The last few days here in northern Utah we've had fog, frost, overcast sky, and haze. Still I have taken short jaunts out each morning, after my daughter leaves for school, to see what pictures I can make. All of the images in this post were taken with my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, the Sony 18mm to 105mm zoom lens, and on a tripod.
The problem with taking pictures on these gray days is that there is so little contrast for easily making good photographs. My solution has been to either: embrace the low contrast light to make soft high key black and white images, look for subjects with contrasting colors, or make high contrast images where the light and dark values of the subject matter are juxtaposed against each other.
Above is a low contrast landscape image that I took to create a photo that had a soft delicate, almost ethereal feeling. I noticed this tree and bushes while walking around the property of an abandoned home in heavy fog. I slightly overexposed the image to capture the soft fogy atmosphere that enveloped the tree.
This next image I took after driving my car down a tractor path to get closer to a lone tree I had spotted from the main road. My photograph tries to contrast the colors of the yellowish grasses with the stark black tree and the hazy bluish tint of the background (below). I also included the tractor path in the composition to lead the eye from the foreground to the background.
I took this high contrast photograph of a wooded area on the periphery of a farmer's field. In processing this photograph I have emphasized the row of grasses against the massive dark value of the tree in the background (below). I used a small aperture of around f18 to get all of the scene in focus. Usually the rules of photographic composition say to simplify the world around us. Here I have deliberately kept the image cluttered to highlight the messy look of the woods as I saw them on this frosty morning. My goal being to make a photograph more modern artistically than the more traditional landscapes I usually take.
Closeup pictures are easily made in the low contrast light of an overcast day. The overcast light acts as a large diffuser making the light soft and even. This image was made when I took a walk along a path through some nearby woods. I spotted a few green leaves that had not changed colors during the fall. I loved the way frost had outlined the leaf and I moved in close to take my picture (below). I deliberately selected a large aperture, around f4, to blur out the distracting background with a shallow depth of field.
I also made a trip on an overcast day to one of my favorite locations, the Hill Aerospace Museum in Roy, Utah. With the low contrast light of the day I was able to photograph this gigantic C-124 cargo plane (below) against a soft blue-gray background. The soft light really allowed the colorfully painted front-end to stand out. I saw a volunteer worker sweeping the walkway and I waited until he came into the picture to give viewers a sense of the size of the aircraft. I took the picture from down low with my lens at a wide angle setting to capture as much of this huge aircraft as I could in the the shot. By way, does nose of this aircraft look like a clown's face to you?
You see, even on overcast days with no direct light you can still make great photographs. So forget huddling down in that comfy chair with a book and cup of hot chocolate, get out and make some beautiful pictures. Remember you really can take photos in any light.
Yesterday was my mother's eighty-fourth birthday. Her assisted living home is in Cache Valley, Utah. The home planned a small birthday luncheon for her and so I left early to take pictures before lunch. Of course, as I always do, I took a camera with me. My Sony A6000 mirrorless camera and favorite lens, the Sony 18-105mm zoom.
The most direct route, as I've mentioned before, is by way of Highway 89 through Sardine Canyon into Cache Valley. I've driven this route over a thousand times in the past 20 years and yet there seems to always be something new to photograph. Right now northern Utah is really between fall and winter. Leaves all gone, no snow yet. Still I did see a grove of beautiful barren trees as I drove down the canyon so I pulled off to look for some photo opportunities.
After taking pictures from several locations on a side road I finally found I scene I liked. Conifers up on the mountainside, a grove of barren trees below them and in the foreground a field of common teasel, a tall spiny weed, which has a beautiful gold color when mature but nasty sharp spines. The photo below is the one I took and finally settled on processing.
Coming out of the canyon to Wellsville, Utah I noticed parked across the road from the Sinclair gas station two older tow-trucks with sale prices written on their windows. I love to photograph older cars and trucks and so this was irresistible. I first hand-held my camera but decided I wanted maximum sharpness so I put my camera on the tripod. A couple of dozen images later I settled on putting images of the oldest one of them on my website. I used more clarity and vibrance then I typically do but I wanted to bring out the work worn character of this powerful and classic truck.
Now, almost time for lunch I drove through Providence, Utah looking for some final photos to take. A bright red barn caught my attention and I thought it would look great if I contrasted the deep red against the gorgeous blue sky. Here it is, another of my personal works of modern art.
Well mom loved the present I gave her, a book of my own landscape photographs. Really that was my gift and she did love it. Happy Birthday Mom.
So keep taking pictures, even if you've driven the same route a thousand times. There is always a new photo opportunity down the road and in any light you find.
I was out early a few days ago to photograph a sunrise in northern Utah. Too typical for many landscape photography adventures, there were no clouds. Yet, pre-sunrise the light coming over our eastern mountains was beautifully illuminating the western mountains. Planning ahead and hoping for this I had prepared for it by setting up my tripod with view to the west and of a providentially placed small barn.
I took a lot of shots shoots before sunrise with my Sony A6000 and 70-200mm f5.6 e-mount zoom lens. Suddenly, the sky above the western mountains became a glorious shade of soft pink streaks with a subtle streak of even paler blue mixed in. I managed to get off couple of quick shoots before it all faded away. This photograph is the best of the ones I took. I hope looking closely you too can see the subtle streaks of soft colors.
Finally, thinking in terms of any light photography, see how even before sunrise there are pictures to be made. Go out and try it for yourself. Get up to shoot a sunrise and don't forget to look behind you.
Taking photographs throughout northern Utah one subject always get my attention, abandoned structures. These structures and even abandoned objects seem to dot the northern Utah countryside. There are houses, barns, outbuildings, farm implements,and even commercial buildings that are no longer of use. But its not just in the open countryside where I find abandoned buildings but also in towns and cities (below). Some maybe restored most will simply be torn down.
To me these structures and objects are beautiful. In fact, most are now more interesting to photograph in their decay then they would have been during the times when they were in actual use (below).
Photographing them I can't help but think of the stories they could tell. Who built them, why are they located where the are, and why were they abandoned? And will they be resurrected and used again, torn down, or left to decay? Some of the buildings I've photographed already no longer exist.
My best camera for photographing buildings in the city is my Sony RX100ii. It takes sharp images and even shoots in RAW. More important, it is so compact that I always have it with me. You never know when you will come across a subject you want to photograph. I've even pulled over sometimes and taken photos through my open car window because I didn't have any time to spare. However, any camera, even a point and shoot camera, can capture these interesting subjects if you have it with you at all times (below).
When I go out into the countryside and mountain valleys I always use my Sony A6000 and usually a tripod. The tripod because these subjects aren't going anywhere so I can take my time. I also use a variety of lenses but usually a wide-angle lens seems best (below). Finally, what about lighting conditions? I've taken many beautiful images in early morning and evening light. But I also found that when I photograph these subjects in the harsh light of midday it can really emphasize the lonely abandonment of the buildings (below).
Now keep your own eyes open for these subjects. You will find that you also can enjoy photographing abandoned structures anytime and in any light.
I really like modern art. But I can't draw or paint. Yesterday though, I came across an old farm building with broken windows. When I looked at the windows in the building, rusted and faded, I could envision some kind of a modern art painting with various textures and geometric shapes.
I took a number of images trying to find just the right "painting." Backing up, using the 18-105mm zoom on my Sony A6000, I shot many different pictures of the whole window. Didn't work for me. So I took lots of photos of the windows close-up. Finally when I shot this photograph I knew it was the "modern art painting" I wanted.
When you get an idea for a photo, remember to explore your subject from different angles, distances, and exposures. Take lots of pictures. There is a photograph in your subject that will be your "art" when you keep trying.