Bickford Photography blog

Being a collection of musings on my photographic craft.


January 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Everyone wants to talk about gear. Why is that? If I show up at someone's house with a nice loaf of fresh-baked bread, no one asks, "Wow. What kind of oven do you have?" Why does everyone want to know if my camera is Brand X, Brand Y, or Brand Z?  Who cares?

Well, obviously, a lot of photographers care. I just don't happen to be one of them.

True story. I had the opportunity several years ago of shooting a very pretty young model with three other photographers. Two of us spent our time shooting the model, and the other two spent their afternoon gushing about cameras. I have a respectable camera and several lenses. Some of my lenses go back to film days, but so what? The bottom line for me is, what kind of images are we capturing with that gear? And what are we doing to get better?

Ansel Adams once said that a dozen significant images in one year is a pretty good harvest. So don't ask me what I'm shooting with. Ask me if I've done any significant work in the last month.

covered bridge

January 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

What says "New Hampshire" more than a covered bridge in autumn? Covered bridges were built back in the day to protect the actual roadway from snow and ice, or so I'm told. New Hampshire has more than 50 of these beautiful structures. Here's one, framed in fall foliage. The golden color in the oaks is gone, but I like the November orange-brown nearly as much. 

New Hampshire covered bridge, November.Covered bridge, NovemberThe golden foliage of these oaks has faded to orange-brown. But they frame this covered bridge beautifully either way. There's a richness in this image that wasn't in the original, thanks to the overlay of a texture file. "Texturing" is not my usual style, but once in a while an image comes along that just seems to cry out for that boost of color and push toward surrealism that a texture can provide. That was the case here. I took the file into Photoshop and applied a light coating of textures (two, I think, but maybe just one). The foliage sprang to life as it returned to that rich orange brown. I eased the texture at the bridge to give it a little pop against the November colors. And there it was, the image I remembered seeing that morning. 

Funny that it took so much Photoshop magic to bring that flat, dull image back to the colorful image I recalled seeing. My usual inclination is to make simple adjustments to the straight-out-of-camera image to bring it in line with what I saw when I was shooting. I don't care for over-the-top colors and such; I want my images to look natural. That said, maybe I do like a "natural-plus" appearance, like the athletes who give 110% every day. I want my images at 110% of what I saw. 

That's the case here, anyway. The application of texture brought the image to where I wanted it, at 110% of reality.

stream takes a tumble

January 18, 2016  •  1 Comment

Moving water, still water, atmospheric water, rushing water, reflective water, frozen water. From these, I take my inspiration as a photographer. There is something about a stream suddenly taking a tumble down a rocky chute that stops me in my tracks, makes me want to compose and shoot, compose and shoot. My goal is simply to show you the movement I saw, to let you share in the power or beauty of the running water.

stream takes a tumblestream takes a tumbleA placid stream one moment, and a tumble down a rocky wall the next. The pattern from the top was irrestible -- pure chiaroscuro. Shooting with a fast shutter speed, say 1/200 or more, stops the water and its droplets in their tracks. Especially in good light, this can yield stunning results as the glass-like sculpture flows past my lens. But it is just that glass-like quality that makes the image seem sculptural and static, not moving. Shooting with a slow shutter speed, say 15 seconds, turns water into a blur, into cotton candy, into a dreamy haze of flowing water. This can be beautiful also, but again is not what I want to show you.

Somewhere in between, say between a half second and two seconds, is the sweet spot for me. It is there that I find the motion in the water that I'm looking for. The sculptural, glass-like quality is gone, and the water has not yet turned to haze. In the sweet spot, the water shows texture. Bright ribbons of water flow like muscles and sinews over dark rock. You see the flow, and you almost feel it.

This image, stream takes a tumble, was shot at 2 seconds, f/11, 28mm, looking down as a stream tumbles over rock and down a little falls. In Lightroom, I corrected the white balance (too green due to the overhead foliage), sharpened, adjust highlights and shadows, etc. for best presentation. The result is this chiaroscuro gem. 4 July 2015.


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