Chasing Light

What do you do if you want to go somewhere and your family and friends don’t want to or can’t get away when you can? Deciding to explore the world on your own can be a daunting prospect. Thoughts of the drawbacks may cycle through your mind: having no one to rely on should problems arise, planning the trip all on your own, being a target because you are solo, table for one most of the time, or the possibility of being lonely.  The perks of being able to do what you want when you want wherever you want look attractive but will it be right for you. It takes a leap of faith to take on the challenge. As with most things — you don’t know what you don’t know. With a “you won’t know until you try it” attitude I took that leap of faith to France a couple of years ago and in the process learned a lot and among many memorable experiences a long afternoon and evening taking in the changing light of Mont Saint-Michel stands out.

5U5A2988

At first sight, the Mont is an impressive and awe-inducing structure. Its size dwarfing the people and vehicles on the bridge. This area is known for extreme tidal fluctuations and upon my arrival the tide was out and the light was muted from the gray sky.

5U5A2995

Boats become stranded on the sand and people can walk in the silty sand, with caution, during low tides.

5U5A3007

I walked up to the Mont on the bridge, explored the town and toured the Abbey taking my time admiring and capturing the almost 360-degree view from the top.

5U5A3073

The afternoon was turning into evening and the sky with billowy clouds was ever-changing. The golden hour was beginning. Different times of day bring different light to subjects. At sunrise and sunset the sun is near the horizon which creates a golden hue and cast long shadows. In the time before and after sunrise and sunset the light changes hue quickly. From blue to pink to gold in the morning and the reverse in the evening.

5U5A3175

The late afternoon sun added a beautiful golden tone to the walls.

5U5A3164

The surrounding countryside isn’t immune to the sun’s rays.

5U5A3141

The sky wasn’t the only thing changing, suddenly, I became aware of the sound of rushing water. The tide was on its way in, and when that tide comes in it surges in. The boats are once again floating on the water as the gold turns to pink.

5U5A3172

The speed of the incoming tide was creating waves.

5U5A3179

Engrossed in the phenomenon, I hadn’t noticed the sky beginning to darken when a drop of water hit my cheek. Then another and another and suddenly I was in the middle of a rainstorm. Not yet ready to leave this show of color and water, I pulled out my umbrella and went back to the demonstration of mother nature’s extremes. During the rain the lights on the Mont were lit, illuminating  the walls.

5U5A3188

Slowly the golden hour gave way to the blue hour.

5U5A3200

I left to grab some dinner and since I was staying nearby went back to get the full nighttime experience.

5U5A3206-2

The tide was completely up by this time and the water surrounding the Mont was reflecting the lights.  I said good night to the Mont-Saint-Michel and returned to my hotel. Contemplating my afternoon, I felt blessed and grateful for having taken that five thousand mile leap which landed on the distant shore that day. Being alone allowed me the unscheduled time to linger. If I had waited to go or been with somebody who wasn’t willing to stay and let the moments unfold and watch the light change, I would have missed out on the events that October afternoon. I never would have come to the conclusion that the Mont- Saint- Michel is a beautiful subject in all lighting.

Cheers,

Susan

 

Low Light, High ISO

Traveling, for me, involves evening and night time strolls around cities and visits to museums and cathedrals. All these have one thing in common, the available light is very low. When strolling after dinner and exploring a city, I don’t usually want to carry a tripod and prefer the natural light as opposed to using a flash. So, turning the ISO up helps me get the shot. After arriving late one evening in Oklahoma City, I went straight to the Memorial and arrived as the sun was setting. As night fell and the lights turned on, I turned my ISO up to 1600 and tried to do justice to the solemnity of the location.

OK City memorial iso

Walking around the city of Paris one night I pulled out my camera and set my ISO to 800 and snapped this image.

l'arc de triomphe iso

A night time stroll about Rome lead to this famous fountain and it’s night time appearance. I used an ISO 800 here so I could use a slower shutter speed and let the flowing water blur.

trevi fountain iso This fountain is no less popular at night.

trevi fountain crowd iso

 

Many museums and cathedrals don’t allow flash photography. At the Centre Pompidou, I turned the ISO up to 1600 which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/60 with an f4 to capture this intriguing work of art.

centre de pompidou isoThe Art Institute of Chicago is the home of many works of art and  I was able to view one of my favorites, Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. Seeing this up close and personal meant I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture it. ISO set to 800 for this one; you may find that the lighting in a museum allows a little lower ISO setting to be used.

art institute iso The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Is the location of the Florence Pietà and after having just seen the St Peter’s Pietà I wanted to see this version, the ISO set to 1600.

Florence Pieta iso

In Europe, the cathedrals are just as full of art work as the museums and flash photography is often frowned upon or not allowed.

The statue of the Madonna and Child, in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, captured my attention by their outstretched hands and the way they seem to be welcoming and greeting so peacefully.

madonna and child isoRemember to look up in cathedrals for the ceilings are usually very impressive also.

St Peter's ceiling isoThis ceiling from St Peter’s Basilica with the shaft of light shining down is an example of the details given to every inch of space.

Newer cameras’ ISO capabilities have grown tremendously. My Canon 5D original version high end ISO is 1600 expandable to 3200. Last holiday season, I had the chance to use a Canon Rebel T4i with a high end ISO capability of 12,800 which is expandable to 25,800. I took it out in to my neighborhood and shot some Christmas lights hand held and was very impressed with the quality of the results.

Christmas lights isoUsually, I need a tripod when shooting the Christmas lights in my neighborhood but here I used ISO 10,000 and was able to capture this scene.

Sometimes, a high ISO is necessary to get a low light shot.

Try turning off that flash and raising your ISO and see what you think.

~ Susan

 

night lights

June has arrived and with it comes warmer weather, longer days and temperate nights. One of the many bonuses of longer days is more time for outside photography. We are exploring light this month. Light is the most important element in photography. Without it all photos would be pure black. I am beginning with an exploration of the lights at night.

night lights3

Anticipation growing during the quiet before the show got started at the Fanfare fountain at the Gateway in San Pedro, CA.

night light5The fountains are choreographed to songs as if the water is dancing.

night lights

night light8When photographing lights, I like to expose for the light and create a silhouette of foreground subjects.

night light7

Seeing the water moving in time to the music is magical. To capture it, I chose 1600 ISO,   set the f-stop at 4 and varied the shutter speed depending on whether I was going to freeze the water,

night light2or let it blur. Getting swept up in the music and water motion and breaking into your own dance is not uncommon.

night light6

Sometimes, it can be hard to resist touching the water.

night light4A tripod is a good idea when photographing in low light situations to avoid blur from camera movement. If you don’t have one with you, placing your camera on a solid surface is an alternative (keeping your camera away from the water, of course!)

Cheers.

~ Susan

 

 

night moves

As I prepare for a visit to Chicago, I recall a previous trip and the street performer with the most unique act. While strolling down Michigan Ave. one night, we encountered this fellow and his one man show. I was glad that I had my camera with the 85mm – F/1.8 lens attached.

He attributed his flexibility to the practicing of yoga. He does seem to be in a zone.  I think if I practiced yoga every day for three hours I would never be able to fit in that box. I would, however, be stronger and more flexible with just one hour. Here’s to the power of yoga!

~ Sue

The Super Moon

This week I was on a quest to capture the super moon Saturday night. It was the closest it will be to earth this year and full at the same time. I started on the top of a parking structure which overlooks the city of Los Angeles and arrived at dusk just in time to witness the rising.

Then I zoomed in . . .

closer

Later in the night when I was in my own backyard, I turned my eyes towards the sky and captured the moon alone.

super moon

Photographing at night is challenging and fun.