Travel Photography

A Rare Daylight Shoot at the Beach

When I go to the beach, the camera usually comes out of the bag after sunset when all the beachgoers have gone home for the day. That's because I like to slow the movement of the waves and catch the colorful reflection of the evening sky in the water. But not last week.

The fog changed things: The light, the color, the depth of field. With the fog, you can't see very far, and this allowed me to isolate individual waves without showing any background except as a color wash. The colors may not be as exciting, but it still makes for a moody photograph, don't you think?

Alone (Well, Almost) in the Bisti Wilderness

How often do you feel alone, truly alone, in the wilderness? For most of us, the answer is rarely or never. But last month, a friend and I visited the Bisti Badlands/De-na-zin Wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, and that’s how we felt (though we did, admittedly, have each other for companionship and safety reasons). We never saw another person the entire time we were exploring this wilderness area, and there wasn’t another car in the parking lot or along the several miles of unpaved road leading to the site. Our only encounter was with a rattlesnake, and thank goodness we only saw one of those!

Among protected scenic locations in the U.S., Bisti ranks among the least known. With no trails, we were thankful for GPS, which tracked our footsteps into and back out of this strange terrain (though don’t count on cell service). I started off the old-fashioned way, using a map and compass, but with the lay of the land, it was challenging to keep to any course of direction.

It’s a fascinating place. The terrain is more like what one might expect to see on the moon, and the rich, earthy colors were fantastic. There are mountain-like mounds, washes, narrow canyons, hoodoos, and strange rock formations that look like cracked eggs. Now a high desert, this was once a swamp inhabited by reptiles, dinosaurs and other creatures. At roughly 60 square miles, we didn’t begin to see it all. After more than three hours of serious hiking and rock climbing in near 100-degree heat, we decided it was time to get out of the sun and look for a cold beverage. I’d love to go back in cool weather with camping gear and a guide for an extended stay. We spent a great deal of time scrambling up and down steep hillsides on our hands and knees, and picking out routes that were often dead-ends overlooking canyons. It wasn’t an easy “walkabout.” It looked and felt more like rock climbing, and I would not have attempted this solo for safety reasons.

If you go, be forewarned: There are no facilities of any kind. Take lots of water, wear sturdy boots, and make sure you have a companion. The access roads (there are two ways to get in, including one that is considerably more remote) are located roughly an hour south of Farmington, NM, which is the nearest town with available lodging. In mid-summer and winter, be sure to check road conditions. Snow and rain can make the roads impassable.

LAYERS: As Interpreted by Women Artists of Georgia

LAYERS explores the physical process of adding media on top of media, of interpreting layers of meaning in a work of art, and of capturing layers depicted in a subject. This exhibition by the Women's Caucus for the Arts of Georgia (WCAGA) will be on display August 10 through September 26, 2014, at the Jim Cherry Learning Resource Center Gallery at Georgia Perimeter College and will feature approximately 30 artists working in a wide range of media--from painting and photography to sculpture and fiber arts. The artists reception is scheduled for September 11, from 6-8 pm.

Rio Grande Gorge, ©2014 Lee Anne White

Rio Grande Gorge, ©2014 Lee Anne White

I'll have two black-and-white photographs in the show. Both are part of an in-depth series based on my travels to northern New Mexico to explore the landscape and culture. 

The Women's Caucus for Art of Georgia (WCAGA) is a chapter of the National Women's Caucus for Art (WCA), founded in 1972 to bring women's issues to the foreground of the College Art Association (CAA) and beyond. The focus was and continues to be supporting, recognizing and educating established and emerging women artists, art historians, critics, curators, museum personnel and other visual arts professionals. The Georgia chapter was established in 2000 by 11 women and now comprises more than 100 artists and art professionals from Georgia and other southeastern states, most of whom are based in the metro Atlanta area.

The Widely Known, But Not-So Widely Grown Cactus

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), with its distinctive "arms," is perhaps the most recognizable of all cacti. Yet it is not a common cactus. It only grows in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico, and one of the best places to see it is the Saguaro National Park, just west of Tucson.

The saguaro is a long-lived and slow-growing cactus. It can reach 40-60 feet tall, but takes a long time to reach that height. A 10-year-old saguaro may only be 1.5 inches tall. Under the right conditions--the right mix of water and temperature--they can live up to 150 or 200 years. As they mature, they often (but not always) produce branches or "arms" that tend to reach upward. A fully hydrated, mature saguaro can weigh more than 3000 pounds and is covered with protective spines. Although they are considered trees, they are much more fun to photograph than to climb. One day, I'd like to return and photograph these giants at sunset.

All photos ©Lee Anne White

All photos ©Lee Anne White

Morning on the Amelia River

At summer camp, we had a song that everyone always sang horribly off key: "Morning is the Nicest Time of Day." Maybe we sang it that way intentionally, not being very fond of morning. I don't know. Even though I'm no fonder of mornings now than when I was 10, I have discovered that it's one of the best times for landscape photography. The light is softer, there are fewer distractions, the wind tends to be calmer, and your chance of encountering fog is higher. Fog is actually my favorite weather in which to shoot, though doing so can be kind of tricky. Just be sure to open up one to two stops (bracketing your exposures) in order to capture the fog. This shot was taken on a quiet, foggy morning on the Amelia River in northern Florida.

Photo ©Lee Anne White.

Photo ©Lee Anne White.

Visual Texture: An Illusion

The concept of visual texture has always intrigued me. As opposed to tactile texture, which you can touch and feel, visual texture is essentially the illusion of texture. In photography, that generally means photographing objects that have tactile texture in a way that highlights or emphasizes the textural qualities of the subject. 

©Lee Anne White

©Lee Anne White

Texture can be emphasized with side lighting and increased contrast. That said, the photograph above, shot in a Nova Scotia fishing village, was photographed under soft lighting conditions. Yet there is contrast between light and dark that helps to highlight the texture. Texture can be captured in both color and black-and-white photography, although I believe B&W photography, by its very nature, is especially suited to doing this.

Heading Out Without Expectations

Most of the time when I head out to shoot, I have something specific in mind--whether I'm taking photographs for a client, my stock files, or a personal artistic project. But sometimes it's nice to go without a shot list or expectations--to simply be open to possibilities.

Photo ©2014 Lee Anne White

Photo ©2014 Lee Anne White

That's what I did one overcast morning last week in Fernandina Beach. I was on my way to the Cuban sandwich shop for a cup of cafe con leche when I made a last minute decision to grab my camera. I wandered past the same familiar buildings, but in the day's soft light and with camera in hand, I began to see things differently.

When you are simply open to what grabs your attention rather than intentionally looking for something specific, new things appear on your radar screen. It's like when I go to an antique store: If I'm looking for something specific, I tend to tune out everything else in the store. When I'm just browsing for fun, I make all kinds of interesting discoveries. That's how I found this little composition. It's just an old garage door on an abandoned warehouse, but the colorful wood, rusting bolts and disintegrating wire mesh gave me something to work with. I made a dozen or more different shots, arranging the elements in different ways. This one was my favorite.

From the Archives: Hestercombe Gardens

A number of years ago, I traveled to England with my good friend, landscape architect Jeni Webber. Our rather ambitious goal, as I recall, was to visit 20 classic gardens in 10 days. No doubt, we did not do any of them justice--though it was a great introduction to English gardens and we had a delightful trip. There was still time at the end of each evening to unwind at a local pub for a recap of the day's discoveries.

Hestercombe House Formal Garden. Taunton, Somerset, England. Photo ©Lee Anne White.

Hestercombe House Formal Garden. Taunton, Somerset, England. Photo ©Lee Anne White.

While all of the gardens were impressive, my hands-down favorite was the formal, sunken garden at Hestercombe House in Somerset. A collaboration between architect Edward Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, this garden was commissioned in 1903. Lutyens and Jekyll often worked together. Most often, he designed the house and she designed the gardens. At Hestercombe, Lutyens's focus was the structure and construction of the garden, which was terraced and contained steps, long walls and multiple water features (wall fountain, tiered fountain and runnels). Jekyll, who was a master of both color and working with herbaceous perennials, focused on the extensive plantings. It has been described as the height of their collaboration on more than 100 projects.

The Drama is in the Details

It's just a tiny, unincorporated community, but  Chimayo, NM, is famous for three reasons: The Chimayo peppers that grow there and are often sold as ristras--clusters of large, red chiles that you see hanging from portals. The Ortega and Trujillo families, who are widely known for the quality of their weaving, which is done in the Spanish Colonial tradition. And the Santuario de Chimayo, a small church built by a private individual in 1816, which is currently managed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The church is thought to be a special place of healing, and more than 30,000 individuals seek out the dirt in a tiny back room when they go on a pilgrimage to the church each year during Holy Week. 

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Though small and rustic, the church has an elaborate altar, and just inside the door of the sanctuary is a stunning carved statue of Jesus. To me, the bound hands and scarred arms told the story. It was one of those cases in which showing less conveyed more.

Playtime at the Arch

I spent last week photographing the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park, which is home to the St. Louis Arch. It involved five days of lugging 30 pounds of large-format camera gear and shooting in snow, bitter winds and sub-freezing temperatures. It was an enjoyable, but physically demanding assignment.

As much as I would have liked to spend some personal time photographing the arch with my digital camera, it took every free daylight hour just to accomplish the assignment at hand. Instead, I turned to my iPhone for occasional "grab shots" and found I loved playing with both this on-the-go format and Instagram. I know everyone makes a big deal out of the #nofilter hashtag to prove that what they took was a straight shot, but pros turn to filters and analog/digital darkroom adjustments all the time to convey the mood they want for a photo...so why not something like Instagram for phone shots? I believe it's just one more tool for expressing our vision and creativity.

While Standing on the Street Corner

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It’s hard to be inconspicuous while standing on a busy street corner with a 4x5 camera on a tripod and a black cloth over your head. Few pass by without making a comment or asking a question. Some seek assistance or information. Others are simply curious.

Here are a few of the questions I was asked yesterday morning while photographing the old courthouse in St. Louis where the Dred Scott case was tried:

What are you doing? Is this Broadway? Is that a camera? Could you spare a few dollars? Are you shooting wet plates? Do you know why they built the arch? Am I in your way? Which way is Market? Does that use real film? How old is that camera? Do you have the time? Who are you? Could you help me out, please? Aren’t you cold out here? Is this the courthouse where you file for social security? Are you a surveyor? Where is the nearest shelter? Why would you want to use a camera like that? Would you take our picture? What are you looking at? Do you work for Channel 2 or Channel 8? Why don’t you use digital? Does that thing make long exposures? Can I see?

I love people with a sense of curiosity.

New Mexico Photos

New Mexico ranks among my favorite places to visit. That has to do, at least in part, with the fact that my mom grew up there. I have roots, of sorts, in that dry soil. I try to visit often, but it's never as often as I'd like. I was sorting through some of my more recent New Mexico photos today and thought I'd share a few. You can also see images in subsequent and previous posts.

This first batch is from the Santuario de Chimayo, a beautiful little church built between 1814 and 1816 in the town of Chimayo, just north of Santa Fe. It is owned by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is visited by more than 300,000 each year--many of them on pilgrimage seeking spiritual and physical healing. The church is said to be built on soil that has remarkable curative powers.

All photos ©2008 Lee Anne White.