1/50 sec, f/4, ISO 100
Nikon D610 camera, Nikkor 80-200mm lens set at 160mm.
On an early-spring morning, I stood alone on the shore of Floodwood Pond watching fog waft across the water. I could smell its freshness, feel its dampness on my skin. Loons called quietly to one another as they moved like apparitions in and out of the mist. The Saranac Lakes Wild Forest was reawakening from winter. The hardwoods were blossoming with luminous pastel foliage. Even the pines’ needles looked soft and fresh. The fog heightened my feeling of isolation, secret witness to a place being renewed by the breath of life.
For such a seemingly simple image, there’s a lot to explore. I composed the leaning pine—the obvious dominant subject—off-center and leaning toward the open space to the right. Importantly, the spindly orange sapling beside it visually anchors the left side of the image. To help the pine stand out, I focused on it and shot at a wide aperture—f/4. This pleasingly softened the background trees.
There’s something sublime about fog wafting through the landscape. It adds instant atmosphere. If you want your images to have atmosphere, target shooting in these conditions. Fog also softens and simplifies busy landscapes, flattening contrast, and in so doing, obscuring fine details. To help differentiate the background forest, I added some slight contrast locally. This contoured the trees, allowing individuals to separate from the masses.
We can control the mood of an image through exposure and contrast. I wanted to convey the rebirth of this place with a fresh, soft feel, so in processing I concentrated on keeping the fog bright. To accentuate its softness, I added a slight Gaussian blur in Photoshop. However, because the fog muted colors, I also added some vibrance. One more processing point: I shot on auto white balance and the camera selected one slightly warmer than I liked; the big pines were too yellowish. So in Photoshop I cooled them by selectively painting at a reduced color temperature. The slight color contrast between them and the background forest also helps them stand out.
I‘m particularly drawn to “soft-feeling” images like this that look like paintings. Maybe our memories recollect special places similarly.
Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He and fellow instructor Joe LeFevre will be leading a waterfalls photography workshop to Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania May 31st–June 2nd, and a workshop to photograph the Oregon coast June 10th–15th. For all of API’s 2018 workshop program descriptions, see www.adkpi.org. For more on Mark’s work, visit www.markbowie.com.