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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.