Month: October 2011

Prairies, Weird Rocks, Atomic Canons, and the Oz Museum: Another Kansas Photo Road Trip

So over the past few years, my colleagues and I have taken groups of students on short two or three-day photo road trips over into Kansas and the Flint Hills region. Usually we do this over Spring Break and it’s cold, windy, and generally unpleasant. This time though, we decided on an autumn trip, which gave us much better weather and the opportunity to shoot star trails at a very unique location.

After an uneventful drive to Emporia on Friday evening, we gathered the whole gang for diner at Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Our next morning would take us to the Tall Grass National Prairie Preserve before sunrise…a challenge for most college students…but ours were up to the task! We were rewarded with great light and interesting cloud formations. Once the sunrise light had faded to mundane morning light, we split into three parties and hiked separate trails until our rendezvous around noon back at the farmhouse. Lunch was enjoyed at yet another gas station (this seems to be a recurring theme in our trips!) that also doubled as the Flint Hills Restaurant in Strong City.

By late afternoon on Saturday, we arrived in central Kansas and checked into our rooms in Salina. Now the excitement was about to begin! We descended en masse upon a lonely Subway shop with only one employee working and then packed our suppers into our camera bags and headed north to Rock City, near Minneapolis, Kansas. This was Wilson’s and mine second trip to this otherworldly spot of sedimentary rock “concretions”. The stars (and the Milky Way) were stunning. Other heavenly bodies also appeared: shooting stars (or are they falling stars?), man-made satellites (two), high-altitude jets, and finally a nearly full moon.

Sunday morning we all had a leisurely breakfast at IHOP and then we headed east to Junction City to climb the ridge to shoot panoramas of the Atomic Canon and Fort Riley army base. Here the students and faculty parted ways and we (the faculty) sought other adventures at the Oz Museum and abandoned 19th century one-room structures near Wamego, including the nearby Beecher Bible & Rifle Church! The afternoon was rounded out with a nice find of 19th century photographs (including a carte-de-visite by famous Wisconsin photographer H. H. Bennett) from an antique shop in Alma. Below are photos from our road trip…enjoy!

Dr. Tom photographing the sunrise at Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Sunrise on the prairie. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails with gift shop at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Journey into the Land of Oz. © 2011 Terry Ownby

 

Panoramic overlooking Fort Riley with its M65 Atomic "Annie" Canon. © 2011 Terry Ownby

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Bringing autumn into the studio

As the wheel of the year slowly turns, autumn is my favorite season during that cyclical journey. The drop in temperatures, the clearness of deep blue skies, the changing leaf colors, the rustle of falling leaves and their musty smell when kicked under foot; all these descriptors fascinate me and some times I attempt to bring these sensations into the studio.

Fortunately for me, I have a project in my advanced studio photography that challenges my students to create scenes in the studio that could be perceived as having been photographed outdoors on location. Not only do we need to consider appropriate subject matter, but also we need to give attention to the details of props, backgrounds, and most importantly, the lighting. All these elements should work in concert to recreate a believable fluid outdoor environment inside the controlled parameters of the studio.

This past week I demonstrated to my advanced studio class techniques to control the mixing of various Kelvin temperatures of light sources to help achieve the believability of an outside/inside shot. I included natural elements as part of my supporting props to help create the sense of being outside. After the class demo was completed, I remained in the studio another hour and kept fine-tuning the shot. It was a short period of involvement that allowed me to slip into the creative right-brain mode of working and to forget about daily problems, schedules, dinner, and all the mundane minutiae of life. Photography therefore, can function as a catalyst for not only our visual pleasure, but in some instances, for all our sensual encounters, whether in the studio or out in the environment.

Below is a simple still-life shot from my class demo, followed by a similar shot produced the prior year for the same assignment.

"Harvest table, Autumn 2011" © Terry Ownby. Lighting demo for my advanced studio class using mixed Kelvin temperatures.

Behind the scenes of "Harvest table, 2011." © Terry Ownby.

"Harvest table, Autumn 2010" © Terry Ownby.