I went up to Lake Superior National Lake Shore with a couple of friends last October to photograph fall color. We wondered in the forest for a couple of days. The fall color was rather unimpressive, so we decided to head to the beach. This is a place I visited a few years ago. What always intrigues me here is a tiny waterfall on the Miners Beach. It is only about 4 feet high and rather ordinary. In upper Michigan where water falls are abundant, many people probably won’t bother to take the camera out of bag. However, the real attraction is the rock underneath the falls. At sunset, the rock is lit up by sunset. The ledges of rocks turns into golden lines that lead to the water fall.
This time, we photographed sunset as usual. Just when the light started to fade away and we were ready to leave. The whole sky towards west explored in red and Lake Superior water looked like on fire. At that moment, blue, red and golden lights came together signing a nature’s symphony with the tiny water falls stood proudly on the Miners Beach. I quickly took a few more shots of my favorite water fall before the light totally faded away. It was one of the most spectacular sunsets I experienced. I looked at my LCD screen and smiled.
This picture was published on 1x.com and Earthshots.org in April, 2014
The “decisive moment”, according to Henri Cartier-Bresson, “it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” A “decisive moment” is what elevates a photograph to a higher level. One of Bresson’s most iconic images, the man leaping over a large puddle and touching it with his heel, showed the “decisive moment” turn an otherwise ordinary image into a master piece.
It is fairly straight forward with photojournalism and wild life photography to capture the moment. In landscape photography, I feel that the “decisive moment” is what gives a photograph its soul. A major problem with landscape photography is that an image is reproducible. Once an image becomes reproducible, it loses some of its value and visual impact, no matter how hard one tries with composition. What is a decisive moment in landscape photography? It could be a special moment in light situation, weather condition, season or movement.
During my recent trip to Oregon, my first stop was Cannon Beach. This is a beautiful place by any standard. However, Cannon Beach and its famous sea stack have been shot to death. I don’t know how many millions of photos have that rock in the frames. My chance of capture anything unique is fairly low. Then, one night, I was wondering on the beach at sunset. The sunset was not spectacular, but I did not leave. 15 minutes after the sunset, the sky at west became more interesting and I noticed orange reflection on the wet sand. As the wave retreated, it left behind wet sand as smooth as a mirror. At an angle towards the west, the reflection was the most visible. With each wave, the reflection left behind was different. I quickly setup my tripod and started to compose the image. I chose a position where the distant light house was in between two rocks that were closer, and more importantly, to avoid that famous sea stack on the beach. I tried several times to time my exposure at the right moment when waves advanced on the beach. Finally, I captured one moment where reflection was at the exact position as I wanted. 15 minutes later, the light started to fade away and the show was over.
Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in northwest Indiana is where Sandhill cranes make their stops on their way south during fall migration. Thousands of cranes congregate at Jasper Pulaski marsh in any November day.
Shooting Sandhill cranes has being on my must do list for a number of years. This year, however, I picked a wrong day to go there. On top of being a cold, windy and cloudy, there were a lot of people partying there, so the cranes were flying far away from the crowd. After sun set to the west, the light became too dim to photograph these birds. I packed up my gears in disappointment, knowing there was probably nothing in the camera worth keeping. When I reached parking lot, I returned my head and looked back. Oh , my God! The sky out west was on fire! I had less than 5 minutes to set up tripod in the parking lot and take a couple of shots before the light disappeared. Fortunately, there were still a few cranes returning late to complement the fiery cloud. The picture here still looks a little “unrealistically” red, even after I reduced red color saturation by 25% in Lightroom.
Every kind of weather has its blessing. This turned out to be one of the most spectacular sunset I have experienced. So, lesson for the day is: don’t leave the scene until you can’t see your fingers.