Behind the Lens: A World Primeval

by Mark Bowie | Photography

A World Primeval

Exposure Data:
1/320 second, f/6.3, ISO 400
Nikon D610 camera, Nikkor 24-70mm lens set at 24mm.

Looking to unleash your photographic creativity? Go float a boat or take a hike. Seeing and experiencing something new can magically open creative pathways. And the Adirondacks offers plenty of backwoods vistas, where you’ll feel like no one has ever been before, or taken their picture, or memorialized them in song or story. For my Adirondack Waters: Spirit of the Mountains book, I spent a lot of time on the water. I saw so much. As I travelled slowly, I noticed subtle nuances in forms, textures, patterns, colors and tones, the rhythms of light and daily life. It’s a great way to sharpen skills in the art of seeing creatively.

On a foggy summer morning I paddled into a backwater of Upper St Regis Lake. The waterway narrowed and a tamarack bog encroached from both sides. I felt as if I were gliding back in prehistoric time, into a primeval world when plants grew inordinately large. Thousands of spider webs were strung between bushes and trees, aglow in the morning sun. Pitcher plants and sundew, growing from the muddy substrate, sparkled with dew. The fog enhanced the aura of mystery.

To get the image shown here, I drove my canoe bow-first into the bordering plants, anchoring it as best I could. As I’d be shooting handheld, from the boat, I boosted the ISO to 400 to shoot at a fast 1/320 second shutter speed at a medium aperture, ensuring I’d freeze any motion and have sufficient depth of field. I composed purposefully, letting the splaying plant dominate the foreground while the meandering lines of the bog led to a vanishing point. Though I shot this scene without a tripod, I don’t hesitate to take one in the boat. Sure, I have to be careful, but it’s too useful to be without. I want to have my full picture-taking arsenal at my disposal, especially so I can shoot slow exposures for silky water and at small apertures for good depth of field—at lower ISOs for maximum image quality.

As fulfilling as the image is, it also reminds me that the rejuvenating nature of discovering new places can help us create images not previously conceived, indeed that the beauty of nature goes not only beyond our preconceptions, but our imaginations.

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 will be leading or co-leading four photography workshops in the Adirondacks this fall, including the Weekend with Adirondack Life workshop September 21st-23rd. For information and to register, see API’s website: Mark’s Adirondack Waters book and others are available on his website,

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