Retrospective

ISO 50  |  30 seconds  |  /22.0

Shot on AGFA Ultra 50 film during the height of foliage season in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

It was late in the day and the sun was shining strongly on the trees across the river from me. Long-exposures have a tendency to create a surreal water-effect under the right circumstances and I was using my favorite film: AGFA Ultra 50.

I wanted to starve my exposure of light far more than normal. First, I applied a Circular Polarizing Filter to the lens to control how light would reflect off the water. This has a nice benefit of cutting down on light by a full-stop. Next, I applied a 10-stop Neutral-Density filter to dramatically reduce the light even more to a negative 11-full stops in total.

The film's ISO was 50 and I closed the Aperture all the way down to f/22 for that particular lens. For Shutter-Speed, I found that 30-seconds was necessary to bring my exposure into balance. This insanely long-exposure during daylight gave me these wonderful orange-sherbet colors.

AGFA Ultra 50 gives a nice boost to oranges, reds and yellows. The perfect Autumn film. As with all film, you set your exposure and hope for the best while it gets sent out to be developed into prints. Unfortunately, film and processing adds up and you can't shoot endlessly like you can with digital cameras.

While this is another bonus for digital, the shift from analog to digital has cost us some very dear films, AGFA Ultra 50 included.

I still have one roll remaining, never to be used.


ISO 100  |  1/100 second  | f /8.0

Taken two nights prior to a full moon, resulting in plenty of light to illuminate the water and the trees.

There are several ways to photograph the moon: Using a telephoto lens, or telescope, so the moon is the only thing in the viewfinder is a popular method. 

Another is to photograph a moon that is illuminating a picturesque cloud cover. Or in the case here, making the moon a part of the photograph but not the sole focus.

I knew the area and scouted it out beforehand. Using a compass, I was able to determine which direction the moon would be rising from and where I wanted to be.

I then arrived about 20 minutes before it was set to rise and waited. Only when the moon cleared the densest part of our atmosphere, was I able to start shooting.

Earth's atmosphere barrier is thickest near the horizon, this is the reason the sun is easier for us to see at sunrise or sunset. Once it clears this barrier though, the sun becomes very uncomfortable for our eyes.

With the moon, it's the reverse. While this thick barrier is perfect for sunrise/sunset pictures, the moon is virtually invisible when passing through it. So we have to wait for the moon to clear this barrier AND the clearer the sky (no humidity, clouds, etc.) the sooner we can see it.

Lunar photography takes a little thought than just point-and-shoot, but you already knew that, didn't you? Take a moon photo at night on full-automatic and you will get a white blob, probably blurry, and not very round. This is one of those times YOU NEED TO BE IN FULL-MANUAL.

Look, the earth is rotating around the sun, while at the same time the moon is rotating around the earth. That's 2 very different moving objects, variables we have to deal with in order to avoid their motion-blur. In my photograph, the Shutter-Speed was 1/100 of a second when actually, 1/250 is what's needed to avoid this blur, so I do have a slight bit here.

Remember, the moon is reflecting the sun's light, so our exposure needs to be one set for a daytime exposure, not a nighttime one. Hence the blurry blob photos.

Think of when you look up at the moon on a dark night. It takes your eyes a little time to adjust before you can see all that wonderful crater detail. That's because we are looking at sunlight that is being reflected off the moon's surface, and the moon's distance doesn't matter here.

That's why all your photographs of the moon don't come out when you use your camera's automatic-mode. The camera's light-meter sees a small bright object surrounded by a whole lot of black space (and maybe some stars), so it will then try to balance the two and that just doesn't work too well.

In reality, an exposure for 1-2 o'clock on a bright afternoon is a good starting point for what you're looking at with lunar photography.


ISO 1600  |  1/13 second  |  /5.6

This was a total surprise.

Driving down a dirt road in the northern White Mountains, I came upon the parked truck of a nature guide Michelle and I had previously encountered at a waterfall just a few miles up the road.

They guy signaled me to pull over and also to be quiet as I slowly approached. Expecting a deer, I saw a young moose calf standing there. The guide advised me to put the truck between me and the moose. Very carefully, I started photographing while the guy talked to the moose in a very soothing manner. 

The moose wasn't bothered by our presence at all and made no threatening or frightened moves. After a few minutes, the moose just walked off into the woods. The guy and I laughed about the encounter, then went our own way.

I cannot stress enough to be very careful when it comes to moose. They frighten easily and will kill you if they feel threatened. Also, car impacts with a moose usually end very badly for  humans, far more than they do for a moose. So drive slow in moose territory.


ISO 200  |  1/6 second  |  /22.0

I saw this scene early one morning right after a sunrise, but I didn't have my gear with me. Noting the time, I went back the next morning in case the lighting would repeat itself.

As it did, I took one photograph after another, often times changing my position, until the sun rose to the point that it just fizzled out (the scene, not the sun). Getting home, I immediately inserted the digital card in the computer and was more than pleased with the results.

Another time, I saw a scene involving the late day sun and long, dark tree shadows that stretched out across a frozen river in winter. I was unable to stop and the next 2 days it would rain. Going back on the third day, the ice had melted sufficiently and the scene was gone.

Sometimes, when you can't take a photograph, just enjoy what you are seeing...


ISO 6400  |  1/20 second  |  /3.5

A very special photograph.

I had just purchased a new camera and had taken it with me to a Halloween party. I wasn't planning on taking photos that night, I was thinking more about a long, meandering drive home the next morning.

We had a freak snowstorm that evening and my friend (pictured here) was lighting off a fireworks display in his backyard. I had left my tripod at home (BAD JIM) and had no stable platform other than a damp deck rail. Cranking up the ISO to 6400, I knew the digital noise was going to be quite pronounced but with the snow coming down, I was hoping the noise would add a nice touch to the photograph.

I carefully balanced the camera, while one photograph after another was taken. This was the best of the lot, by far.


ISO 100  |  1/500 second  |  f /8.0

Taken on a trip to Savannah, Georgia. This was metered using an Incident light-meter and perfectly shows why this meter is so good.

The flower is white, without being blown-out of all detail.

We can clearly see in the background and the deep shadows, even for something taken in bright daylight (3:38 PM EST) in summertime, when the weather is fine.

Would my camera's built-in meter have given me this same exposure? Doubtful.


ISO 400  |  1/250 second  |  f /5.3

I photographed a local balloon festival for several years, so I knew the area pretty well.

I'd arrive at the field before lift-off and if wind conditions were acceptable, they would launch a small red balloon to determine the wind-direction and then off they'd go. 

I'd drive off and shadow the hot-air balloons for a while, then go ahead to places I hoped they would fly over. Sometimes they did, but other times the wind would blow them elsewhere.

On this particular occasion, after photographing them alongside a river, I arrived at the New England College Covered Bridge and waited.

I'd say it was a good 20 minutes before the balloon finally came floating by, very low over the horizon. They didn't get any higher than this, then floated to a landing nearby.

This is a perfect example of picturing a moment so vividly in our imagination and how we can go about capturing it.  

This also speaks to another point I want to make: You don't need to go to exotic locales to take good photographs. Take them where you are.

Visit the same sights over and over again. You will get a different result every time. I've shot this bridge many times over the years, and the photographs were are all unique in their own way.


ISO 100  |  0.5 seconds  |  f /29.0

When I take a photograph of a waterfall, I want to starve the exposure of light.

Here, I set the ISO first, then the Aperture. My objective was not for depth-of-field, although everything here IS in focus, it was to throttle down the light as much as possible, to really slow down the Shutter-Speed. 

Here's the thing about waterfalls, you HAVE to be careful about (A) the volume of water that is in motion and (B) the lighting conditions.

The more water is concentrated in a specific area, the greater the chance it will be an unrecoverable bright hotspot (no detail). For this reason alone, photographing on a bright sunny day is not advisable (such as I did here).

Overcast days are actually the best, and early in the morning is even better (overcast or otherwise).

With a waterfall, once I take the picture, I view the histogram to see if I have any clipping in the bright highlights. If I am pleased with things, I will look at how the water looks at that particular Shutter-Speed.

Sometimes I will shoot a range of photos at different Shutter-Speeds, and see which range works the best for that particular waterfall at this particular time.

Take multiple photographs, from different perspectives and heights. 

Exhaust your creativity in these moments and have fun.

I know you can do it.

“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”

Ernst Haas

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