Feathers and Flakes + Perception is Reality

First birds, then winter

Ahhh those reflections of patterns and colors.  Just add a bird.  This one is a male Greater Scaup.  A picture like this, that has distinctive patterns crossing the image area, but they are not colorful or pretty, is the sort of picture that tells each of us whether we look at pictures or subjects.  If you are a subject sort of person, you probably did not notice those patterns at first.  If you view photographs before subjects, those patterns were quite likely obvious.  No matter which kind you are, almost everyone eventually looks at the entire photo from top to bottom, and from one side to the other.DSC_7216

Swallows are always fun to photograph.  When it comes to Tree swallows and Barn Swallows it gets even more fun, because they are easy to approach. This immature BS, or should I say Barn Swallow, was photographed with my tripod and I at the minimum focusing distance of my 500mm lens.  It was not bothered by my presence.  Close shooting distances means great detail.HorA 066HorA 031

I often mention that my tripod and I were close to an animal.  That is because there have been many times over the years that I have used a cable release to photograph birds. In fact I have used remote cable releases and made my pictures from a hidden spot 10 feet from my camera.

If Swallows are the cute little common birds of the fields and forests, then the Bufflehead Duck is the cute little one among ducks. These guys are small.  I almost always photograph Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks from my car, at locations where I can park very near the water.  The small size of those two ducks, and their lack of tolerance of a close approach, makes the “auto blind” a useful tool.DSC_0231b

Red-bellied WoodpeckerHaw2011a 142b

Let’s segue into winter with another bird picture.  A young male Common Goldeneye on the ice.DSC_7808

Sunshine sifting through the trees.DSC_3120

Sunstars!  When shooting winter scenes into groups of trees, one way to make them pop, is to create a sunstar.  Composing your image so the sun has to bend itself around some branches, or selecting an aperture (f22, f32, etc) that will force the sun to bend (refract) around the edges of your camera’s shutter, are two ways to accomplish that.

The four pictures below are all of the same river. They were made in four different years.  I think they impart four different moods. This is Wisconsin’s southern Pike River.1snDSC_6649Copy of DSC_6660Winter Pets 052Winter Pets 062

Always find places around home that you can count on. There is nothing like being able to head out at a moments notice, to capture the essence of a season.

I caught this well-known (Whitnal Park) Milwaukee County barn on a quiet winter’s day.  Sometimes that quiet light can be a bit more painterly than the more contrasty light of  sunny day.  This is not the kind of picture that knocks your socks off.  This despite the bright red barn.  I do like these quiet pictures, but because of their “low impact” characteristics, I don’t always share them. What in my mind would improve this photo?  I would love for that barn to be a rustic old farmhouse.  Maybe with some smoke coming out of the chimney.  If that road takes you somewhere that invites you in to be warm and cozy, well the picture has more charm.  Of course then it could be considered another Currier and Ives painting. FilmArch2012 078

This image was shown just a week or so a go. I love finding tiny treasures and this is one.  The image is made of grass, ice and light. I see a lot of images today that are similar to this, but they were built in the studio. There is nothing like having a partner like Mother Nature, to do the work for us.  I just have to recognize it at my feet, and select a favorite composition.SlidesWaterWinterFall 028

A yearling Whitetail Deer in the snow.DeerIllinois 027

Sometimes the road that technology travels is a winding one.  When digital music first came to be, I complained how shallow the sound was.  Everyone I knew said I was crazy.  I eventually did get accustomed to Cds.  In 2004 I gave a friend a ride home and he asked me in to listen to some albums. Albums?  He had a nice stereo system…..with a turntable.  He put an old vinyl record on and the sound was lush…..and complete.  The notes at the end slowly faded into the distance.  I savored them.  It was like finishing a gourmet meal. I suggested he had a good sound system, and some great speakers. That system had a Cd player spliced into the speakers and tuning dials.  He played that same 1940s big band song on Cd.  I was right.  The tones were cut short.  Compressed.  That is what Mpegs do after all.  Jpegs too.  They compress and they clone. The years have passed and I once again have forgotten the differences in vinyl and digital.

When I first saw the prints and screen shots of digital photography I was not impressed.  When I looked at a film print it was richer.  It told a more complete story.  Viewing original slides on a light table was even better. They were a symphony compared to a one man band. Time went on and digital camera sensors got better, and computer monitors got better.  I was now accepting of digital.

Three or four times over the years I was delighted to speak and show 35mm slides at various photography related functions.  I was content that the slide shows were of excellent quality.  Several years ago I gave my one and only digital slide show. This was done with music, fade outs, four image splits  and other spectacular visual and audio experiences.  I also did it in front of 10 times the number of people than I ever had before.  I was thrilled with the event but not so happy with the appearance of my images. They were shallow and brief compared to those 35mm slide shows. I had once again been disappointed by the digital revolution. I received good reviews by everyone, so it seemed that once again my perception was skewed.

A few months ago I spent a couple of days copying slides into the digital format. I was copying mostly medium format transparencies instead of the smaller 35mm.  I would put one of those images on my light table, and drool.  I spent more time just staring at those images made on Kodak and Fuji professional films, than I ever did copying them. It wasn’t the photograph, it was the depth in the transparency.  Could I even bring myself to turn them into compressed digital files?   I did, and I put my slides away and once again, I am fine with Jpegs.

Perception is reality…until someone shows you otherwise…or you have time to forget

Digital photography is once again the Queen of image making for me.  Eventually digital photography (and music, TV etc.) will disappear and something new will take over. There will be photographers everywhere lamenting about the good old days of digital photography.

Time stops for nobody and quality is whatever is the best today.  Those of you “younger folks” will (hopefully) get to see the change and let go of your fondness for what we once called quality, and accept the newest revolution in photography.

Perception is reality.

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