My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

KISS, each one is a work of art

No, not that kind of kiss, although I suppose one could argue the point as to whether or not each kiss is a work of art. 😉 What I’m talking about is principle known as Keep It Simple Stupid, something that I have trouble doing when it comes to my Landscape and still life photos.

It’s funny, back in the days when I repaired, designed, and built machines and fixtures, keeping it simple was the motto that I went by. However, when it comes to art, that seems to be a different story.

For example, the types of music that I listen to the most. I thought about putting in links to video clips of some of my all time favorites, such as Genesis “The Musical Box”, Frank Zappa’s “Cruising for Burgers” or something by the Mahavishnu Orchestra like “The Inner Mounting Flame”, but every one of those songs is close to ten minutes long. Maybe if I relate something an ex-girlfriend asked me will help me to explain this. I was overjoyed to have found that one of my favorite albums had been finally released on CD, and was listening to it when the ex asked me “Don’t you ever listen to simple music? Everything that you listen to is always changing so much that it’s hard for me to follow along with it.” The stuff that I listen to often has strange time signatures, or in the case of Frank Zappa, different parts of his band playing in different time signatures at the same time, and he made it work. I suppose that’s why I’m also a fan of classical music as well. BTW, never listen to Cruising for Burgers while trying to type, even worse is hearing the Mike Brecker sax solo from “The Purple Lagoon” in the background while trying to think of what to type here. 😉

Anyway, back to photography. I’m learning to do fairly well when I’m shooting larger scenes, as yet another sunset from Duck Lake shows, although it was an uninspiring sunset that evening.

Sunset at Duck Lake

Sunset at Duck Lake

I did learn something that evening though. I had used the neutral density filter the prior week and was pleased with the results. Then, the clouds and water were moving directly at me when I shot the photos that time. This time, I swung the camera around and came up with this, not so pleasing.

Oops!

Oops!

I can see that any motion blurred by longer shutter openings has to be in certain directions in relationship to the camera, or the effect isn’t good. I wouldn’t have used the neutral density filter if my shutter times had remained short enough to freeze motion, but when shooting at 5 seconds or longer, you can’t freeze either the water or clouds. Oh well, lesson learned.

You don’t have to worry, I’m not going to be running around with the neutral density filters on my lenses all the time, blurring everything, there are times and places when doing that make sense, but as in so many things, there are people who go overboard with fads.

Since I’ve been trying to shoot more landscapes, most of them are too busy to be pleasing to the eye, even though I’ve been trying to keep it simple. However, this past Sunday, I shot this one as an extreme example of what I do wrong.

Busy, busy, busy

Busy, busy, busy

I liked the scene in real life, with the reflections off from the water, but I knew that the photo would have too much going on in it, with no place for your eyes to land, and very little to lead your eyes through the image. I did a little better with this one…

Busy, busy

Busy, busy

…it looks even better in black and white to make it less busy.

Busy

Busy

As you can see, I still have trouble translating what I see in the three-dimensional world into a good two-dimensional photograph. I’m still prone to shooting photos like this.

A riot of color

A riot of color

When it comes to my photos, I fall victim to the notion that if some is good, then more has to be better.

As you know, I’ve been watching videos of presentations by famous photographers on how to improve one’s skills at photography. One thing that has always struck me is how, for a lack of a better term, simple their photos are. That’s a bit misleading, for great photography isn’t simple, it’s that there are very few objects in the frame. Maybe three seashells, each one beautiful in its own right, but also arranged in a pleasing manner. Seeing how much you can cram into a photo as I often do doesn’t make a good photo, just the opposite is true.

So, that’s one thing that I have been trying to work on. Another is to get more depth in my photos, so that they don’t look so two-dimensional, sometimes striking the right balance can be hard for me.

Depth vs. simplicity

Depth vs. simplicity

I like the depth that I was able to achieve in that image, by “layering” the different colors and textures of the foliage. However, I think that it’s still a little too busy. So, I have been trying to shoot more photos like these.

Maple green

Maple green

Not bad…

Yellow

Yellow

…okay…

Orange?

Orange?

…love the color…

Barberry?

Barberry?

…ditto…

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

…undecided…

Oriental bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet

…okay…

Buttonbush seeds

Buttonbush seeds

…but, I think that I’m getting in a rut with these. I don’t think that any of them are too busy, but they all have the same look to them, the subject entering the frame at a diagonal, there must be a more creative way of composing them and still get the desired results. I’ll work on that as I go along.

In the meantime, I went walking at the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve last Sunday, and over the course of the day, an idea popped into my head, which I’ll get to in a minute. But first, there’s this.

Unidentified fallen object?

Unidentified fallen object?

I have no idea what that is. I spotted it on a log and thought that it was a new puff-ball since there were some older ones just a short distance away on the same log. I pulled out the macro set-up before I had even given this a close examination, because I knew that I wanted a photo of it, no matter what it turned out to be. I looked through the camera and was ready to shoot a photo, but there were a few dead leaves against it. I reached out to remove the leaves, and the thing rolled off from the log. I never looked to see if there was the remains of a stem or anything else to provide a clue as to what it was, I was so intent on a good photo that it consumed my entire thought process. I picked it up and set it back on the mossy log, and was lining up for a photo, but the shadow it cast would have ruined the photo of it. So, I got out my LED panel light and the Gorillapod to kill the shadow. I got a reasonably good photo of something that I have no clue as to what it is. There were other things on the same log that I ended up shooting, but it never occurred to me to take a closer look at this object to determine what it might be.

Between that, and this single leaf that I found trapped in the thin layer of ice on the surface of Pickerel lake…

Frozen

Frozen

…I love the color and the texture of that leaf from the ice, but there’s still too many distracting elements to the photo, maybe I should try cropping it?

Anyway, the idea that I finally worked out in my mind that day has been developing for a while this fall. I’ve been walking along and a single leaf will command my attention, and it has dawned on me that each leaf is a work of art. Just as with man’s art, some are better than others, but still…

Nature's artistry

Nature’s artistry

…some of them seem to say “I deserve a closer look”. In fact, with some dramatic backlighting, some leaves practically scream “Look at me!”.

Backlighting

Backlighting

But, even though I thought that I had found the answer, shoot with fewer leaves in the frame, things haven’t always worked out. These three leaves of a rush almost glowed in the sun, but the camera didn’t capture it well.

Rushes

Rushes

And then there were the times when I didn’t pay enough attention to the background as I lined up a shot.

Oak leaf, first try

Oak leaf, first try

So, I tried again.

Oak leaf, second try

Oak leaf, second try

Nope, going with the brighter background didn’t help, maybe a darker one would be better?

Oak leaf, third try

Oak leaf, third try

Better, but I never did get exactly the shot that I wanted, which seems to be the story of my photography. 😉 It’s never as easy as the professionals make it look.

It doesn’t help when nature doesn’t always cooperate. I found leaves that I loved the colors of, but couldn’t get close enough to isolate a single leaf, so I had to shoot flock shots.

Cascading green

Cascading green

 

Going over to yellow

Going over to yellow

 

A colorful mess

A colorful mess

 

Another colorful mess

Another colorful mess

But, I did find a few single leaves with few harsh shadows on them to shoot.

Maple 1

Maple 1

 

Maple 2

Maple 2

 

Another yellow

Another yellow

 

Shadows creeping in

Shadows creeping in

With the storm that’s raging outside today, with rain driven by wind gusts over 50 MPH, the only leaves that I find the next time I’m out will be like these.

Fallen leaves

Fallen leaves

And not like these.

Hanging in there

Hanging in there

I’m approaching my self-imposed quota for photos, so I’d better throw in a bird…

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

…an insect…

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

…something warm and fuzzy…

Fox squirrel enjoying a sunny day

Fox squirrel enjoying a sunny day

…and to wrap it up, the last sunflower of the year?

The last sunflower?

The last sunflower?

Well, that’s about all for now, I’ll keep plugging away at improving my photos, hopefully I’ll start getting more of them correct soon.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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26 responses

  1. What beautiful coloured leaves you photographed so cleverly and thanks for the fox squirrel.

    November 12, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    • Thank you veery much Susan!

      November 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm

  2. You’ll have to start carrying round a set of card backgrounds that you can out behind your leaf and flower shots. Either that or pick them off and put them somewhere better than old nature managed by herself.

    You are quite right about ‘busy-ness’ though. I’ve seen many beautiful sights which just won’t transfer to a photograph. Clear contrast and simplicity are what you want. Whether you can find them though, is a different matter.

    I liked your tree shot with depth and especially enjoyed the power lines. I am glad that you have these in the middle of beautiful vistas too.

    Keep thinking, keep shooting, keep giving us pleasure. (We don’t mind of your shots are NQP.)

    November 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I thought about background cards long ago, haven’t gotten to them yet. Allen did use one a couple of times for his macros, it worked well. I’ve tried re-arranging nature by moving things, it never works for me.

      I thought about editing out the power lines, but I left them in just for you. 😉

      November 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      • Thank you. I enjoy a power line (or two)

        November 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

  3. Love your shot of the sunset at Duck Lake! Isn’t it fun to play around with colors. light, backgrounds, composition, etc. For me it’s a bit like meditation.

    November 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    • Thank you Bob! I’m not sure that I’d call it meditation, more like problem solving to me, and I love to do that.

      November 12, 2015 at 3:55 pm

  4. I like some of the shots that you don’t and I’d bet that you like shots of mine that I don’t care for sometimes. Art is like that-you can’t please everyone. I always think that if I see something that grabs me then it will grab others too.
    That is barberry but I can’t even guess what that round thing was. It looks a bit like a miniature yellow cabbage to me.
    I like the 3 shots of the oak leaf and the fallen leaves. I love the color of that oak leaf and don’t even pay any attention to the background in those shots. Those fallen leaves couldn’t be more colorful!
    I think my favorite photo is of the squirrel. I’ve seen a lot of squirrels over the years but I’ve never seen one do that, and you see them doing it all the time!

    November 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    • Thank’s Allen! It’s true, that no piece of art of any type ever pleases every one. My big push to improve my photos is so that I can present the beauty of nature better, which is why I tried the different backgrounds behind a leaf that was extra special. I wish that I would have inspected that sphere more closely, but all I could think of was getting the best photo possible. Clare suggested a peach pit, but I think that it was too soft, dry, and free of fibers to be a peach pit.

      As for the squirrel, I spotted it from the other direction, I may have seen the fur on its tail move in the breeze, but mostly it was because it was an odd shaped lump on a branch where there shouldn’t have been a lump. The squirrel was so relaxed that I was able to circle it for that photo.

      November 13, 2015 at 5:10 am

  5. I love all the leaf shots and also the squirrel. The ‘thing’ is so strange! Was it soft or hard, slimy or dry – do you remember? Apart from it looking like a cabbage as Allen said I think it also looks a bit like the centre of a peach. The unripe flesh has been scraped off until nearly at the stone in the middle. A wild guess!

    November 12, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! That “thing” was too soft to be a peach pit, and it was dry. I’ve never seen a peach pit that clean either, there’s usually fibers left on them.

      November 13, 2015 at 4:59 am

      • I wonder if you’ll ever find out what it was!

        November 13, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      • I don’t know, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for another one.

        November 14, 2015 at 6:06 am

  6. I love the experiments. They are all beautiful. The squirrel has personality, which comes through in this shot. Good capture!

    Complicated music? “Trout Mask Replica” comes to mind…

    November 12, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! Maybe you know this, but Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa grew up together and remained friends. Zappa produced and contributed to Trout Mask Replica, and you can hear his influence in the music.

      November 13, 2015 at 4:56 am

  7. I loved the wonderfully simple leaf shots. I think my favourites were the first branch of maple leaves that you called “maple green” with the gorgeous light streaming through and the goldenrod and the buttonbrush seeds. On the subject of “busy” shots I’ve just been in a rainforest that has so many beautiful wild scenes but it would just look a mess if I tried to capture many of them. There are just too many textures and shapes. Our own eyes can appreciate many things that just don’t come across so well in a photograph, hey? I often want to share the magic of multiple reflections but it just doesn’t translate well on the screen. Oh, you like complicated music, Jerry. I have a son who is like that. He plays musical instruments and sings and is quite fussy about what he listens too. I don’t think I’m managed to please him with any of my more simple “mother” music! We are all different though and thank goodness for that. 😉 Another great post, Jerry.

    November 13, 2015 at 6:07 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I can imagine that a rainforest would provide a great many photos that were too busy to be good, it must be difficult to get the fine photos that you do. I think that there are times when we should shoot certain scenes, not so much to share with the rest of the world, but to help us recall those scenes at a later date. I’m still working it all out, as far as what to photograph, and which of the photos to post. That’s one of the great things about blogging, getting feedback from others.

      November 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      • Yes, I agree. I take a lot of “busy” and other shots just for my own benefit…for the memories or for ID purposes and not necessarily to share. Often just for the fun of it too. 🙂

        November 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

  8. Think my favorite types of closeup shots are those where the leaves or petals appear to be translucent, and glow from the light source, wherever it is. I find those shots to be the most magical, and they are always the ones that I wish I had taken for myself.

    But, I love your mystery object. Go back, find that thing, slice it open, and let’s figure out what it is! (In any case, it was a really cool photo).

    Made it to Grand Haven in the wind and wild today – took a bunch (LOTS!) of crappy photos, which you’ll see soon. I really envied the folks with the big camera/long lenses out there today. Lake Michigan was a wild as I have ever seen it. I’ll be scraping sand out of my eyeballs for days!

    November 13, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! I really tried to catch most of the single leaf shots with backlighting to make them glow, but it doesn’t always work. The mystery object was at Pickerel Lake, and I can only handle being trampled by the crowds once a month or so. But, I’ll keep my eyes open in search of another one.

      Please tell me that you stuck around at the beach and caught that glorious sunset. I was driving towards Chicago for work and was tempted to go back home for my camera gear. I wanted to head to the lake on Thursday before work, but I heard that there were traffic jams because so many people were there to watch the waves.

      November 14, 2015 at 6:12 am

  9. I enjoy dabbling in water colour painting and I strive to be simple too! I’m really enjoying looking at your wonderful photographs and trying to use your simplifying photograph techniques in my paintings- you have succeeded wonderfully – I’m still struggling! I especially love the sunset and all the backlit foliage photos and look forward to seeing more. Can a blog have sound too?
    It would be interesting to hear your favourite music with a slideshow of your favourite photos!

    November 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    • Thank you very much! Keep working on your watercolors, I’m sure that you’ll get it right. Yes, I could do slideshows with sound, but if I used music recorded by any of my favorite groups, I’d run afoul of copyright laws. My brother is a musician, I’m think of asking him to record a track or two for any future slideshows I may create.

      November 14, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      • Great plan to ask your brother- I had no idea about copyright issues! Look forward to hearing and seeing your first musical slideshow…soon!

        November 15, 2015 at 10:55 am

      • Chances are that I’d never get caught if I used some one else’s music, but why take the chance.

        November 15, 2015 at 10:22 pm

  10. Love those landscapes! Simple is the secret!

    November 17, 2015 at 9:13 am

    • Thank you very much Lori!

      November 17, 2015 at 10:42 am