Roadside Pictures

It was a cloudy day in the D.C. suburbs.  We are getting some badly needed rain.  And, I had to make a short trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia.  So I drive westward on Interstate 66.  The clouds were hanging low as I approached the highlands of Shenandoah National Park.  A little past the exit to the park, the sun peeked through the clouds.  The low lying clouds, the fall colors highlighted by diffused sunlight – it was beautiful.  So what kind of photography can you come up with while taking pictures from the side of a highway?

There’s only one way to find out.  Slowing down from seventy miles per hour, I stopped by the roadside and glanced across the lanes of the interstate.  Nestled in what looked like a small nook by the mountain was a house surrounded by saturated trees sporting saturated autumn colors.  Out came the camera.  One click.  Another click.  Another click.

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It was time to go back to the highway and head westward towards Interstate 81.  The traffic remained relatively light as I reached the junction to I81.  Heading south towards Harrisonburg, the sun was beginning to set towards a horizon barely clear of clouds.  In some spots.  I saw a silo, the sun was setting behind some clouds, and I slowed down again to take more pictures from the highway.

DSC05101_sDSC05103_sAfter ten minutes in Harrisonburg, it was time to go back towards the D.C. suburbs.  It was getting dark rather rapidly, but in the rear view mirror I spied upon a bright red sunset.  The sun was nearly gone as I headed towards an exit at I81 and stopped by a gas station.  Through some barren trees, towards Interstate 81, I saw the last vestiges of light.

DSC03048_sWho knew that a gas station would be a good place to be to watch the sun set?  Photography is incredibly rewarding.  Images are waiting to be taken at almost every moment.  Just keep your eyes open and your mind free.  The pictures will be there for the taking.

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Yellow, but not Totally

As I was leaving Green Spring Gardens, I noticed a nicely backlit hedge of yellow flowers.  After a few pictures of the flowers (from behind), I walked up the short incline to take a closer look at the flowers.  Thin clouds close to the horizon diffused the light emanating from the afternoon sun.  Still hints of directionality, but much less harsh.   A good opportunity to take some flower close ups.  In the midst of all the yellow, there were insects hovering about. Before I started taking pictures with my macro lens, I never really paid attention to the bees flying about.  I was more concerend about that random bee sting not being so random.  It turns out that bees, for the most part, are more intent on sipping nectar than aiming that stinger on an unsuspecting photographer.  And, they are pretty good models to boot.  Just don’t touch them.

I have to say it.  Mellow yellow, with a twist.

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Autumn Leaves

A warm autumn day.  A walk at Green Spring Gardens.  Leaves, different in shape, color, state of decay.  Still clinging, soon to fall.  Why not take a look.  Sometimes, very closely.

The most colorful time of the year is also the time of great changes.  Birds migrate to warmer climes.  Bears are busy foraging in preparation for their winter sleep.  The squirrels store their treasures and in the process dig up the yards and gardens of the suburban (and urban) dweller.  The leaves, once green and infused with chlorophyll, gain their yellow, red, orange, and brownish coloration.  The trees too, will slumber.  Soon, gravity will pull the dying leaves from their branches, leaving trees threadbare, wintering in place, waiting for the warm spring sun to begin the cycle anew.  As the leaves fall to the ground, they will perform one last function in the cycle of life.    Decay leaves to breakdown;  what was of the earth becomes earthen once more.  And from the earth, life will begin anew, rising in triumph, death vanquished.

Beauty in Everything

We are surrounded by beauty.  Often times, we look at everything at the most superficial level.  We see a pretty face, a pretty dress, a beautiful landscape, a stunning sunset.  We travel all over the world to see the Andean glaciers, the auroras in Iceland, the arches and hoodoos of the American southwest, the water wonderland that is Guilin.  We dream of going to far off places, depicted so beautifully by thousands of photographers and artists who share the same passion of seeing, drawing, photographing the places and things that have been universally deemed as beautiful.

We ignore the innate beauty around us.  From a child gazing longingly at the candy cane in the window, the grandmother being escorted by a loving grandchild as they cross a busy street, to a homeless man grateful for a cup of coffee that a stranger provides.  There is so much beauty in the world, if we could only look beyond our preconceptions and prejudices.  And wonder at the beauty that is everyday life.

The bluebird singing.  The stars in the night sky forming patterns that have guided mankind’s journey throughout the ages.  That feather in the grass. Pick it up and look closely.  You may be amazed at what you see.

Classic Subject, Vintage Lens

Over the weekend, a very nice lady gave me an old Minolta Rokkor-TC 135mm f4 lens.  This lens is over five decades old.  It was a sunny day yesterday, so it was a good opportunity to test the lens on a classic subject.  It was off to Meadowlark Gardens for a quick lunchtime photo session.  The lens was attached to a modern Sony APS-C mirrorless camera.  Some pictures.

The lens is lacking in contrast compared to modern lenses; this is most noticeable when there is strong backlighting in the image. Focus peaking works quite well and the ability to magnify the area that I am focusing on is very helpful; unfortunately, I was concerned that the butterfly would fly away before I achieved optimum focus on the subject, so I some of the images are not as sharp as they could have been.

The images were sharpened, contrast added, vibrancy and saturation tweaked, and in the case of the featured image, I deleted “unnecessary” objects from the picture to isolate the flowers and butterflies.  I also had to extensively blur the backgrounds on the featured image and on the last image in the set.  Still, the lens is quite nice.  I am looking forward to using this lens for portraiture – it will probably great for that.

The old lenses are certainly worth trying out.  And as the 135mm f4 Rokkor-TC shows, they will be useful tools for decades to come.

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