Desert Light

Sunrise comes with a bang in the desert. One moment the air is still, stars twinkling in the sky. The next moment, the birds shout with joy, and the sun rises over the horizon as if propelling itself for the day. The rising sun bathes the landscape with a warm glow that imparts a sense of life to everything it touches.

During a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory I traveled north from the town of Alice Springs to Devils Marbles Conservation Area, a distance of about 400km. Arriving late in the afternoon, I immediately began looking for a vantage point from which to photograph at sunrise.

While scouting for such locations, I often look for a subject that is 90 degrees from the point where the sun will rise, in order to take advantage of the side lighting. I’ll also look for a location with good foreground interest, should I decide to photograph into the sun.

After spending the night in the adjacent camping area, I started out well before sunrise to the spot I had previously located, eager to catch the photograph that was firmly planted in my mind.

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For this photograph, I chose a horizontal format, in order to emphasize the open horizon in the background, while focusing on the rocks and Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus) tree in the foreground. I knew that the Ghost Gum, noted for its almost pure white trunk, would reflect the warmth of the rising sun in a pleasing manner. This juxtaposition of complimentary colors, the warm orange of the tree trunk and the blue sky in the background provides a balance between the elements of the photograph.

Photo Details: First Light, Devils Marbles Conservation Area, Northern Territory, Australia. Toyo45AII camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens, Horseman 6×12 roll film back on Fuji Velvia.

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First Light

Landscape photographers often feel that nothing can be more exciting than the first peak of sun in the morning as it rises over the horizon. It brings with it an interplay of sky, sun and clouds, adding an emotional appeal to our subject.

I often find myself taking long walks in the dark, in order to be a just the right location to greet the new day, knowing the excitement it brings. Such was the case when I visited Moeraki Boulders, on New Zealand’s South Island east coast a few years ago. Leaving the car park where I had spent the night in my rented RV, I walked the 2km to where the boulders are located. I had scouted the previous afternoon for a spot to setup, so I proceeded to setup the camera, in the dark, with the aid of a flashlight. Once the sun started to rise, I waited for the optimum time; just after the surf had broken over the boulders in the foreground.

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This also illustrates a technique I use frequently in my photography; that of including a sense of movement, or moment, in the scene. In this case, I knew where the surf would break, and how far up the shore it would come. Then, it was a simple matter of watching the surf, and tripping the cable release at the optimum moment.

Photo Details: Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens, .6 Split Neutral Density Filter, on Fuji Velvia 50.

of Luck and Preparation

Writer and motivational speaker Brian Tracy tells us that “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.  Perfect performance comes from painstaking preparation, often for weeks, months and years in advance.”

Truer words could not be spoken about the art of landscape photography. As landscape photographers, we have no control over lighting, weather or the scenic layout of our subjects. That’s where preparation becomes important. We prepare when we go out with our cameras, even though the weather doesn’t look promising, or when we would rather be sleeping in.

Following on from my last blog post, after following the Murray River to its outlet into the sea, I then followed the southern coastline in Victoria, an area known as the “Great Ocean Road" towards the city of Melbourne. Late in the evening, having just passed through the sea side town of Lorne, I was running quite low on fuel and being afraid of running out in the middle of the night, with no place open to refuel, I decided to pull over for the night.

As sunrise approached I recognized the potential for great light. It was dark when I had arrived the previous evening, leaving me unable to scout for a suitable foreground location in advance. This is where previous experience and preparation came into play; they gave me the edge in understanding the relationship between sea and land. Guided by a flashlight I found a great place to setup. This photograph is the result.

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In addition to helping pick the right location, preparation helped me to setup the large format camera, a bulky and exacting camera to setup even in the best of lighting conditions, well in advance of sunrise. Without an understanding of the camera, based upon years of experience, I could not have gotten the depth of field, while balancing the light and dark areas of the scene (by use of a split neutral density filter) that I desired for the final photograph.

The luck was in the sunrise itself, preparation allowed it to be captured on film in a pleasing manner.

Photo details: Sunrise, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Nikkor 90mm f8, .6 Split Neutral Density Filter, on Fuji Velvia 100.

of Favorites

Photographers each have their favorite photograph, which isn’t surprising. Quite often these photographs haven’t received as much acclaim or success as the photographer would like. The photographer is then left wondering why. Forgotten is that often it is the story behind the photograph which makes it a favorite.

Several years ago, I made a trip to Australia, the purpose being to follow the Murray River, from Albury, New South Wales, to the point where the Murray River flows into the sea in South Australia. After arriving in Echuca, my first stop of the day, I had just enough time to check into my hotel, before I needed to scout for a location from which to photograph the sunset.

Driving along a backroad I came across a bend in the river with a small nearby dock that looked promising. I setup for the camera for the shot, and then waited for the light to get “just right” – a rich, warm tone on the surrounding trees and river – before tripping the shutter.

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What makes this photograph memorable, for me, is not just the photograph itself, but what happened after it was taken. The sun began setting, and a calm, quietness extended over the landscape, presenting a serene landscape. Soon afterwards, came the glorious Australian night sky, with its multitude of stars – a serene ending for such a productive day. I knew then that I had experienced a scene that would remain in my memory for some time to come.

Photo Details: Echuca, Victoria, Australia. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Schneider 135mm f5.6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 100, Tiffen Warm Polarizer.

Blog Banner Image

No doubt, some people have been curious about the image that currently adorns the banner on this blog.

Several years ago, I spent 10 days touring the South Island of New Zealand by RV. One afternoon as I was driving from Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park back to Christchurch, I passed this scene along the shore of Lake Pukaki. I was immediately attracted to the color of the water, as well as the reflections of the distant mountain range off the water. Even though I rarely photograph in the middle of the day, this scene was one that I simply could not be pass by without exposing a sheet of film or two.

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The distinctive color of the water comes from what is referred to as “glacial flour”, which is extremely fine ground rock particles in the lake. These particles flow to Lake Pukaki from the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, which adorn the slopes of Aoraki/Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.

Photo Details: Lake Pukaki, South Island, New Zealand. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Schneider APO Symmar 210mm f5.6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50.No filtration.

of Light and Land

I’d like to thank you, and welcome you to my blog “of Light and Land”. On this blog I’ll be exploring the world through photography. I’ve had a passion for photography for more than 30 years now, and I’m still excited every time I take my cameras out.

One difference you will find about my photography is my preference for film cameras. Yes, I do have a digital camera like most photographers, however, I get the most enjoyment out of using film cameras.

I currently live in Hawaii, but I’ve been fortunate to have traveled around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. I can’t think of any better way to introduce you to my home and my blog, than with a simple photograph.

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Photo Details: Sunrise, Lanikai Beach, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This photograph was taken with a Toyo 45AII camera, Schneider 135mm f 5.6 Symmar-S lens, on my preferred Fuji Velvia 50.

Long live film…