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Seeing the Not-So-Obvious

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Light behaves in predictable ways, so we knew where to look to find interesting colors and patterns in the shady course of the shallow stream

Colors and patterns in the stream. The yellow comes from reflected sunlit vegetation on the far side; the blues come from reflected blue sky on this side. The position of the blues moves quickly with the change in the ripples. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

A short while ago, we visited Orcas Island—one of the San Juan Islands in the Salish sea between the northern part of Washington State and Vancouver Island. It is a heavily forested island—especially on its east side—and has the tallest mountain in the San Juans. The island also has a perennial stream with several cascades and waterfalls in its lower reaches.

We hiked several trails in Moran State Park over two consecutive days and visited the waterfalls and cascades. The first day was sunny, with harsh light, but the second day had intermittent cloud cover with softer light for photography.

I waited by the stream as Nancy photographed details in a lovely cascade. After a while, with Nancy still working her composition, I wandered upstream a short ways to explore a flat section where clear water ran in the shade of several large trees. On either side of the stream, beyond the shade of the trees, the neighboring vegetation was in full sunlight under blue skies.

Short, looping video of the stream and reflected colors. Video by Donald J. Rommes

Approaching the stream from a certain angle, I could see an intense yellow-green from the sunlit vegetation on the far side reflecting off the water. I was attracted to the color, As I moved closer, I knew I would pick up the blue of the sky from the near side of the ripples of water and thought the combination of colors might be of interest photographically.

Seconds after the first photo, the position of the blues (and less so, the yellows) have shifted. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

The bright yellow-green remained fairly constant in intensity and position, but the blues danced here and there as the waves formed and re-formed. I set up my tripod, framed a section of the stream, observed the shifting waves and ripples, and made a series of exposures. With every exposure, even if they were only a second or two apart, the position of the blue color had moved.

I thought at the time that this scene might make a nice little video, but I also thought a series of images, merged into one photograph—a diptych perhaps, or a triptych—might also communicate the shifts in color patterns over time. I took several dozen exposures, slightly moving my position from time to time, and examined them in my post-processing software (Lightroom®).

The first collection of images is this triptych—made smaller to fit in the available space in this blog. .

The triptych adds the element of time to a real, but abstracted photo. Click on the photo to go to its location in Iris Arts, our sister site. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

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