Monday, July 30, 2012

A Simple Window

Screened Window

A simple click that probably made me stop and think more than most.  Why?  Because I had a really hard time explaining to myself why I like this image so much.  It seems so simple, yet I kept coming back to it over and over.

So, each time I came back to it I tried to determine a new reason for liking it.  Below is my list of reasons, in no particular order:

1. Simplicity - Let's face it, there's really not much going on here.  Yet, it's been shown before that some of the most striking images are very simple in structure.  For the most part, I think people tend to capture too much "info" within a single image.  Have you ever come across a scene that you felt was absolutely amazing - we're talking the bee's knees - snapped a photo and then been disappointed with the image upon later review?  Why didn't the image convey the awesome feeling you had at the time of capture?  The likely culprit is probably that the image contains too much information.  Yeah, it happens to me all the time!

2. Detail - The photo really brings a rustic feel to my mind.  You can tell that the window and the siding are a bit weathered and the overall structure definitely wasn't built yesterday.  The weathered look provides a lot of details in all the wood siding and I managed to nail the exposure to bring out detail in the white frame of the window and the screen.

3. That screen covering the glass window - This is probably the hardest to explain, but it's also what made me stop and take the picture in the first place.  Even now, each time I open the image my eyes immediately focus on the screen.  It does help that it's the brightest part of the image, which means our eyes and brains will tend to focus on it first.  But, the screen itself lends a lot in trying to "see" the building as a whole and what the building is for.  Right away I think of a building that's not meant to be occupied for long periods of time.  The screen is too restricting to let in a lot of light and nobody is going to peer through that window to gaze at beautiful scenery.  If someone had been standing there, looking out the window as I took the photo, you'd hardly be able to see them!  It's also quite thick and an obvious conclusion is that the screen's sole purpose is in protecting the glass from being broken.  If I had no other knowledge of this building, I'd conclude that it's located in a very public place and has been on the receiving end of vandalism in the past.

4. Contrast - I love the contrasting shades of black, white, and gray.  The shadows help draw attention to the details of the wood.  I think the actual building is red and white, but I took the actual picture in black and white (not color and then converted to b&w).  The shadow along the left and bottom edges of the window frame help in making it pop out of the scene.

5. The bird shit - After the screened window, it's the next thing my eye is drawn too.  Just a weird little detail that really seems to fit in just right.

6. It's different - By this, I mean it's different than my preferred captures of wildlife and natural landscapes.  I love capturing nature in photos and it's my first choice when I venture out with my camera.  But, I don't want to be caught up in a label, either.  It's fun to venture outside my comfort zone to try capturing a compelling image.  I mean, technically I'm not really a photographer, since I don't make any money doing this.  In that sense, I'm just an engineer.  But I like to keep myself on my toes!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Stroll Along The Green

Rising Above The Green River

It's been severely hot and dry this summer, not just here in Kansas, but all over the mid and western US.  The lack of water has taken its toll: lawns are yellow, trees are already losing their leaves, and crops are quickly going to waste.  It's times like these when you realize our immense dependence on water and how much we take that dependence for granted.

It's also amazing how much difference a year can make.  About this time last year, we were visiting my hometown in Wyoming.  The winter of 2010-2011 had produced record snow packs in some areas and, although winters in Wyoming are already tough, the vast amount of snow was a welcome site to a state suffering about 10-12 years of drought conditions.  As we drove across the state creeks and rivers were flowing out of their banks.  We drove into the Snowy Mountain range west of Laramie (Highway 130 - a beautiful drive!) and there were still 6-8 foot walls of snow and ice lining the road in several areas.  In fact, I wanted to show my wife and kids the Sugarloaf area where my friends and I often hiked and fly-fished during college and we couldn't even turn off the road because it was drifted in with snow.

But that was last year.  We just returned a week ago from our annual trip for this year and the landscape was a 180 degree change.  Dry, hazy (fires in several regions including some of my old stomping grounds), and hardly anything was green.  So, it was a great surprise when we rolled into Green River and saw that the actual Green River was flowing quite nicely at a much higher water level than I expected.  It was probably the only flowing body of water we saw on the entire trip that didn't look like it was a couple months away from drying up completely.

One of our first nights back in town, we took the kids and drove down to the Scott's Bottom area of the river on the southeast edge of town.  The city has done an amazing job constructing a greenbelt system that spans a good deal of the river and now extends from the middle of town all the way to the Scott's Bottom (aka FMC Park) area.  We were all anxious to stretch our legs a bit after the 2-day drive from Kansas and there's  no better way than strolling along The Green.

It's an extremely beautiful river and I often forget how much I miss it.  I couldn't help staring at it, reading its ripples and pools thinking, "There's probably a fish there....and there...and there."  The area we walked is a thriving riparian habitat and my kids were quick to start pointing out the various birds and critters we saw.  These riparian zones along the river stick out like sore thumbs, considering this area of Wyoming is mostly desert with not much more than sagebrush and dirt.  I've always loved standing high on the hills surrounding the city and looking down on the contrast provided by the lush, green banks of the river.  It truly is an integral part of the community and environment.

This photo shows the river and the hills that rise above her east of town.  The light was just starting to come together and I stepped away from the family to frame the shot.  I chose black and white to try highlighting the contrast I was seeing.  The clouds were really starting to form nicely and I liked the shadow play they were causing upon the hills.  I also liked how the clouds and some of the hill "faces" that were in light were complementing each other.  Throw in the light that was lightly touching the grass in front of me and things came together well.