Noontime Fog Over Jordan Pond by Todd Henson

Noontime Fog over Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine

We were visiting Acadia National Park in Maine. We’d read about all the beautiful sights, the grand vistas from atop the mountains, the crystal clear ponds in the valleys, the beautiful greenery of trees and other plant life.

But sometimes what you find isn’t what you were expecting. In this case we found an overpowering white fog engulfing the entire landscape, from the highest peak to the lowest valley. This meant, at least on this day, there would be no photo of the ocean below taken from atop the mountains. There would be no photo of the twin hills at the end of the beautifully clear pond.

Though that might sound like a disappointing day, it turned out far from it. It simply meant looking elsewhere for a photograph. Looking at the scenery with a different eye. Looking more closely, to where the fog intersects with the scenery, where a little detail begins to emerge. And making the fog a part of the photograph instead of trying to avoid it.

And so I created the photograph above of noontime fog over Jordan Pond. I liked the shape and texture of the rocks jutting into the water. And I liked the trees just emerging from the fog along the far shoreline, almost forming a triangle as the fog lifted toward the right. I found a tree reaching slightly over the water I could use to help frame the image, providing a border on the far right. The water and rocks helped frame in the lower right. The left side is then left open to the water and the fog.

I chose to process the image in black and white. Really, the only color in the scene was the green of the trees. The rest was very monochromatic, so I didn’t feel the color added anything to the look or feel of the image. Black and white seemed appropriate. And I find myself increasingly drawn to monochromatic images.

The processing itself was very simple, mostly adjusting the colors within the image to create pleasing tones of grey, something that is done with any black and white or monochromatic image. Even though the final image is black and white the original raw image file from the camera contains all the color information in the scene. You can then tweak this color balance in software (I used Adobe Lightroom), even while the image is converted to black and white. You can make greens lighter or darker shades of gray. You can make a blue sky black. You have a lot of control to help you express your interpretation of the scene.

The moral of today’s story is to not give up if the scene you see isn’t what you had expected. There will still be photographic opportunities out there. You might just need to look a little closer and think a little differently. Imagine yourself putting on a new pair of glasses, a special pair that lets you see the world in a different light. And then open your eyes and explore this beautiful new world!

A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt by Todd Henson

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A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel by Annie Griffiths Belt

A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel by Annie Griffiths Belt

Annie Griffiths Belt spent much of her life as a National Geographic photographer, traveling the world, telling stories about the peoples and places she visited. In A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel she tells her story. She tells of growing up in the Midwestern US in the 1950s and how early on she had no thoughts of being a photographer; she didn’t even own a camera until her junior year in college. She thought she’d be a novelist.

But the job that might have begun training Annie for her eventual career with National Geographic was that of a waitress in a small town. She felt that job taught her more than any classroom ever had. She learned how to relate to people, how to communicate and get along, the gift of gab and putting people at ease; great skills for a future journalist.

When she did finally buy a camera in college Annie was hooked. All she wanted to do was shoot assignments for the university paper. After college she worked for another paper, one where she was largely on her own to find and tell stories, with little oversight or direction. This was perfect training for National Geographic

One day while working at the paper Annie answered the phone and found herself speaking to Bob Gilka, the Director of Photography at National Geographic. He was looking for hail damage photographs and knew her area had just experienced a large hail storm. And so began her relationship with National Geographic. Within a year she was working her own assignments for them.

It was also at National Geographic she would meet her future husband, Don Belt. He was a writer for the magazine, and they would eventually go on assignments together as much as possible. When they had kids they decided to take them along, as well. This proved a fantastic education, allowing the kids to see the world, learn about the cultures, people, and places firsthand.

National Geographic sent her all over the world. She visited many of the countries in the Middle East, learning about the different cultures and making friends with many people. This was an interesting time. There is so much tension between so many of the cultures in that part of the world, yet she was able to befriend people everywhere she went. She eventually travelled to other parts of the world: New Zealand, Australia, England, Morocco, Japan. She visited South America, Europe, Africa, every continent but Antarctica.

Each section of the book tells a part of her story and showcases photographs from that period of her life. Scattered throughout are also short pieces about specific stories, describing her experiences and displaying photographs from that story. Many of them are very personal or emotional, as is often the case with National Geographic stories, taking you into the lives of the people.

The book is full of photographs from all over the world. Most are her photographs shot while working various assignments. Some are of her family while with her on these assignments. If you’ve read National Geographic then you will be familiar with this type of photography. These are story-telling photographs. Ones that draw us into the lives of others.

This is a book that not only tells the story of Annie Griffiths Belt, but also tells the story of the cultures of the world. It demonstrates it is possible for people of different cultures to get along, to even learn from one another if we stay open to it. The book seems especially relevant today, with so much hatred and violence in the world, so much misunderstanding, so many people judging an entire race or culture because of the actions of the few. This book is evidence it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to learn to respect and appreciate those who are different than ourselves.

As a photographer I have learned that women really do hold up half the sky; that language isn’t always necessary, but touch usually is; that all people are not alike, but they do mostly have the same hopes and fears; that judging others does great harm but listening to them enriches; that it is impossible to hate a group of people once you get to know one of them as an individual.
— Annie Griffiths Belt

I hope you will seek out a copy of this book and read through it. Maybe you’ll get something out of it, as I did.

Over the Bridge Through the Woods by Todd Henson

Over the Bridge Through the Woods. Click on the image for a larger view.

A bridge in the woods, spanning a small dry stream bed.

A couple out walking, over the bridge through the woods.

Trees in the woods, seemingly reaching out towards the couple.

To embrace? Or to restrain?

Today’s photograph is of Jordan Pond Bridge in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The bridge crosses Jordan Stream, which flows into nearby Jordan Pond. This bridge, and many others in the park, are part of a network of carriage roads built between 1913 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Jordan Pond Bridge, as seen on the side of the bridge, was completed in 1920.

I highly recommend visiting Acadia National Park if you ever have the opportunity. It is a beautiful park, full of amazing sights. But it can get very crowded during the busy season, so plan accordingly.

I took some artistic license with this image, converting it to black and white and dodging and burning very liberally. I softened much of the background, trying to give the impression of a light layer of fog, or a slight sense of unreality. I wanted to embrace the mystery within the image. Let me know whether or not I was successful. Would you have done anything differently?