Crozet Calendar Clinic: Brad Anthony

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February Winner: Foggy Morning Sunrise at Chiles Orchard by Brad Anthony

Each month a prize-winning photograph from the archives of the Crozet Calendar will be published together with a story from the photographer of how the image was made and commentary by Sam Abell about the merits of the photograph.

“What stops you?”

What combination of light, color, design, volume of space or atmospherics causes you to stop and take notice of it?

In workshops, that is the first question I ask of aspiring photographers. It’s also the basis of their first assignment: “Together with your camera, go out into the world and walk until you’re stopped. It could be the light, the color, or the specific shape of things. But some combination of visual elements will stop you. Make a photo of this.

Then wait for the elements to evolve. If necessary, subtly alter your relationship to the scene. Wait some more. Change, often in your favor, will soon come to the scene and when it does you will be fully prepared to make a better photograph of what stopped you.”

This exercise asks: “Other than compelling subject matter (a train arriving, a bird feeding, an acrobatic cat), what purely visual qualities arrest your attention? Are you attracted to bold, primary colors or subtle hues? Do you tend to focus on what’s vertical or do you see the world horizontally? Regarding scale, what feels best to you—large, looming shapes or distant, delicate ones? In terms of light, what stops you? Are you a high-key bright lights person or someone who seeks understatement and somber tones?”

For many people, this is a novel question. They’ve never been asked—or asked themselves—to be stopped simply because of how a scene appeals to them. They haven’t called on the world to meet their inner aesthetic.

So, “What Stops You?” is an exercise in seeing. It’s also a meaningful inquiry into who you are because what stops you is personal. What stops you won’t necessarily stop me or anyone else.

Fog stopped Brad Anthony, author of this month’s Crozet Gazette Calendar photograph. “This image of Chiles Orchard was taken just after sunrise on a morning of heavy fog. I like to shoot in fog as it adds so much atmosphere to the photo and completely changes even the most basic image. The foggy atmosphere definitely caused me to grab my camera bag and run out the door.

“I shot directly into the sunrise, but the fog was so thick it filtered all the bright light and left a nice glow. The light fell evenly across the apple trees and highlighted the large oak at the end of the orchard.

“I immediately noticed the leading lines of the apple trees going towards the oak then positioned myself in the dead center of the rows to create a level of symmetry. I moved up and down and side to side a few times until it looked right to me.

“The way the fog laid and blocked out everything was special. The trees made the image. But if there was no fog, I just don’t think this image would have worked as well.”

Brad was also stopped by the emotional resonance of the scene: “My thoughts about the oak peeking out of the fog at the end of the orchard were, ‘Wow, that tree looks ominous.’

“I used a Nikon Z6 II and my 24-70mm lens, which I use often for all-around shooting. I shot this somewhere in the 35mm – 50mm (in the ‘normal’ range) to give a perspective that would allow the viewer to feel as though they were standing in the orchard beside me. I used Adobe Lightroom to process the photo, but only for minor adjustments. By itself the scene was great!”

Brad’s procedure was classic. As a photographer, he knows himself. Fog speaks to him. He knows his setting (Chiles Orchard). On location, he found an emotionally interesting subject in the oak tree and a powerful frame in the converging rows of apple trees. To refine his composition, he made several small but important camera moves. Everything was done to deliver maximum pictorial power to the viewer of his photograph. But, as Brad says, fog is the foundation of the photograph. It’s what stopped him. Then he did something with it.

I asked Brad about how photography fits into his life. 

“I like to practice photography year-round, but fall is my favorite time to get out and shoot. I think my work continues to grow through expanding my knowledge of composition techniques, post-processing tools and wildlife subjects—a new interest of mine.

One of the biggest challenges I have is finding time to photograph, especially finding new locations to shoot. I would also like to take more photo-specific trips someday.

For now, photography is a place to escape day-to-day life. I love the beauty and serenity that comes with composition of landscapes.”

See more of Brad’s work on Instagram @banthony11, and his website, www.bradanthony photography.com 

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