With most of the United States in deep freeze, why not venture out on the first day of the year and feel that cold, crisp air? Why not. Unfortunately, my favorite museum was closed for the day.
Still, a little cold weather did not deter this man, nor did the weather deter his drinking companions.
But on this cold January day, the first day of the year, the afternoon light made this short trip to the Mall worthwhile.
We went to Times Square hours after the parade ended. Near midnight, the crews were busy cleaning up the trash (and there was A LOT of TRASH!) and the police were moving the barriers down. People still milled around in copious quantities, buoyed by the food that rests deep inside their stomachs, the frenzied energy of the holiday season beginning to take root. A man plays his saxophone while countless people mill about the food trucks and billboard signs that drown out the stars in the night sky. New York, the city that never sleeps. Frenzied strolls along the well lit avenues. Electric is the word.
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.
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.
After 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.
Who 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.
In my earlier write up, I talked about walking around Huntley Meadows on a windy day. How can one convey motion in a static image? Blur. Wind causes motion over time. Decreasing the shutter speed will introduce blur to an image. This can be used to an advantage. Mount your camera on a tripod and pick a shutter speed around 1/20 of a second or even slower. The result can be interesting.
Why look at the same static pictures of red, orange, yellow, green and brown leaves hanging on the branches of a tree? Make your picture move. Introduce blur.
You can also select a high contrast scene and introduce a little blur.
Light + Motion = Emotion.
In photography, you pre visualize the images that you want to take. If a location is nearby and familiar to you, you have probably taken dozens of pictures, each one slightly different, each one a variation of an idea that you want to execute. I was drinking my morning coffee and walking around the coffee shop, something that I have done a hundred times before. The modern building across the shop is fairly colorful. Yellow and red highlights against the brown brickwork and panels. I brought my camera to take the picture that I envisioned.
It turns out, however, that a minute earlier, I took the picture of shadows falling on the walkway and the walls of the building. A lady with a suitcase fortuitously walked into the scene. It wasn’t the picture I was planning to take. It was the picture that presented itself to me. And, even with all the colorful trimming on the upper part of the building, this picture full of shadows and light looks better in black and white.
Seven yards and seventy degrees. From one spot, to the other, with the lens pointing in a different angle. What the GPS will hardly notice, your eye certainly will. Photography, like life, thrives in the unexpected.
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.