Notes of an Emerging Photographer: The Ridge, again

I’m going to have to be more selective of which overalls I wear on these outings. I’ll be designating a few pairs specifically for photography, because I find myself going down on one knee a lot, and I don’t want to damage the knees of my favorite vintage pairs, like this pair of Dickies.

Heavens, I think I may be actually getting better at this photography thing! I know it’s only been a short while with this camera, but I’m getting to the point already where carrying this camera around feels natural. Looking around feels natural. Thinking in terms of, “How can I capture this? What’s a neat way of looking at it?” is becoming natural.

Or…at least more natural than it used to feel.

This past Sunday morning I ventured up to Chestnut Ridge for the second time in three weeks. (Titling this post “The Ridge, again” might be a bit confusing, since I didn’t post my thoughts on the photos I took that day yet!) What’s nice about Chestnut Ridge, which is by area larger than Central Park in Manhattan, is that you can go multiple times and not visit the same areas. This time I walked along a different stream, one that has a spot where it tumbles down probably twenty feet or so of incline over a few hundred feet laterally, making for a series of neat-looking miniature waterfalls. This is a spot that ends in a large pool about four-feet deep. Farther upstream the bed is lined by large moss-covered boulders. Here are some of the photos I took that day; more are in a Flickr album, here.

Meantime, here are some of the shots I took the other day. I like how many of these turned out.

Pump House, and Pump House Roof Detail.

I love how these old pump-houses are left to slowly crumble in the forests of Chestnut Ridge. The overgrowth around them and the moss on them really make them feel like something out of the backgrounds in a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

Stair-stepping Stream, the colors of the pool, and life in and atop.

Note to self: Visit this spot in late Spring or early Summer next year, when there is more water flowing. Still, this is a nice bit of flow; I’ve seen it in August with half as much water.

The reflected colors of the sunlit forest on the surface, plus the colors of the bottom below, make this almost like an Impressionist painting.

Note the fish! and the sunken leaf…and the bubble floating….

I’m thrilled I got this as sharply as I did! You can’t really see the water-striders all that well, but they’re not actually my subject here: the shadows on the bottom of their footprints ON the water are.

One thing about deciding to take photography seriously at this point, after years of snapshotting, is that I already have a pretty good sense of what my usual subjects will be and what styles of photography I will gravitate toward. In this case: when I’m around water, I almost get twitchy if I can’t take a photo somehow. Lakes, rivers, streams, cataracts, pools, puddles, the sea: it’s all fascinating to me.

Rushing water: using shutter priority.

These next three photos involve ongoing experiments with Shutter-priority mode. Managing shutter speed is another way of regulating light that reaches the camera sensor, and shutter speed in particular affects how motion is captured. A very fast shutter speed freezes action, while a slower shutter speed allows for blurring of the action. In the case of flowing water, a slower shutter speed turns the same rush of water over some rocks into something gossamer-like, looking like a veil of water rather than a distinct flow. You can see the difference in the next two, taken of the same spot but with different shutter speeds:

This one, I did not get a comparison shot; I just really like how this turned out. Could it be sharper? Sure, as I was free-handing the shot at this point. When shooting with slower shutter speeds, vibrations of the camera itself actually show up in the image as blur, which is why tripods and timers and remotes are tools that help with this sort of photography.

I’m not sure what this rising steam was! Another hiker had passed through just a few seconds before I saw this mist, and I wondered if he had dropped a cigarette there, but I checked and no, he did not. So I suppose this is the mist of water rising from a dead and fallen tree trunk. Getting this was pure luck.

Mossy rocks and the stream. I think, if I were to do this one again, I’d shoot lower–maybe even set up a tripod in the water–so the framing of the shot would eliminate the fallen tree. Fallen trees are a major feature at Chestnut Ridge. They are always in evidence.

Buffalo-Niagara from the Chestnut Ridge Hill

This is one of this region’s best views. From the sledding hill facing north, you can see Buffalo (at right) and, at left in the distance, Niagara Falls, ON. In these two photos you can see two different approaches to editing: the first dials back the saturation while increasing the shadows and highlights, making the area of sunlight in the foreground pop a bit. The second photo is not zoomed at all, showing pretty much the entirety of the view from the Ridge. This one I brightened and dialed the saturation up, quite a bit more than I usually do, even.

By the way, that’s only 13 of the 30 shots that are in the Flickr album linked above…and the Flickr album only contains 30 of the more than 80 photos I took that day! I used to think it was all a matter of composing your perfect shot and then taking it, so you only end up with those perfect shots. It turns out that photographers take many, many more shots than they ever end up using…and that’s OK. It just means I didn’t understand that part of the process. Now, I’m on board.

Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!

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2 Responses to Notes of an Emerging Photographer: The Ridge, again

  1. Roger says:

    I’m often a sucker for pictures of water than show a reflection (your second stream pic, e.g.).

  2. David says:

    I really like the Stair-Step Stream photo; it’s got a sense of mystery and adventure (what’s around the corner up stream?), and the spot of light at the top lends an air of goodness.

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