Thursday, September 30, 2010

Left Behind

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 100 ----- 22mm ----- f5.6 ----- 1 sec.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

100th Post

This is the 100th post to this blog and I'd like to take a moment to thank the over 22,000 visitors that we've had here in the past three years. All of the views and all of the comments are always greatly appreciated. Thank you.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 400 ----- 60mm ----- f3.5 ----- 1/320

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Front Porch

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 100 ----- 35mm ----- f8 ----- 1/60th

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Abandoned - The Fall and Rise of New Hampshire Forests

Just before America stood up and declared her independence in 1776, New Hampshire was between 78% and 83% forested based on current estimates. That acreage was getting ready to plummet, as the locals began clear cutting huge tracts of land in an attempt to institutionalize large scale farming. By 1850, nearly half of the forested land in New Hampshire had been replaced by the popular crops of the time. It became apparent that outside of the river valleys, the bulk of soils in the state were not optimum for growing crops and competing with other areas of the country that were blessed with better soils.

As quickly as the farmlands were created, they were abandoned and began reverting to their naturally forested state. By 1983, New Hampshire had more forested land than it did in 1750, topping out at 87%. At the same time, the population of the Granite State began to explode, and with this increase of inhabitants, came a need for more housing and the forests again began to recede, although not nearly at the rate of the late 1700's.

Because of this massive clearing and regrowth of the state, when you hike in what appears to be the deep dark forest, you have the potential to stumble upon many signs of a previous human habitation. Long stone walls crumble as new trees find a foothold in the gaps between the rocks, cellar holes from long abandoned farmhouses fill with leaves, and occasionally the rusted out carapace of an antique auto stands sentinel in the woods, watching over the vacated homestead.

On occasion, a gap in the trees will widen to a path. This path is wide and flat, and eventually you may come upon some large timber partially buried in the ground. Thia timbers become more and more prominent until large metal plates and rusty spikes are found in some of them. It becomes apparent that you are treading along an old railroad track. You follow the track, looking for a destination, and find a single section of abandoned rail. As you continue to follow ahead, the timbers recede back into the earth and the path narrows back to nothing.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rigths Reserved
ISO 400 ----- 12mm ----- f22 ----- 1 second

If you aren't careful, just as quickly as something begins, it can end. Appreciate it while it is around.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Grain and Wire - The Third Time is the Charm

New explorations result in new images. You can't sit around and wait for things to jump in front of your lens.

Having first stumbled upon this scene two weeks ago on one of my walkabouts, I shot it, but due to the lateness in the day and the fact that I had forgotten my tripod in the studio, I had to open my aperture all of the way to get enough light to hand hold this. The resulting image was an image with too little depth of field. The wire was nice and sharp, but the grain of the wood was a little to soft. If I reversed my focal point, the wood was beautifully rendered, but the wire knot was too soft.

I waited for a nice hazy slightly overcast day and went back, this time with my tripod slung over my shoulder. Just as a got there, the sky opened up and the sun poured through, illuminating my fencepost with the power of 168,000 candles. The resulting image had too many deep shadows and too extreme a contrast to handle the way I had envisioned the image. I waited for an hour and a half for the sun to retreat behind the clouds, but it was not to be. By the time the sun had relinquished its place in the sky, it was too dark for me to get another, better, shot.

The third time was the charm. A nice bright sunlight, but diffused by a thin blanket of low hanging stratus clouds, providing me with very soft shadows, but enough light to properly capture the texture, contrast, and tonal range that I was striving for.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 400 ----- 60mm ----- f14 ----- 1/30th sec.

If you see an image, and you don't get it quite right, don't settle for "close enough" or "good enough" or "its pretty good". Suck it up, figure out what you can do to improve it, and go shoot it again. Shoot it again after that if you need to. Keep shooting it until you get it right. And by "right", I mean "as you have envisioned the image to appear when you are done".

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brother, Mother, Father - The Heavy Frost

It was early in the morning last November when I gathered up some of my classes and we went up to the cemetery to catch the sunrise. There had been a heavy frost overnight and it was still cold as the suns rays began to illuminate the horizon. We all circled up on top of a hill and I began my lecture. Most of the 25 students attending had their hands thrust deep into their pockets as the morning chill fought to invade their cores. I spoke quickly, as I didn't want to infringe on the enjoyment of the morning light, and broke the big group into smaller groups. I sent them off in different directions with instructions to take their time while shooting, and really watch how the light affected the appearance of what they were framing. The frost covered leaves rustled underneath their feet as all of the groups made off in different directions.

I grabbed my gear and made the rounds, stopping to visit with each group and see what they were seeing. We talked about the light and how it changed the way things looked as it rose, creating more contrast and darker shadows. Subjects yet to be struck by the rising sun had nice soft shadows that were perfect for getting nice even exposures.

As I crested a hill on my way from one group to the next, I spotted a group of three headstones, simply labeled, Brother, Mother, and Father. A bed of brown maple and oak leaves curled around the monuments bases, and the pine trees in the background offered a great contrast in tone. The granite was weathered, with a plethora of stains and lichen attached. As I set up my equipment, I pondered the anonymity of it all. Three stones, with no names or dates, just the titles. Beautiful, simple, and serene.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 100 ----- 80mm ----- f2.8 ----- 1/10 sec.

How do any of us want to be remembered? What kind of mark do any of us really make on this world? As society becomes more and more divided, the world seems to just keep on chugging, one misguided tradgedy after another, one scandal after the next, one hate filled tirade upon the next. I think that artists have a special opportunity to leave something of themselves behind that can be uplifting for those that follow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What am I looking for? Texture, Contrast, and Tonal Range

When sussing out an image prior to tripping the shutter, what is is that I'm looking for? I like to look for studies in texture and contrast where I can control the tonal range. What are these mysterious things, Texture, Contrast, and Tonal Range?

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved

In photography, texture is the perceived surface quality of an artwork. It is an element of two dimensional design and is usually distinguished by its perceived visual properties. In a two dimensional work (a photograph) it is a "perceived" visual property, because it only looks like it has a certain texture, while physically if you reach out and touch it, it is pretty close to smooth. Use of texture, along with other elements of design, can convey a variety of messages and emotions. Don't think that the only texture that matters is rough and scratchy. "Smooth" is also a very valid and powerful texture to apply in your images.

Every photograph also has a physical texture. Every substrate that you will print on, from pearl to glossy to matte has its own inherent visual texture and need to be taken into consideration before creating a composition. Materials like canvas and watercolor paper are considerable rougher than glossy or matte paper and may not be best suited to creating a flat, smooth texture.

Photography uses visual texture in order to portray it's subject matter. Texture in this media is generally created by repetition of shape and line. Texture is incredibly important in portraying your subject as realistically as possible.

To maximize your images texture, you need to be able to control the light, the angle, and the depth of your image.

©Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved

Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects in the background. In looking at the world around you, contrast is determined by the difference in the luminance in an area and other areas within the same field of vision. An image can have a lot of contrast or a little contrast. One is not better than another, just a different approach, and has everything to do with your intent and the message that you are trying to convey.

Contrast is a product of luminance. Luminance is how human eyes perceive brightness. Every set of eyes has the potential to perceive brightness differently due to their physical make up of.

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Tonal Range is the scale of tones within your image, potentially ranging all the way from solid black at one end of the spectrum (0) to solid white at the other end (X). This scale is often broken into "Zones" from which the "Zone System" of tonal manipulation is based.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved

So when you hear someone refer to the "tonal range" of an image, they are referring to the number of the different zones that they are including in the image. The result should be a product of your intent. Sometimes a more narrow tonal range is preferred for the message you are trying to convey, and sometimes a broader tonal range is required.

These are just three of the things that I take into consideration every time that I put together an image. You should be thinking about them too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dual Duplex

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 400 ----- 60mm ----- f3.2 ----- 1/350

Sunday, September 5, 2010


©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 100 ----- 60mm ----- f3.2 ----- 1/2000

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bunting on a Barn

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
ISO 400 ----- 20mm ----- f5.6 ----- 1/40