golden light


Golden light hits the Chesapeake City Bridge. 1/160 @ f8, ISO 400.
Photography is about light. For me, it's the first thing I see, or don't see, when I'm making a photograph. Good light is why I get up early or stay out late. Light can guide us through an image or place emphasis where we want it. Light is everything in photography.

Sometimes light is what makes me grab the camera in the first place. That was the case on a recent morning in Chesapeake City, Md., when on the second day of a three-day transit moving a friends trawler from Cape May, N.J., to Northeast, Md., I found myself awake just before sunrise. I originally had no intention of taking photos that particular morning until I saw the light hitting the Chesapeake City Bridge. This was light, golden light.

Morning Light
The Chesapeake City Bridge and Chesapeake City, Md., are separated by100 years in time but inextricably connected today. 1/105 @ f5.6, ISO 400.
It was around 6:40 a.m. when I grabbed my camera, left the marina and started making my way through the town, pausing to take pictures along the way. Always heading towards the beautiful light on the bridge.

When covering an event I take a picture of the subject, move, take another picture, observe, take another photo and so on, until I feel I have documented everything about the event. My approach to the bridge that morning was no different. Take a photo, move, take another and so on, all the time hoping the golden light would last long enough for me to reach the bridge.

Looming Large
The bridge soars over the historic city and dominates the skyline. 1/125 @ f8, ISO 400.
I was intrigued by how the bridge, which was completed in 1949 and town, incorporated 100 years earlier, seemed connected. I wanted to show that relationship. The bridge dominates the skyline and while the bridge was beautifully lit, the town remained in the shadows. This allowed me to easily distinguish between the two, with more emphasis on the dominating presence of the bridge. Since this bridge soars right over the town, I have a feeling some residents feel that dominance as well, so, in this case, the lack of light on the small historic town is just as important in telling the story. Or at least the story I imagined that morning.

Bridge Base
The sun just lights the top of the reeds and provides a nice soft contrast to the hardness of the bridge supports. 1/45 @f8, ISO 200.
Chesapeake City isn't big, so after about 20 minutes I had made it through town and was standing at the base of the bridge. I just keep looking for interesting angles, still concentrating on the light and shadows, but now it was all about the bridge and that wonderful light.

After an hour, the sun had risen high enough that the light which made me grab my camera was gone and it was now time to return to the marina and prepare to get underway. Heading back I still took advantage of some nice open shade and made a few more photographs, but the golden light was gone.

Even though the golden light had passed, the open shade of a porch provides nice even light on this old toy tractor which judging by the license plate is still being enjoyed today. 1/15 @ f5.6, ISO 400.
Seek the light and you just may find yourself grabbing your camera and turning an ordinary morning or evening into an hour long photo walk with magical results.


Star photography over Monument Valley, Ariz.

Started today early, waking at 2 a.m. to begin taking star photographs. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm staying at the Monument Valley View hotel, so I only had to go as far as my balcony to begin shooting. I struggled for about an hour, mostly with focus. I would shoot a half dozen photos and then look at the photos on my laptop. A couple are usable, but far from what I'm hoping to do tonight.

Ended up laying back down and woke again 5:45 a.m. Tried a few more photos from the balcony, but again it just wasn't working out, so I gathered all my gear, bundled up and headed out in search of the hiking trail which starts about a quarter mile from the hotel.

West and East Mittens at sunrise.
West and East Mittens at sunrise.
As the sun began to rise, I found a nice vantage point to photograph the East and West Mittens. As the morning light began to fill the sky, I started feeling better about the photos I was taking. Around 8 a.m. when the sun was a bit higher, I took advantage of the golden light and photographed Mitchell Butte, including some nice sand patterns in the foreground, accentuated by the low light skimming across.

Gray Whiskers, left, and Mitchell Butte in early morning light.
Gray Whiskers, left, and Mitchell Butte in early morning light.
Ate some breakfast and then drove 22 miles to Mexican Hat, Utah, to photograph a sombrero-shaped rock outcropping that gave the town its name. Wasn't quite what I expected, but since the sun was having trouble breaking out all day and the light was very flat, it provided a distraction. I also decided to take a break and check out the Goulding's Trading Post Museum located at Goulding's Lodge.  Director John Ford and actor John Wayne were frequent visitors when filming westerns, such as 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' in Monument Valley.

Horses pass in front of the Totem Pole, right, and Yei Bi Chei.
Horses pass in front of the Totem Pole, right, and Yei Bi Chei.
When I finally figured I better get back to taking pictures, I drove the 17 mile loop again, only this time I stopped often and tried my best to make some photos despite the light not cooperating. Horses are left to graze throughout the valley and as I was photographing the Totem Pole I just happened to see some  approaching from the distance. I had tried to photograph horses yesterday and earlier today, but this time it worked out.

West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte in afternoon light.
West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte in afternoon light.
Finally around 3:30 p.m. the sky began to clear and the sun started to light up the valley. It was then that I started shooting like crazy, but also knew I still had to drive about six miles to get to a point where I could capture the sun hitting the West Mitten Butte. Stopped a few times and captured both the West and East Mittens as they just lit up. Ended the day at about the same location I was in when shooting the sunrise.

Old tree oversees Monument Valley.
Old tree overlooking Monument Valley.
Finally around 5 p.m., I made my way back to my room and quickly set up to shoot a time lapse with the D700 and a 24-70mm pointed at the West Mitten which still had some light on it. Set the interval timer to take a shot every five seconds and stopped it when the sun went down.

Another good day. More star photography, only tonight I'm going to head out very early in the morning to hike down into the valley and away from the hotel. Should be darker and maybe easier to focus if I'm closer.