Landscape photography

Go out and see

When out I'm looking for pictures. I call it "shadow boxing," searching for images, exercising my eye, my vision and all other senses. I'm not looking for masterpieces; I'm just putting pieces together that work. Light and shadow, sticks and stones, color, you name it I'm looking for it. Just like a professional boxer still hits the heavy bag, a photographer needs to hit the streets and trails to keep sharp. And, as Jay Maisel has said if you're always carrying a camera you never have to go out to take pictures. It's a part of you.

Another thing I do is usually travel with just one lens. My carry camera of choice these days is a Fuji X100F. It has a fixed lens equivalent to a 35mm, perfect for street photography. 

Using one lens over and over will ingrain that view in your mind, so it becomes muscle memory. Then, when you come across a scene, you will frame it before you ever pick up the camera. 

In the photo, Stick & Stone, I was carrying a Leica M6 with a 35mm Summicron on a walk through McConnell's Mills when I noticed beautiful natural arrangement. To make it compositionally work, I had to step carefully out on a few exposed rocks along the river's edge. Please note, this action is not advisable or encouraged as the rocks are extremely slippery and dangerous. Many people have drowned from slipping off stones into the water and getting caught by an undertow. I knew the risk, but I also saw the reward in my mind's eye. I was also young and more foolish. OK, young at least. But with just one camera to worry about I had pretty good balance and a friend was with me in case I needed a hand.

Throughout my career, I've tried to use as little gear as possible in personal work and on assignments. I may own a wide range of equipment and pack it all for jobs, but I'll only carry a few extra lenses in my shoulder bag. I've said many times; focal lengths between 28mm and 90mm will handle most assignments. That opinion isn't just mine. Henri Cartier-Bresson told his Magnum colleagues they should not use any lens outside that basic kit. Who will argue with HCB?

Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule depending on the demands of the job and especially today with the proliferation of high-quality zoom lenses. But while zooms are convenient, they can make photographers lazy. It's too easy to rack the zoom in and out to fill the frame forgetting the primary idea of focal length is to change the perspective. When I use a zoom, I look first at the focal length then through the camera because I've already decided what view I want to deliver. I'll move closer or further back to fill the frame with the zoom God gave me, my feet. 

It doesn't matter what device you use other than your eyeballs. Just go out and see.

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Just another morning in Italy

It's the kind of weather we can only dream of in Pittsburgh. A warm breeze caressing the skin. Sunshine casting sharp shadows as the bright life-giving sun in the sky breaks the horizon. Layered clouds placed against an azure backdrop to add visual interest to an already dramatic scene. Trees flawlessly placed on the top of the hill as if set there by artistic design. And the field. Row upon perfectly spaced row. All illuminated to a bright shimmer by the sun. Lines, shapes, graphics, balance, tones all working together in symphonic harmony. Or, as they say, just another morning in Italy.

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Hoarfrost

As I looked out the window this morning, it reminded me of a scene from long ago in Michigan. The overnight storm blanketed the area with four inches of fresh snow; it was just as lovely as the hoarfrost I saw in Michigan many decades past. 

For those unfamiliar, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Hoarfrost is formed by direct condensation of water vapor to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when the air is brought to its frost point by cooling." 

Hoarfrost doesn't happen often, but when it does the show is spectacular, especially if you experience it on a bright clear morning. I'm still waiting to see it in the sunshine. But, knowing my preference, I would probably photograph it with Tri-X, as I did here.

When presented with something as fleeting and fragile as hoarfrost it's best to have an idea where you want to photograph. I knew this location. I scouted it and filed it away in my mind to return to when the conditions were right. Location scouting is an essential part of the job. As a photographer, you need to find your locations. Don't be lazy and rely on crowdsourcing. Do your legwork. Get out there and drive around, walk about and look. Build a location notebook. Don't make other people's pictures by using sites others suggest. Find your places and make your photos. 

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