Evening in the Blue Ridge by Todd Henson

Evening in the Blue Ridge

You just never know what a scene will look like when you travel any distance from your home. Sometimes it’s less than you might have hoped for. Other times it far exceeds your expectations. But it’s always worth bringing along a camera, just in case.

Today’s image (click on it for a larger view) was created in March of 2015 just after 6 in the evening. We had spent the day elsewhere but decided to head home by way of Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This road weaves over the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the park, offering many scenic pull offs. There are also many miles of trails if you have enough time to hike or camp.

This particular evening had a nice mix of clouds in the sky and a few lower lying clouds hovering in the valleys. The sun was low and the light was shaped by and sometimes blocked by the various clouds.

I had originally bracketed the shot so I could process it as a high dynamic range photograph to capture as much tonal range in the shadows and highlights. Then I converted it to black and white and performed some dodging and burning to lighten and darken different areas of the image, bringing out the textures of the mountain slopes and the clouds.

I think it worked reasonably well. Let me know what you think. Maybe you would have processed it a bit differently?

Autumn Cherry Trees, Washington, D.C. by Todd Henson

Cherry trees along the Tidal Basin during autumn, with the Washington Monument in the background. Washington, D.C.

This is an image I created a number of years ago during early November, when the leaves on the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. change color. These trees are most visited during spring when they are full of beautiful cherry blossoms, but as you can see they are also beautiful in autumn.

The Washington Monument is visible in the center of the image, and the water is known as the Tidal Basin, around which are several other monuments. I was fortunate to photograph a jogger under the trees to the left.

Looking at the image now, years after creating it, I can see things I would do differently. If I could go back I would try to frame the image a little more to the left, showing more of the closest tree handing over the water, which would also move the Washington Monument out of the center and more to the right. I think that might make for a stronger composition.

It’s good to learn from your older photos. Study them. Decide whether or not they work. If they do work do you know why? Can you use this to create more images that work? If they don’t work, why not? How could you improve them? What would you do differently?

Keep these lessons in mind next time you go out shooting and look for ways to apply them. Learn from your past work and keep growing as a photographer. And never forget to keep having fun!

Great Blue Heron in a Tree by Todd Henson

A Great Blue Heron landed in a tree right along the trail.

Great Blue Heron are common enough in this area that I’ve photographed them many times. But I never tire of them, and I’m always on the look out for new opportunities. Sometimes I don’t have to look far.

My first image of the heron shows how the eyes are able to see below. It very likely knew we were there; it just wasn't bothered by us.

We were hiking in a nearby wildlife refuge, one I’ve spent a lot of time exploring. Just as we walked under a lone tree between two wetland areas we heard a squawk and a rustle of wings as a Great Blue Heron flew over and landed atop the tree we were walking under.

We froze. Most herons I encounter here are skittish and will fly away when you get too close. As you can see from the photo shot through tree branches, we were almost directly below the heron. We slowly moved to get a better view and the heron stayed where it was, seemingly ignoring us.

I walked back the way we’d come to position myself on the sunlit side of the tree, still moving slowly to avoid spooking the heron. It proved very patient, letting me position myself and create a series of photographs. As I shot I noticed it making quiet guttural sounds, and could see its throat moving to the sounds. It was an interesting behavior, one the photographs didn’t really capture.

Closeup of the Great Blue Heron's head as it watches the nearby wetlands.

Eventually, we moved on, leaving the heron in peace. As luck would have it the heron flew off not long after we’d moved on. I turned around to watch when I heard it fly off, but wasn’t able to capture any images of it. Maybe next time.

Great Blue Heron in a tree, with its head tilted slightly in my direction.

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