Behind the Lens: Spring Painting

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Spring Painting

Exposure Data:
1/4 Second, F/16, ISO 100
Nikon D610 Camera, Nikkor 80-200mm lens at 80mm

On an overcast spring afternoon
I encountered a beaver pond along Route 9 south of New Russia in Essex County. A freshly blooming forest climbed the hillside beyond. Luminous chartreuse greens were sprinkled amongst spring’s pastel versions of classic autumn colors, the swaths of color dabbed on a canvas of gray woods and magenta marsh grasses. Without a breeze, their reflections ran deep.

The reflected shapes and patterns had my eyes bobbing up and down. Compositions came easily; a matter of grouping compelling colors and shapes on land and water. The many fine lines of this image originally gave it a busy, contrasty look, one that didn’t reflect my feelings of being there. So, to soften it, I used one of my favorite techniques for “painting” landscape images, and in particular, forest scenes. In Photoshop, I duplicated the image and applied the Gaussian Blur filter to the new layer (I used a blur radius of 24, which matches my camera’s resolution, and often produces pleasing results). I then reduced the opacity of that layer, experimenting with varying amounts for the desired effect—that which made the image appear sharp, yet with a soft glowing aura. This time, about 20 percent. These adjustments affected the entire image.  To further refine my vision, and so the image wouldn’t have a uniform softness, I created a custom mask and selectively reduced the softness of the closest trees and grasses. Now their details stand out relatively sharply, while the more distant woods naturally fade into softness.

The image’s magical feel is reminiscent of what it felt like to be in that springtime painting.  Here was life’s bouquet bursting forth from winter’s dormancy, with the delicacy of youth.


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. API’s summer and fall workshops are still on, but that could change as health conditions warrant. For the latest information, see API’s website:, or ask to be added to the contact list. And please visit Mark’s newly launched website,, to view image galleries and keep abreast of his workshops, presentations and product releases.

Related Stories

On Newsstands Now

December 2023

Sleigh rides, sipping whiskey in a speakeasy and more cold-weather fun at Lake Clear Lodge, plus park-inspired gifts, the North Country’s nuclear past and a sneak peek at a park-based novel from a bestselling author.
  • Adirondack Life Digital Edition

Adirondack Life Magazine

Subscribe Today!

Latest Articles


Follow Us

Adirondack Life Store

for calendars, apparel, maps and more!