Friday, February 20, 2015

Lighten up!

It was almost eight years ago that I took a nasty fall on ice in Alaska. I made it home but was in a ton of pain for weeks.  It took a while to get back into the swing of things but I started with, out of necessity, carrying less equipment and getting back to basics.

Courthouse Falls, North Carolina
Canon EOS 1D II, 24-105mm @ 47mm, ISO 250, f/11 at 2.5sec

Funny thing.  When I lightened up I had more fun.  I didn't shoot quite as many images as I had in the past but for some reason I got some arguably decent shots and had fun in the process.

Roaring Fork, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Canon EOS 20D, 24-105mm @ 32mm, ISO200, f/16 @ 1 sec.

Carrying less of a load was more than just being less painful.  It freed me up to concentrate on what's important and I saw an improvement in my images.  So, if you want better outcomes and less pain, maybe -- just maybe -- the trick is to lighten up.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sometimes it's OK to look back...

Most of us have probably been told to not look back because yesterday is in the past and we can't change what's happened -- we can only look forward.  That's true.

Yet there are times when looking back isn't just permissible, it's a good idea.  We all know (or should) that he or she who fails to heed the lessons of history is condemned to repeat them.  And on the trail shared with bears at Alaska's Katmai National Park it's helpful to know if there's a bear right behind you.  

In photography the excitement of a scene sometimes causes tunnel vision.  I can get so excited by what's in front of me that I sometimes forget that maybe the scene behind me is even better.  I teach that in workshops but I don't always follow my own advice.

Last spring I was at Hocking Hills State Park about an hour away from Columbus, Ohio.  The water was flowing, the weather was cooperative and the park was almost deserted at the break of day.  I started, as I usually do when I'm there, at Cedar Falls.  A short hike leads to a waterfall best shot just after sunrise before harsh light ruins the scene.

Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm at 20mm, ISO200, f/16 10 sec.

It was a glorious time shooting this but all good things need to come to an end because there are other waterfalls in the park and a limited amount of time when "good light" is available.  So I turned to go back up the trail when the sight and sound of rushing water caught my attention.

There, behind the trail, was a hidden cascade that was beckoning me -- one I might easily have ignored in my haste had I not taken the time to look behind me.

Hidden Cascade, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm at 26mm, ISO 200, f/16 at 5sec

I wish I could have spent more time with this seasonal cascade but I had to get to Old Man's Cave to hike down the canyon and shoot the lower falls.

Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm at 18mm, ISO200, f/16 at 2.5 sec

I spent a lot of time working the lower falls but not before I got diverted again.  This time the upper falls, sometimes a little difficult to safely shoot and often wiped out by harsh light, was flowing exceptionally well.  What little trail that can be safely navigated was narrow and muddy and the view was somewhat truncated but, in my opinion, worth the diversion.
Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm at 32mm, ISO 200, f/16 at 1.5 sec.
Supposedly it's common knowledge that men don't like to ask for directions.  Sometimes that's not a good thing.  But other times it's better to buy into my explanation:  "I'm not lost.  I'm exploring."

Don't be afraid to explore and remember that the better scene might just be behind you.