by Alison Perry
The atmosphere was clear and the light exquisite several evenings back, with rolling clouds moving east over the Hudson River Valley late in the day, prompting a return to several profitable spots along the riverfront. First to Sneden’s Landing, then to Grandview, then on to Piermont because my instinct hinted the best was yet to come.
Turning left into the community parking lot in Piermont, I made another left just past the library and saw a luminous tricolored cloud begin to arch upward over a lush patch of green called Parelli Park. As a lower band of dark clouds sifted over distant valley vegetation, a deepening cream sickle orange band of light separated earth from sky. At this point in summer the overgrowth of marsh reeds and flower plantings were engulfing the park’s weathered picket fence, providing an element of nostalgia, or better perhaps, a split second reminder that scenes such as this prompted a long tradition of American landscape painting.
Though it was twilight I made the decision to forgo the tripod in order to catch the last rays of sunlight on that arching cloud. The choice would cause some loss of image sharpness, some of which I knew could be restored later in Photoshop. I also used the cameras’ built in flash to provide a bit of fill-in light to separate the tall stalks of vegetation and to bring out the texture of the weathered pickets.
After making several horizontal shots along the outside of the fence I shifted my focus to the open gate. An open gate in a painting or photograph can form a sentimental association, a feeling I try not to inject even though Post Modern Art has considerably blurred the sentimental or kitsch factor in “high” art. I have several other gate-in-landscape images and feel it really just depends on treatment. In this instance the soft color of the fence mimics the cloud color while the open gate allows one’s eye to travel through it up over the surface of the lush lawn to the arching cloud, then over to the upper right corner, down into the horizontal picket line and back out through the gate. A simple but strong visual statement beckoning one to come in, stay a moment and behold the natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley.
In photography shutter speed numbers combine with aperture or F-stop numbers to create exposure. Shutter speed controls motion, while F-stops control the range of sharpness from front to back of your point of focus. The slower the shutter the more motion is discerned. Using wider apertures decreases the range of sharpness. Generally speaking, a shutter speed less than 1/125 of a second will display motion or blur. And generally speaking, an aperture under F8 will significantly decrease image sharpness front to back of your point of focus.
Photographers keep three important technical considerations in mind out in the field. The first is ISO rating, which one has the ability to change according to daylight/nighttime shooting conditions. ISO is a ‘€œfilm’€ speed rating system. Speeds currently range between 100-25600 and are built into the camera’s digital imaging sensor. Used in conjunction with shutter speed and aperture, ISO speeds affect pixilation and thus, image resolution. The higher the number, the greater the increase in grain structure, referred to as digital ‘€œnoise.’€ The second consideration is Photoshop, a software application used to enhance images, but it also allows photographers to compensate later for technical and environmental problems encountered out in the field. Third is the quality of your equipment. Generally speaking, (because the worst image can make the best artistic statement), the better your equipment and the better your technical expertise, the less time is spent later on compensating in Photoshop.
Alison Perry owns a Nyack-based photography business that combines architecture, landscape and formal space and strives to make personal art about time and place. Imagery is for sale through her website. She received BFA in Studio Art from SUNY Purchase and a graduate degree in Library Science from Long Island University. Previously, she worked in journalistic and editorial photography for several different national/regional newspapers in NYC, PA and CA. See examples of her work at http://www.alisonperryart.com