Nest Egg

Nest Egg

A year or two ago I found two bird nests after they had fallen out of the trees after a storm. I thought they would make nice props so I picked them up and put them in a place where they could dry in the sun. Once they were dry I sealed them in separate plastic bags and then sealed both inside another plastic bag. After that, into the freezer they went and stayed for quite some time. I think it was a year or more. I wanted to be sure any mites or other things that might be living there were well a truly dead. I picked up the egg at a local art supply store and the wood in the background is actually porcelain floor tile from a local building supply store I bought for a different project.

As with many of the photos I make, I had been mulling over the idea to make a photo like this for some time. The other night, I finally decided to work on it. I grabbed the floor tile and set up the background. Then the nest and the egg were place and propped us as I wanted them. I knew I wanted very directional light that spilled in a tight ring around the nest so I used a 10º grid over a single light. I chose my camera angle and tweaked everything to get it just the way I wanted it.

Technical Data: Nikon D7100, 50mm f1.4 lens at f16, 1/250 second (x250 sync), 10º grid on a Dynalite head.

I find thinking about photos I want to create, sometimes for a prolonged period, helps me get exactly the photo I imagine. This photo is the result of thinking about creating it off and on for many months or maybe more than a year. I knew the look of the lighting I wanted and the background. It took a bit of tweaking to get the circle of light just the way I wanted it with the fall off to near darkness. I’m happy with the results.

Carabiners

Carabiners

Carabiners

As photographers we see the world differently than other people do. Were we born seeing the world this way or did we develop a different way of seeing? Either way we see things that others often don’t. I was out with the Rappahannock Area Climbers Meetup group last Thursday getting ready to climb Rappahannock Rocks, a local climbing spot a few minutes from downtown Fredericksburg, VA. Keith from River Rock Outfitter was getting the gear ready to set some anchors for our climb when he took a handful of carabiners from his pack and let them spill out over the rock. He was concerned with making sure that the anchors were set correctly and never paid attention to the way carabiners looked. As he said later, “That’s why we bring Vincent!”

I feel it’s my job as a photographer to see differently, to notice those things that others don’t. Seeing differently is a unique perspective we bring to making our photos. Have you ever been out with a group of photographers and after everyone has shared their photos you see things that you would like to have photographed but never noticed? You might have been standing right next to it. You may have even looked right at it and it never registered. If we aren’t born with a different way of seeing we can certainly develop one. The more we make photos the more we develop our unique way of seeing.

Technical Info: Ricoh GR Digital 4, 250 ISO, 1/100 sec., f 6.3, 6mm (24mm equivalent)

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 Fredericksburg, VA 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!

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