I had a fantastic opportunity to shoot in the Adirondacks for a couple of days with Mark Bowie. Our group would be trying to capture the night sky as it coincided with a new moon. A new moon is the darkest of moons and this would provide less light pollution in the dark skies. I normally see only about four bright stars, due to light pollution from Philadelphia, NYC and to round out this Bermuda Triangle… Atlantic City. This bleeding of light makes it difficult to see and shoot very dark skies, as it creeps up from the horizon and illuminates low-lying clouds and atmospheric humidity.
When in upstate NY, the lack of this light pollution was quite evident from my first night out in the field. It seemed like ‘twinkle overload’ from the amount of stars that could be seen by the naked eye. Perfect conditions surrounded me… very little cloud cover and almost no wind activity. Having only seen the Milky Way in static pictures from science books, I had to prepare myself to sit back and take it all in. This spectacular show seemed to stretch and arc right above me, in an endless stream of pulsating lights. Techniques for shooting at night vary but often share some very similar and sometimes frustrating dilemmas. In my case it was how to focus in the pitch black. My solution, and possibly yours, lies in the ebooks that Mark Bowie, David Kingham and Roman Kurywczak have produced. Some of the photos you see, seem to be lit by a super flashlight. This was not the case, as illumination was actually street lamps and house lights that when exposed for long periods, fill the area in a nuclear luminescence. At other times just the diffused light from a town on the other side of a ridge was enough to create a moody backlit scene.
As many of you know who follow this blog, I am not one to sit around and wait for the next star show to appear. Waking early after staying up late can lead to sleep deprivation or in some cases a magical morning shot. A couple of mornings greeted me with a deep mist and rising fog over the warm waters, while other times, filtered light illuminated the cloudy skies. My outlet is photography and the adventure in finding and shooting things that I have not experienced before. This search lead me to Inlet, NY… where I could sit back and unplug my very busy mind and truly connect with nature. Try it… you just might find yourself energized by the worldliness that surrounds us all.
Visiting the Adirondacks in the summer, turned out to be just the ticket to escape the sweltering heat and humidity of south Jersey. Canoe Photo Trip- I liked the sound of all three of those words. The tour I chose was given by the Adirondack Photographic Institute, which I highly recommend for photo workshops and tours. Mark Bowie was our designated photographer and Griz Caudle enriched us with his knowledge on the local lakes.
I arrived in Saranac Lake,NY a little early, in order to get the lay of the land and locate some of the main roads to Tupper Lake,our base camp. The workshop met at St.Regis Canoe Outfitters, very early on the first day, in order to capture a sunrise shoot. Griz gave us tips on the hows and whys of canoe handling after which, we were off. All around me, the quiet stillness of the lake was mesmerizing. I tried to take it all in, while many in our group paddled to either the right or left in the lake. I stayed in the middle, and a little behind, so as to get some human elements into my scenes. How hard could this be I thought, well, I soon found out. It didn’t take long before I became frustrated by the movement of the canoe and the contrast between a very bright sky and deep shadows. After taking a couple of deep breaths and relaxing, I soon found my center. This rhythmic movement, that I at first tried to fight, in a short time became my ally. I would wait for the canoe to move my eye into the picture. As for the bright sky… well I started to use it in a graphical way, as I composed my shots.
When just floating and not shooting we were both entertained and informed about our surroundings. Griz’s banter was priceless. We only needed our “translator” Mark, a few times as our guide’s dialogue became clearer. I think as a collective group we started to become pleasantly cohesive. For me, Mark was the consummate teacher. He had the patience to wait for stragglers… me. He also brought and shared, throughout our paddling, the technical advice he developed from years of shooting this little piece of heaven.
That night, and the following morning, we paddled and shot and talked and shot some more. When I say, “do you canoe?”, I can only speak for myself. I do, and you should too, BUT don’t forget the password –DEET!