River Photographer Branching Out

-meaning, now moving inland ... a bit

Spring has sprang, and it's time to reopen the gallery, so we can once again contemplate buying and selling art.

The gallery is virtual, in this case, and as pandemic restrictions are easing, my personal assessment is that this could be a very dangerous timea time to remain highly vigilant.

Pretty well anything you find in the gallery is for sale. You know where to reach me. Any purchases will be couriered or delivered, in any combination of size, quality, matting and framing. If the myriad options feel in any way daunting, then allow me to guide you through them.

My own favourite photograph usually lies somewhere between the most recent, and the next. For the former, read on.

For the latter:

Please refer your friends and colleagues. I am and need to be in a networking-push phase of the work. If you can think right now of two people, then thank you.

Thousand Islands island, St. Lawrence River

My theme remains largely "river", the mighty St. Lawrence River, to be precise. The pandemic lockdown has kept me closer to home, and artistically that has been both confining and liberating.

Now, I only show things which I myself like, and you as always should form your own opinion, but the more I gazed into my best edit of the island above, the more I wanted something a little which ... well ... which "breathed" more deeply, and I found it like this:

Thousand Islands island, "oil-painting" version

This digital conversion pleases me more. It has again raised the very valid point with some of my friends and (constructive) critics, a point much-discussed and hotly-debated over centuries, of what a photograph should look like. Faithful readers of this blog will by now know what I think about it, and that goes back to blog #1, in late 2017.

That day, I lay-by-hopped along the Thousand Islands Parkway, starting at Gananoque and pulling over at pull-overs as I headed back east towards Brockville. (There are more lay-bys than I had previously known.) So, this also happened:

Mute Swan and cygnets—mainly monochrome conversion

The nature-photography literature often advises to learn everything one can about one's subject, for several reasons but including that you'll simply increase your chances of getting good photographs if you understand better what's going on.

I knew roughly nothing however about Mute Swans, but have since learned that:

  • there are not mute;

  • both sexes share the parenting;

  • adults hold their wings up as shown when swimming;

  • they make a lot of distinctive wing-noise when flying;

  • males and females look quite similar, but males have a bigger knobs on their bills;

  • swan youngsters are called "cygnets".

I understood the importance of not stressing the animals, and they seemed quite relaxed about my presence, and I was able to maintain distance by using a telephoto lens.

A few days later, I revisited the scene, and noted this little cutie:


As many of you will also know, my home-town of Brockville sits on the St. Lawrence Seaway, and over several decades I have never tired of this spectacle:

CSL Niagara, dawn

Sometimes, however, the Fates smile upon me, and that morning, around sunrise, the river was a flat calm, and I found the reflections particularly compelling.

CSL Niagara, reflection

CSL Niagara, superstructure, reflection

The segue from that adorable little cygnet to these massive mechanical marvels startles even me. Therefore, my artistic style is ... well ...

... let me get back to you.

Often, I know that a freighter is coming, but naturally I try to arrive on location a little early, and then might find myself with nothing to do for a while. On this occasion—and I know it had to do with the stillness of the water, and I suspect it had something to do with the sky—I found a reflection right in front of me which I had not noticed before, despite dozens of photography sessions on that very spot.

And sometimes I know, and sometimes I do not, but that time I already knew: the photograph would be only the starting point. What eventually emerged from the digital-darkroom was this:

river home, reflection, "oil-painting"

Now, I did mention "inland":

Again, I had driven by many times, partly discouraged by no safe place to park. Working there shortly after 5:00 a.m. reduced the traffic, but not to zero. A short Wikipedia page explains how it came to be, in about 1800, in the middle of farm fields.

Continuing the themes of i) not-river, and of ii) several recent explorations of the Moon, I did this, realizing what was then fairly obvious, that at half-moon, losing half is compensated by better detail due to side-lighting. This is not the time for an exposition about light, but other than for cover-of-Vogue style work, a straight-on light—such as is provided with a full Moon (which is why it's full)—is generally much less interesting.

waning half-moon, monochrome

For the photo-geeks amongst you (hey, sisters and brothers!), I recently learned of and found useful the Looney 11 Rule.

And after that brief land-based diversion, I must return to The River. Recently I have been working on First Light photographs. (I find that I have been using the term incorrectly, for which I blame Capt. Hector Barbosa [Pirates of the Caribbean], who escaped execution by Capt. Salazar, for not achieving a certain goal by sunrise, by saying, "Nay, that's just first light", as the sun peaked over the horizon.)

barest sunrise, St. Lawrence River

I need not (but will) point out the red accent along the top of the cloud-bank, much belovèd by the hangers-on here at ctLow Photography Studios (HQ).

Incidentally, a very knowledgeable and skilled photographer friend and mentor recently engaged me in a debate, which he was having with other friends, about the appropriate aspect ratio for a photograph, the ratio of the long side to the short side. My answer was my usual answer: "It's all about the image." Each individual image will tell you what aspect ratio it needs. (This one is 15:7.)

I'm glad to have settled that!

Anyway, this brings us up to yesterday morning, when, rolling over in bed at 4:00 a.m., I noted just a hint of light creeping into the sky, and so was on station, camera and tripod ready, watching the light change as sunrise (at just prior to 5:20 a.m.) grew nearer, and this occurred:

Dawn, Prescott Harbour Beacon, Johnstown Bridge

I am accruing quite a collection of orange-dawn photographs.

I don't think I'm done yet.

Thank you so much to my many supporters—you mean more to me than you know.

Oh, and ... this is blog #50! That's got to mean something! I think that I will raise a glass.

Please be in touch. And I hope to see many of you again soon.

Charles T. Low


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