Rainy Day Photography- 2

In another life I taught High School Science. Biology was my specialty. One of the topics I presented was ‘water- it’s special properties’ something that all Biology students need to understand in order to study Biology at any level of Biology, be it biochemical or ecological.

Raindrops collect on the waxy surface of a fallen leaf

Raindrops collect on the waxy surface of a fallen leaf

Safe to say this was not the most exciting topic for biology students, especially at the start of the semester but I endeavoured to make it as interesting and applicable as possible using some simple but very cool demonstrations that always captured student interest and helped make them appreciate the topic.

Raindrops cling to a garden flower stem.

Raindrops cling to a garden flower stem.

Water molecules are peculiar and one can demonstrate their fascinating nature by observing the behaviour of water drops. I sprinkled some water on a sheet of wax paper placed on an overhead projector. With a toothpick I towed water drops around on the slippery surface and the students could watch them merge when they got close together- always retaining their round shapes. Terms like hydrophobic and hydrophilic could be introduced. In another demonstration (which needs low humidity btw!) I combed my hair to put an electrostatic charge on the comb and then used it to attract a thin stream of water from the faucet.

Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) fronds with raindrops

Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) fronds with raindrops

Canada blue joint, Calamagrostis canadensis. Raindrops on leaves

Canada blue joint, Calamagrostis canadensis. Raindrops bead up on the waxy leaves

Living things take advantage of these peculiar properties in many ways and it was then my task to try and make those connections over the course of the semester.

Yellowing garden iris leaves and raindrops in autumn

Yellowing garden iris leaves and raindrops in autumn

These days I am a photographer, but still fascinated by water drops clinging to stalks of grass, glistening on spider silk or beading up on the waxy surfaces of leaves. To photograph these phenomena I need a macro lens, tripod, calm conditions and preferably soft overcast light, but backlighting could work occasionally too. Shallow depths of field and careful framing are important factors to achieving success. Keywords such as ’round’, ‘fresh’, ‘delicate’, ‘reflections’, come to mind when photographing. I like soft backgrounds achieved by using shallow depths of field. Keeping the raindrops in focus requires careful camera position, parallel to the main plane of the drops or sometimes I use Helicon focus stacking techniques to merge different areas of sharpness.

Raindrops clinging to strands of hairgrass in late summer

Raindrops clinging to strands of hairgrass in late summer

Raindrops on grass spider web with red blueberry leaf

Raindrops on grass spider web with red blueberry leaf

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) Autumn leaves with raindrops

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) Autumn leaves with raindrops

After a light rain I hope for calm conditions and then venture out. Normally I do not need to go far.

Brenda and I will be away for over a month, exploring the Northwest Territories to Wood Buffalo NP and up to Yellowknife, with another tour in to Arctic Haven Lodge in Nunavut included. I won’t be blogging until after I return but until then good shooting!

The Five-Day Black and White Challenge

My friend and professional Canadian photographer Mike Grandmaison was challenged by his editor Roy Ramsay to produce a black and white image each day for five days. Mike then passed along the challenge to me and others in his photography network. Pictures were uploaded to Facebook pages. You can see some other excellent efforts at ‪ http://on.fb.me/1tQ9EoK

Larch trees in autumn at dawn. Lively Ontario

Larch trees in autumn at dawn. Lively Ontario

Eroded landforms at Zabriskie Point. Death Valley National Park

Eroded landforms at Zabriskie Point. Death Valley National Park

I will preface my comments by admitting that while I enjoy black and white photographs I have never made any images on B&W film nor have I spent any time mastering B&W software techniques. So this indeed is an offering made by a ‘newbie’ to the greyscale game. That being said, B&W software is fairly easy to use, whether it is embedded in a Raw processor or is a third party stand-alone plug-in. I chose the Photoshop third party route, using Perfect Photo Suite by onOne Software. I found it easy to use, offering a robust set of features and adjustments together with pre-sets. I did not use any pre-sets for this assignment although there are plenty from which to choose.

 

Spring deciduous woodland with carpet of blooming trilliums

Spring deciduous woodland with carpet of blooming trilliums

My main goal was to select images with good contrast that would feature elements of visual design, such as perspective, line, shape and texture, all created with variations of tonal contrast. I tried to retain shadow and highlight detail and I tried to select from a variety of subjects from my files, both close to home and abroad, landscape, abstract and wildlife.

 

Frost patterns on a windowpane

Frost patterns on a windowpane

Canadian Mountain Grizzly Bears

These first five images in this gallery represent my selects, followed by a short slide show of also-rans. What’s your favourite? Would you have chosen any from the ‘also-ran’ list to take the place of my 5-day picks?

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Impressionistic Photography at Tourist Hot-spots

While my first love is nature photography I will venture into the city and urban areas to make photos of other types of subjects. Sometimes I employ a version of my drive-by-shooting technique, this time on foot. Some of these urban subjects have been done a billion times and done very well. Victoria BC attracts a lot of tourists and visitors are drawn to the downtown Inner Harbour where there is an excellent view of the Provincial Parliament Buildings. One particular location, near the tourist bureau overlooks the boat basin, offering the best view of the Parliament Buildings with their lights reflected in the waters of the Inner Harbour at dusk.

After photographing the traditional version of the Parliament Buildings and their reflections I decided to see what else I could do. I walked with my camera among the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, street vendors and buskers.  I adjusted aperture, ISO and shutter speeds to make exposures of four to eight seconds in length. I checked my histogram and review screen to see if I was in the ballpark with exposure. For composition, my method involves walking but keeping the camera loosely trained on one central point in the scene- say a set of lights, while I walk. I don’t put my eye to the viewfinder, I simply check the review screen to see if I have captured an interesting version of the scene. Sometimes I need to repeat an exposure, raising or lowering the camera a bit, to improve the balance of abstract lights in the capture. I don’t delete much, in-camera. I wait until I am back at the computer to eliminate the more obvious weak images.

Abstract imge of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings

Abstract imge of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings

Impressionistic image of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings

 

Alternatively I enjoy photographing reflections of vessels or buildings in the boat basins. The wharves are usually sturdy enough for a tripod and I am often free to wander almost anywhere. In this image, the famous Empress Hotel, warmed by evening light, is reflected in the Inner Harbour waters.

 

The boat basin at Nanaimo BC offered me similarly exciting subject material before and after dark. Not as famous as Victoria but there were some lovely colours and exciting images created by my ‘walk-about’ technique.

Night time view of the Nanaimo Boat Basin. Nanaimo BC.

Nighttime abstract views of Nanaimo boat basin and the performing arts center. Nanaimo BC.8 sec exposure.

Pedestrian bridge at night in Maffeo Sutton Park. Nanaimo BC. 5 sec exposure.

Boat and wharf reflections in Nanaimo Harbour water. Nanaimo BC.