Brilliant or Subdued

I’ve been getting outdoors among the trees and taking photographs – what a change from New York!  November’s somber mood is settling in here, but October’s brilliant hues are still in the grasp of recent memory. Bright color continues to accent the landscape, fading to neutral day by day.

Photographing outdoors means responding quickly to the weather and light, and the varying moods they create together. Sun breaks, rain showers, a surprise snowfall – the changes are hard to keep up with. Just as I was getting comfortable with the brilliant foliage last month, I had to jettison my expectations of working with abundant, intense color. Shifting gears, I began to think about exploring the gathering dark and ways to express the quiet beauty of a threadbare landscape.

Here is a selection of images reflecting the season’s changes, from intense color to a restrained palette of lights and darks.

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***

These photographs were taken in and around Seattle, Washington, in the last month, using a variety of lenses and techniques.  For example, the blurred leaves (#2, #10, #24) were moving because it was windy, so I went with the flow and added camera movement too, using rhythmic, horizontal pans and a slower shutter speed. Then I processed the photos to enhance the abstract feeling.

I used a phone for two photographs – #17 and #18.  All processing was done in Lightroom or a combination of Color Effex or Silver Efex and Lightroom.

Seven photographs (#4, 5, 17, 23, 24, 25, 27) were taken with a vintage lens, an Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 prime lens (what a mouthful!).  I bought it online several years ago, and got an adapter to fit it onto my mirrorless camera.  Made in the 1960’s, the lens has a slight golden tint (which you can remove but I chose not to) due to a Thorium coating, which makes it a wee bit radioactive, nothing to freak out about though. It has bright optics and an almost mystically smooth rendering of colors and tones. It will flare (as in #25) more than a modern lens but that can add to the artistry, so sometimes I shoot into the sun with it for that reason.  It’s difficult to focus accurately (remember, the camera’s electronics aren’t connected to the lens, it’s manual focus) so there’s considerable guesswork involved, but the results can be worth having less control. Not knowing what the outcome’s going to be is part of the magic.  This video demonstrates the lens.

Locations:

Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, WA: #1, 6 (leaves with raindrops), 8, 15 (leaves with raindrops), 18.

Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland WA:  #2, 9, 10, 22, 26.

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Isalnd, WA: #3.

Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland WA:  #4, 5, 23, 24, 25, 27.

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA: #6 (Camelia flower, Crab spider), 15 (Bluestem willow branches), 16, 17.

Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA: #6 (Mushroom, probably Amanita muscaria), 21.

At home on my deck, Kirkland, WA: #7, 14, 15 (snowy woods).

Moss Lake Natural Area, King County, WA: #11, 12, 13, 15 (Maple leaf), 20.

Kirkland, WA: #18.

Wright Park, Tacoma, WA: #19.

 

 

 

 

 


84 comments

  1. Each of these beautiful photos is different from the others, but they are all celebrating nature. City people don’t know what they are missing until they go outside to see where the peasants live.

  2. These are wonderful. The Moss Lake forest looks fascinating.
    Your shots #21 and #3, with its watered silk look, would make very elegant translucent screens (“Byōbu” ? I don’t know the Japanese terms) Anyway, really enjoyed these!

    • Thanks Robert – #3 & #21, do have an oriental feeling, and both feature water reflections and few colors. It’s so interesting that you thought of Japanese screens (I didn’t know the word, but thanks to you, I do now). A famous screen of irises has been one of my all-time favorite works of art since I was in my early twenties. I spent years studying zen and greatly admire much of the Asian aesthetic. Sometimes when I’m cropping a photo for better composition, I’ll ask myself if it has an oriental feel, just to get closer to what I want. The Oriental eye for composition is something I admire very much. I hope that makes sense!
      This is the screen I love so much:

  3. There is a little mystery in #3 and (to a somewhat lesser degree) #12 that make them my favorites here, though they are all excellent. These are the types of shots that I would love to hang in my home and look at often. Well done, Lynn.
    Oh, thanks for the link to the Pentax lens video.

  4. As always, I love all your photos, Lynn, but I especially love #1 and #2, the mushroom, #16 leaves on leaf, and the dreamy quality of #10. Thanks for numbering the photos; it makes it so much easier to comment on particularities. 🙂

    • It’s fun to hear which are your favorites, Cathy – leaves falling on leaves and staying there (at least til the next wind comes along) is a subject (I guess you could say a phenomenon?) I’ve been looking out for lately. Numbering the photos was a suggestion from Steve Schwartzman – hooray for the blogging community! Have a good week!

    • #12 is a look that’s very particular to the Pacific Northwest forests, where layers of mosses and lichens and ferns seem to grow on everything. It’s very magical. I’m glad you enjoyed the photographs, thanks very much!

  5. the little mushroom…we have few mushrooms here…i remember them on the west coast…here we have snow and sun…and ice floats freezing up…i can imagine a longer and more colourful fall…i also like the steely greys you have in your images….enjoy your beautiful spaces…smiles from etown ~ hedy 😀

    • Yes, there are so many mushrooms here, with all the moisture and infrequent freezes. With more space I’d tell you the story of the mushroom hunter who was lost in the woods, where #12 was taken.
      No ice floats to be seen though! I remember that on from the Hudson River – it was very exciting to see ice floating down it in a cold year. I’m glad you like the steely grays – you have a real eye for color so it means a lot. We’re going to hang between color and gray for a while now, I think – there are still many trees with yellow leaves, some with orange or red, many are bare, and there’s plenty of rainy, gray weather in the forecast. Thanks for being here, Hedy!

  6. You have done absolutely fantastic work, here! I call it work,because these aren’t just snap shots. You put a lot of thought and effort in. Thanks for sharing these wonderful moments with us!

  7. Lots to like here. You covered a lot of ground in this post — both literally and aesthetically — but if I had to choose favorites, these are my picks: 1, 3, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23, 24, and 27. (Think I’ll use these numbers the next time I play the lottery 🙂

    • I know, I really am packing them in lately, right? I keep thinking I should pare back but they seem to work together, so the posts are long these days. I’m glad you like #1,3,9 & 10 – like you said, opposite ends of the spectrum, but I like having everything in focus as much as I like having nothing in focus (maybe not when I’m reading). #12, as I was mentioning in a comment above, is a typical PNW forest look, but not easy to photograph because the scene is always so busy. For #23 & 24 I used an in-camera soft focus filter plus the old 50mm lens. Olympus has these fun but potentially corny filters, but when you shoot RAW it downloads an unfiltered version, too, which is good. Not so much for the SD card & hard drive though. Yes, play those numbers, and be sure to send me a cut when you win! 😉

  8. Hahaha! I can’t speak for everybody – when have I ever spoken for everybody?! – but having a number below each image makes things far easier and, in my view, does not detract from the valued simplicity of the presentation – excellent! As always, a wonderful set of images, and those that really get to me are 3, 7, 8, 17, 20 and 27 – Lynn, they shake my tree! And I’m also hugely tickled by your radioactive lens – always think positively, if you start to glow it’ll be great for night photography! 🙂

    • Adrian, please thank Steve Schwartzman for that – or I will. I should have thought of doing it long ago, but thought it would detract – but I agree, it doesn’t and it makes things so much easier. So your tree’s shaking? What’s falling out?
      Using my glow for night photos, that’s putting a positive spin on it! Yeesh!
      (Thanks for telling me your favorites. And BTW, #7 & 20 have a look I associate with you – I’ve said it before – that dark, moody look. I have gravitated towards flatter, lighter images and am branching out now. It’s all good!)

      • A lot of monkeys fell out of my tree, only one of whom was me … 😉 … Its strange, but I’m not aware that I deliberately do dark and moody images, I don’t aim for that, I just do what I think looks good – you’re not the first to point out what I do, and the input is always good to know! 🙂

      • Well, that’s a big generalization but to my eye it holds at least a fair amount of the time. Not to say that you seem to be a dark & moody personality, maybe it would be better to say strong contrast, high impact images – that sounds good, right? 😉

  9. This time, I couldn’t decide which one is my favourite picture, dear Lynn. They are each extraordinarily beautiful in its special way.
    Very interesting I find your using special lenses and their effects. It’s always such a pleasure watching and reading here at your blog.

  10. As always, I love your article. Yes, photographing outdoor can be a bit tricky sometimes, but it’s so much rewarding. And since it’s always changing, it feels like you’ve been out for a week when you go back home. I love the colours of your photo selection. In details, my favourite are n°3 (I think I can see a face when I look at the contrast between shadows and highlights), n°6, n°7, n°12 (wow, that’s quite a perfect light), n°21 (so soothing) and n°27 (the colours are perfect, and the person sitting on the bench in the out-of-focus background rally adds to the atmosphere : feels like a stroll in autumn, which is the case of course). Bravo !

    • Pierre, thank you so much for commenting. It’s always interesting to know which photos people prefer, especially when you post a lot of them. 😉
      #12 is a look you find in Pacific Northwest forests, and it can be really hard to photograph. I’m glad you like it, and I will keep trying. Soothing is a nice word for #21, and it’s interesting you like the colors on the last one – I changed them in Color Efex, then tweaked them again in LR. Thanks again, and have a good week!

    • I love doing those, Paula, so I appreciate your comment very much. It’s been good to be able to get out a lot lately….but we have a very rainy forecast for he next week or two; I may get stir=crazy!

  11. Incredibly beautiful photographs Lynn. They’re all brilliant but I have a particular soft spot for number 3 and 21. Superb work as always. That lens sounds interesting. I hadn’t thought about finding adapters for old lenses. My Dad has a lot of photo equipment from his own photography days and his Dad’s. I really must a a look through it all at some point. Some of those old lenses had real character as you’ve demonstrated here. 🙂

    • Those two photos you mention are both kind of soothing, I think. I’m glad you like them.
      Yes, check out that old equipment – one more thing to do! But I bet there are some interesting finds there, and the adapters are not expensive. Character is exactly just the right word. Have a good week!

  12. What a beautiful world you live in, Lynn…and such an eye to grasp it and bring it home to share with the rest of us. And what a treasure it must have been to be out there in the midst of it all. I can almost smell the damp life around me in the images and feel the saturated air on my skin and in my lungs…so wonderful. Thank you….

    • And your way with words is such a gift, as I was just saying… 😉 Thanks Scott, I’m glad you enjoyed – yes, a bit damper than your neck of the woods! And right now, rain, rain, rain in the forecast, for days. Seattle living up to its reputation….but I’ll live! (Currently thinking about winter trip to Vegas, the flights are reasonable from here, then exploring out from there. Vegas isn’t my thing of course, but it looks like there are lots of good places to see nearby. Joe’s not ready to go back to AZ yet!!).

  13. Here in the warm climate of central Texas we’re used to settling for mostly subtle fall colors on a small scale rather than the grand one that’s such a joy in the Northeast. You’ve shown that subtlety has its joys, too. I found picture #12 particularly mysterious.

    • Around here you can find brilliant reds and hot pinks sometimes, but almost always, those are non-native trees. Nothing wrong with that! 😉 But the native forest has its beauty, and #12 is what that looks like. Yesterday’s Sunday NY Times T magazine has a cover article about the quiet of the Hoh rainforest – it’s similar to this forest, up in the Cascade foothills. The Hoh is more remote, wetter and less recently logged but the abundance of mosses, lichens and ferns covering every surface is beautiful at both locations, and many others in this area. I like a dry landscape very much too, and plan to get down to Texas one of these days. It’s so big though (and I know, not all dry)!

      • Given that it was the magazine’s cover story, I started turning pages from the beginning, thinking I’d come to it soon. Not so. I ended up wading through scores of pages with photographs of models sporting very expensive clothing—not at all the sorts of things you’d wear to the Hoh rainforest—before finally landing at the article. And a thoughtful one it was, too. I was in Olympic National Park only once, briefly, in 1978, but I’d like to go back. The most recent experience we had with a temperate rainforest came last fall in California, in three parks devoted to redwoods. They made for excellent visits. Here’s one take-away:

        https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/temperate-forest/

  14. You had me at #6 (thanks for adding numbers because it’s so easy to loose count) -the Mosaic with the mushroom and the spider and especially the raindrops on the leaves. But then you surpass yourself… #14 is amazing for its painterly quality, but they could all easily be favorites. You make it difficult to choose.

    • The numbering was Steve Schwartzman’s suggestion, so thank him! It got a little funky with the mosaics. The raindrops – one aims for super sharp, and if the lens is really good, and the camera has great image stabilization (Olympus 4/3rds camera do), you have a fighting chance. 😉 #14 was out a dirty window, I was happy it worked. The snow was fun to watch that day. Thank you, Gunta, and have a good week! Rain or not….

  15. About your Nov entry-again I can imagine how beautiful many of these images would be on fabric!! Is there anyone out there who could make that happen?

    • I’m sure there is – I just found a you tube. Sewing with Nancy printing on fabric – google it. It’s not for yard goods, it’s for pieces you might quilt with,…and there are companies that print fabric on demand – just google that. I’ve been wanting to print photos on translucent fabric (e.g. silk) and hang them from a narrow rod, so you’d see both sides, or hang in front of a wall that has another photo on it. One of those ideas that may never happen!

  16. What a collection – such variety in colour, saturation, light and mood. But the gallery shows that there is no such thing as a bad day for photography, it’s all about seeing the images and adjusting one’s eye to suit the circumstances. Beautiful work. My first SLR was an Asahi Pentax, way back in the late ’60s.

    • In the late 60’s I had a boyfriend – named Andy! – who had that camera, I think. We used to go to Central Park and he would shoot away. Nice memory. I appreciate your words, yes rising to the challenge of less than stellar weather keeps us going, doesn’t it?

  17. Another super selection Lynn – I do enjoy your lightness of touch. I began to list my favourites but discovered it was getting longer and longer and I could make a strong case for including most of them! I’ll offer a short list:11, 12, 14, 17, 20 and 21.

    • So I’ve been short-listed? 😉 #11, 12 & 20 were taken at a county “natural area” in the Cascade foothills, where the forest has a magical feeling. I will go back there more often, next time with waterproof boots, as the trail was obliterated by a little dam breach too wide to jump across. #17 was one of those lucky times when the phone took a well-exposed photo. Thank you, Louis, I like your notion of a light touch very much.

  18. Photo 12: How did you manage to capture this woodland nymph? Even unicorns are more common. Her long braid flowing, arms outstretched, legs in motion. She is a story waiting to be written …

  19. A gallery filled with exquisite images. For me the abstracted images bring home the depth of color, or lack thereof, the best. I love the manual focus lens. My brother worked with a manual lens with digital camera body for many years with great success. Health issues have slowed his productivity, and I miss his daily captures. I may like the last of your series the best, but when I go back through I’m tempted to choose new favorites. So beautiful!

  20. It is such a joy to view your images, and reading the comments often gives me an extra smile, as in ‘ City people don’t know what they are missing until they go outside to see where the peasants live. ‘

    When I look at each post, many times it’s as if I am savoring the pages of a ‘coffee-table’ book, and tonight I pictured that one day there will indeed be lovely books that showcase your images – perhaps paired with your sensitive writings about our world or the fragile creatures we call ‘humans.’

    I’m writing this offline and will hopefully send this next time online. Until then, Lisa

    • 🙂 I do need to get a book together – one of those things I keep thinking I’ll get to. I will. And I’m thinking just one photo per two page spread, with words facing – which follows what you’re saying about including some writing. I hope you’re having fun these days, painting & seeing new birds. Take care –

  21. I am always amazed about your many different approaches to your photography. Whether you make crystal clear close-ups or use a deliberate long shutter speed to capture movements. It always inspiring to look up one of your posts. Here I recall one image from my Picture Critique Round, which I still like a lot. 🙂

    • I’m just not one to settle on one point of view I guess. It’s like my love for the city and the country – I like that sharp-focused realism and the painterly images just as much. I’m glad you appreciate that, really. Thank you Otto!

  22. Thank you for all those beautiful pictures ! I love the third one (very poetic), 7, 11, 12 – fantastic, no, mystic ! 18, 20 – also very mystic this wood and 21 – rather a dream ! I don’t find an adequate word for it, but it is wonderful. The photographs with the leaves in the wind (like colours in a painting) and the other pictures are beautiful, too. Such a nice journey through autum – thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Although I do love to photograph buildings – the built environment – too. But I’m with you, in the end, nature is a never-ending source of inspiration, cliche though that may be. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

  23. The first photo is just gorgeous. Looks like you had more color than we in northern Ohio did. We went mostly from green to shrivelled and dropped. Nice to be reminded of what we missed. Number 3 is intriguing. Can’t quite figure it out, but that’s perfectly OK. Wow, the drama in number 12! That light is incredible, and so is the way you processed the photo. Another of my favorites is the trees in snow—in the photos that come after number 14. The light and colors and silhouettes in number 17 are wonderful. I love the patterns and colors of number 18—and that it’s another photograph that shows you really can put something big deal smack in the middle of a composition. And it’s a phone photo! Amazing. Ohh, number 20: again, it’s the light and how you’ve kept the dark parts. Number 21 is very Harry Callahan and very nice. Sorry it’s taken so long to compile my thoughts.

    • Thank you, Linda, and I don’t care about the timing at all. We did have good color this year, just beautiful. Not like Vermont, but the best I’ve seen in my 5 years here. There’s a till a native maple covered with yellow-orange-red-pink-green leaves right here where I live. As for #3, for my taste it’s too much processing but I included it because I thought people would like the look of it. It’s a pond at a public garden, with loads of tweaks in Color Efex. #12 is very close to the original, and that’s what the forest here looks like, if you go to the right places. Both trees in snow pics were taken at home, happily – the one in the mosaic is from my deck. Again, few changes.#17 was taken with the phone – sometimes it just works. So glad you mentioned #18 – I like that one too. Re keeping the dark parts, I was consciously trying to go a bit darker, and glad I did, that taught me something. Same with #21, and I’m a Callahan fan so 🙂 :-).

  24. This is just the most beautiful collections of images… I have put some music in the player and come back several times to look at them again. Each one stands on its own, too. So glad I don’t have to choose a a favorite…

    The magic you did on the leaves at the top of #27 really caught my eye. Then I read that you used an old 50mm Super Takumar. My first real camera was a Pentax SP500 with the 50mm f/1.4 Super Takumar! I sold it to my brother many years ago so I asked him if he still had it. He did and he promptly returned it to me to get it out of his closet. I only have a Nikon DSLR body to try it on. It is not clear to me that M42 lenses work very well on Nikons because the camera places the the lens too far from the sensor but I’m going to try it. Bringing my photography full circle… 🙂 Thanks for your notes on this lens.

    • How wonderful to read your comments – I love that you looked while listening. What a cool story about the lens. I seem to remember hearing that at infinity (when you focus the lens) the lens can bump against the mirror on a Nikon DSLR. I think people buy adapters for that reason – for my camera it was the only way to attach the lens to he camera body. I’m very curious to see what you do with the lens. There are all sorts of forums and discussions online. Thanks so much for commenting –


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