As life goes by, things change. Change is not always a good thing. I often say that the only constant is change.
I see change as I travel to familiar locations. Take for example trees in Monument Valley, some die, some are broken, some have (sadly) been bulldozed away. Change has occurred in Asian countries as they become westernized. In fact, I traveled to see the Sphinx and the Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt in 1983. At that time the Pyramids were 30+ kilometers from the city of Cairo. Today there is a McDonalds across the street from these wonders of the world.
As photographers, we seem to develop friendships with our subjects. I have been a wedding photographer for 35+ years and a landscape shooter for even longer. I have made lifelong friends with my clients as well as many students that I have taught through the decades. The same goes for many repeat subjects like weathered trees, rocks, sand dunes and more.
Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with a longtime friend that I have not seen in 29 years! Back in the day, we spent many hours and days together collaborating in many of my New England scenics. I am speaking of my good friend who lives at Pemaquid Point, north of Portland, Maine. The drive down to the Lighthouse at Pemaquid Point seemed very different. There are now new houses along what was once a pretty drive along miles and miles of pine trees.
Growing up on Long Island, once I closed my studio or finished shooting, I would most often head to the beaches on the South Shore, namley Robert Moses, which has a beautiful lighthouse. You could find me there at sunrise or sunset, always with a camera.
A huge smile took over my face as I laid eyes on this gorgeous guardian of the rocky coast. I was at home. It was so nice to see her again! I left all of my equipment tucked safely out of view, locked in the car and took a walk down and around the light perched atop the rocky shoreline in order to say hello. This lighthouse seems to have remained unchanged as when I last saw her all those years ago. A few things were different. That is the catalyst for me writing this piece.
As I travel the country and the world, I develop family. Sometimes human, sometimes inadamant objects. In any case, I always go to say hello when I arrive and goodbye as I leave as I did today.
I recognized a change today. The change was not in the landscape though. The change was in me. It was a huge change. Allow me to explain.
Back in the 1980’s, I would go out hiking to capture my landscapes on 4×5 transparency film with a view camera. The camera was big, bulky and awkward with my subjects showing themselves upside down and reverse left to right. A loop was necessary to critically focus and each image could take up to 30 minutes to compose, determine my exposure and load the double sheet film holder. My movements were slow and methodical.
Today was different, very different. It was my first trip to Pemaquid in the digital age. How nice that change was for me and what I learned from it.
I mounted my Canon 5D Mark IV onto my ReallyRightStuff BH-55 ballhead along with my EF 16-35 mm 2.8 and my TC80-N3 intervelometer and off I went in search of dynamic leading lines and very interesting shapes to become my foreground elements. In my mind, this is the most important element of a strong composition. I chose to shoot from a low position with the wide part of the zoom lens in order to drive my viewers right into something interesting as they begin their examination of what I chose to capture. I enjoy the term visual depth to describe what your eye does as it walks around the frame of my capture. There is a very strong foreground, a middle ground and the background. Before I stop and design a photograph, my eyes are scouring the horizon for all of the dimensions to be represented to keep my viewers eye wandering around my frame.
Making this images in changing light and a stiff 20+ mph breeze off of the ocean requires a lot of different techniques to carry out my vision. For many of these images I was focusing on my subjects that were within a foot or two from my lens. In order to hold sharp focus from front to back, I would employ focus stacking techniques, often taking as many as 10 different images at different distances, changing the focus spot along the path of the composition. I like to use my lens at it’s sweet spot, usually 2 f/stops down from wide open. My exposures were made at f/7.1.
Some images required focus stacking, some required focus stacking and HDR, some required capturing the wide seascapes in a panorama of 180 degrees, possibly with HDR as well.
All of these combinations were “lightyears” ahead of exposing a sheet of 4×5 Chrome film in which I could alter nothing but needed to be no more that 1/3 of a stop off from correct exposure.
Between my vision growing and maturing over the nearly three decades, so has the photographic process matured. It was as if I were in a brand new, never before explored location.
It’s amazing to be able to create beautiful, strong compositions with such ease thanks in part to viewing aides like live view when getting your face up to the camera’s eyepiece is almost impossible. I can view the camera settings on the back of the camera as well, so looking at the top of the camera is no longer necessary. I now have built in bubble levels to keep the camera straight. I can use the magnifier to zoom into my LCD in order to be sure of precise sharpness. Best of all, I can see my results moments after depressing my shutter to confirm that my pre-visualizing was correct.
Those are some remarkable changes that took place since my last visit to see my friend in Pemaquid. What changed most were my vision and my techniques to ensure that my photographs were the ab-Sklute-ly the finest that I could create!
Thank you to my friend, the Lighthouse, for remaining the same. The same that it ever was. I am proud to say that the change was in me!
Ken Sklute has been honored as one of Canon’s Explorers of Light, a designation shared by only 42 top photographers worldwide. Ken has enjoyed a diverse career photographing people, professional sports, architecture, weddings and landscapes.
Phone: (602) 738-0601