Photograph close to home – discover your style

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Learning | No Comments

We all love to see and want to take beautiful pictures of sweeping vistas, dramatic skies, wonderful sunrises/sunsets of exotic locations. These are all seen in popular photo sharing sites, travel magazines that fuel our dreams to prepare for our next photographic destinations. But, what if some of us are not that lucky enough to travel that much? We still have a decent camera but have daily jobs, running the weekend chores, participating in our kids ‘activities – should we just let that camera sit in our closet till we can plan our vacation to one of those places?

The fact is that some of these dream places can be created very close to our home if we pay enough attention to the detail of these places – including events, weather forecast etc. For that to happen, you need to visit one place multiple times at different times of the day. This helps to understand the interaction of light with the subjects.

Weekend visits for scouting

Weekend visits for scouting

As, photographers we love to see reflections on the foreground and if that is from a beautiful sunset sky, it makes it even better. When, I started becoming more serious about landscape photography, I used Google maps to locate all the nearby lakes around my home. I visited these places on weekends to understand the position of the sun at different times during sunrises and sunsets. I would create mental notes and visualize the different type of lights and how it can tell a story.

One of my favorite lakes in my neighborhood is the Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. It is believed that the land in Blackwell Forest Preserve was shaped by the Wisconsin glacier 12000 to 15000 years back. The link below will provide the history of this place as well as the directions if anybody is interested. There are so many photographs from this place once you do a quick web search. If you look at those you will never see the photographic potential of this place.

What, I wanted to point out from a photographic standpoint is this place is as good as what many photographers would consider photogenic. But to do that, we have to turn this place into somewhat magical yet, this would be the characteristic of this same place. The highlight of this lake is a small island in the middle of it. Visiting this place over many seasons I realized the true beauty of this place is during sunrise and this island can create some extraordinary moody shots with a bit of help from the weather. In summer time the fisherman would take their boat out to the lake and the early morning light can create some great shots in and around this island.


Kissed by the morning light

But this beauty can turn pure magical during Fall- when the low-lying fog over the lake creates the perfect mood. This is also the time for trout season means you have more fishermen in the lake. This gives the perfect opportunity to create some truly fleeting moments before the sunrise and right after the sun peeks out as it starts to penetrate the fog. As Camille Pissarro puts it “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”.


Island in mist with foreground wildflowers


Lone Fisherman on the east of the island


Lone fisherman on the west of the island


Fisherman in fog with the pier


Fisherman near the shore

Over time, visiting the same place has given me an understanding of how the settings on my camera affect the shots. It also gives me a comfort zone knowing under unknown circumstances how much I need to expose for shadows. For most of my fog shots, I use f/8 as, depth of field is not a concern. From there, I choose the shutter speed and ISO. Even though, I love to use tripod, in these scenarios where I am looking for the fishermen in my frame I shoot handheld to give myself room for composition.  


Ice fishing when the lake completely freezes over

Over the past few seasons, I have photographed this place many times which now tells a much better story than one photograph can often say. This also tells something about me of what I want to see in my photographs. “I know I’m not seeing things as they are, I’m seeing things as I am.” – Laurel Lee. To learn more about Blackwell Forest Preserve or if you intend to visit, please follow the below link.

Blackwell Forest Preserve

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