Sunday, January 27, 2013

Diamonds in a tree

Since moving into our house in 1996, my wife and I transformed the yard and landscape from a golf course pristine look into that of a Pacific Northwester theme with native plants, trees and ferns, so that the multitude of small birds, and squirrels can safely hide in and out of sight from the hawks and eagles that sometimes sore overhead looking for my daughter's small dog.

Throughout the years it seems the grassy areas have slowly gotten smaller and has been transformed into layers of vegetation of wildflowers, ferns, bushes, grasses and trees of all species ranging from pines, Blue Spruces, Willows, Aspens, Coastal Redwoods, Western Cedar to various varieties of Japanese Maples.

After spending about eights years growing up in Japan, I'm pretty fond of Japanese gardens which is spread throughout our backyard.  One of my favorite trees is the Cryptomeria Japonica, an evergreen tree, commonly known as the Black Dragon, Japanese Cryptomeria, Japanese Cedar or Sugi, the national tree, commonly planted around temples and shrines.

Most of the types I remember ranged from the Bonsai trees to those small ones grown in a pot or in gardens to the much taller trees that graced the temples and shrines grounds.

To complete our Japanese style garden, we found a small tree in 1997 at an outdoor garden center in Gig Harbor and planted it near a rising pathway constructed with railroad ties and crushed rocks. We were hoping the three-foot-tree would only grow a few inches a year, however, 15 years later it's grown like one of those beans that Jack traded for the cow, and now stands over 25 feet.

During Spring and Summer months, the tree, is green that gradually gives way to a combination of greens, purples and reds in the Autumn and Winter. So, you can understand why, besides taking pictures of Japanese Red Maples, the Cryptomeria has become one of my favorite subjects to photograph, especially during the rainy season, when water drops hang like suspended diamonds attached to the limbs and branches.

Yesterday while letting Toshi and Buffy out to chase squirrels, I notice the tree was covered in diamonds and while guarding the dogs from overhead predators, I decided to photograph the suspended beauty. All of the images were taken with an EOS-1Ds MKII, equipped with an Extender Tube EF25 and a 28-70mm zoom. Most of the images were taken with these setting:
Date: 1/26/13
Time: 11:34:11
Model: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
Serial #: Lens 28-70mm: 50 - 70 (mm)
ISO: 800
Aperture: 2.8
Shutter: 1/250

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The beauty in Simplicity

While working at the Florida Times-Union, a former picture editor, Charles Kogod, offered me a bit of advice during one slow news day. “Jim, just go out and shoot some pretty pictures!” Kogod knew what he was doing in nurturing and developing photographers as he ended up working for National Geographic as the Director of Illustrations in the publications division for many years.  To this day, he still works for them on a contract basis, as well as photographs, teaches and edits.

30 years later, I still take Charles’ advice to heart when I head outside to find and shoot pretty pictures in rain, shine, snow and cold weather. With the weather begin in the low 20's for the past few days and with still more cold temperatures to come, the weather has created some really nifty looking frost covered subjects.

So for the past fews days while walking Toshiro, I've been carrying an EOS MKII Ds equipped with an Extension Tube EF 25 attached to a 28-70mm lens. This is one of my favorite walk about combos to take with me.
There's a park about a mile from my house that I like to walk him to that offers a variety of foliage to photograph. So, while constantly having to stop and wait for Toshiro to scratch, sniff and mark his territory as only a male dog would do, I look for pictures to take of foliage covered in a layer of frost.

This caused me to remembered a question a former photo instructor asked in class one day. "How many of you while out taking a walk, look at the ground?" He then said, "Next time look around at all your surroundings including the ground and see all the photos you're missing."

This is an expertise I use while taking the time to find a subject, watch direction the light, where it falls and how it illuminates my subjects. You'd be surprised at all the simple pretty pictures you can find to take.