Alaska… Bad Weather and Beauty Beyond Belief

Traveling Along The Inside Passage

 Tracy Arm Wilderness in Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness by Richard Lewis 2014

Old Pump House Along The Inside Passage in Alaska by Richard Lewis

Old Pump House Along The Inside Passage by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness in Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

Dusk in Petersburg Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

I’ve got a lot of photographs and a few thoughts to share about our recent trip on a small ship along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Photography was a challenge due to weather, moving ships and, well, lots of stuff. For now, I’ll just share a some of the first images I’ve processed.

Enjoy

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Super Moon in New Jersey

Swatting mosquitos in the Pine Barrens to get the shot

Super Moon in the Pine Barrens Copyright Richard Lewis

Super Moon in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis 2014

Maybe it was the news hype or social media pressure, but on Sunday night I was standing next to an old cranberry bog as the August Super Moon made its appearance in the sky. I enjoyed the quiet evening setting up the shot. Then as darkness fell, the peace ended when the mosquitos found me. This might be considered combat landscape photography because I was under attack by every mosquito in the Pine Barrens while attempting to holding still during the long exposures needed to get this photograph. Around here bug repellent is an important piece of photography gear.

Enjoy

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Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.

The Art of iPhone Photography Part 1

Is iPhoneography the next step in the Art of Photography?

Over the last few months I’ve committed myself to learn how to use an iPhone to create art. iPhoneography, or smartphone art, is fascinating and probably as controversial as digital photography was years ago when it was a new art form.

The images below were created on a recent Saturday. None of these photographs would have been created if I was packing my regular camera gear. The whole concept of iPhoneography is to view photography differently. The camera is far from a pro level DSLR with a set of good lenses. It’s a camera sporting a tiny lens and sensor with few controls over the exposure. The apps designed to process photographs created by the iPhone, or other smartphones, can give you some sophisticated controls, but you are processing those images on the small screen of the phone or iPad without the aid of a mouse. These are challenges, but they are also opportunities. iPhoneography creates a new mindset for the photographer to create art in a completely different way. 

Readers copyright Richard Lewis All Rights Reserved

Readers by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Perfectly Clear, Snapseed

Sitting in my local coffee shop I noticed these two women. The light was beautiful and I loved the fact that in the woman in the foreground was reading a paper while her phone sat on the table. As usual, everyone else had their head buried in a phone or computer screen. The iPhone is a perfect street photography camera because it is so easy to be discreet. I felt this scene had an Edward Hopper feel to it so I processed it with that in mind.

A Rainy Day In Atsion copyright Richard Lewis All Rights Reserved

A Rainy Day by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Snapseed, Leonardo, Retouch

It was pouring rain as we pulled into the parking lot for the Mullica River hiking trail in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, so we decided to wait in the car until the rain died down. I shot this through the wet windshield because I loved how it distorted the straight line of the fence. After moving the car around to find the right position I took this photograph and did a lot of the post processing while waiting for the storm to break. This is one advantage of being able to process your photos on the device you created them on.

Cedar Stand copyright Ricard Lewis All Rights Reserved

Cedar Stand by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Snapseed, DistressedFX, Retouch

Although I’ve hiked the Mullica River Trail many times, I never noticed this little stand of dead cedars. The abstract lines of the trees caught my attention this time. I had to shoot the scene with the iPhone zoomed in all the way. This created a even lower quality image because the “zoom” on an iPhone is just in in-camera cropping tool that gives you even less pixels to work with. iPhoneography invites the photographer to use the imperfections of a lower quality image to explore abstraction in photography.

Ansel Adams probably would not have embraced the iPhone as a camera. As a photographer who shares Adams’ discipline of meticulously composing, exposing and processing an image, I find using a telephone as a camera is forcing me to view my craft, and my subject matter, much differently. It’s an interesting challenge that is expanding my vision as an artist.

If you have any questions about iPhoneography don’t hesitate to ask them here in the comments. We can explore this wonderful art form together.

Enjoy

Want to be more creative with your camera? Click Here

Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.

The Intimate Landscape: How to find Paradise in a Parking Lot

Forest Details Great Smoky Mountains

Forest Details by Richard Lewis 2014

A Tree in the Forest Smoky Mountains

A Tree In The Forest by Richard Lewis 2014

14_Dogwoods-in-Full-Force-WEB-SM

Spring Trees Smoky Mountains

Spring Trees by Richard Lewis 2014

Intimate Forest Smoky Mountains

Intimate Forest by Richard Lewis 2014

“Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.”
Eliot Porter

When I learned that our first morning in the Great Smoky Mountains would be spent photographing in the parking lot of a visitor center, I thought that I may have wasted a bit of money going there. For a hiking fanatic, sitting at the edge of one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, heading to a parking lot to shoot seemed like a mistake. As usual, I was wrong.

Eliot Porter (1901-1990), a pioneer of color landscape photography, introduced the concept of the “Intimate Landscape.” Unlike a grand scene of mountain ranges, the intimate landscape focuses, literally, on the intimate part of a scene like the shape of a tree, the visual flow through a meadow, or the texture of water flowing over rocks. The intimate landscape is what we were looking for because a parking lot in a national park can offer a unique glimpse of the forest’s edge.

How I Did It – When photographing the intimate landscape it is important to notice the details. Dan Sniffen, a great West Coast photographer, uses the term “complex simplicity” to describe this process. A simple thing like a tree is really a complex array of branches, colors, textures and tonal range. The trick is to put all of these complexities together in a way that delights the viewer and invites them into the simple little piece of the world you are recording with your camera and lens.

Enjoy

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Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.

Magic Light, French Impressionism and a Big Japanese Maple Tree.

A Little Piece of the New Hampshire Landscape

Glowing Japanese Maple

Glowing Japanese Maple by Richard Lewis 2014

Once in a while something really nice makes itself known to your camera and you can’t wait to share it. This Japanese Maple is next to my brother’s home in New Hampshire. We spent a few days there visiting and on this particular morning I headed out early to photograph the area but gave up when it started to rain hard.

While we were enjoying breakfast, the rain stopped and and the sun stated to work its way through the clouds causing the wet landscape around the house to glow, particularly this Japanese maple with its red leaves. As much as I was enjoying the conversation, this was one photograph I could not pass up the opportunity to create.

How I Did It - Deciding how to express beauty in a photograph is as important as discovering the beauty. In this case I felt inspired by the French Impressionists and their interpretation of light and color. What was going on in front of my lens was all about the play of light and color and not the beautiful tree. I used a tighter composition to keep the tree and the background somewhat abstract. Thanks for the inspiration Claude Monet.

Enjoy

 

Life in an 8mm Circle

My first experiences with a fisheye lens

Smithville through a Fisheye Lens

Smithville in the Round by Richard Lewis 2014

Photographs are rectangles and sometimes squares right? Well…. If you want to upset your sensibilities as a photographer try photographing in circles. The above is from the new love in my life, an 8mm fisheye lens. Like all new loves, this one is full of the passion along with the challenge of getting to know someone.

It is kind of shocking to look through the viewfinder of your camera and instead of seeing that familiar old rectangular view of the world there is a circle. It is kind of like looking through a periscope or one of those peep holes in hotel room doors. But then you accept it and you start to redefine how you look at the world with your camera.

How I Did It – Here are a few things I learned from walking around the Smithville Historic Park in Westampton, New Jersey with a fisheye lens for about an hour or so.

  1. Forget the rules of composition. Rule of thirds, forget about it. “S” curves, everything is a curve. Using a Fisheye redefines composition because of the severe distortion and the simple fact that everything is in a circle.
  2. Look at the bottom of the frame. This is probably the most important Fisheye advice that no one ever mentions. A fisheye lens shows a 180 degree view. That is half of your world in one little circle. The reason to look down is that most likely your legs and feet are in the photograph. I found it necessary to lean forward when clicking the shutter.
  3. Tripods are not necessary. I feel like I’m breaking the sacred oath of landscape photographers by saying that. Not only can you get away with longer hand-held shutter speeds when using an 8mm fisheye lens, but just like your human legs, your tripod legs will probably be in the photograph unless you are using a monopod.
  4. Get close. An 8mm lens is a really, really, really wide angle lens. Because the wider the lens the more distance is distorted, it is good to get close, really close, to your subject.
  5. Don’t fight the distortion. Anything not in the middle of the image will be distorted. Use that and enjoy the lack of reality.  Embrace a circular view of the world.

A fisheye lens is a great tool for expanding your vision as a photographer. It can also make the familiar and possibly the boring fresh again. There is nothing like a little challenge to help one grow as an artist.

Enjoy.

The Great Smoky Mountain Creeks

The creeks are one of the things that make the Smoky Mountains great. 

Tremont Creek, Smokey Mountain National Park

Tremont Creek, Smokey Mountain National Park by Richard Lewis 2014

Little River Gorge in Smoky Mountain National Park

Little River Gorge by Richard Lewis 2014

Dogwoods On Tremont Creek

Dogwoods on Tremont Creek by Richard Lewis 2014

Dark Waters in the Smoky Mountains

Dark Waters in the Smoky Mountains by Richard Lewis 2014

Waterfall by Tremont Creek

Waterfall by Tremont Creek by Richard Lewis 2014

My week in the Great Smoky Mountains was spent being overwhelmed by the beauty of the Dogwood blossoms and the Smoky Fog. However, another stunning aspect of this place was the water. While nothing can compete with my favorite local creeks like the Tohickon and Glen Onoko Falls, the abundant flowing creeks in the Smokies were beautiful to look at, photograph and just sit beside.

How I Did It – The technique of photographing flowing water uses a slow shutter speed, usually around 1 second, which may require a neutral density filter. A polarizing filter is also useful to control glare and reflection. Once you master the techniques to create images of beautiful silky flowing water,  you will need to look at the rest of the scene you are creating. If the area surrounding the creek or the creek itself is full of unsightly debris or if the entire scene is compositionally challenging, you might need to find a better spot. Depending on your feelings about altering a photograph, removing less flattering things with a little “digital landscaping” might also be something worth considering. The difference between a really good photograph and a really great one is paying attention to the details and controlling the composition of the scene you are capturing.

Flowing water is something that has fascinated me since I first picked up a camera. In a previous post I talked more about my “love and fear” of water. Click here to see that post.

Enjoy

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