While shooting art for an article about bee research, there appeared this gem, tucked away in a tangle of giant ragweeds, passion vines, morning glories and johnson grass, on an old farm road in Lonoke County, Arkansas.
There’s something to be said about an unexpected smile — even from a farm diesel tank. This one has been greeting drivers along U.S. 70 in Lonoke Co., Arkansas, for years. And it works both ways. There’s a smile on the other side too.
Of course, these are not truly black and white, having been shot in living RGB on digital point n’ shoot. When framing a shot for eventual conversion to black and white, or specifically infrared-ish, there is still the challenge of evaluating the color and contrast in the viewfinder and filtering it through your brain, hoping the resulting image will match your ambitions.
The first lesson I had in this area was in the pre-digital days. As wire editor for a newspaper chain, I’d watch as The Associated Press LaserPhoto machine spit out, on a special paper, color photos as color separations. There were four images for each photo and though they were black and white, each represented the yellow, black, cyan and magenta components of a full-color image. When aligned correctly and run through a four-color press, magically, a full color image would appear.
When shooting through an RGB device, your imagination has to substitute for those CMYK separations — taking it a step further and using only three mental filters, red, green and blue. Of course, if your image doesn’t meet your ambitions, there’s probably a fix in Photoshop.
This was originally shot for this weekend’s In the Background photo challenge, aiming for a little bird in a tree in the background. Once downloaded, the clouds just leapt from the frame.
The fall-denuded trees along I-40 and U.S. 70 between Little Rock and Memphis were full of big, beefy red-tailed hawks, keen for any prey making a living below in the chaff left after the harvest of rice, soybeans and sorghum. The hawks paid little heed to traffic whizzing past at highway speeds. However, rolling slowly or coming to a halt too close made the big birds spring off in a hurry. It took us several tries to get our “lazy naturalist” photography choreographed, figuring how close we could roll the car; how long it takes to frame the shot; how to push the distance to catch the bird up close and in flight. The trial and error we practiced from St. Francis County all the way to the edge of Pulaski County produced some amusing and wonderfully imperfect shots. When we finally got the driving/shooting duet coordinated, we ran out of highway, hawks and open fields.
We were privileged, during one of our roadside stops, to have a red-tailed hawk make a successful strike just feet in front of the roadster. No photos, but an unforgettable closeup we’ll always have in our heads.
Funny, National Geographic hasn’t called yet …