Nature teases us at times, hiding behind shadow and snow and fog. Autumn is a time where light and color play a special game. At times bright and colorful, and other times muted and understated.
Who hasn’t marveled at a shocking red leaf on the brown grass, or the blaze of gold as maple trees save their best colors for last? Pine cones on the ground amid thousands of brown and gold needles; a wave of yellow corn stalks dancing in the wind with the sun shining through the leaves – all of these delights make autumn beautiful, and alas, all too short.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere on the eastern edge of the Midwest, autumn seems to last only a few short days, more likely weeks, before winds and rain come through stripping the trees of their colorful glory. Still, there is much beauty to be found looking down along a wooded path or along a gently flowing stream. Fog often fills the sky in early mornings, whispering along the river, granting glimpses of what lies beyond as shimmerings of color peek through.
From the first hints of autumn, until the full effects of winter come upon us, nature often gives its best before hibernating in winter, and we await the first buds of spring.
The macro world is an amazing place, partly, at least, because we are typically unaware of its beauty. Like life within the ocean, there is a whole world of motion and activity happening below the surface. Some insects are easier to see than others, to be sure; but how often do we really see them?
I have become fascinated with close-up photography, and macro photography in particular. Close-up photography is typically described as less than 1:1 images. Macro is 1:1 or greater, like the spider image above. The spider is roughly the size of the tip of my baby finger, and he is reproduced here at about 2:1, or two times life-size.
Other images in this first Insect Gallery are photographed at 1:1 or less, but all give us unusual views and details we may never have seen before. A common house fly looks almost beautiful – something I never thought I could ever say!
A dragon fly watching me photograph him – it’s almost eerie as he stares at me, and yet so compelling! The intricacy of his wings was something I had never seen before. A flying ant on a leaf is a wonder of Creation! And even the flowers themselves are a study in complexity and beauty. Flowers within flowers, with colors designed to attract insects to carry their pollen, calling out “Hey! Look at me!!”
One might be tempted to think travel to exotic places would be required to find interesting insects and flowers, but these are right outside our doors, literally! My neighbor’s rose bush was a treasure-trove of interesting insects! There’s a botanical garden barely 10 minutes from my house previously unbeknownst to me which has already yielded some incredible photos, and which promises many more such images as the seasons change. Look for updates to my galleries for those images soon.
There exists little in the photography field which does not interest me, but I must admit, macro photography excites me. The camera opens a window into a world of intrigue and almost indescribable wonder and awe. What a privilege to gaze inside and share these images! Cheers!
My dear friend Bruce Smith is a wood carver/artist/instructor extraordinaire. I do not use that phrase lightly. Bruce has a PhD in Communication, which is not the least bit surprising because his carvings communicate.
I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Bruce and his wife Brenda for over twenty years. My wife and I have shared many relaxing meals together, and their friendship has been one of our great joys in life.
Bruce is also a musician, wood burner, and sketch artist. His easy-going manner and excellent ability to instruct even allowed me to make some carvings which actually look remotely like what I intended, quite a feat, I assure you!
I offered to photograph these carvings because not only are they incredibly nuanced in their detail, but they each have their own special story to tell. Beautiful and expressive, they reflect in caricature people we have known.
The Banker above is one of my personal favorites. Notice the placement of the hands, the cigar, the curve of the mouth – all so expressive! And of course the pot belly and the balding head merely add to the story being told!
Norman Rockwell was famous for painting life scenes in caricature, capturing moments which were both very real and yet larger-than-life. When I see Bruce’s carvings I cannot help but see these same attributes.
Monochrome becomes a way of looking at life. Allow me to explain. As a person who lives, as most of us do, in world filled with color – why would losing all that color be of interest? Granted, many of the photographs on this blog are in color, and they are photographs I treasure. Let’s be honest, a butterfly just does not look as beautiful in black and white as it does in color!
As beautiful as colors may be, however, they can often be busy and/or distracting. Sometimes color gets in the way of seeing — really seeing the essence of an object or person or scene.
I started off my serious photography as a photojournalist/newspaper photographer back in the days when color in papers was still a novelty. (And yes, the Earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed the planet!) Now newspapers themselves are becoming a novelty, but that is a subject for another day! Shooting almost totally in back and white film taught me to “see” in monochrome – it’s not hard really, it just takes a bit of time for one’s brain to convert the color image from the eyes to the mind’s monochrome-trained eye.
As a fan of Ansel Adams and the exposure system he perfected, The Zone System, I learned to “see” elements of various scenes as they should be placed within the Zone System. This allows for maximum photographic creativity and interpretation. The same system can also be applied to color images, but my use was primarily black and white.
Take the two examples from above: to me, at least, the monochrome image cuts away the distraction of the ubiquitous green, allowing one’s eye to focus on the barn in all of its dilapidated splendor [click on each image to see it larger].
As another example, think of Hollywood glamor shots of the 40s and 50s – in their heyday black and white was used almost exclusively, and the images were magnificent! Humphrey Bogart was mysterious and dangerous as Rick, while Ingrid Bergman was absolutely stunningly beautiful in those stills from Casablanca.
Black and White images cause our minds to fill in information, much the way radio theater used to do. They often ask questions of us, challenge us, or tell a story in a way that grabs our attention, whereas the same photograph in color might not.
I have uploaded my first series of monochrome images, the first of many such galleries, I suspect. One of the many wonderful things about photography is the wide-ranging way one can convey beauty, and for me, black and white photography is a joy all its own! – Cheers, Robert
One of the most popular annual displays at the Cincinnati Krohn Conservatory is their Butterfly Exhibit. Past years have included Butterfly displays from Madagascar, the Caribbean, and the Philippines, just to name a few. Finally this year I made it in time to spend a very enjoyable evening photographing specimens from South America.
Butterflies are rather challenging to photograph because of their flitting ways! Just as you are about to press the shutter button, flit, and they are on their way to the next flower or leaf.
Besides being so colorful and full of varying and intriguing markings, some specimens show completely different markings on the outside of their wings as compared to the inside!
The Blue Morpho is one such butterfly, and he likes to keep his wings together while resting, so that beautiful pale blue is hidden. Suddenly there is a flash of blue as he lifts into the air, and the chase is on! Those little fellows almost wore me out trying to get a few photographs of their wings spread open, but I prevailed and finally caught a few shots.
The butterflies were not shy about landing on people either! One young lady’s hair seem to be of particular interest, and another butterfly landed on my friend’s shirt. Both butterflies were thoughtful enough to hang around and allow me to take a few photos – perhaps they were “mugging” for the camera?! In fact, the more I study the pictures, the more I think it is the same butterfly. Talk about a ham!
While there is no substitute for capturing those serendipitous butterfly moments out in nature, the ability to see and enjoy such a wide variety of species under one roof is quite a treat. I highly recommend a visit to the Conservatory if you happen to be in town late spring/early summer, you will not be disappointed! – Robert
This blog is an exploration of photography through images and words. Photography seeks to capture the beauty (and reality!) of the world around us in a moment of time. Photography is, at its most basic level, the momentary capturing of light revealing what would otherwise be hidden. Light is so much taken for granted, and most of us cannot imagine a world without light. But how much light do we truly see? How often do we gaze in wonder as light molds and shapes what our eyes behold?
Think of the many adjectives we use to describe light: warm, cool, bright, dim, harsh, soft, flattering, blinding, failing, morning, evening, midday – just to name a few. Or the synonyms we use: glow, gleam, radiance, luminescence, luster, sheen, shine.
Light evinces colors and emotions. Bright–>Yellow–>Warmth; Overcast–>Gray–>Somber. Bright light suggests openness, a fullness of comprehension, honesty. Shadows or faint light suggests mystery, something hidden as yet to be revealed, questions seeking answers. Color, or the lack thereof, influences how we perceive objects and people and surroundings.
An exploration of light both reveals and conceals, and this is why we photographers are enchanted with it. We seek to control light, but in the end we are the ones controlled because light always has the final say.
Yes, light is elusive and often has a mind of its own. But when light cooperates, Oh! What incredible beauty! What revelation! Is it any wonder the first command of God was “Let there be light!” And He saw that the light was good.