Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

CONTACT
 

New Work: Aliso/Woods Canyons in B&W

Old Fence in Aliso/Woods Canyons - Orange County, CA Click any photo for a larger view

As recounted in my post "New Work: Aliso/Woods Canyons in Fog", I recently spent some time photographing nearby Aliso & Woods Canyons Wilderness Park in the fog. While my medium format Mamiya RZ67 camera was loaded with color transparency film, I also carried my 35mm Canon EOS-1v loaded up with Ilford Delta 100 black and white film.

I debated back and forth whether to shoot B&W on my medium format because there are few things that look better in B&W than fog. It has that great, old-timey, moody feel that Hollywood epics always bank on. But then again the color of that morning light! Ah, what a tough decision. Luckily I decided to torture my spine by carrying both systems with me.

I carried only one lens for each camera - a 50mm wide-angle for my medium format and a mid-range 24-105mm zoom for my Canon. You know it's funny, when I used to carry only my digital SLR, I couldn't leave the house with less than 3 lenses. But now I just had a single mid-range zoom for my camera. Strangely enough, I didn't feel held back or limited at all. Sometimes the only wide angle lens you need is just taking 3 steps back.

With my B&W shots, I first concentrated on the muted tones created by the fog near the old fence, but then worked my way up to some high-contrast shots with dew drops on a spiderweb and light streaming through an old oak tree.

I'm currently going through a love affair with all the stately oak trees around here in Orange County. I never fully appreciated their size, age, and aesthetics until now. I guess it took some B&W film to open my eyes to their beauty. Expect more photos of these wonderful organisms in the near future - color and B&W.

Foggy morning in Aliso/Woods Canyons Wilderness Park - Orange County, CA
Foggy morning in Aliso/Woods Canyons Wilderness Park - Orange County, CA

Dew on spiderweb in Aliso/Woods Canyons Wilderness Park - Orange County, CA
Oak Tree in Aliso/Woods Canyons Wilderness Park - Orange County, CA

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

As is the norm here in Orange County for May and June, we've had pretty ugly sunsets. The ol' "May Gray" and "June Gloom" marine layer has been suffocating the coast nearly every evening. And with the inland hills dried up from the heat, there just isn't much landscape photography to be had within the county borders. I'd love to travel somewhere to get a taste of new scenery, but my private lessons have been booming and duty calls.

Nevertheless, I still managed to get out and take some shots. But instead of a sweeping vista, I focused my 100mm macro lens on a red skimmer dragonfly that's been hanging out in the backyard.

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

The trick with dragonflies is to not bother trying to sneak up on them - they know you're coming and they will fly off. The way to get close is to first figure out where they like to land. I've found that dragonflies (at least these red skimmer dragonflies) will usually return to the same perch over and over after doing some laps in the air. So once you've figured out where your dragonfly likes to land, get up close to the perch while it takes a lap flying around. They don't seem to mind returning to that same perch with you right next to it, so long as you don't make any quick motions. Apparently they respond to motion more than your proximity.

Then, once your dragonfly returns to its perch and you're nice and close, slowly bring your camera up to your eye and start snapping. It'll pose for you like a supermodel so long as you don't move too quickly. And keep that shutter speed fast if you're going to be handholding your camera.

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

Sunflower Details

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

My car had to get some work done on it over the weekend, which left me stranded at home without a vehicle. Since I'm not big on watching TV, especially in the middle of a beautiful day, I decided to spend my newfound downtime out in the backyard enjoying the weather, drinking some tea and admiring nature's beauty on a smaller scale.

So with a relatively fresh bouquet of sunflowers on hand, I broke out my macro lens for a change of pace from the sweeping landscapes I'm used to. I brought the bouquet outside and placed them on a table in the shade. This shady light is primo for close-ups as it doesn't create too much contrast in these delicate subjects.

Using my Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro (the non-L version), I kept my aperture wide so I could get real selective with focus and create some more abstract-like compositions. I find that when shooting flowers, photographing them head-on tends to result in unoriginal pictures, so I usually try and get the most extreme angles I can on them, working to highlight intimate details like the delicate curves, repeating patterns and interesting textures.

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

Macro Photo of a Sunflower

Photographing this close-up world can keep you busy for hours. Examining things so closely with a lens that's capable of capturing it will open up tons of compositions. All you need is a macro lens and a steady tripod.