Broad River Photography Assignment

I chose five photos for this post.

The first one is of an “unusual rock” with very nice bright moss.

rock with moss

The second photo is of an “unusual rock” as well. It is unusual for a rock to be “hugged” by a dry dead tree.

rock and tree

The third photo is for “look down”. It is a photo of water running in a creek.

look down

The fourth and fifth photos are of graffiti and a tossed plastic bottle, respectively, that “do not belong” along a nature trail.

graffiti

bottle

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A Landscape by Ansel Adams

For this post, I chose to discuss a photograph by Ansel Adams (American photographer, 1902 –1984). I love landscape photography and nature photography in general, but I especially admire Ansel Adams’ photographs for their sharpness and dramatic contrast of light and dark elements. Adams developed and used quite a few techniques to achieve that in his photos.

I was reminded of his wonderful photographs this past Sunday by a fellow GWU professor when hiking at the Crowders Mountain Park. He mentioned that Ansel Adams was once asked why there were no people in his landscapes. To that Ansel Adams replied that having a person in a photo of a landscape (even if the image of the person is very small relative to the size of the entire photo) leads the viewer to imagine themselves in place of that person in that landscape and that would cause them to experience the landscape from the point of view of that person. But the goal was to create a photo that would convey the same emotional effect on the viewer that the landscape had on Adams himself.

The photo I chose for the post is The Tetons and the Snake River (1942).

1279px-Adams_The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_RiverThe image has a great depth of field. All the four elements in the photo are sharp – the trees covering the land, the river, the mountains, and a very dramatic sky. I believe that the turn of the river in the left lower part of the image is at the golden ratio point. I also noticed that both turns of the river are located on the vertical lines of the rule of thirds. The sky takes up approximately one-third of the image. Also I noticed that the height of the tallest peak of the mountains is approximately one-third of the distance from the foot of the mountains to the bottom of the frame. This in turn led me to the following observation. If one leaves out the entire upper part of the photo above the highest peak of the mountains, then the image follows the rule of thirds beautifully. Indeed, then we see that the horizontal line through the foot of the mountains is almost exactly the upper horizontal line in the rule of thirds. I was very excited when I discovered that. I also find the light in this photo incredibly beautiful, especially in the sky. And I love the contrast between the very light tone of the river and the darkness both of the trees in the foreground and of the lower part of the mountains.

I would also like to mention that I first learned about photography by Ansel Adams when I was in my twenties from Marty Walters who was a good friend of mine and who absolutely adored photography by Ansel Adams. My friend passed away a few years ago and so my post is in his memory.

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Street Photography by Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City but who spent most of her youth in France. She was unknown as photographer till 2007 when her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house in Chicago by a Chicago historian and collector John Maloof. For many years Vivian Maier worked as a nanny and took photographs as a hobby. She mostly took shots of street life in New York City and Chicago. She took photographs for a period of fifty years and had 100,000 negatives in her cache. Her work was exquisite, but mysteriously not known to the public. John Maloof and Charlie Siskel directed a documentary film Finding Vivian Maier (2013). One can find more information about Vivian and a gallery of some of her work on the website http://www.vivianmaier.com/.

I loved Vivian Maier’s photographs for the leading lines, the themes, and sharpness (something that I cannot achieve and with which I am still struggling).

1954, New York, NY

The photo that I chose was taken by Vivian Maier in New York in 1954. I find this shot absolutely outstanding due to the use of the leading lines that we see in stairs and the roof above the staires, the bridge, the rail tracks, and lampposts. And the more one looks at the photo the more leading lines one finds. Even in the left lower corner one can see rail tracks branching off to the right. There is also such details as a light bulb under the roof over the stairs and part of a silhouetted person on the stairs. The location of the light post is perfect relative to the bridge and the other elements in the shot. Even the wire across the top of the shot ads to connecting all the elements. The shot is extremely interesting because all the elements seem to be connected. The viewer is guided from one element to another with ease. For example, the lampposts guide one to the crowd at the foot one of the lampposts. I am not sure whether the rule of thirds was followed. The depth of field is wide, since one can see a lot of the bridge with a great degree of focus. I think the light is just right for the shot. I like the mist in the very background.

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Icelandic Landscapes by Iurie Belegurschi

When choosing a photographer and photos for this assignment, I looked through many wildlife and landscape photos. Eventually I came across the photos of Iceland by Iurie Belegurschi. I liked the use of light and the colors in the photos. The subject of the photos – Icelandic landscapes – is of great interest to me. I have visited Iceland and the landscapes that I saw there were breathtaking. According to his website, http://www.iuriebelegurschi.com/, Iurie Belegurschi was born in Moldova and has been living in Iceland since 2006. His photos have been published worldwide in books, postcards, calendars, magazines, and newspapers. His online portfolio includes photos of Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. He also leads tours for his company Light Hunters Photo Tours.

The first photo that I would like to write about seems very unusual to me since it has both a fairly well-lit barn in the midground and a huge starry night sky in the background. I am not sure how the photographer was able to achieve that. I think the reddish brown colors in the barn look good in juxtaposition to the black, green, purple, and yellow of the sky. I do not think that there is much to the composition of this photo. The rule of thirds was not followed. It would have made the photo better if the front of the barn were closer to the appropriate power point. Probably due to unusual lighting, the barn looks flat and almost seems to have been photo-shopped into the photo. The buildings in the background are a nice detail since they create some three-dimensional feel to the photo. It helps that a chimney on one of the background buildings is well lit since the viewer is drawn to it.

Iceland Photo Tours

The second photo features ice shapes on a beach lit by a low sun. Since the sun is low, the colors are warm. Also we see some of the light going through the ice shapes. The sun is near a power point. The only flaw that I see in the photo is that it seems to be abruptly cut off on the left. There are a few leading lines on the wet sand directed to the left. Because of that, my eyes seem to want to follow the photo to the left and I wonder what is there beyond the photo. But of course I cannot see beyond the photo. That is disappointing and creates a bit of a claustrophobic feel to this image.
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Kakapo by Barry Harcourt

I love birds and even have a pet bird at home. Naturally, I looked through many photos of birds to find an image to discuss on my blog. The image I chose is that of a kakapo, a rare bird endemic to New Zealand. This was the first image that caught my eye and after looking through many other images, I returned to this one.

wet-headed kakapo

The author of the photo, Barry Harcourt, worked as a chief photographer of The Southland Times, a daily regional newspaper in New Zealand, till his retirement in 2010. He did quite a bit of sports photography. He is referred to by his colleagues as a larger-than-life figure, genius behind the camera, and was nicknamed the Hurricane.

The photo was taken on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island in 2005. Codfish island is a predator-free bird sanctuary. That is where most of the critically endangered kakapos make their home. I found the image on Kakapo Recovery – The Official Site on Facebook. The photo shows a kakapo in its natural habitat foraging on a plant. The kakapo looks alert and is looking directly at the camera, so I feel a connection with the bird. The kakapo also looks calm and peaceful. One can see that its feathers are wet as is the moss on the log where it is perched.

The composition of the photo follows the rule of thirds since the eye of the bird is at the intersection of lines used in the rule. One also notices that kakapo’s right foot is close to one of the points determined by the rule of thirds. Kakapos are flightless birds but have very strong legs, so having the bird’s leg in focus is a great feature of this photo. It looks like the photo was taken at night time, hence the black background. This is not surprising since kakapos are nocturnal. There is maybe just a bit too much of dark space that we perhaps can categorize as “empty”, or “negative” space. Some positive space on the right-hand side of the photo would probably add to the balance of composition. Yet the dark space contrasts the grey, green, and white colors of the kakapo’s feathers as well as the green and brown colors of the moss and the log. Therefore, with respect to color, I would consider the photo quite balanced. As far as foreground framing, we see the moss-covered log in the left-lower part of the photo.

Overall, I like the photo quite a bit. I believe that the author of the photo wanted to show a kakapo in its natural setting and behaving naturally. I believe that the photo is very informative in that respect. I think that the photo also shows how vulnerable this kakapo is, and thus helps the kakapo recovery site’s goal of recovering the population of these unusual birds. I also suspect that it is a very difficult task to get a photo of this rare bird in the wild at night time.

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