Monday, July 20, 2009

My Top 5 Clear Lake Shots

How quickly time flies. We arrived at Clear Lake and the next thing I know vacation is over and it's back to the Real World. Despite sketchy weather it was an enjoyable trip, and I was happy to walk away with a number of images that I'm really pleased with. To that end I figured I would compile a Top 5 from the past two weeks. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) I had a tough time weaning my selections down. There were many more that are going to make their way to prints. So, here goes (in no particular order).

The Bridge

This was my first shot of the trip. Weather was ho-hum but I headed out anyway to see what I could get.

Why it made my Top 5:
I like the composition weighted so heavily towards that dark sky, with the tinges of magenta burning through from the setting sun. Plus the almost graphical element of the pier bridge, which is a prominent feature of the area. I also think this is a relatively unique perspective of that bridge. The overall mood is pretty cool.

Cotton Candy

This was one of several images from my first morning shoot, and it's probably my favorite of the trip. Was a beautifully calm and quiet morning.

Why it made my Top 5:
The color of that sky, and the reaction I had to it when turning around from the shooting in the other direction. My jaw dropped. I had started the morning from this perspective but the clouds weren't anything like this. This was a race to set up in a new position and recompose. The image still doesn't do justice to the colors in both the sky and water.

Misty Path

While mid-day light isn't great for color photography, the heavy contrast it introduces can make for interesting black and white images. In this case I took to the path that circles the lake and battened down as the wind was a blowin' that day.

Why it made my Top 5:
I like the composition of the S-curve starting at the rocks in the foreground merging into the path and beyond. Also, using a small aperture and heavy ND filtration I dragged the shutter nice and slow to render the extremely choppy water into smooth mist. Combined it creates a moody atmosphere that I really like. While it likely won't show on the net, there is detail in those trees along the bank.


This boat lying on shore caught my eye earlier in the day and I made it my mission to return at sunset to capture what turned out to be a pretty cool image.

Why it made my Top 5:
As they said in the classic TV series The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. Scouting this location in advance made for a better image in the end. I love the light, that low hanging cloud in the sky, and the curve created by the front of the boat through the shore to the dock. I had a tough time between this and the companion shot of just the dock but in the end chose this one as it was my original intent and it turned out as I had hoped.

Fire In the Sky

The title of my post for this series was Shooting Fish in a Barrel. It was very appropriate as you couldn't miss here. It was such easy pickings that I felt guilty including it here.

Why it made my Top 5:
Easy or not those colors blow my mind. I like the composition with the reflection. And while I had originally expected that the buoy line running across the frame would get cloned out I now really like it: it adds foreground interest that leads the eye to the trees. Unfortunately the limited color space of internet browsers can't show the vibrance of this image.

Honorable Mentions

In my estimation what separates the true photographers from the rest of us is the ability to see. To assess any given environment and identify opportunities for interesting images. It amazes me when I see shots where the photographer created something from nothing. That wicked sunset above is child's play.

To that end I submit these:

Why it got an Honorable Mention: Driven in part by a personal goal to capture at least one (hopefully) compelling image every day I looked out our cabin window this rainy morning. Grumbling about the weather I saw this image, reflected off the van's rear window. Grabbed the tripod and my 70-200 and shoot through the window. The fuzzy, silhouetted shapes of the cabin roof and trees contrasted against the sharply focused drops of rain created an interesting abstract. There was little color to be had, certainly nothing to contribute to the image, and so I knew it would end up as a black and white. I got my image for the day without stepping foot out of the cabin.

Why it got an Honorable Mention: This one has nothing to do with lake, aside from thoughts of gin & tonics, Corona's and lemonaid. Another crummy day (back-to-back no less), this was taken in the local store. I like the contrast between the green and yellow, and the distinct separation between the two (particularly the angle, rather than straight up-and-down across the frame). But most importantly is that lone lemon. Has it escaped? Has it been kidnapped? Perhaps a commentary on segregation, with that lemon making a stand? This is actually a reflection of the fruit in the mirror above, without which I couldn't have captured this perspective.

Closing Thoughts

One of the things I like about our Clear Lake trips is that it's easy to get out and photograph. I'm extremely guilty of not making a similar effort while at home and that needs to change. That said I have more photo work than I can handle right now between compiling my shots from this trip and an earlier one to Kelowna into photo books, and making prints of my favorites. Something I would like to do this summer or fall is head up to Steep Rock and capture some of the limestone cliffs. We'll see.

Something else that needs to happen before my next landscape photo trip is to replace my Cokin filters with Lee. The Cokins introduce such a severe color cast, increasing exponentially with stacking or when facing direct light, that they make proper exposure a challenge. Lee is famous for being almost perfectly neutral. But you pay dearly for that.


  1. All great shots. I love the first one. It really stands out and is an all-round excellent image.

    I hear you on the total work-load issue. I find that it pushes me to be even more critical on my work so that I am now spend far less time in PS than I did before. I go from 500 raw images down to 100 first pass, then down to 20 second pass. This now takes me about 30 minutes, whereas a year ago I would spend several hours. At a workshop with Freeman Patterson, he said that the one overlooked skill by many photographers was the editing skill.

  2. Agreed. It's difficult to pare down your own work. For my part I can't live without Lightroom. My travel laptop doesn't have the horsepower to run it so I stick with Bridge for backing up and viewing but little else, with processing applied only to those that really matter. At home it's all Lightroom: 1st pass, flag and delete the rejects; second pass, flag the picks; sometimes a third pass to rate the picks, of which make their way to post. And I always create Collections of the picks for a specific shoot (and have Smart Collections running that automatically grab my 5-stars).