Photography Tip – Don’t Take Scenes for Granted

1 03 2010

My photography tip or thought for the day has to do with taking a scene for granted. Long story short, when you’re looking at a scene, keep in mind that you may be able to get “that” photograph again. For a short story made longer, read on:

I first saw the barn in the photo below about 5 years ago. It’s located just off of Georgetown Pike (Northern Virginia) on the way to Great Falls National Park. I thought that it was an interesting photo subject but there was no where to park. I drove past the bard about 2-3 times a year for the next 4 years. Every time I visited Great Falls I thought about how I could get a photo or two of it. Eventually this past fall I sucked it up. I pulled my car off of the road and parked in some high grass. It was probably a spot that had no business being parked on. Anyone that has driven this road can probably picture the lack of “pull off” parking. I walked about 100 yards to the opening in the tree line that allowed me to capture the shot below.

Why do I tell you all of this? Well a few weeks ago, I took a drive to Great Falls shortly after the back to back blizzards (B^3 would have been a clever name). It was a day that there certainly no where to stash a car off of the side of the road because of 4 snow plowed embankments. I was curious to see the barn in a winter like scene as I had never gone to Great Falls with snow on the ground. As I approached the barn, I saw that the scene was no more. The roof had collapsed under the weight of the snow and I would guess that the barn will be demolished in the near future.

So with this photo of a barn in mind, I suggest taking a photograph of a good scene when you find one because it might not always be there for the taking.


Visiting Jefferson’s Treasures

26 02 2010

“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” ~Thomas Jefferson~

This quote seems to fit my photography pretty well. As I have focused more time and energy on photography, I continue to find better “luck.” It’s also a polite way of saying don’t just sit around and wait for things to happen.

Last weekend I spent part of a day in Charlottesville, VA while my wife spent the afternoon at a conference. I burned a few hours by visiting two of Thomas Jefferson’s historical locations. I was able to visit Monticello for the first time and tour Thomas Jefferson’s home. While the grounds were snow-covered it was still enjoyable to walk around. I was pleasantly surprised by the time I spent there. I thought that I would just be seeing an old house, but I good tour guide re-sparked an interest in the history nerd that lives inside me. The architecture of the building was also very unique and made for some good shots.

I also visited the center of the University of Virginia’s campus and took in the Academical Village and the Rotunda. As a college administrator, I found this area both unique and amazing. I have to admit that one of the first thoughts I had as I walked a corridor along student residences was “isn’t a fireplace a significant fire hazard”. The Academical Village is Jefferson’s idea of a university. It is a place where faculty, staff, and students closely interact benefiting the educational experience of the student. The Rotunda, which is the central building of UVA’s campus, is a great building. I will share some photographs that focus on this building in another post.

Here are a few more photos from my afternoon:

Jefferson’s thoughts also seem to provide a good life lesson. Hard work yields results. And while I do believe that luck does exist, effort leads to more positive outcomes. You’re probably better off putting in a little effort instead of just hoping things break your way!

To view more photos from Virginia, please click on any of the images in this post. My gallery of Virginia is a new project. I still have many places to explore.

Autumn in DC

27 10 2009

I was able to get out this weekend and take some pictures around the Washington, DC area. I ended up visiting Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in Fairfax County after spending some time at Great Falls National Park. My trip to the preserve resulted in one solid image.

Waterfall at Scott's Run

The waterfall at the nature preserve is less than a mile walk from the parking area off of Georgetown Pike. The first 2/3 of the walk is easy, but the end you go up and over a fairly steep hill that is covered in stone and not the easiest surface to walk on. I was lucky to come to the preserve on a nice sunday day and when the trees were in full autumn color.

Some other autumn shots can be found here.

A Hero vs. Not a Hero

9 02 2009

The Civil War was a trying time in the history of the United States. One of its key figures, Robert E. Lee, is one that draws many opinions. Some consider him a hero for the leadership he showed to his cause. Others cannot find someone supporting his side of the war worthy of such praise. One thing that cannot be argued is Lee is a large figure in the history of America.

A sticker on the back of a sign at the Arlington National Cemetery Metro station.

A sticker on the back of a sign at the Arlington National Cemetery Metro station.

Robert E. Lee is a figure that I have always enjoyed reading about. Yesterday I was at Arlington National Cemetery which is home to Arlington House. Lee and his family lived at this house for nearly 30 years. Due to the above mentioned debate, Lee’s figure is not glorified at Arlington. It is tastefully discussed, honored, and shared. As I was leaving the cemetery, I came across a sticker that was posted on the back of a sign at the Metro station. I found it a perfect contrast to history as it is presented at Arlington National Cemetery. Inside the gates the property is pristine (as it should be) and there is little room for political opinion. Outside of the gates, the “normal” world exists where people post things wherever they want.

Please feel free to view more photos from my trip to Arlington National Cemetery.

Photography Tip: Find a Scene in a Scene

30 01 2009

When I started out with photography, my goal was to take pictures of places.

Great Falls of the Potomac

Great Falls of the Potomac

These pictures had to include enough of the surrounding context to allow the viewer to understand what he/she is looking at. The shot to the left is a good example. Anyone that has ever been to Great Falls National Park in Virginia will recognize this scene as being the falls. Time and many photos eventually led me to seek out a greater challenge than taking a nice photo of a nice place. The challenge became to show that place from a different point of view; Not the view that people always see.

Great Falls of the Potomac from a different perspective.

Great Falls of the Potomac from a different perspective.

The photo to the right, one of my favorites, is a prime example of finding a unique perspective. Most people would not recognize the location just by looking at this photograph. This image is probably an area that makes up less than 1/100 of the previous photo, but it provides a much more unique scene. How did I capture this composition? I promise that I was not in the river on a boat, though many people do enjoy kayaking this area. I allowed a telephoto lens to bring the scene closer to me. Utilizing this lens, I was able to create a photograph that provides a stronger composition, one dictated by me, not by the natural setting. Carrying a tripod with me also allowed for a longer exposure that made the water silky and the image appear far more artistic.

To capture this photo, I had to do a fair bit of extra work. This was taken from very close to the water level. I had to climb down a rocky ledge and walk over some rocks through an area that would be flooded out when the river is higher. The challenging walk was worth it both because it was a good spot to shoot some photography and a calm place to sit quietly and enjoy the river.

So to summarize this post, don’t be afraid to look for a scene within a scene when trying to create better photographs. Some helpful ways to accomplish this:

  • walk around; look around; challenge yourself
  • utilize the different length lenses you might have
  • try different exposure times especially when working with water
  • look at the work of other photographers for inspiration and ideas, but incorporate it into your own style, don’t just try to duplicate it!