Planning Verses Happenstance

I always love the way Deborah Sandidge’s dreamy style of water and
landscape photography where the skies are motion blurred, translate
even better in b&w than color. Despite the stark characteristics of
b&w images, hers are soft and gentle in their nature.

Below we have the Bay Area Bridge which I believe connects San
Francisco and Oakland.

Mike Moats is the established leader when it comes to teaching macro
photography. His plant/floral photography is my personal favorite
among the specific genres of close-up image making.

I Love the juxtaposition/composition of this mini scene. He has
created a relationship between the two plants, and the black,
featureless (which you all know I love) background keeps it simple, so
to speak.

As is often the case, I chose my own images for today’s post, in a
completely random “throw a dart at the wall” fashion. Some are
topnotch some are not.

Most of you know, I love close-up photography, especially when the
subject is our littlest wildlife.

Dragonflies are a common subject for nature photographers, for at
least two reasons. One is that many of them hunt from perches, and
they will return to the same perch, over and over. Simply set up and focus on
that perch, and wait for the return. The second reason is that many
are colorful and beautiful. Below we have one of the “commoners”
among dragonflies. Of course, I always photographed everything I
found, including homely dragonflies.

I set up at this location after I watched this subject return five or
six times. It gave me many opportunities to fire my camera, and I did
change positions a little every time. I had done some (very little)
portrait photography in my day, and I knew the slightest shift in
position will give an image a different feel. Even with “Plain Jane”
dragonflies. Notice that even at f/13, the depth of field is so
shallow at this closeness and magnification, that most of my subject
is out of focus. It’s all about the eyes. Especially when the
subject’s face is almost entirely eye.

Also notice, that while both pictures work nicely, the second image
where the insect is looking more at us, is more engaging and personal.
Even dragonflies are living creatures and we relate to them
differently than we would say to a landscape, or even a flower.
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What’s crisp and what’s fuzzy is at the very heart of powerful image
making. This is a picture that contains two young Barn Swallows.  Yet,
it is of course really only about the one sharply rendered bird in the
foreground. The soft focus bird in the background does help give some
context to the image which is that of a location where Barn Swallows
were perching and preening. An aperture of f/5.6 was enough to show
the first bird with detail, and the second soft with little detail to
be seen.

The light is also quite flattering.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, is a much photographed landmark. It has its
place in history dating back to Native American times, and is put to
use today as a well-known rock climbing location.

I made the photo below in the morning, not long after my arrival. I
have never seen another photographic rendition of this landmark that
is like this, anywhere else. It was made from the parking lot of the
visitor center. How many professional photographers turned down an
opportunity in that parking lot, because it was well, a parking lot. For me, this image from this location was a pleasant surprise.

Later that afternoon I made my pictures from the back country. I
enjoyed the nature experience much more, but I have fonder memories
for this picture than the others. I guess just knowing that so many
have and will pass on this scene.

These next two images were made a long time ago. It was either in 1989
or 1992 when I created them and others with a medium format film
camera. I never did “her” justice as this is The Painted Desert of
Arizona. It is powerfully beautiful and very much ignored by serious
photographers. I admit, I did not get what I came for and even worse,
I have been in this region many more times and never re-shot the park.

My biggest issue with these images is, they are boring. Sometimes we fail, or at least in case with The Painted Desert, we don’t try hard enough and wind up “just a little short”, of my desired results.


I love peaceful, ethereal locations to create pictures. Such was the
case with Starrett Lake in the Nicolet N.F. of northern Wisconsin. I
traveled the remote forestry roads in darkness as I “broke camp” many
miles from here very early. I worked this area on that autumn morning
for several hours and never saw another human being. I was grateful
but they missed a lot.

While autumn is still here in the part of the world where I live, winter
keeps slamming us over our heads. The  actual winter is on its way and
that means great things for photographers.

While winter landscapes will abound, winter brings with it for
photographers, much, much more.  Here in southern Wisconsin there are
many species of spectacular birds who visit us only in winter. They
are trying to get away from the lack of food in the frozen, arctic

One such bird is the Rough-legged Hawk. These special birds have
treated me to as many good times as have Snowy Owls.  This one, has
under its feet (talons), a hapless male Ring-necked Pheasant. Such is
the way of the wild and I am at least grateful this hawk chose to live
its life out in front of me.

I went out specifically looking for this species on that day. Planning
has brought me many rewards in my life as a photographer.

There is more than just birds and snow scenes in winter. It
always pays to look down. This old film image of a hole in the ice, is
a visual encounter that plays itself out throughout much of winter.
That ice is filled with incredible patterns. With that said, that
black hole will continue to draw our visual attention when we view the

Most subjects, are good subjects.
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Today I have brought you images that were carefully planned out,
others that were poorly planned out, and still more that just

While it often takes a lot of careful planning to locate and capture
the subjects we choose, never, ever forget how much can be
accomplished or at least enjoyed, in those happenstance type moments
of serendipity. Be open and prepared for anything and everything.

God Bless,


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