African Crowned Crane, 2010
In appreciation of significant, continuing interest in my popular series: OF THE WILD, I will post some previously unpublished images from the portfolio. An adult African (Grey) Crowned Crane, as shown above, is approximately 3 1/2 feet (1 m) tall and weighs 7-8 lbs (3.5 kg). It has a wingspan of about six 1/2 feet (2m), and a bright red inflatable throat pouch that stands out from its grey feathers. The crown of stiff golden feathers and beautiful blue eyes clearly make these one of the most beautiful of all the crane species and it is also the only one that roosts in trees. The additional red markings at the top of the face seen here are predominantly found in the birds of East Africa.
They have recently been elevated from threatened to endangered in most parts of their habitat due to drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution. On a positive note, the seductive dances performed by the adult birds are part of their courting/reproductive ritual and also an expression of joy (I’d say that we humans can relate to the connection between these activites and emotions, as well:)
Here’s looking at you.
Fire in the Sky, Coeur d’Alene, ID 2010
Smoke on the Water, Coeur d’Alene, ID 2010
Heat Wave, Coeur d’Alene, ID 2010
Some mornings, in some locations, are simply magical. This particular morning on Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho was just such a morning. The light, the fog, the rising sun made for many great images as the conditions changed. In the first image, the key was catching the rising sun, the second was about the fishing boat on the lake, and the third required quickly moving to another location for a different view before the fog lifted.
The trick is moving camera direction quickly, sometimes only slightly, because often the scene changes so fast that if you are not paying attention to your surroundings, you miss something great. And as a photographer, when you miss a great shot, you never forget it…it remains in your mind’s eye, but you can’t show it to anyone else.
Waiting by the Bell, Southwest Ranches, FL 2013
Exploring close to home I discovered more of the hidden beauty of Broward County, Florida less than a half hour west of Ft. Lauderdale. The area boasts beautiful homes on large lots of land, many including stables for the horses that inhabit the properties, situated in Southwest Broward, hence the name, Southwest Ranches. On this image of a horse waiting near the dinner bell for his next meal, it needed a little magic, so I added some in post production. I use software such as Photoshop/Elements or Nik, sparingly, and usually only to clean up or tweak an image to what I saw through the lens. Sometimes, as here, I add a touch more to make an otherwise average image, pop a bit.
Equine Profile, Southwest Ranches, FL 2013
This profile portrait shows how beautiful this particular animal is, by capturing it close-up, against a plain background (in this case the wall of the stable). As usual, for me, it’s all about the details. From the creases in its beautiful brown hide to the hairs under the chin, the sharp detail of these and the other features of the subject, make for a great animal portrait.
Seeing several of the horses peeking out from their stables, it reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. ”Mr. Ed” was about a talking (white) horse who always got the best of his owner. The title of this blog post contains some of the popular lyrics from the theme song of the show. And if you are old enough to have watched it, then you will remember Mr. Ed’s favorite thing to say……Wilburrr.
Equine Snow Scene, Winter Park, CO 2007
The majestic Horse has been represented in Art since the days of prehistoric cave paintings. I am no expert in breeds and could not tell whether the animal in the above image was, in fact a horse, maybe a Bay, or even a mule, combination of horse and Donkey (anyone with a better idea, don’t hesitate to chime in). All I know is a picturesque scene when I see one, and this clearly fit the bill. Driving up the road toward a ranch near Winter Park just after a light snow, the beautiful brown coat and white back and eyes caught my attention.
The beauty and character of many equine subjects work extremely well in a Fine Art photograph. For me, the right composition (location of the animal in the scene) is key as are the details of the animal’s pose. The placement of the head, legs and even the tail can make or break an image. Patience is a virtue with horses. They usually stay in one area for a while unless they become curious and approach you looking for food. In this case, the momentary lift of a seemingly painted head, with a body lightly covered with snow, created the perfect subject against the snow-covered trees.
Lone Horseman on Beach, Pacific Northwest 2006
Sometimes less is more. This is an example of using negative space to create an ethereal image of an isolated subject. The lone horseman on this Pacific Northwest beach looked out to Sea in the morning fog. The mountain range behind him can barely be seen, but became more evident as the fog lifted. Here, the horse and rider stand alone to signify peace and solitude. Again, timing is everything in that immediately after the image was created, the rider was gone and the fog soon lifted.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, OH 2013
When you travel around natural wilderness enough, you are bound to see astonishing things every once in a while. When a baby Black Bear crossed in front of our car one night on a deserted North Carolina road it happened too quickly to photograph. Likewise with the thousand pound Moose I ran into at dusk in the woods of Colorado. That time I wasn’t even thinking about taking a picture, just how to get around him and get out of there in one piece.
So on those occasions that something wonderous occurs in nature and you do actually capture it photographically, that is something special. It’s not just a “Fisherman’s Tale,” there exists documented proof. Such was the case while shooting at Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. I was photographing the beautiful forest that surrounds the cave, alternating from Black and White to Color, in camera. Suddenly I heard a thunderous sound, as if a bolt of lightning had cracked to the ground right near me. First I ducked, a natural reaction, then, I lifted my camera in the direction of the sound and there, as it was happening, a huge tree, easily hundreds of years old, came crashing down…naturally. Now, it is unusual to be close enough to hear such a rare occurrence, let alone to see it. But to capture it as it happens, that is most likely a once in a lifetime event. I got off four shots as the tree came crashing down, the three consecutive images above were perfect, while the fourth, as it fell to the ground went out of focus. I created this Triptych to memorialize the wonderous moment.
Momentary Blizzard, Southeastern OH, 2013
Usually, I’m lucky if one memorable thing happens per shoot. During the same week in Ohio as the tree falling, we were driving down a rural road on a relatively clear, but cold winter day. Within minutes, the sky became dark and from nowhere came a Blizzard of snow so fierce that it caused a “whiteout” forcing me to pull over. We rolled down the window just enough to get off a few shots, and then, within less than a minute, it was over. The snow was gone and shortly thereafter the sky was clear again. That was the first time I had ever experienced a Momentary Blizzard.
The bottom line when it comes to Mother Nature, there is only one thing that is certain …she is absolutely unpredictable.
Cascade through Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH 2013
When photographing in the Midwest you expect rural farmland, old barns, snow in winter, fall colors in autumn. What you don’t expect are rushing waterfalls cascading down granite cliffs, especially one after the other after the other. Thanks to a tip from a great friend of mine who grew up in Ohio, I took a chance and drove a couple of hours south of Columbus and west of Dayton. Well…alter your expectations. Having traveled to Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Pacific Northwest, who knew there was a combination of all of them in the Midwestern United States.
Hocking Hills State Park http://bit.ly/15mtjP4 in Logan, Ohio is 2,356 acres of towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded gorges. After stopping at the park’s Visitor’s Center for a map and some very helpful information, you drive down the road to the large, open parking lot. It isn’t until you descend down the trail at either end of the lot when the magic starts…immediately. I happened to be there in winter on a cold and rainy day and after melted snow had created a significant flow through Old Man’s Creek. The weather made it a bit challenging with a large camera bag and tripod, but ideal for shooting waterfalls, of which there were so many. Carefully protecting the camera from rain and mist and making sure the lens glass remained dry, it was a labor of love (including a rain poncho, plastic bags and an umbrella). Descending through the gorge trail I followed the cascading water over one cliff after the next. I literally felt as if I was in a movie, like Jurassic Park… without the Dinosaurs.
Devil’s Bathtub, Hocking Hills State Park, OH 2013
Halfway through the gorge trail is the Devil’s Bathtub. A whirlpool created from the rushing water of Old Man’s Creek seems to flow in all directions as it makes its way down the gorge.
Fog Around the Bend, Hocking Hills State Park, OH 2013
Road to Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH 2013
Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH 2013
At the southern end of the park is the horseshoe-shaped Ash Cave named after the huge pile of ashes found under the shelter by early settlers which was believed to have been left from Indian campfires built up over hundreds of years or used by them for smelting silver or lead from the rocks. Measuring 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge with the rim rising 90 feet high, it is the largest, most impressive recess cave in the state of Ohio.
While in the area there are several great places to stay and eat including rustic lodges, cottages and cabins. Check out the Hocking Hills Resort http://www.hockinghillsresort.net/ and the Inn at Cedar Falls http://innatcedarfalls.com/, both of which had romantic accommodations and dining.
All in all, this tip from a friend became a very welcome and totally unexpected…Paradise Found.
Road to an Old House, Ohio 2013
There are two themes to this current blog post. (1.) Research your location prior to shooting and (2.) Don’t ever underestimate the scenic beauty of a place, case in point…Ohio.
First, the best way to increase your chances of coming back with some good images is to research the location before you arrive. I always look for a book or two on the area in the travel section at Barnes and Noble www.BN.com. Better yet, go to the B & N in the place you are shooting and they may have, as Ohio did, an entire section dedicated to their State. I look for books that are well illustrated, preferably with color photos so I can get an idea of what the scenic locales look like and whether they are worth shooting, always keeping in mind the images may be taken in a different season than I am traveling. Such was the case in the book I purchased entitled: A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio by Ian Adams http://amzn.to/VnpOY0. It gave me (literally) a roadmap to numerous waterfalls located in the area I would be traveling, and these are clearly one of my favorite subjects to shoot. Following the book, my GPS and a trusty old map (remember those?), I successfully located all of the falls in my area, and was pleasantly surprised by the strong, rushing cascades created by recently melting snow.
West Milton Falls, Miami County, OH 2013
One other good idea in researching a location is asking a local, or former local, who really knows the lay of the land. In my case, it helped that one of my best college buddies originally hailed from Ohio and he turned me on to a magical place known as Hocking Hills. HH is so beautiful that I am saving it for the next post to include several images, so stay tuned.
White Farm, near Dayton, OH 2013
Finally, as for the scenic beauty of rural Ohio…judge for yourselves here and in a new section I have devoted to it at www.barrystevengreff.com entitled Magical Midwest. From the farms, most of which have an old barn on property, to the trees, to the waterfalls, who knew? …I do now.