Expect Nothing, Get an Owl

It has been a long and gradual journey for me from casual to serious photographer. I first picked up a SLR back in community college, when I was being instructed how to shoot slides of my artwork. At the time (and for most things today) tools involving numbers or precision did not appeal to me in the least. For some reason, this tool with its focus ring, light meters and shutter speeds, really spoke to me and it wasn’t long until I spent a hefty chunk of my student-job paycheck on the cheapest 35mm SLR I could find. At first, I went fully automatic on all the settings, but I eventually came to a point where I could work fully manual. Back then, success to me meant creating photographs that were in focus and exposed well. My compositions were just so-s0, and none of my images were of a quality I would consider very artistic. That was frustrating. I was a decent artist that could draw and paint well. I understood perspective, lighting, color, tonality and line, but all my images just looked like snapshots…and I wanted them to look like Ansel Adams. Turns out, composition is HUGE in photography, and it would take me many more years of study for that to really sink in. With painting, if something doesn’t work, you can change it. In photography, you work with what you get! What a challenge. I had to learn P A T I E N C E.

Dang it! Patience. Waiting. Slowing down. Acceptance vs. anxiety. Going with the flow. All that stuff you see in the inexhaustible stream of Memes on social media today. Patience; the word that all of my instructors at one time directed towards my stubborn ears until the one day I finally embraced another concept and patience finally penetrated my young thick skull. I became humble. I realized I could actually get help from people and it was okay. I became a better student and my art and photography began to improve.

Twenty years later and I am still learning the rewards of patience. Learning that some days are going to yield amazing photographs, while others might only provide a single cup of good coffee, is an ongoing lesson for me.

Last week, I was in one of my favorite parks I use to prime my creative juices. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I was hopeful. There are a lot of places to shoot water, but the sun was already high and I wasn’t going to be able to take very long exposures. I decided I would just shoot trees and plants. Since it is a heavily wooded area, I could catch splashes of light hitting random sections of limbs and trunks of the cedar and firs. I wasn’t getting anything spectacular, but I was in acceptance of my situation and allowed myself to enjoy the smells of the park and the coolness of the air coming of the stream. After gathering up my gear, I headed towards a walk bridge and spotted something sitting on a tree limb. Almost immediately after I spotted it, a patch of light hit the object and I saw that it was a Barred Owl!

After a minute or so of admiring this beautiful bird, I suddenly thought, “camera!” I desperately dug out my camera from my bag and fitted my longer zoom and began shooting. To get it’s attention, I began making “hoot” sounds and knocking on the hand- rail of the bridge. It would slowly rotate its head long enough for me to get a few shots before returning back to whatever it was gazing on before. To push my luck, I decided to slowly walk around the owl on a trail that would get me another angle. After snapping some photos from the new angle, I looked over in the direction it was gazing and noticed a mother duck and its ducklings. Bonus! I was too far away to get a tight shot of the duck, but the lighting and the greenery in the foreground made for a nice composition.

It was a great nature photography day for sure. In the past, I would of looked at the harsh lighting and not pursued picture taking on a day like that. Experience has taught me that you can make just about any lighting situation work, and with enough patience and the right mind set, even your worst photo outings will be rewarding.

Thanks for stopping by! If there is a photography topic you would like to read, whether it be technical or artistic, let me know. I am happy to share all I know-Shawn Pagels

The WatchWho Goes There SmallGuardianSmallMotherhood

 

 

 

 

Spring Warm Up

It’s been a while since my last photography outing. I decided to get out of the house today and soak up some sun while taking a few happy snappys. It was a beautiful morning, but the sun was already rising and the light was becoming harsh. Luckily, there is a fantastic park nearby that is heavily wooded. Splashes of light here and there aided in these two shots captured with a 35mm prime lens. I enjoyed getting my bones warmed up today, but I will be looking forward to that next overcast day when I can capture all that April color.

tiny towers

Complex

Reaching Out

I find that one of my new tricks is seeing what kind of intriguing shape I can put into the foreground using my wide-angle lens. The nature made holes in this slab of rock were too irresistible to pass over. The shape of the projecting rock formation is irregular so I chose to make it a dominating feature of this image. Not unlike my previous post about seeing abstractly, this piece came together because I was treating my landscape as if it were an abstract painting. Looking for shape, color, tonality, and texture, and arranging these elements with an emphasis on composition rather than reality.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to visit my new Art Blog here—->art blog

OutreachSm

Seeing Abstractly

Picture making, whether it be drawing, painting or photography, is ultimately about filling your picture plane with something interesting and intriguing. We orchestrate several elements, shape, texture, color and tonality, until we arrive at a pleasing arrangement. In photography, our subject matter, whether it be a single object or multiple ones, is often the goal. Being careful as to the placement of our subject(s), as well as lighting and focus, are key for creating balance in our image.

In my latest shot, I decided to ignore particular subject matter, and look purely at the formal qualities of my surroundings. I looked for tonal variety, interesting shapes, and movement. In essence, I approached my photo session like an abstract painter. This isn’t to say the elements I used in my photographs can not be identified. You can clearly see that I used rock and water. However, by thinking only in terms of abstraction, I was able to take the emphasis off subject, and work primarily on decorating the image plane. Thanks for stopping by. Oh yes, I now have my painting website up. Please visit my painting site for some abstract inspiration.; ) click–> my art

Little Falls

Through The Cracks

Here’s an example of how simply cropping your photograph gives you a better composition. I spent a great bit of time setting the long exposure for the water, and positioning my tripod to achieve what I thought was going to be a great shot. In this image, I had too many things both to the left and right of the focal point (in this case the waterfall.) I also noticed that the focal point was rather diminutive and by simply cropping I would solve both problems. I found a square format worked nicely! (Oh, and color worked better than b&w this time.) Thanks for stopping by, and happy shooting!

Through The Cracks Web

Blinded By Formality

This image was originally tucked away in a folder, because when I was editing it, I was attempting to recreate the same levels of contrast and darkness as other photographs I was working on. At the time, I was very much looking for a certain criteria, and as a result, I didn’t see the qualities in this image. When I came back to this one weeks later, the calming, understated nature of this beach scene really appealed to me. I wonder how many other good photographs I pushed aside because they didn’t look like I thought they should at the time. Anyone else find a gem after they first dismissed it? Let me know! Thanks for stopping by. –Shawn K. Pagels11887949_1152661301414806_3576335558865739618_n

Down To The Ground

As with most things in life, changing your perspective can make all the difference. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the proverbial advice suggests, broadens our understanding of the world around us. In photography, changing perspective is a powerful tool we can rely on to strengthen our artistic muscles.

After years of shooting pictures and art making, I still sometimes find myself walking around expecting pictures to make their way into my lens at my convenient, eye level, legs straight, non-tripod mounted,  lazy way of shooting pictures. Many times, simply pointing and shooting will suffice. Often times, you have no choice in the matter. You have to shoot when something presents itself. What I am referring to are those moments when the subject matter is fantastic, but for some reason you can not capture it’s essence. Those spectacular round river rock are white flecked, the water is hitting them midway, and you know it’s a lovely sight, but your pictures are dull and uninspiring. Or, there’s is a wonderful repetition in the way some boulders are placed in a pond, but for some reason the pictures you take are boring. My advice? Get down low.

Shooting from a lower perspective adds overlap , an important visual cue, to more elements in your photograph that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It also gives your images drama by placing more objects in the foreground, strengthening the depth of the image. It also allows for more compositional possibilities, and for me this really gets my creative juices flowing. Suddenly, I tiny leaf becomes a focal point and a major compositional anchor. A tiny piece of root directs the eye towards the focal point. A leafy twig springs up in the foreground providing a strong sense of space in your photograph.

Here are some examples of how I positioned my camera real low, sometimes a few inches, to the ground in order to capture the essence of my environment. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!

SpookyTree

 

peeka BooWeb

 

Hidden Treasures

I came across this shot I took at Clark’s Point last year. I never published it or had it printed because there was always something I didn’t like about it. Today I made it a square format picture, converted it to black and white, did a little dodge and burning, and I am pleased! I am currently working on an online shop to sell some of my photographs…and I think this one wil be included. Thanks for stopping by, happy shooting! -Shawn Pagels (artSEEguy)

Spooky Rockweb

 

Oregon Dreaming

One of my favorite places to vacation is the Oregon Coast. Since the coast of Oregon is entirely park, there are a lot of great spots to visit and explore, and for artists, there is an endless amount of inspiration. I found this shot on file from the summer of 2013. A silvery kind of picture with lots of mid-tones, this misty shot is one of the reasons I love the coast so much. Depth can be conveyed so easily. You can really bring something out in your foreground when just 50 fifty feet away, objects become slightly obscured by the atmospheric conditions of places like this.

OregonCoast

Thanks for stopping by,

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)