When It Comes To Weather, Perfect Isn’t Always Prefect

I know photographers that only head out to make photos in what they feel is perfect weather conditions for the photos they want to make. If there is a chance of rain or even heavy overcast they stay at home and don’t go out. That is unfortunate because you miss out on a lot of opportunities. Sure, I have been disappointed when the weather takes a turn for the worse. But more often than not I come home with some interesting photos.

Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Trail in Shenandoah National Park

The forecast called for cloudy to mostly cloudy skies last Tuesday for Harrisonburg, VA. I knew that it was time to head up to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park for the day! For most of us, when the forecast calls for cloudy skies, the clouds will be rather high in the sky. When you are on a mountain, cloudy skies can mean you will be in the clouds! And that is exactly what I wanted. I spent the day walking trails in the clouds.

Last Light of Day on Old Rag Mountain
The last light of day on Old Rag Mountain.

There was a break in the cloud cover but not for long. Plus, it depended on where you were on Skyline Drive. A few tenths of a mile could mean clear skies or staying in clouds. As I rounded a bend I could see Old Rag Mountain bathed in some nice golden light. I hurried to the next over look and got a photo just in time. A minute or two later, the light was gone.

As photographers we need to study more than just photography. Study the weather if you photograph outdoors. Look for changeable weather not just clear blue skies. Find conditions that will help enhance the photos that you want to make and get out there!

Wegner Brothers

Stewart and Steven Wegner in their galler
Stewart and Steven Wegner in their gallery.

In May I had the opportunity to photograph the Wegner brothers for the June issue of Rappahannock Magazine. They have a gallery and foundry on Wofle Street in Fredericksburg. Like most of that part of Wolfe street the building was once part of an ice cream factory. Stewart and Steven are twins who have been creating bronze works of art together for many years. If you have never been to a foundry before it’s interesting to see everything that goes into make a bronze sculpture. They use the “lost wax” method to create their sculptures. I won’t go into all of the steps necessary to make a bronze casting this way but there are many. Some are more tedious than others but they are all necessary to create the pieces that they do. While I was there they were working on several different projects.

Steven and Stewart Wegner pouring molten bronze into molds.
Steven and Stewart Wegner pouring molten bronze into molds.

I helped to pour the bronze for a plaque at the College of Charleston commemorating the 200th anniversary of the college while I was a student there. Pouring bronze is a hot and heavy task. Steven told me that the molten bronze is about the same temperature and the center of a nuclear explosion, around 2400º fahrenheit. Not something you want to spill down the front of you! In fact, it would probably go right through you. Molten bronze pours like water, glows bright orange and is very heavy. It took four of us to pour the bronze for the rather large plaque. Steven and Stewart can pour several pieces at a time depending on the size of the pieces. It is quite a process to watch and to photograph.

Stewart Wegner working on a wax casting.
Stewart Wegner working on a wax casting.
Stewart Wegner sifts silica over a mold.
Steven Wegner sifts silica over a mold.
Stewart Wegner putting the finishing touches on a bronze sculpture.
Stewart Wegner putting the finishing touches on a bronze sculpture.
Steven and Stewart Wegner in their foundry.
Steven and Stewart Wegner in their foundry.

Small Successes

Photography can be very frustrating. Anyone that has been bitten by the photography bug will tell you, it can be down right discouraging. I know, I have been frustrated by trying something new in photography more times than I care to admit. It used to bug me more than it does now, why I’m not sure, maybe it has something to do with getting older or (please don’t tell me) I’m finally growing up. Maybe I have just become confident that I will eventually figure it out or I can find the answer somewhere on the font of all knowledge, the interwebs. I am fairly confident there is a 12 year old somewhere in the world with a YouTube channel that has the answer I’m looking for. Anyway, frustration happens and it will continue to happen because the easy stuff is a piece of cake and the stuff that we really need or want is much harder to get. The trick is to not get frustrated enough to give up.

Look for the small successes. They happen more often than you think. When they happen take a moment to congratulate yourself. Remember that first picture that came out exactly as you wanted it to? Remember the first time that you knew exactly which blending mode to use in Photoshop to get the effect you wanted without trying two or three others first? Theses are small successes that we all should celebrate. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around was the relationship between f-stops and aperture. Why is it that when the f-numbers get bigger there is less light coming through the lens? I didn’t find the answer to that question until I had been shooting for 25+ years. I just forgot about the why and just accepted it as the way it is but I still wanted the answer. When I finally stumbled upon the answer, explained in a way that made sense to me, I had a minor freak fit. The answer was so easy, yet took so long to get, I felt a bit silly.

Small successes in photography can happen every day. Getting out with your camera even for a short time with your busy schedule can be a small success. Gaining the confidence that you have set up the camera so it can do it’s job while you are doing your’s, is another. Don’t let frustration spoil the fun of getting out with your camera and having a good time. Practice is always a good thing and leads to many small successes. The more you practice, the more small success will come your way and the better you will become as a photographer.

Get out there, have fun and celebrate the small successes!

Go Ahead, Fail

Let’s admit it, we are all afraid of failure. We do everything we can to try and avoid failure, but you know what? We are all going to fail every now and then. So, get on with it. Don’t let the possibility of failure hold you back. I said, back in August, that I was going to put out a newsletter in September. That was my goal. Well, I sat down several times to design it. “I want this to be great!” I thought. After several attempts and the month of September now gone, I sat down yesterday, October 2, and just did it. I put together a newsletter. At this point, I thought, it wasn’t going to be very impressive but I had to get it out. The thing in the back of my mind was, if it’s not very impressive, in fact if it sucks, well, that would be a bad thing. Yes it would, but it would also not be the end of the world.

So, I sat down and in one go got my first newsletter out. It went out to those who signed up for it. Mostly friends, other photographers and students. And guess what! Yep, FAIL! I missed a couple of things that I shouldn’t have. One was glaringly obvious only after I pressed send which is usual for me. Pressing the send button somehow clears the RAM in my brain and I usually find one or more mistakes in what I have written. It was there all along but I never saw it. So my thought for today, don’t worry about getting everything perfect. The world won’t end. You can learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

I have about three weeks until the next news letter should go out. It’s going to be great, award winning even! I only have three weeks to worry about it!

Go Anywhere, Photography Anything

If you were asked “If you could go anywhere and photograph anything, where would you go and what would you photograph?” how would you answer? For me the first thing that comes to mind is getting on US Rt 1 and heading south. I’d stop when I got to a big marker that says “The Conch Republic, 90 Miles to Cuba, Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A. Key West, FL, Home of the Sunset.” That’s where I want to go.

From there I’d ride a bike around the island. I’d spend most of the day taking in all the places that I remember, not that they would be very familiar with all the time that has past since the last time I was there. As the day is drawing to a close I would head to Mallory Square and celebrate the sunset.

What would I most like to photograph? The sunset and everyone celebrating it. I remember standing in the crowd watching the performers do their acts and watching the boats sail back and forth in the golden light at the end of the day. What a great way to spend some time before doing the Duval Crawl! What’s the Duval Crawl you may ask, I’ll save what for another time!

Photography – A Love-Hate Relationship

Whether you are a keen amateur or a professional photographer you love photography. Photography is easy to love and hate at the same time. Below are a few observations of the love-hate relationship most photographers have with photography at some point.

We love those images of early morning light but we hate setting our alarm clocks for 4am.

We love getting an image in our minds and hate the fact that it will take 27 layers and countless hours in to make it a reality.

We love the amazing images of the Milky Way but hate that there is so much light pollution that we can’t make those images in our backyard.

We love big sensors but hate the file sizes.

We love all the lenses and gadgets we buy but hate that we can’t afford a sherpa to carry it all.

We love going on vacation but hate that we have to bring our family.

We love the creative things we do as photographers and hate when someone says “You must have a great camera.”

We love buying new cameras and hate knowing that the next generation of camera is already in the final phase of development.

We love being out in the natural world but hate that there is no outlet to recharge a flat battery.

We love seeing a great sunset but we hate not being able to stop and park right when we see it.

We love images made in the vast wilderness and hate that a hotel is not within walking distance.

We love being creative and making images but we hate that things like work, family commitments and hunger get in the way.

We love finishing that image and hate is when we realize that the internet is down so we can’t upload it to several social media sites.

We love spending time getting an image to look just right in post processing but we hate that monument of realization that we haven’t saved our work in two hours just when the software decides it’s going to crash.

We love driving into the city to make images at night and we hate that the connector plate for our tripod is sitting on the desk at home.

We love all these things and so much more about photography but we hate that there is only one place that we can be at any given moment so get out when you can and know that a day with your camera beats a day in the office every time!

Every Now and Then You Will Be Rewarded

Until one Saturday last month, July 26, 2014 to be exact, I had never attempted to photograph the Milky Way. I have seen some great photos online but I had never gone out and figured it out for myself. I had been thinking about getting out and photographing the Milky Way for some time. I did some research on what other photographers had done so I was ready to get out and give it a try. I figured I would set it up as a Meetup for the Night and Low Light Photography Group. As the day got closer the weather reports called for various possibilities of rain and overcast. On the day of the Meetup the weather report called for partly cloudy skies with 20% chance of rain. Not bad odds and as it turned out, very nice because of a storm that came through. This is a composite of five images made while the storm was approaching.

Storm Clouds and Lightning
Evening Storm

I was the last one standing out in the storm and I only left when the rain came. Everyone else was in their cars and we all sat hoping the rain would let up. Most got tired of waiting for the rain to stop and the skies to clear so they left. Of the group that started there was only three left including me once the rain stopped. After the rain stopped the skies did clear and the Milky Way did make an appearance. I got out and got set up again and here are some of my first attempts to photograph the Milky Way.

Milky Way with the lights of Harrisonburg, VA.
Milky Way with a few clouds.
Milky Way with a single cloud.

I must admit that I almost left before the skies cleared. I knew that I had a 3 hour drive home but I’m glad I stayed. I learned a few things from this outing (I’ll share that in a post at CreatePhotographics.info in a day or two). Most of all, something that was reinforced here, every now and then you will be rewarded for your patients.