Tag Archives: nature

Red Crowned Crane: A Splash of Color Makes the Difference.

This incredible bird is a Red Crowned Crane. Cranes are birds of elegance and beauty that very few other species can match. The natural colors for the bird are simply a bright red crest on its head, a blackened color plumage to the face and a long, tall elegant body with further white plumage.

Red Crowned Crane
Red Crowned Crane

As you can see, it’s not very far off what this work intends to demonstrate. However, placing a black and white filter over the bird allows the bringing out of  finer nuances in the beak and head area. You see detail that would otherwise be lost to color. So, in an essence you gain parts of the image by promoting black and white.

This also works the other way around.  The black and white filtering of the image causes the background to disappear in a sea of darkness.  The result is a loss of distractions from the subject of the work and adding visual stimulus from the clashes of the white feathers of the bird against the black unseen background.

Normally, this opposition of black and white would take over the photo. But what makes this crane stand out, what grabs the viewer’s attention more than any other aspect, is the brilliant red color of its crest.

I took a chance by introducing the color to a black and white image.   Adding color to a black and white work of art has become very commonplace in photographic art communities. Generally though, like HDR style photographs, overproduction of these colored images has led to a bit of abuse.  More often than naught, the artist will color in a wide swath of the picture to try to highlight a large feature like a car or bus. Usually, the object takes up so much of the picture it becomes unclear why the artist changed it to black and white in the first place.  But in our case, the bird only needed that small flush of brilliancy.  So the overall effect of the color is a punch of visual impact that centers the bird as the sole object of attention. The impression is cleanly made.

To overdo the color in an image destroys the artistic flair of creating the black and white image in the first place.   It is proof of the concept that a little burst of color goes a long way to developing something special.

See the rest of the show here.

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Girders : Man vs Nature

The third installment from our recent visit to the Greenhill School campus is the work “Girders”. As the construction on campus of the new fine art building continued, there was a brief opportunity to see the skeletal insides of the towering building. I wanted to capture this moment before they installed the walls and fleshed out this monstrosity of campus expansion.

What I discovered was a series of right angles and geometric shapes as the girders of the red steel frame stood against the sky. The day was cloudy with low rumbling storm like clouds that spoke of rain. As these billows of dark nature swirled past the girders it created a strange otherworldly ambience.

Upon reflection of what I was seeing, I decided that a heavy red and green tinted filter was just the thing to bring the ominous feelings of the clouds to the viewer’s attention.


The red in the girders only became a deeper hue and a strange idea of the basic conflict of nature vs. man became prevalent to the picture’s theme. The girders representing the indomitable will of man to build, while his hubris produces an angry response from nature. All is in place to remind man though the building may continue, the victory is false for in the end nature and the ravages of time will eventually overcome.

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7 Things About Sea Anemones You Want To Know

Forest of Light is a photograph of a sea anemone under a strangely ethereal dark light.  The light creates this wondrous glowing effect on the tips of the tentacles.  The tentacles are almost hypnotic as you watch them sway back and forth in the warm water current.  It’s easy to see how a fish might be captivated to investigate this Forest of Light.

Few things arouse people’s curiosity of the underwater world like the sea anemone.  This strange animal has both a charming beauty and an impressive slant on how looks can kill.   Well, at least if you’re a fish.  While I’ve never heard of a human death originating from the handling of an anemone, I’m not going to be the first in line to try to grab one.

Here are 7 things you always wanted to know about sea anemones.


  1. They are usually grouped together in the same group as coral or jellyfish.
  2. Like the jellyfish the tentacles of an anemone have microscopic harpoon shaped spears that shoot out into a victim causing paralysis and death to small fish.  For humans, you can imagine that while you might not die, it’s more than likely going to hurt. A LOT!
  3. They come in almost every conceivable size, color and shape from about 1 cm to almost 2 meters across.
  4. Anemones have a foot, mouth, body and tentacles.
  5. They use their foot to attach to any inanimate object on the sea floor.  They then allow their tentacles to dangle in the hopes that food will drift or swim into them and become paralyzed.
  6. When attacked or feel threatened they curl into a tight ball to protect their tentacles.
  7. There are over 1,000 different species of anemone and they live in all but the deepest parts of the oceans we’ve explored.

While it is possible that these 7 quick facts about sea anemones have laid the foundation for your next triumph as the trivia master at the next cocktail party, imagine how fabulous you would look as you acquainted your guests with the haunting beauty of sea anemones while actually looking at Forest of Light hanging on your wall showing off your fine style.

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Action Photography: My Luck Fails Me

There exists an unforgettable element of photography that nature photographers have to rely on more than they care to admit.   This element is Luck and it follows no known rules.  It is the hardest and most heart-breaking part of photography.  Some photographers tell you that luck doesn’t exist and you have to make it happen.  In my experience, those people are generally studio photographers who have complete control over their environment.  Truly, in a studio, they are correct.

However, in an outdoor setting you do not get to dictate when something happens.  The best you can do is gamble on your settings and hope for best.  Now that is best said with a slight disclaimer.  Obviously, you can cheat luck a little by knowing how to set your camera for a cloudy or sunny day.  Knowing how to set the shutter speed when taking pictures of birds and other animals is also crucial.

In short, there exists defined methods to follow that allow you to increase the odds of you winning when luck comes knocking on your door.   However, when shooting outside you have to rely on things that are also out of your control.

Such is the case with our picture of the day.  No, this one is not for sale.  I saved it as a friendly little reminder that a photographer can do everything according to his plan and yet still fail and learn from that failure.

I was in a garden taking pictures of flowers and some birds when the opportunity presented itself.  I had my camera at a 1/25 of a second exposure due to a blowing wind of about 15 mph.  This setting is enough to take snaps of flowers or stems that tend to move in the wind and prevent a nice close focused shot.

While walking to the next flowerbed a heard a rustle under a bush near my foot.  I’ve already learned that when you hear something like leaves moving or see a movement in the underbrush your best chance for a good shot of an animal is to freeze.   So, standing absolutely still I saw a little field mouse.   Why, WHAT LUCK!  Living in a city like Dallas, you can easily pass a hundred of these little critters and never know they were there.  I had to get a picture of it.

I pulled up the camera, quickly focused in and snap.   I did not have time to set my composition, correct my light settings, worry about the f-stop, and discover my perfect aperture setting or any of that stuff.  I had a second to react, and I spent it bringing the camera to my face.   As I clicked, he moved.  I’ve discovered a couple of lessons by this.

  1. Mice are FAST!..   I mean 1/25 of a second was too slow.
  2. Mice don’t stand still for long.
  3. Next time use a higher speed if it’s possible.  They are fast; I must become faster.
  4. Learn to live with luck to not make the mice move during their cameo experience.
  5. Persistence pays off.

Anyone have a similar experience about the one that got away?

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What’s So Artistic About a Bunch Of Rocks?

The piece Rocks and Roots provides an interesting composition with varied layers of meaning.

At first glance you see the round pebbles and rocks of a river or stream bed displaced by the roots of a nearby tree.  However, this is a Zen garden and nothing is as it seems.

Zen gardens are places of meditation, solitude, nature and the blending of architecture with nature.  Naturally, every piece and structure, both natural and manufactured in a Zen garden has a purpose.  Usually it tells a story, or reminds you of a lesson or saying.  It works the same way that stained glass works in a church. However, it is possible to also look at the elements in a Zen garden through the eyes of art.

Artistically, this picture is not only old rocks and new roots, it’s also about the lines.  If you notice, there are almost no straight lines in this piece.    Most are of a natural form, a curve, or a smooth rounded edge.  Even the straight lines you do find on some of the roots are not completely straight but still follow a natural fragmented look.

After the study of natural lines Rocks and Roots reveals the value of the contrasts .  Discover the contrasts of texture and color between the various rocks resulting in earth tones of grey and reds but compared with the dark foreboding wood of the root.

Once our eyes are comfortable with these contrasts of line and color we discover the straight lined structure in the far upper left corner compared with the rest of the work. It is now that we have a total blend of components that serves the piece completely.

The shocking result is a work rich in a compelling study of lines, contrast and color.  The different colored rocks, the earth tones and the dark ragged hues of the wood present the miracle of nature but by leaving that straight piece of wood in the corner, we have instantly invented a theme resulting in Man vs. nature theme to the overall composition.  The artificial structure and the natural world is separate, yet part of the compelling experience.

Click here to return to the show Walking through The Zen Garden.

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