June 2007 Issue
Every landscape in our state is a discovery. In these pages, a writer and seven photographers share their singular views of the stunning, simple pleasures that surround us.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, one poet assures us. Nothing gold can stay, insists another. Alive on a living planet immersed in time, we learn that the ephemeral and the everlasting are but opposing facets of the same truth: The universe operates independently from us - but not us from it. The physical world cares nothing about our awareness. It is we, the
perceiving presence, who take the world's measure and assign that measure meaning and value. The gold that passes lives in our minds, though not forever.
The fact of life requires nothing from us and gets nothing from the traveling circus that surrounds us. A handsome box turtle scours a forest floor looking for a morsel without wondering about its fate should no morsel turn up. A resplendent, resting fawn curls up in dead vegetation it does not name. A hyacinth opens without asking for a mirror to admire itself. A spider weaves a dewy web not to be praised but to survive. Painted plants adorn themselves in ancient fashion, not to draw primate eyes but to propagate their own kind.
Water pulled by gravity falls through space and pushed by wind piles up on a shoreline. It is dragged back again by gravity. Heated, it ascends invisible to make mutating clouds. The power of the sun warms rock, fashions a crescent moon behind shadowy trees, pierces in spectacular luminescence a morning's fog, reflects our own creations back at us in splendid double vision. To the sun, a star, we owe life and this brief look. Our awareness is nothing more than stardust.
Humans endure the burden of knowing, while other life escapes understanding. Our struggles are theirs, but only we can see an end. It is we who take in a landscape and are moved. It is we who are capable of wonder and awe. Appreciative, if we choose, for the glimpse.
By Jim Crotty
Obtaining great images of the Ohio landscape can be fun and highly rewarding. There is so much natural beauty in the Buckeye State, from the Lake Erie shoreline to the hills surrounding the Ohio River. There are also probably many beautiful and inspiring nature-related subjects just outside your front or back door. Sometimes all we have to do is take the time to stop and notice, which leads to my first tip:
Slow down. Look around and allow the scene to come to you. Sometimes the best images are right at your feet or behind you. So many amateur photographers are in a hurry to gather as many images as possible, snapping away with abandon. That's a problem with the convenience of digital cameras. Try to remember quality rather than quantity.
Get up early and shoot late. The best light for landscape photography is almost always shortly prior to and during sunrise and shortly before and through sunset. The light is indirect, soft and even, unlike the harsh, direct sunlight in the middle of the day, which can be particularly challenging in summer.
Use a tripod, even if you're simply using a point-and-shoot camera. A tripod will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and lower film-speed settings, resulting in sharper images. A tripod is also necessary when photographing waterfalls through long exposure, creating that wonderful â€œcotton candyâ€� effect. Most of all, a tripod will force you to take the time (see tip No. 1) to set up and properly frame your composition.
Bad weather can be your friend. Most of my best nature and landscape photographs were taken in rain, fog and/or snow. Wet weather can provide that same nice, soft, even light that you'll find early in the morning or toward evening. You will also obtain a nice saturation in the color on leaves and flowers. But make sure you keep your camera dry and water drops away from your lens. I still use the shower cap I picked up in a hotel room over 10 years ago.
Use interesting subjects for your foreground, but try not to place them in the middle of your frame. Place foreground subjects near, but not at, one of the four corners.
Get low with a wide-angle lens. Just by slightly changing your perspective you can have more foreground objects to work with.
Either make the sky a major part of your image or just give it a slight area at the top. Try not to split the ground and sky evenly in the frame. Also, often the sky can be so bright - even on a cloudy day - that your camera will expose for it while underexposing your foreground subject.
Most important, have fun and experiment. Photography is a constant learning process, which is why I enjoy it so much. I hope you will, too.
Jim Crotty is a photographer and owner of Picture Ohio, LLC, in Dayton.