Sun Up

Simple compositions with only small areas of color, often work just because of that simplicity. Simple is elegant.

This image was made at Starrett lake in Wisconsin. I got up very early and broke camp at my wilderness campsite in the Nicolet National Forest. I slowly made my way in the darkness through the gravel/dirt forest roads until I finally departed Nicolet and crossed over into state forest territory. My goal was Starrett Lake and autumn reflections. As usual, I got up earlier than would be necessary for my subject (fall colors), and soon after arriving at the lake (in the darkness) I noticed a small band of color developing. It wasn’t much, but it really doesn’t take much. The color began reflecting in the lake, and before long, I remembered why I get out of bed, or in this case out of my sleeping bag, before most photographers are even rolling over.

This is a 2004 picture and it was made using a Nikon D70 camera with a 1/5th sec. shutter speed, a 50mm Nikon prime lens that was made in the 1950s, set at an aperture of f18 with manual spot metering and a tripod.

Egrets, fall 066

If simplicity can be elegant, than we certainly do not want sunrise pictures with too much going on. Right? Well a lot of objects bunched together and pictured in silhouette form can in fact be simple, if you order them in a simple way. This is the fishing pier on Wisconsin’s Wolf Lake.

My date is unknown but once again that old Nikon D70 was used with a shutter speed of 1/125th sec. my Nikon 18-70 zoom set at 18mm with an f stop of f22. I was again using spot manual metering (sensing a trend?), and a tripod. As in all of these shots no filters were used.


There is nothing like a wide angle lens (22mm) to open up a scene. It also allowed me to include the distant lighthouse and that very high cloud in the same image. A Ring-billed Gull deserves all of the credit for introducing a tiny bird silhouette into the scene.

This old picture was also made with a Nikon D70 set at 1/100th sec. shutter speed, Nikon 18-70mm lens with an aperture of f11, manual spot metering and a tripod.


This is an old D100 image. My shutter speed was 1/125th sec. I had my 18-70mm zoom set at 18mm and used a depth of field rich aperture of f18. Yep, spot metering once again. This is in Kenosha, WI, where the Pike River meets Lake Michigan.


Finally we have one more D100 image. My shutter speed was 1/40th sec. and my 18-70mm lens was set at 40mm and f13. For a little something different, I actually did use aperture priority set at  minus one full stop of light. This multi segment metering evaluates the different zones very well but I actually felt that the darker areas of the image would cause an overexposure. It turns out I was indeed right as my minus one stop kept the whole image right as I saw it with my own eyes. That is not necessarily what you want, but in this case it was.

I have forgotten which wetland this is, although Horicon Marsh NWR, WI., is what I believe it to be.


Sun up or sun down, they are great times of the day to be out, and even a greater time to make pictures. My first successes in nature photography were made on and often before, the sun reached upward for the sky.

Technology and equipment has changed over the years, and that will not stop. I started with a Canon FTB 35mm camera and then a cheap old Yashica 124 Mat G twin lens medium format, and on to other 35mm, medium and large format cameras. Digital began for me with a Nikon D100 and then a D70. I went on to the D80 and D3. Nothing stays the same, yet the principles of photography, have up to this point, remained constant. Eventually digital photography will die and be replaced by something else. Photography is pretty much like life. Make the most of what you’ve got when you’ve got it, and then hope that you get to move on to the next phase.

I was asked a question by a friend on Facebook a while back. It pertained to the fact that he has a camera that pretty much is of the point and shoot variety, and was thinking of getting better equipment so he could do better photography. My advice was to learn to make the best pictures you can with what you’ve got. Photograph subjects you love. You will know when it is time to move up and you will do so without reservation.

Often through the years, especially in birding groups, people ask questions of the group pertaining to how they can make sharper better looking images? The answers come and inevitably it is to buy a better lens. Get a better camera. I have even seen the answer oriented towards buying better photographer’s gear or clothing. Buy and buy more and you will be great. My answers were always to practice better habits, and learn about all of the things that can affect image sharpness. Then learn better compositional habits. Then add everything you can that “says you”. In other words, make it your own. There is no question that to be one of the best, you will need the latest and best cameras, lenses, software etc., but first learn to be the best you can be with what you have, and then buy the best equipment possible.

Opinion: One current subject I have not yet commented on, is the use of drones. No I am not talking about the television series 24, nor am I talking about the use of drones to eliminate terrorists, although that is a use I often applaud.  I am speaking of the use of drones by photographers. Yes that’s right, photographers have been using small drones to create images and video out in the field. I don’t have any specific issues with that, when they are used with consideration for the environment, wildlife and other people, whether those people are photographers or not.

I have had many disagreements with the National Park Service over the years. Their attempts in the 1980s-90s, to eliminate serious photographers from the parks while allowing the “un-serious” was absurd. They already had rules in place for those photographers who would in any way disrupt or alter the experience had by other visitors, be they photographers or not. That issue has been long resolved and anyone can make their pictures in the parks, as long as they obey those common sense rules of long-standing. Visitors to our national parks, be they photographers or anyone else, have a right to expect an experience that is free of low flying aircraft. That is not in keeping with why most people go to our national parks. It is true that those few photographers who want to fly their toys in the middle of Yellowstone, or Arches, are part owners of those parks, but so is everyone else in America. The right of photographers to get their shot, or have fun, whichever their reason might be, does not trump the rights of everyone else to have a great experience.  Owing to the fact that we live in an attorney driven, litigious society, I am going to take a wild guess and say that liability, is yet another reason to keep this out of our national parks.

The Park Service ruled recently that drones will be banned in all national parks. As much as I find government intrusion distasteful and often dangerous, this is the “only” way to prevent the act of flying drones in those parks from becoming common place and distracting to the experience of the majority that will be visiting the park.

Have a great day and please stop back,                                                                                         Wayne


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