Sunday, November 11, 2012

Upside Down and Backwards

Reflections on Eldon Russell Park

At first glance Eldon Russell Park in Burton, Ohio does not have much to attract attention.  On a topographic map there are two wishful contour lines that meander through the park, one ¾-mile loop trail, one pavilion, and oh yeah – one river.   So I admit it took me a while to get around to visiting Eldon Russell Park.    However, if you take your time to notice maybe just a little more carefully, this park can be a wonderful experience.

At a normal walking pace you will complete the trail in less than 30 minutes.  The key to enjoying Eldon Russell Park is to slow down; mimic the speed of the river.  As you stroll South from the pavilion along the river there is a whole host of things to notice:  The wide open wet forest to your West, the plentiful coyote scat on the trail, the pungent smell of flooded soil, and yes, the reflections. 

In 1901 Pace Latham was set on onion farming.  The riverbank is elevated here because of those failed efforts to control the river.  So although the park has almost no topography, it does have a rather unique view of the river.  Standing 5 feet above the water’s edge with relatively little foliage in the way, you get some very unique reflections along this section of the trail.

Those of us who has been around cameras for a while know the image projected on the film / sensor is really upside down and backwards.  This is because the as light travels through the lens it gets flipped.  

View cameras have a ground glass that goes in place of the film so the photographer can see and compose the image prior to capture.  Of course now with digital backs instead of film, photographers who shoot with medium format can view the shot either ahead of time with live-view or immediately after.  That's the way I use my Alpa technical camera.  But sometimes seeing the image upside down and backwards helps because it makes the image more graphic and forces me to concentrate on the composition instead of just subject.  Simple to do on the Phase One digital back I use.  Just set the back up to rotate the image 180 degrees.  

That is exactly what I did the day I went to Eldon Russell Park.  The image at the top is oriented how I saw it on the digital back that day:  Upside down and backwards.  The trees that cause the shadows are on the East bank while I was standing on the West bank (hmm – I wonder how many people just flipped over their iPad…).  It was a windy day and the clouds were beginning to break up from a cold front that came in.  Since the forest protects the river here, the wind created small ripples that give this image its impressionistic, painted quality.  With the right breeze and an interesting sky, the photo opportunities are endless!

Here is another image from that day, oriented the way you would see it if you were there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Most Beautiful Thing in Nature

Think about it. To you, what is the most beautiful thing in nature? I got my favorite thing; it’s blazed in my mind, and it’s nothing more than a shadow, a really, really big one.  It’s the shadow of the Earth, and most people don’t even realize it is there.  In the early morning or late evening, it is only natural to turn toward the sun to watch it rise or set.  What I’m talking about is in the opposite direction, 180 degrees away from the rising or setting sun.

As the sun sets, the shadow of the Earth literally gets projected into the sky.  When the sun is low, its rays penetrate much more atmosphere; light gets bent, reflected and scattered into an otherworldly band of colors that change very quickly.  This is the most beautiful thing in nature.

There is another great thing about the Earth’s shadow:  It’s ubiquitous – As long as you are in a place where the sun rises and sets, it has the potential to appear twice.  Each and every day.  The images here were taken from California, Ohio, Ontario, Washington and Wyoming.  Notice the similar colors regardless of location:

Barn on Thorpe Road, Auburn, Ohio

Caribou River, Northern Ontario

Snake River Overlook, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The intensity depends on geography, your position on the Earth and a variety of atmospheric conditions.  One of the fascinating aspects to this shadow is how quickly the colors change.  In the 1954 book, The Nature of Light & Colour in the Open Air by M. Minnaert, there is a great description of twilight and the propagation of the colors associated with the Earth’s shadow.  The image below shows the classic distribution:  grey-blue, pink, light white-blue then back to blue.

Galen's Tree, Skyline Drive, Berkeley, California 

The next image was taken from high up on Mt. Rainier.  Rainier rises 10,000 feet above the immediate surrounding landscape, which is the same amount Everest rises above its surrounding landscape.  At sunset, you can see the shadow of Mt. Rainier projected onto the horizon.  Talk about a humbling experience…

You should check this out yourself.  Take a morning or evening and dedicate an hour to looking the other way; away from the sun when it rises or sets.  You need a relatively clear sky, especially where the sun is.  For an added treat, time it when there is a full moon.  A full moon rises and sets with the Earth’s shadow.   Get to your favorite spot with a view about ½ hour before the sunrise or sunset, sit back and enjoy the view.


Dry Valley Road, Antioch, California

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tennessee Christmas

As usual, we went to Tennessee for Christmas to visit family in Cookeville. We were treated with a rare White Christmas (the tenth on record). Needless to say I was itching to take some photos.  Up on the top of Buck Mountain it was snowing but foggy.  Normally that makes for some great photo opportunities, but for some reason I just wasn't connecting.  Below are a few images from Christmas morning:

The highlight for photography was the following day, when Brian took me to his Great Aunt Opel's home. We spent several hours exploring and photographing the landscape, especially some of the structures and old equipment. It was a great experience. 

From there we went Southeast to Gatlinburg, where they too had a rare snow, over a foot in some areas.  Although travel was restricted at certain times, we did manage to travel Little River Road between Gatlinburg and Cades Cove.  A few images from there: