Through the Gadling Lens: photographing autumn

Here in the United States, Labor Day is now over, and all of the kids are back in school — sure signs that, despite the actual calendar date, summer is gone and fall is right around the corner. This makes me happy: while spring has those beautiful blue skies, winter is certainly pretty with all its whiteness and, let’s face it, summer gets all the really great press, in my opinion, autumn is really the most photogenic season of the year. There are just so many moods of autumn, you know? And so, this week, I thought I’d share some inspiration, with thanks to the people who have shared their images in the Gadling Flickr pool, on how to capture this beautiful season.
1. Colour

First of all, and most obviously, autumn is known for its rich, vibrant colour. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that gets really showy around this time of year (or you’re planning on taking a trip to a similarly beautiful location), there’s no end of inspiration for taking a great photograph that really showcases and shows off autumn’s amazing colours. Here’s a great example:

This beautiful image shared by Matteo.Mazzoni in our Gadling Flickr pool is a great example of not only capturing amazing vibrant colour by filling the image with it, but it also shows how you can use depth of field to really enhances all of the beautiful hues that autumn can bring. A really (and quite literally) a brilliant shot.

But what about if, like me, you live in (or are traveling to) a place that isn’t particularly well-known for its resplendent foliage? (Who am I kidding: here in Houston, we barely have any colour change at all — leaves just turn brown one day and fall off). In this case, if you’re still looking to capture the colours of the season, you need to get a bit more creative:

In this great shot captured and shared by Donna Dow/Funkiller, instead of focusing on entire trees filled with red foliage, she instead captures the colour of only two leaves — the result still gives the feel of fall, still makes you wonder at the vibrancy that is autumn, but it takes the pressure of of her to find an entire treefull of great, bright leaves. I love this: even I might be able to pull this off here in Houston.

2. Mood.

Once you get past autumn’s colour, one of the things I love the most about autumn is how changeable the weather can be, and how the mood can change from bright and crisp one minute, to dark and gloomy the next. If you’re traveling to a location that has a true autumn, don’t forget to capture some of the dark moods of autumn in addition to the light ones. The following are two great examples:

I love this shot of this foggy autumn day in England (particularly since I lived in London for a little under 2 years, and boy, does this look familiar). This image was shared by mingthien in the Flickr pool, and is a great example of how sometimes sharpness and deep contrast can detract from the mood of an image. Looking at this shot, you can almost feel the tiny little cold drops of moisture in the air, and the dampness that sinks into your bones.

I think I feel a cold coming on.

In contrast, however, look at this image:

This amazing image, shared by t3mujin, was taken in Paris — and with far more contrast in this shot, the image conveys the darkness autumn is sometimes capable of creating. I love the pop of orange in the leaves on the ground — the telltale sign of the season — and I particularly like the inclusion of the man in the right corner, bracing himself against the windy drizzle. Beautiful, beautiful mood.

3. Activities and sports.

I think when most of us think of seasonal activities and sports, we tend to think of only two seasons: summer and winter. But the truth is, when you take a look around, there’s usually always something going on, even in autumn. And the beauty of capturing these activities in the autumn is that oftentimes the scenery and the setting around the action can help convey the season.

One great example:

(An admission: it’s entirely possible that I’m drawn to this photograph shared by localsurfer because it was apparently taken in Devon, and my English husband used to constantly surf in his neighbouring county of Cornwall. They’re both bloody nuts, if you ask me — the water in England is cold). This shot appeals to me because even though it’s a pretty classic image of a surfer on a beach, the fact that (a) the surfer is wearing a wetsuit (and judging from the bunching around his neck, a pretty thick one, at that), and (b) the colour of the ocean is mirroring the grey clouds, above, it’s pretty clear this shot was taken on a chilly day in autumn. Beautiful capture.


I love this image shared by ultraclay!. In this shot, captured in Rockefeller Center in New York City, the presence of the ice rink makes it clear that the shot was taken in a colder time of year; however, the skater isn’t bundled up like you would imagine she would be in the dead of winter. In addition, I love the movement of her hand that was captured, as well as her placement to the left-of-center. Really great work.

4. Comfort food

Finally (and you had to know this was coming), I love the concept of doing some food photography to capture the mood of the season. Summer might be all about cooling beverages and crisp salads, but as the temperature starts to drop, it starts to be all about comfort food, baby. So why not capture the mood that comfort food tends to bring to the season? For example:

Doesn’t this crepe look delicious? Styggiti shot this image while in Brittany, France, and claims it was easily the best crepe he’d ever had. And there’s just something about the soft lighting, the grilled vegetables, and that fantastic fried egg in the middle that just totally screams comfort food. This meal is definitely not one meant to be enjoyed in the heat of the summer — this is a meal that’s all about taking the chill off.

And finally, how about this shot:

To me, this shot screams autumn: the night is cool enough for a bonfire, and the sausages on the stick are all about that wonderful, hearty smoke-filled comfort food that is just perfect as the year is starting to wane. This looks to me like the perfect late summer/early autumn night. Thanks for sharing this, sgoralnick.

Hopefully, the above images will inspire to hang on to your camera as the seasons change, and keep clicking away to capture the new mood. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: how I manage my photographs while I’m on vacation

Last week, I received an e-mail from Gadling reader Nick:

Can you spend some time discussing what happens after you get home from vacation – photographic workflows, etc? That’s one thing that seems to be missing.

As it happens, I’m currently on vacation: last week, we had friends staying with us in Houston, and this week my family and I are in New York City, so this topic is pretty timely. That said, I’m not entirely sure I’m the right person to be giving advice on this since:

1) I’m a photoblogger. I update my blog, Chookooloonks, often, and readers tend to expect almost daily photographs from me.

2) I take an obscene number of photographs. Really. Like hundreds, sometimes almost one thousand shots a day. Especially on vacation.

3) I’m generally not an expert on archiving photographs
. Okay, honestly? I’m really pretty bad at it. But when I get back home, it’s at the top of my to-do list to sort out. So look for a post on that later.

So, anyway, unless your a pro photographer, you likely won’t feel the pressure to take as many photographs as I do each day, or feel the need to publish your images daily; still, my method of managing my shots when I travel for pleasure might be helpful to you, and provide you some tips and tricks to managing your own vacation shots. In addition, I’d love for you to share your own methods and workflows in the comments below (especially if you’re a professional photographer). And again, what I’m discussing here is not about photograph archival, just managing my current workflow. We’ll deal with archiving in a later post.

And so, on with the show:
1. I pack with photo management in mind. I’ve written before about how i pack for a trip, and those words from 8 months ago generally still stand: in addition to my camera and lenses, I take a very large memory card (a minimum of 2GB), and my laptop computer. In the last 5 years, at the very least, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a holiday of more than 2 days when my laptop hasn’t accompanied me. My sister laughs at me that I never leave my laptop at home, but the reason becomes more apparent, below.

2. Each day, I take tons of photographs. I can’t stress enough: i take a lot of photographs. A lot. Like, for every composed shot, I often shoot at least 5, sometimes 10 images. If my subject is in surrounded by constantly varying circumstances (like the water fountains, above), sometimes I take even more. It’s all about the law of averages: if I take 10 photographs of one subject, at least one of them is bound to be one I like. The same is true for any photographer, particularly if the photographer shoots digitally. That’s the beauty of digital cameras — you can see your work immediately.

Two notes about this, however:

(a) First, even though I’m taking multiple shots, don’t misunderstand: I’m not asking my subject to pose-and-readjust for each shot. These are shots taken in rapid succession, quickly squeezing the shutter. This sort of rapid-shooting technique is often easier to do with a digital SLR than a point-and-shoot, because point-and-shoots often have a delay in the shutter release. No matter. Still take more than one shot. Also:

(b) I rarely delete shots just by looking at the small display on the back of the camera — I actually only delete them if they’re OBVIOUSLY out-of-focus (and sometimes, not even then), or the camera misfired. You often never know what images you think are great (but actually aren’t) or which images you think are lousy (but actually aren’t) until you see them on a computer screen. Resist the temptation to delete. This, my friend, is the reason you packed that large memory card.

3. Each day, I download all of the photographs I take onto my laptop. Yup, that’s right: I download every day. Usually in the evening, usually with a glass of wine at my side. (Of course, I’m the mom of a young child, which means my clubbing-in-foreign-cities days are over, since our evenings out usually end at our daughter’s bedtime; however, if your night doesn’t end until the sun comes up, morning might be a better option for downloading your images). The upshot is that basically, I like to start each day with an empty memory card.

When I download the images, here’s how I do it:

a) I create a folder just for that day. The name of each folder that I create starts with the date of the day I shot the images, in yearmonthday format (e.g., today’s date would be captured as 090709). I do it in this way so that over the years, the days’ folders will naturally be in chronological order. Occasionally, I’ll add a little additional information — so the folder that contains the image of the Statue of Liberty, above, might be labeled “090707ladyliberty,” if most of the images shot that day were in and around the statue.

b) The day’s folder is stored in a general folder called “photography.” I could, I suppose, put each day’s folder on this trip in a folder entitled “New York City trip,” but I don’t. Generally, all my days’ folders are just stored in my photography folder, but I generally find them pretty easily, because of the steps that follow.

4. I scan the photographs I’ve just downloaded, picking some of my favourites, and doing some preliminary Photoshopping. I will admit that I might be somewhat singular in including this step — most people I know wait until they get home before they begin processing their shots. However, In the past I’ve mentioned how I use Photoshop as a tool of expression, rather than a tool of deception, so this generally means that I can edit my photographs pretty quickly. Besides, since I shoot hundreds of photographs a day, the thought of sitting down to finally go through my images at the end of a holiday is pretty intimidating — I’d rather just look through them daily, remembering particular moments at were funny and special, as well as critique the day’s work, so that I can remember not to make any similar mistakes on the following day.

5. If I have an internet connection, I upload some of my favourites. Again, because I’m a photoblogger, this often means uploading a favourite image or two onto my blog; however, even more importantly, this means uploading my images to my Flickr account. For those who might not be familiar with Flickr, this online service allows you to upload and store images onto your own private account (for free; or, if you’d prefer, in a paid pro account which allows you to upload unlimited images per day). You can set your account to be public (so you c
an show all the folks back home what you’ve been up to), or private, so only you (or your family or friends) have access to the images. Some notes about Flickr:

a) Flickr allows you to tag your photos with various keywords, as well as group them into various “albums” — so you can place all of your vacation photos in a group called, “My Excellent New York Adventure, July 2009,” for example. The beauty of this is that when, 4 years from now, I’m looking for an image of the Statue of Liberty that I took, I can simply do a search on my Flickr photos of “Statue of Liberty,” and it will pull up the images I took in July 2009, complete with the date that I took the shot (which Flickr automatically stores from the information embedded in the photo by my camera). I can then go back into my “photography” folder on my hard drive, and go to exactly the specific date I took the shots.

b) On Flickr (and in general, anytime I upload an image onto the web), I only share low-resolution images. There are ways on Flickr to protect your images from being taken, but frankly, it’s not that hard to bypass them. So while I save my post precious photos offline (or make certain images private on Flickr), I also limit the amount of use a person can make of one of my images by keeping them relatively low-resolution.

And that, my friends, is about it. Once I get home, I really cull through the photographs, finding ones that perhaps I didn’t notice before, adding Photoshop finishing touches, and deciding which ones I want to print — and this is relatively easy to do, because I’ve already organized the shots by day, and pretty much know where everything is. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have yet to really nail how I archive my photos once I return home and put on these finishing touches — but over the next few weeks, I hope to hone my process, and share it with you in a later post. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any tips you might have as to how your organize your photographs while you’re traveling. And, as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Along the Hudson: The Hudson River School and top places to see the paintings

Four hundred years ago, when Henry Hudson first saw the river that was named after him, I imagine he felt inspired by its beauty. The river not only captivated Hudson’s attention motivating him to take a look-see far up into its reaches, it has also inspired artists to capture its essence, literally and figuratively.

There are places along the Hudson River’s shores where you can imagine painters who developed The Hudson River School sitting with their canvas creating their masterpieces. Unlike how it sounds, The Hudson River School is not a place at all, but an art movement that occurred during the 19th century, and the first to be deemed American.

With the festivities happening in the towns and cities along the Hudson this year to celebrate it’s discovery, it seems fitting to give a nod to these artists who were inspired by the Hudson’s beauty and used its images as a metaphor to express ideas about what the United States represents. What are the themes? Discovery, exploration and settlement. Head west, and you’ll see these themes over and over again. These guys were onto something.

The scenes you see in the paintings, however, are not exactly as is. The artists took parts of scenery that they had sketched in their travels and put them together in such a way to make their point that nature, and people’s communion with it, are testaments to God’s glory. Communing with nature, therefore, is a way to experience God’s power.

The painting Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand is such an example. The two men in the painting are of the artist and Thomas Cole. You can read what the painting represented to Cole in this overview of The Hudson River School by Thomas Hampson.

As Hampson explains, such themes are also expressed in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau who helped found Transcendentalism. To them, and to these artists, what better place to be a witness to the power of God and the human ability to feel and become empowered by it, than in the natural world found in the the American landscape?

Not only the Hudson River is depicted by Hudson River School artists, most notably Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, but so are the White Mountains in New Hampshire and other areas of the Catskills.

For a close look at one of the later Hudson River School painters who helped develop the art movement called Luminism that developed from the Hudson River School, visit Olana, Frederic Edwin Church’s home along the Hudson River not far from Hudson, New York.

Here, Church and his wife raised their family and created a home that is a visual masterpiece. When I visited Olana, I was intrigued by Church’s treatment of the landscape. He had certain trees cut down along the river banks near his home to create a certain look to the scenery and better highlight the Hudson River’s beauty.

Olana is merely one place to see Hudson River School artwork. Several museums have pieces in their collections.

If you are walking in the mountains and along the river that were the inspiration for this artwork, see if the muse strikes you. Maybe another art movement is percolating.

Human Rights International Film Festival

A few years ago, in the audience of the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center watching A Closer Walk, a wonderful documentary about the global struggle caused by AIDS, I felt tuned into something bigger than myself. Reading New York Times film critic Steven Holden’s article about the Human Rights International Film Festival going on at the Walter Reade Theater through June 25, reminded me about that night, as well as, my day at the Cleveland International Film Festival this past March.

A film festival is an opportunity to view the world through a variety of lenses. In a summer of blockbusters where the popular theme seems to be horror and sci-fi—again, breaking up the fiction action with action that is real may give you that bigger than yourself feeling. If nothing else, seeing such films is an opportunity to see the work of passionate people who are like dogs with bones when it comes to getting a movie made about a cause they care about.

Besides, for people who are world travelers, heading to a film may shed light on some of the issues of the countries where one visits. Although one may visit a country, there may not be the opportunity to really find out what goes on behind closed doors, literally and figuratively.

Holden gave an overview of some of the films in his articlem and indicates that there is much worthwhile to see. You may have heard of some of the offerings. They are a mix of films that are new and others have been previously viewed elsewhere.

Because the films take in a range of slices of life in Afganistan, Ecuador, Pakistan, India and more–and often are about subjects that are not what one would think they might be about, they hold details well outside the sound bite version of the nightly news.

Here is a link to the films that will be featured and a link to the calendar to see when each will be screened.

Since I’m going to be in New York City next Wednesday, I have my eye on Regret to Inform, the award-winning documentary by Barbara Sonneborn. The film, nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 is about Sonneborn’s journey to Vietnam twenty years after her husband was killed there during the war. She set out to see where he was killed and along the way developed relationships with Vietnam war widows from the other side. Sonneborn will be at the showing and will give a talk as part of the venue.

If you do have a chance to head to the Walter Reade Theatre, take time to stop in the adjacent Furman Gallery to see the exhibit “Long Story Bit By Bit: Liberia Retold” by Tim Hetherington. Through photographs and writing, Hetherington has aimed to make sense of Liberia’s complicated past and present. The exhibit is another avenue to experience another person’s passion.

An artist is thrilled when people heading to a movie duck into a gallery to see his or her work as part of an event. The gallery is not open at night, so if you do want to see the exhibit, stop in before 5 p.m.

Photo of the Day (5.30.09)

Add one more thing to my growing list of things to do before I die: be a contestant on the Cash Cab. What could be more quintessentially New York than an endless row of New York taxi cabs? This photo, brought to us by ultraclay, not only captures the perfectly organized chaos that is New York City street life, but he brings these yellow cabs lined up in a row into vibrant life.

Those of you like myself who are dying to get on the Cash Cab might utilize these strategies when hailing a taxi in the hopes of finding the show’s host, Ben Bailey, sitting behind the wheel:

  • Stick to midtown — more specifically, Columbus Circle: Only rarely does the Cash Cab pick up passengers in uptown or downtown.
  • Look like a tourist: Most Cash Cab contestants are out of towners.
  • Flag a van: 90% of New York cabs are sedans, and the Cash Cab is a van.
  • Rub your rabbit’s foot: Really, flagging the Cash Cab just takes a lot of luck.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!