Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Continuing With My 2016 Favorites - Colors Of Nature

Before there were photographers or painters creating beautiful works of art, there were beautiful works of art in nature. Since the beginning of time, God has been creating beautiful art in the natural world.  Every day when the sun breaks the horizon there are brilliant sunrises happening all around the world.  We may not see it where we are that day but it is happening.  Sometimes the edge between night and day is defined by bright orange and yellows. Other times it is more pastel pinks and purples that paint the sky. Below the sky, every color can be found in the leaves, flowers, and grasses. Most of the earth is covered with water, which reflects and sometimes intensifies the colors of nature. The photos for today capture the color of nature that is all around us. Color in nature is one of my favorite subjects.

In October, June and I took a day trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the brilliant colors that are painted across the hills and valleys each fall.  We started our day enjoying a sunrise from the Parkway near Boone NC.  While others were looking east to the rising sun, I walked up the road a bit to capture a photo of the winding parkway leading over a hill to the clouds lit by the low sun.  By looking north instead of east, I found a beautiful scene that others missed.   Nature's beauty is all around in every direction.  We just need to look around.

Blue Ridge Sunrise
Click on the images for a larger view.

From a sunrise in the mountains of North Carolina, we travel to a sunset on the shores of Lake Michigan. This photo may not appear that impressive. The sun had gone down 45 minutes earlier and the sunset colors had become more soft and soothing. The lighthouse is not an impressive structure. You might wonder why I picked this as a favorite.

I'm proud of this photo because it was made under very difficult photography conditions. It was after 10 PM and there was very little available light, which meant I had to had to push the camera to get a reasonably fast shutter speed. The shutter speed was important because the photo was taken from a moving boat without the benefit of a tripod. Too slow and everything would be blurry and the photo would have been sent to the bit-bucket. With a shutter speed of just 1/9 of a second, the lights in the distance are blurred but the people hanging out on the pier are not.  This was one of those situations where the odds were against me and I might not have bothered to take the shot.  I'm glad I did.

Lighthouse at Sunset

We're now moving into the darkest part of the night when the sky is painted by billions of stars. June and I were again out taking photos with our friend Lynn from Dallas. This time we were at Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains. We had gone there for the sunset and waited around for another hour and a half for the stars to come out. Because it was still summer, the Milky Way was still visible in the sky.
Milky Way
Due to light pollution, most people in the US rarely see the Milky Way.  You have to travel to a place with a dark sky, far from city lights, with clear air.  When it's not shrouded in clouds, Clingmans Dome can be a great place to see the Milky Way.  I've gotten more interested in night sky photography and this is one of my favorite Milky Way shots.

Fall in the Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge can provide the photographer with the most brilliant colors of the year. For a few short weeks, entire mountainsides turn to gold, red, and green.

For most of the summer and fall our area suffered through an extended drought. This made the water in the Bald River low enough that we could easily walk out on rocks that are normally underwater. The low water flow also made the river surface smooth as a mirror, reflecting and intensifying the fall colors. These are unusual conditions that came together to make one of my favorite fall photos.

Bald River
Water is something I enjoy photographing.  I like mirrored reflections such as the Bald River photo above. Waterfalls are probably my favorite subject and I almost always use a slower shutter speed to make the falling water appear silky and soft. A technique I have tried a few times involves very long shutter speeds to change moving water into a fog.

Waves or Clouds
Today's final photo was taken on a beach where waves were breaking over old coral formations. This was taken well after sunrise on a bright sunny morning. With that much light, it's difficult to get the slow shutter speed I wanted. I used something called a neutral density filter to block much of that light.  It is basically sunglasses for a camera lens. With that filter and a small aperture (f/22) I was able to slow the shutter speed down to 2 1/2 seconds. This made the waves appear like clouds. It's an artsy kind of effect that I like and will try to do more of.

Those are my favorite photos of nature's colors. I have 5 more favorite photos to share.  Come back again to see the finalists.

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