.

Image
P
hoto: ©Susan David/www.susandavid.ca

   We unloaded our bikes from the car and pulled on our backpacks full of photo gear, ready for our ride to the other end of the trail. Within the first minute of setting off, my bike’s back tire came off and jammed itself against the frame. Without tools to fix the problem, my bike was out of commission. Mental note: Make sure you tune up your bike before you set out on a ride in the middle of nowhere. Looks like we were back to hiking the usual way — sans bike.

   The Bruce Trail is an amazing route that takes you through many regions of southwestern Ontario. As I mentioned, we tackled a five-kilometre section within the Dufferin Hi-Land region, which of course became a 10-kilometre hike after we had to retrace our steps in the opposite direction. There are benefits to walking a trail in the opposite direction, as everything is different coming from the other way. You can photograph things you may have potentially missed the first time.

Image

That day we saw much and shot some of the things that we found interesting, like this forest clearing, and an old, abandoned power generating house. The vegetation in the area was reclaiming its territory by the looks of things.

Image

   Before we ended our hike back at the car, we became acutely aware of why crows in a bunch are called a murder of crows. The sound of what seemed like 100-plus crows cawing together is not a sound I would like to hear again anytime in the near future; it chilled me to the bone.

Photos: ©Roy Ramsay
Image info:
Forest clearing: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 45mm, ƒ18@1/5 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

Abandoned power generating house: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 24mm, ƒ18@1 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

Making The Time

Image

Most, if not all, of us have busy lives and we don’t seem to have enough time to do the things we enjoy most. In order to do these things we must make the time. This is often easier said than done. I’m guilty of this myself.

I would like to begin with a story that deals with this topic head-on. I was neck deep in our most recent issue of the magazine and had very little time for anything, let alone my own personal photography pursuits. When things get this hectic, where I have little or no time for myself, I get grumpy, and no one likes a grump.

Even in the most hectic times, as long as you keep your creative eye open you can often see things in the most obscure places. Take this image, for example. While on a break from working on the magazine, I was making myself a coffee (yes, I love coffee) and noticed a pattern through one of our frosted windows. My creative process began in earnest and I had to drop everything to explore it. I figured if I had five minutes to make a coffee, I had five minutes to grab my camera and experiment with my idea.

So with my camera on a tripod and a 70-200mm lens, I composed the outdoor landscape through the frosted window. I made sure I could make out the implied details of sky, trees and foreground meadow. The technique I employed has been used many times in many places and I thought this might be a great time to use it also. During the exposure, I zoomed my telephoto lens out from 200mm to just shy of 70mm over two seconds. The resulting image gives you converging lines in a painted landscape.

Regardless of how busy we may get, we should always make the time to do the things we love.

Photo: ©Roy Ramsay
Image info:
Zooming Landscape
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens, ƒ22@2 sec., ISO 100,
circular warming polarizer

Hello world!

This is my new blog. Who am I? I am Roy Ramsay, Editor-in-Chief of Outdoor Photography Canada magazine.

The purpose of this blog is to share my personal thoughts on photography together with the images I shoot as I continue my 25 year photographic journey. I will attempt to post an entry once per week where my crazy schedule allows. Although I enjoy landscapes, nature and wildlife images I will let my creativity decide what I will shoot and discuss. So feel free to follow along and join me on my adventures from behind my lens.