Last year during spring, I discovered a spot on the fringes of Jordan Lake, and concentrated my photoshoots there as the buds came out, returning many mornings during the last two weeks in March under varying conditions of sunshine, clouds and fog. It’s not that it was some secret location hidden from view that required any hiking, rather it was right along a main road, but had just never driven by during that time of year. Going there several times allowed a familiarity with what the area had to offer, which helped a lot in where to look for compositions as the season ran its course.
This spring it seems that a different spot on the lake has been the focus of attention. The main draw is a singular line of trees with lake water in front of, and behind them, which is generally an area of calm for good reflections in both. The idea has been to photograph these trees silhouetted against the backdrop of a spectacular sunrise sky that includes all those reflections. Being there several times this year, also in sunshine, clouds and fog, has been an added bonus, but the reflection/sky shot has so far been elusive. One day the forecast was for a partly cloudy sunrise and good possibilities, only to find a complete overcast. The next morning indicated a complete overcast, but that day I found a misty morning instead. Looking toward any horizon was a bank of fog/mist that would block any color at sunrise, yet directly above was a somewhat clear sky through haze.
Aiming the camera toward the east without sunlight, did not result in much, but as learned through years of heeding the advice, “always turn around” to see what’s happening behind you, so now looking west, I saw that the low level fog/mist had a gentle blush of soft pastel. To show more of how the color stretched across the sky, and the slight fog hugging the opposite shoreline, a simple two panel (horizontal frame) panorama was used for the image at the top, using the 70mm end of a zoom, to retain the detail in the trees on the left, and especially, the singular tree at the end. Using a wider angle lens and cropping to get the same view, would have decreased the definition contained in that area of the frame. Simply put, the number of pixels was almost doubled in the pano, while the crop would cut them nearly in half!! More pixels, more sharp detail.
Heeding the advice again returned me to the original composition looking east, but this time there had been a dramatic development. The sun had begun to light up the fringes on the top of the bank of fog/mist and the misty sky above in yellow, while the bottom of it remained a gray/blue, unaffected by the sunlight glow above. It was a rare combination of color that increased the illusion of depth. The slight mist through the forest further back added to the mood, and the unplanned, circular ripple on the water surface, was a fortunate addition. By the way, that ripple occurred naturally, without the helping hand of the photographer.
Crossing over a bridge heading back to the car, the sun was now above the fog bank, and that yellow glow was reflecting brightly on the lake, where a young bald cypress and two other bushes were growing out of the high water. There was no way to photograph all three and eliminate some other branches from intruding along the edges of the frame, so they were included intending to eliminate them in Photoshop, or crop out the bald cypress and make the image a square. But the image was recorded balanced as though those intruding branches could be successfully removed.
Conveniently, a little further along the bridge was a nearby fisherman out on the water standing up on the boat. So it didn’t take much of a change in camera position to place him just to the left of the reflection, avoiding any bleeding into the silhouette, with the boat pointed into the frame, rather than to the right of the reflection, and leading the eye out of the frame. A second, darker image was taken to use for the reflection itself, to better record it, and any overexposure in the original could be recovered by combining the two on separate layers, and masking in Photoshop. But you do have to realize that a reflection of a white, hot sun will still have no information to record, so there will be some blown out highlights, which could arguably be a more realistic rendition.
Still on the bridge, it was back to the minimalism of soft pastels, which are not generally associated with landscapes after the sun is well above the horizon. But with the heavy mist in the air, this scene took on the white/yellow from the sun and really muted any color in the sky. But it was the structure of the water that really grabbed my attention, as it was reminiscent of a photo I took of California’s Mono Lake in 2017, (Click Here to see that post) where the water was mostly calm, as it was here this day, except for small areas stirred up slightly by a gentle breeze that reflected more of the pale blue sky rather than the yellow from the hazy sunlight. The far shoreline is barely visible through the haze, as is a small island, but much was done to maintain the definition of the trees on it so the area would not simply descend into an obscure blob. The thought throughout the processing was to keep the image as high key as possible, showing only a hint of color, with barely visible textures throughout the water’s surface that provide the elements to create a sense of depth.
It’s odd that this image even managed to avoid the trash can, for when the photos from that morning went through the initial inspection, it wasn’t given a second thought, and had actually been marked for deletion. But after about a week, a quick edit showed some promise, and illustrates how perceptions can change with the passage of time. The view was obviously something deemed worthy enough then to spend time in creating a composition, but as a raw file, it certainly lacked any impact whatsoever. But bringing the subtleties out, along with the brilliance in the image as it was then, looking almost directly into the sun, gave back its life. However, the looming question remains: Is the image too minimalistic? because it takes the eyes a bit of time to adjust and actually see the subtle tonalities throughout the image and appreciate them. They may be missed with a quick, cursory look.
Further along the road back to the car, the wisteria were in full bloom with various other spring buds, in an area that remained in shade. The evenly lit flowers and buds made exposure easy, but the challenge there was to find some graphic forms or shape to place within a frame of the differing colors and textures as a subtle focal point, as well as keeping as much in focus to avoid the image from degrading into a jumble of out of focus elements.
So the morning ended up being one of opposites; starting with the minimalist soft pastels of the image at the top, followed by several that were more hard-edged, monochromatic or two toned, another soft pastel, and finally something more chaotic with many saturated colors included. For a morning that started without much promise, eventually several opportunities unfolded. Yet, the imagined, illusive sunrise image, remains to be realized.