Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November is Beautiful: Brrrrr

The cold has come in. I didn't spend much time outside taking photos. I was trying to capture the cold and the leaden skies. And yes, it snowed overnight.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November is Beautiful: Before the Polar Vortex

A polar vortex and the remains of Typhoon Nuri are supposed to bring winter to us early this year. The past few days have been lovely for November - warmish and sunny.

Saturday Nov. 8th - I went to the local farmer's market with my friend Rahil. I didn't even know the farmer's market was still going on. With SCA travel, a Saturday Farmer's Market is a rare event in my life right now. 

Sunday Nov. 9th - Loose Park 
A beautiful autumn day. Great afternoon sunshine. Temperatures in the 60's. Every other group of people out there were getting photos taken. It is a great place for photos. 

Monday Nov. 10th - Nall Park 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November is Beautiful: Senescence

My photographic journey today didn't take me anywhere exotic or new, instead I traveled to my "backyard" (the common area behind my apartment). In a bramble of shrubs and small trees, the patterns of the senescing leaves caught my eyes. Leaves senesce when the tree pulls back the nutrients from the leaves and down into the roots. In the process the chlorophyll is broken down, leaving only the orange, red, purple, and gold pigments (the anthocyanins and carotenoids) responsible for fall color. 

The leaves are not from the showy fall trees, but from species with more modest fall colors. 





Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November is Beautiful: Nov. 5th

I struggle with November, despite having a Birthday at the end of the month. The decreasing light, the increasing cold, the deadening of the vegetation, and the graying of the skies depresses me. The glorious reds, oranges, and golds of October blow away on the wind. I begin to want to hibernate, to curl up under a pile of blankets and sleep the gray, cold, dead days away.

The struggle has been hard enough in the past, when I have had work that I have had to go to. I worry that this year, while I am still seeking employment, that the desire to stay in and sleep will only be stronger, as I don't have a reason to leave the house each and every day.  I also know, that the less I leave the house, the less sunshine I get, the greater the desire to hibernate becomes.

Since I realize that this could be a problem, I have decided to start a new project I am calling "November is Beautiful".  The goals of this project are three -fold
(1) Continue practicing my photography
(2) To get myself out of the house during daylight hours to soak up as much daylight as possible (and to thumb my nose at the cold...I hate cold).
(3) To practice seeing beauty around me. I know the beauty of November can be subtle compared to that of May or September. It tends to be the beauty of rest, of senescence, of death, of decay. The beauty of the ending of the cycle that is necessary for rebirth in the spring.

So today, I went to Lawrence, KS to have lunch with a friend from grad school. The idea for the November is Beautiful Project came on my drive out there. On the way home I stopped along the Kansas River to capture pictures that represent the beauty of Eastern Kansas in Early November.

Here are some of my favorites:

The senescing flowering stalk containing the seeds of the next generation. 

Shades of brown and gray. 

Not all is death and decay in November. This basal rosette of the biennial  hairy mullein will overwinter to produce a flowering stalk in the spring. 

I stopped to capture the golden yellow of the maple leaves, then realized that I could try to capture the wind in the photo. I think this was a more successful attempt than the pond shore at the park in St. Louis. 

Sunbeam on a fallen branch

The blue skies, the sun, the wind, the golden seed heads. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


To improve my photography, I am trying to be more contentious about how I want the photos to look before I start snapping the shots. I am thinking of this as moving away from being reactive to being proactive. Thinking more like an artist than a photojournalist. I do realize that those two approaches are not mutually exclusive but thinking about this way has helped me be more intentional. I am also trying to be more patient as I take the photos  - taking more time with framing before pushing the button, taking several even dozens of photos of the same subject with slight differences in angle, framing, focus, and exposure. 

The fruits of this exercise this past week.

(1) The red leaf. I was taking pictures of my friend Nancee and her family putting up their Halloween decorations. On the Bradford Pear tree in her front yard was a red leaf that was perfectly catching the light so that it seemed to glow from within. I ended up taking about 2 dozens photos of this one single leaf. In some of them, the focus is off. In others, the background leafs are more prominent. This one is my favorite. I love the dark abstract looking background with the flashes of blue sky and yellow leaves mixed in with the darker green foliage. I love that the leaf isn't perfect - that someone has been chomping on the upper right edge. I am very happy with the positioning of the leaf in the frame. All of this frames what I was intending to capture - the glowing red color and the pattern of the veins.

All in all - this photo just makes me happy every time I look at it.

A few days later, I went walking in the park with my friend Erin. I took my camera because I wanted to take photos. I resisted the urge to start snapping photos until we had walked a couple of times around the path circling the park. Instead, on the first two circuits, I thought about what I wanted to shoot and what my goals with shooting were. Two aspects of the afternoon I wanted to capture was the great autumn afternoon sunlight and the wind.

(2) Capturing sun and shadow - and creating a magical looking woods. This part had great big old oak trees. The Department of Conservation has been clearing the underbrush out in, what I assume, is an attempt to create a woodland savanna habitat. In this photos I wanted to capture the long shadows created by the trees, as well as the beautiful light. This photos has been photo-edited to reduce the blue in the shadows and to increase the golden tone of the photo.

(3) Capturing the wind - The fountain. I was able to catch the spray of the fountain blowing in the wind. 

(4) Capturing the wind -The shore line.
In this photo I was really was trying to capture the flowers on the shore blowing in the wind as well as the water lapping up on the shore.

Here is the original photo, unedited. It is ok, but it didn't really capture the motion I had hoped it would.

I thought perhaps cropping out some of the extra shoreline and water that were not exhibiting the motions would help (as well as editing the colors), but I still wasn't happy with the results. I just wasn't getting the sense of motion I was hoping for in the overall photo. This puzzled me, as both the vegetation and water show motion on their own.

It wasn't until I cropped the photo a different way that I realized the issue. The water is being pushed up against the shore at a different angle than the vegetation is blowing. The two motions are actually opposing each other, resulting in a rather overall static feel, as opposed to the motion and flow I was trying to capture. This really became apparent when I pushed the color saturation towards the extreme. I love how this image ended up, it just didn't express the idea I had in my mind.