I like to have a camera with me almost all of the time, simply because you never know what you’re going to see! Last weekend I took Molly (the 11 year old puppy) for a walk on the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst, and I took my Nikon with me. The Rail Trail is a great place for color photography in the fall, and can provide some wildlife opportunities in the spring and summer, but it’s usually impassable in the winter.
However, aside from a freak storm just before Halloween, there’s yet to be any real winter weather this year, and the trail is clear.
I really didn’t expect anything to really catch my eye. The sky was clear and blue, and it reflected nicely off of the water along the trail, but the detail areas were all various shades of grey and brown, and really not very appealing. But I found the shapes of dead trees to be interesting, and took a few shots from different angles as Molly and I wandered along. I had the thought in my mind that they might work pretty well as black and white images, or perhaps tinted just a bit with a single color.
However, when I popped the card into the computer, and began looking at what I had, I wasn’t very happy. The shadows led to a pretty uneven exposure, and in some shots, the angle of the sun, along with the position I’d taken, had given me tree trunks that were bright on one side, and dark on the other.
But I really liked the shapes of the trees. They just looked so absolutely lifeless and alien.
So I started playing with them.
Step one was to drain them of color. I was using GIMP (a free image editing software), which allowed me to desaturate the photos with a slide control, using either lightness, luminosity, or an average to take the colors out, and the second step was to put a single color back in. I used different colors for each photograph, thinking that I might display three of them side by side by side, and wanted obvious differences between them.
Then I wanted fog.
GIMP allows you to use multiple layers, and to adjust the opacity of them according to your needs. For fog, I found that generating what GIMP calls “plasma” works well for fog. When it’s generated initially, it can look something like this…
Doesn’t look much like fog, does it? However, when you take all of the color out of it, and lower the opacity of that layer, it works pretty well!
Much better, but I thought maybe some “patchy fog” would look better. In GIMP, you can use the eraser tool on one layer, which in this case was the fog. By reducing the opacity of the eraser tool, and using a great big brush with “faded edges”, I took out some of the fog, which of course let the color bleed through a bit more.
In the end, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I pressed the shutter release, but I was happy with the end products. I’ve printed my three favorites, and really like how they look next to each other.
Now I just have to figure out what to take down to put these up!