Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canada's North Woods

The road through northern Quebec and Labrador goes through some really pretty boreal forests with bogs, ponds, and streams. As a photographer on a road trip, I found myself frustrated because I was seeing pretty landscapes, but under dull gray skies and unfavorable lighting. We weren't in our camper and there were not many places to stay even if we had had time to linger in this wilderness. But I found myself wanting to capture this subtle beauty with my camera.

I took this first shot more as a memory photo. I suspect it was handheld (if you look close, it slightly motion blurred). The setting was pretty, but the lighting not favorable. But I wanted memory photos if nothing else. I actually think this is at Gagnon, a town that ceased to exist. All that is left are some paved roads, an island dividing the road into four lanes, curbs, sidwalks, and parking lots. The buildings are long gone. Considering that the road is gravel before and after Gagnon, it really makes you wonder what happened. When we got back to Texas, we googled Gagnon and discovered that when the nearby mine shut down, the town was dismantled. In retrospect, I should have taken more pictures around Gagnon, lighting or no lighting, because it was interesting and poignant.

As we neared Churchill Falls late in the afternoon, the sky cleared and I knew I had a chance to get some photographs. We got our accomodations taken care of and headed back along the road where I had seen some ponds that might make good reflecting pools for the sunset.

I could tell that the scene was going to difficult to capture the beauty I was seeing. Straight photography would make me choose between the delicately colored sky and the details in the forest and the pool.

So i carefully shot for HDR - shooting sequences of three or more exposures to capture the beautiful delicate colors in the sky and the beauty of the pond. In post processing I needed to go beyond the Photomatics and Photoshop's high dynamic range mreges, because there was a breeze and the combined images had blurred tamarack trees. By choosing an exposure that was close, I could go in, select trees that were not motion blurred and place them where they belonged in the composition, giving me a scene that was true to what I had seen, but what straight photography couldn't produce.

Finding another possibility in this group of ponds, ordinary photography with one exposure produced this:

Shooting multiple exposures, combining them, some artistic filters from Topaz produced an image much more like what my eye enjoyed.

I was so pleased when we woke up to sunny skies. I finally had an opportunity to capture the feel of northern Canada with this shot at Ozzie's Brook, east of Churchill Falls.


Rosie (Leaves n Bloom) said...

Hello there isn't it amazing what you can do with photoshop - I can still only do basic things in that program but your creations are great at showing God's creation in all its glory.

Mary Ann Melton said...

Thank you, Rosie! "Showing God's Creation in all its glory" is my goal. The world around us is SO beautiful - trying to capture that beauty with a camera . . . that is the challenge!

Michael Ziegler said...

Hi Mary Ann,
You have captured my dilemma with nature and landscape photography to a tee! I struggle with the camera's limited dynamic range all the time. In my latest post, I did my best to get a shot with the sky just right, and another shot with the old house just right, but missed with the sky photo. So if you look at the photo you'll see the washed out sky, and some nice detail in the old house. Maybe I'll go back for another try at the sky...

Mike Z

PS I love Topaz! I agree their filters make my photos more like what I want people to see.