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Archive for May, 2010

Hello all. We are back from our photographic trip to the Seychelles islands, from La Digue island to be more precise. A gorgeous granite outcrop sticking out from the middle of the Indian Ocean, where luxuriant tropical vegetation grows under vast skies and where time stops and problems tend to fade away…

After a massive use of both the panoramic 617 and Nikon cameras, we are now submerged under some thousands of digital images and almost 90 rolls of 120 velvia film. I will be working on the images in the following weeks, but here there is a first post of one image from the very end of the trip. This is one of those images I had previsualized before leaving. Taking a look at the tides I saw that by the end of our stay we would have low tide coinciding with the sunset time. Add to that a half moon lighting the landscape (and highly reflective coral sand beaches) and you get the perfect cocktail for a striking night exposure view of the shore from within the ocean. A few days before leaving, I decided to sip that cocktail. I set the tripod at some 40 meters from the shore, and I waited till the twilight gave way to the tropical night. After a couple of hours standing in the water, and looking at the clouds drifting over the beach with the only noise of the waves crushing against the reef, we got home with some images and one of those memories you know will never leave you.

Technically speaking, to take this image I chose an ISO of around 640 and an aperture of f3.2 to let the camera “see” more stars and reduce the time exposure to a maximum of 25 seconds. Leave the shutter opened for more time and, depending of the focal length you use, the stars will have “time” to move around your frame leaving a not totally circular shape against the sky. In terms of focusing, I did have to focus the camera before the light levels were too low…even if I could have focused on the moon itself, providing the landscape was really at the infinity.

The low light you see illuminating the rocks and palm trees come from the half moon itself, being also bounced back by the sea water and the white beach. A nice balance of moon light and sky light level is needed to come with an image of this kind. Come a few days later and the light of the moon will be just too strong to let you see the stars (in the moon is crescent). Come a few days before and the moon light will be too low, rendering the beach as a murky brown dark thing if you want to keep the exposure time to “freeze” the stars. As always, nature provides narrow windows of opportunity where things are just right, and planning helps to seize them!

The big  bonus of this image was, however, difficult to plan. The clouds. Nice booming cumulus in the background growing bigger as the exposure took place and drifting clouds quickly moving across the frame leaving some nice diagonal lines which mirror perfectly the diagonal created by the land below. And then, those clouds to the right of the frame “jumping” literally” over the granite boulder and another cloud just behind the central palm tree. I would say clouds here are as essential elements to the image as they could be. Leave them out and the depth and interest of the image will fall apart…

I will be posting soon some more images from this dreamy place, along with some comments about Seychelles, the  photographic opportunities there and travel advices to visit this blessed corner of the planet.

Take care, thanks for reading and great light to you all,

rafael

Note: click on the image to see it bigger!

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Tomorrow, if the volcanic ash cloud hovering currently Europe allows us, we will be heading towards the south hemisphere, Seychelles islands to be more exact. This will be the second time. First one, quite some years ago, just a tiny Ixus went with me…it was supposed to be holidays, and getting a nice lobster tan was the only purpose. Big mistake. The place is SO photogenic. This time, Ixus stays at home, and we get a third companion along in the form of a 20 kg bag full with all kinds of photographic equipment.

Seychelles islands are not just a dreamy tropical-clichéd destination. They are really interesting…They are the only islands in the world (if I am correct) which sit in the middle of the ocean with a non volcanic origin. Contrary to all other islands in the vicinity (appart from Magadascar), its origin was not magma building up from the seabed. Seychelles are in fact a tiny bit of land that one day decided to go adrift from the African continent. Millions of years ago, they began this drifting journey towards the East, remaining nowadays as a lonely granitic oasis in the middle of the ocean. No volcanic rocks there, just a big batholith of granite. What the hell is a batholit? Imagine a huge inclusion of magma which solidified inside the crust before reaching the surface, and then was exposed after erosion took away the weaker rock layers around and above it. More or less what happened to the Half Dome in Yosemite, but in tropical version and with a few hundreds of meters less…Nowadays, when you wander around the islands of Seychelles you see what water and wind erosion has done with the granite after a few million years…Sensual and organic forms have been created, leading to a visual feast of shapes, form, textures and geometrical configurations. Put in the background a threathening storm drifting over the sea (sorry, no sunny skies wanted!), a focal point in the distance in the form of a neighbouring island, a long exposition and a bit of polarizer effect, and the image is there.

I will be taking  both the digital and panoramic large format system…but i think the film processing bill is going to hurt. The panoramic 617 camera loaded with velvia 50 is normally a great tool to depict the surreal of the landscape…and I guess it is going to be specially the case for these islands. With low levels of light, velvia needs lots of seconds, even minutes, to get the proper exposure when you need a decent DOF. Imagine drifting clouds pushed by the oceanic winds being rendered as sensual streaks which mimick the water texture, see those “mercury” seas which embrace the rocks emerging from the water, capture those swaying palm trees soften by the breeze…A real drama…

Of course, these tropical destinations tend to become quite cliché relatively easy. But as always, it will always depend on what does the subject mean for you, how you see it and how you want to render it in your image. In my case, a tropical paradise is a place where big storms form, huge cumulus decorate the skies, strong breezes move the trees and skimm the water and rain falls at the same time the sun shines. That is why you will never see me in a tropical island in the middle of the dry season. The month of May in Seychelles is quite interesting. In this shoulder season the winds are still there, the humid-and-totally-covered-skies-with-no-trace-of-winds period is still to come, sunny skies are rarer than a few months before and dynamic processes take place. The sky is full of surprises and drama. Nice things might happen…if you are lucky.

One of the reasons why we are going back to Seychelles is that we will organize some exclusive phototrips in these islands in the near future. As I will try to explain you with my images, the place is really so photogenic. Put some interesting creole culture in that, giant tortoises and a laid-back environment that pushes all your troubles to the corner of your mind,…and the experience is difficult to forget… I will be coming back with more info about this on the totally new webpage that is in the pipeline, but I warn you already that by the end of summer a lot of new adventures will be displayed for all of you who would like to get bitten by the photographic bug in really incredible destinations. A real curse, I tell you, which has no way back…:)

For a couple of weeks it is going to be hard to get a proper connexion to the Internet, but I will be posting a trip article when we get back, with (I hope) some stunning images from there. Meanwhile, take care and great light to you all!

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The other day I got some really nice news. Three of my images, two of them slide panoramics have made their way into the final of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A couple of them are from Scotland this winter, the other one is a deciduous forest in the autumn mist…

Now, I just cross all my fingers!

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Hello all. I am always amazed at the life burst that comes with spring every year. Now it seems winter is just a distant memory. The silence in the forests has given the way to a choir of birds singing from every branch. Water trickles down the leaves, storms begin to build up every evening, an odour of flowers inondates the ambiance and my eyes start to turn red as pollen allergy has its feast.

Spring time is also time to pay a visit to those waterfalls and streams we know. As the explosion of life takes place in the woods, the trees start filling with little shiny leaves, which seem to glow in that characteristic raw green. Humidity, typical rain and the melt of the snow in the mountains get the rivers and waterfalls swollen, leading to a great photographic opportunities.

A few days ago we visited an already familiar spot, in the french Jura region. There it was, the perfect condition for taking a nice image screaming “spring”: Damp day which saturated the colours, cloudy skies to provide a diffuse contrastless light, absence of wind to keep the leaves steady, and water flowing around…Well, the true is I would have liked a bit more water, but i guess that is always the case…we nature photographers are never happy :)

I took my impervious boots and put myself in the middle of the river, looking to outline the little tree you see in the image agaist the dark hollow cavity in the background. Slightly to the left of the image, it balanced very well the waterfall to the right, creating a nice juxtaposition of two focal points. The panoramic format, cutting out the upper part of the waterfalls, adds quite a lot to the image, as it increases the apparent size of the waterfall (when you just show a portion, the whole seems to be bigger than when showing it all).

Thanks for reading and great light to you all!

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Hi all. Sorry for the silence…these last weeks are being really hectic! I am working right now on quite a lot of different projects…from calendars to workshops, from a new book which will be released in a few months if everything goes well, to a totally new website that will see the light this next summer, a big project related to environmental education and awareness by using nature photography, and still other things….

Funny that, the more projects you are involved in, the less time you spend shooting outside and the more hours you tan yourself in front of the computer screen…

Anyway, here I am back, with loads of news. I will be posting some new things, ideas and happy events related to my photography in the following weeks…but before that, here i come with the image of the week (after some weeks silence!).

This is in fact not an image, but a portfolio of images. I was the other day compiling a portfolio for the IPA 2010 photography awards, nature-trees and nature-seasons category….I wanted to portray the magic of seasons through the view of a forest, by using four images using a similar tone-graphical design that would make a perfect coherent portfolio. I had taken an image from a beech forest nearby one february morning, after a fresh big snowfall and during a totally calm and misty dawn that would make a perfect image to depict the silent, cold and magical ambiance of winter in the forest. Winter was ticked.

Then, i needed a strong image for the autum. I took some nice images this last autumn in another beech forest of the region where I live. Beeches, my favourite trees…That day, a perfect calm and foggy morning coincided with the peak colours of autumn. It was just the matter of finding the perfect “order” whithin the chaos which normally dwells in the forests. Two trees, stretching out their branches, made the focal point of the image, leading to the representation of dancing trees amidst the rest of their colleagues, in the perfect golden autumn paradise that spring to our minds when we think of fall…Great, i had two images.

Now I needed a powerful image portraiting the forests in a typical summer day. That one was hard. Summer forests are not really impressive…. The fresh hue of spring has turned into a dark and bug-eaten green by midsummer, and the light is normally harsh during the day, leading to a big mess of contrasty spots beneath the canopy. Not nice. However, as Nature normally teaches us, there is no “bad” light, no “bad” conditions or no “bad” photographic subject. We just need to find the “suitable” conditions, light and subject for every moment and every place, for every feeling that we get and want to be conveyed in our image. The summer spirit is one of evening walks through the forest, of the sound of insects flying around while the heat of the day gives the way to the coolness of the dusk and the yellow golden hues of the evening skies turn into the dark blue of the twilight. Forests know about that spirit too. It just might be a little bit harder to express it on an image, that is all…Last summer, when I was driving along a backroad, I saw from the corner of my eye a really magical scene indeed. As the sun was setting after a long day, the last rays of light penetrated through a dense pine forest, setting ablaze all the trunks with an unbelievable golden light. The contrast was massive, leaving just thin ribbons of light floating in the middle of the darkness. I stopped dead the car and run with the panoramic camera in hand. I just had the time to take an exposure, a couple of minutes later the sun was gone and the forest turn into a conventional bunch of vegetal verticals…That image would make a strong summer image. Ticked, that one.

Then, just the spring scene was missing…Spring…but no image sprang into my mind (no pun intended!). I had been waiting all these months to shoot the forests in the spring, but till now I had not yet had the chance. Too sunny days, leaves still not totally out at this latitude,…That one was missing. Luckily, shooting film is still not as unflexible as digital photography has made us think. The last sunday, the perfect conditions presented themselves: damp day, relatively still, all leaves out. Time to get lost into the forest again. I grabbed my large format panoramic camera and got into a nearby forest where I had selected a composition a year before. There they were, standing proud, some of the most “photogenic” beech trees of the region. I could take some long exposures of several minutes getting the most of some lulls in the breeze, develop them on monday, scan them by monday evening and post them online the very same night. The porftolio was over: four images, four seasons, four complementary colours (red, yellow, green, blue), different qualities of light, …The magic of the forests, throughout the year, into one collection.

I hope you enjoy it. From my part, I took an insane pleasure making this…

Thanks for reading and great light to you all,

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