Making Light

Last weekend West Michigan had gorgeous blue skies and bright sunshine–weather like they get in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This past week and weekend we had West Michigan winter skies. Thick clouds, no direct sunlight, but a few good tries as the sun tried to force some light through the clouds.

So I photographed with what I had, and in some images I did not simply take what limited light nature provided, I made the light I wanted on the computer. I also played with a variety of lenses, including a Lensbaby Composer that I’d not had off the shelf in a few years. I bought it back in the day when I was using a Pentax K-10; these days I use it with an adapter on my Fujifilm EX1. The lens is soft at best; its fun feature is letting you create extreme blur almost where ever you want.

In the two images below, I wanted a couple of the cut off pieces of grass (by mid-summer it’s about 3-5 high, depending on which part of the yard it’s in. In the image on the left, I went for a lot of “negative space.” You can see the driveway on the left, and street and mailbox in the background.

Here is an image of the same kind of grass, in the backyard, but not cut down. Instead it’s covered in snow. I processed this image in both color (Lightroom) and black and white (in Capture One). I adjusted the crop and aspect of the image independently in the two programs, so the the two versions are framed in slightly different ways.

What caught my as the snow fell is the “snow flowers” on the grass and a small plant nearby. As more snow falls, and when the temperature rises, the snow flowers will disappear, and the snow will flatten out and simply weight the grass down. But for the moment, the details of the snow flakes is marvelous. It’s not quite “frost flowers,” but we only rarely get weather cold enough to see those. Here’s some more snow flowers, this time on some leaves. Again, it’s one image, processed in color (LR) and black and white (C1).

The light in these images (above) is mostly “found” rather than “made” on the computer. There was a bit of blurry sun trying to shout it’s way through the clouds. It made the snow bright.

Before the snow fell on Sunday morning, we had a few days in which rain and sleet mixed with a bit of snow fell. The drops hanging on spindly branches, the few remaining leaves, and mix of pastel colors in the branches and tree trunks are endlessly fun the photograph and play with on the computer.

As I noted above, I’ve not tried to render the images below straight up. Instead, I played with digital light, changed the hues of the colors, and reduced or exaggerated saturation here and there. My goal was to create mood.

These two are muted a bit in terms of light, and desaturated more, except the reds. I was trying here for something inviting on first glance, but a bit uneasy as you settle in with the images. The light and colors are cold and more forbidding than magical (i.e., magical in a good way).

With these last two images of the same tree (below), with a different lens and camera, a day earlier, I went for brighter, warmer, glowing colors and light. Good magic. It’s still winter. And it’s cold and wet. But the images don’t feel cold in the way the previous two do. I also played with contrast and sharpness to make them glow a bit.

In all four images, the drops of water seem magical, like nature’s Christmas lights.

I find winter to be mostly a challenge for photography, at least in West Michigan. December, January and February are generally cold, with gloomy light due to constant cloud cover. For me at least, it takes more work to get out. But these images are a reminder that you can find and create beauty.

Stay warm and stay safe. Everyday is getting a bit longer. And spring is coming.

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