Hudson River School Photo Workshop Report

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We had a great first run of the Hudson River School photo workshop this week, and the weather truly cooperated with great light, dramatic clouds, and constantly changing conditions. I much prefer unpredictable weather over stable forecasts, especially on workshops even if it means there’s more risk of rain. It teaches students so much more about awareness of light, working in changing conditions, and dispels the myth that the only great light is at sunrise or sunset. I see so many photographers leave a location after the so called “golden light” time frame, and miss out on great opportunities to capture unique images.

In addition to shooting in some of my favorite locations in the Hudson Valley, much of the workshop was focused on the paintings of the Hudson River School, and how to look at and learn from their interpretations of the landscape. Their use of light and shadow is something we studied and discussed in-depth, and then applied in the field on later shoots. In addition to other compositional concepts, it was the drama and emotion the painters conveyed that really made an impression on students. A highlight was our tour of Olana, the home and studio of Frederic Church, one of the major painters of the movement. Seeing his original paintings in person was great, and definitely provided lots of fresh ideas to all the students.

Twilight in the Wilderness - Frederic Church

Twilight in the Wilderness – Frederic Church

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Jamaica Bay – Frederic Church

I thoroughly enjoyed exposing students to the many ways we can learn from painters, and they left the workshop with renewed interest to visit their local landscapes with a different perspective. That for me is really special, because it means we can indeed photograph great landscapes anywhere, not only at an iconic location. Ordinary and mundane subjects become interesting when our frame of mind is open rather than closed. Approaching photography with this way means there’s the potential of interpretation, and not merely capturing a vista. There’s room for the photographer to express his or her vision and way of seeing. When you’re intimately familiar with a landscape, you can connect so much better because it means so much more, like an old friend. That friend for me is the Hudson Valley, but it can be any place that makes you feel special on the inside.

That same connection is what made the painters of the Hudson River School unique. Their passion for the landscape motivated them to hike miles and miles, recording their emotional experiences to the new wilderness of America during the 1800s. We can do the same today. All it takes is commitment to your vision, and the patience to let nature show her true gifts. Taking a workshop where everyone is seeking the same meaning in their work also helps tremendously.

A big thank you to all the students who attended and made it a success. I’ll post some of their photos soon.

Look for an extended and more ambitious version of the workshop in 2015!

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My son Bryce getting an early start in landscape photography…and assisting his Dad.

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Photo Journal: Hunter Beach, Acadia National Park

 

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Olympus E-M1, 1 sec @f/11, ISO 200, 24mm, 6 stop ND

During our stay in Acadia National Park last week, my family and I visited this beach one foggy morning,  I had no real expectations of capturing anything special, we were just there enjoying nature and this special place. In fact, at the parking area it was rather clear and sunny, and I almost left my backpack behind, but thought “better safe than sorry.”But as we hiked further along the half mile trail, a thick fog slowly started to permeate the forest. By the time we reached the rocky beach, we could hear the waves crashing along the shore, but could barely see them.

Over time the fog slowly started to clear somewhat, and I realized it might be a great opportunity to capture some of the mood and feel in this beautiful cove. There’s a fine balance between too much fog, where the light is really flat and too soft, and not enough fog to diffuse the light and provide just enough shadows to create depth and dimension. There isn’t any right or wrong way to photograph in foggy conditions, it all depends on the type of image you want to make, and more importantly the mood you want to convey.

Light, of course, is the ingredient I am most interested in, and therefore I tried to wait for the right moment when it created enough depth in the rocks to make them feel as dimensional as possible. But I also hoped to keep the trees and shoreline in the distance soft and elusive, creating as much contrast between the two. I used a 6 stop ND filter to slow down my shutter speed to 1 sec – any slower and the water became too murky, plus I want to maintain some of the movement that can be seen in the white foam flowing around the rocks. (I also didn’t want to use too small an aperture, diffraction becomes a problem, plus I didn’t really need infinite depth of field, just enough to keep the trees sharp.) I made several exposures, experimenting with the movement of the water, all the while trying to keep the filter dry from splashes. I wanted a very low perspective to make the rocks as dramatic as possible, so my camera was about 2 feet above the rocks, tripod in the water.

While I wasn’t certain about converting to black & white at the time, I knew it might be an option, The color wasn’t that strong given the fog, and I hoped the differences in the colors of the rocks made for more varied tonalities. And it did once I converted to b&w in Lightroom. It also adds an added sense of mystery to the image which I think better conveys how I felt at that particular moment. In fact, my family was much further up the beach at the time, and by the time I reached this particular spot and setup my tripod, I couldn’t even see or hear them, adding to my sense of isolation at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Original RAW file

Much of my work is a reaction or response to nature and its infinite variables. Much like my earlier days as a jazz musician, reacting to the spontaneity of the other players in the band, I try and remain open to any situation, without any preconceptions. In a sense, this become the ultimate challenge, because you never know what to expect, or how you will react, and creativity has just a little more room to grow.

September 2014 Free Desktop Wallpaper

The September 2014 Free Desktop Wallpaper is now available for download.

As always, come closer to nature in the Quoddy Head, Maine.

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1920 x 1200

1920 x 1080

1680 x 1050

1280 x 800

Instructions:

First determine your screen size. Your Current Resolution Is:

Then click on the link for the correct size. When the image opens in a new browser window, right click on the image and select “Set as Wallpaper” (on a Mac, select “Use Image as Desktop Picture”).

What’s In My Camera Bag

I’m winding down my vacation with a few days camping at Acadia National Park, and with the little time I have to be online, I figured I would answer a question I often receive—what’s in my camera bag.

While most of you know camera gear is really not a focus of mine, it is still critically important to success as a landscape photographer. I use what gets the job done for me, and in general I prefer top quality lenses, and as much resoltution as I can afford given I make and sell large prints. But I also enjoy smaller setups that are lighter and easier to carry, especaily in long hikes.

So for this particular 11 day trip, here;s what I packed in my GuraGear Uinta backpack:

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Primary Landscape Kit

  • Canon 1DS Mk III Body
  • Zeiss 21mm Distagon Lens
  • Canon 70–200mm L f/2.8 IS Lens

Secondary Kit

  • Olympus OM-D E-M1
  • Olympus 12mm f/2.8 Lens
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lens
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Lens
  • Olympus 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Accessories

  • Manfrotto 190CF3 carbon fiber tripod
  • Kirk BH3 Ballhead
  • B+W Ciscular Polarizer
  • B+W 6 stop ND filter
  • B+W 10 stop ND Filter
  • Adapter rings for filters

While this is not the most versatile setup, I chose to bring more prime lenses on this trip to challenge myself creatively and keep my decisions simpler, which is always a good thing. Not having an option means I focus on what I can work with, and that makes me look more instead of simply relying on familiar habits.

Thanks for reading and any questions whatsoever, please let me know!