Camera: Canham 5x7 metal Field with 4x5 inch film back
Lens: Rodenstock 150mm
Film: Ilford FP4 plus 4x5 inch black and white film
Filter: Sighn Ray LB Warming Polarizer
Light Meter: Sekonic L558R (digital spot meter)
Tripod: Gitzo 1325 Carbon Fiber
Tripod Head: Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head
Exposure: 1/8 second
How I Took This Shot 5
As the seasons change from Fall to Winter the landscape transforms. The brilliant colors of one season give way to a bare, stark landscape that is beautiful in its simplicity. Over the years, as my vision has matured, I have moved toward a more elegant and refined vision of the natural world. More and more I am interpreting the landscape through tones of black, white and grey.
My newest release, Aspens, Snow and Reflections Black & White, represents this evolution in my vision. The landscape, on its journey toward Winter, was presented in these muted tones. I chose to use traditional black and white film to interpret its beauty. Here is the story.
This was the morning after the first real snow of the season, which followed several days of rain. I decided to visit several aspen groves near my home in Lake Tahoe, knowing that the meadows that surround the aspens flood in these conditions. As expected, the water had moved into the edges of the aspen groves creating a dark contrast to the light bark and snow covered grass deeper in the aspens. The water also held beautiful reflections of the trees. This was perfect.
Next, I wanted to compose an image that portrayed the peaceful feeling I was experiencing, without getting lost in the chaos of the aspen grove as a whole. The three trees in the foreground stood out nicely, as they were receiving a touch more light than the rest of the forest behind them. This, along with a little selective dodging and burning in the darkroom created the calm I was looking for.
I further simplified the feeling of the image by composing a darker foreground and background, with the middle ground being brighter and less cluttered. That is where our eye is lead, creating an airy feeling that relaxes the scene and makes the viewer feel as though they can walk right in to the forest. This is a scenario I have welcomed as a challenge. While I am seeing simply, I am surrounded by relatively chaotic subject matter. Using composition and light I am working toward mastering the ability to translate the emotional calm within visual chaos.
Which brings me to the next factor in this image, the light. While stronger light is often welcome in black and white imagery, I did not want to create a harsh scene. I composed this image early in the morning while the winter sun was relatively low and soft. However, I did wait for a section of low, soft cloud to filter the sun before exposing my film. I wanted a bit of brightness in the scene, but not harsh shadow. Waiting that extra ten minutes made all the difference.
As a final technical note, I used a polarizing filter to clean up the reflection and remove a little glare from the bark on the trees. I chose not to use a contrast filter, which I almost always use for black and white film, due to the fact that there was very little color within the scene to aid in contrast enhancement. That simply would have lengthened my exposure and made it more difficult to capture an image with still grasses.
I am pleased with this new image and believe I accomplished each of my artistic goals. First, I composed a scene that communicates the tranquility I experienced while standing in this visually chaotic location. Second, I created an elegant image that translates the beauty of the changing of the seasons near my mountain home. This is The Fine Art of Nature.
Enjoy the View!