The Photographic Art of Thomas Welborn | Year's End

Year's End

December 29, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Some thoughts on the past year come to mind as we near the end of 2013. Most of us have something to be thankful for, some more so than others, some less. Regardless of which group you fit within, a new year awaits with the chance to change what could not be changed in 2013.

We all have the ability to change, it's just so damn difficult sometimes. For some, the older they get, the less appealing change becomes. For others, age is irrelevant and change is a welcome opportunity to make course corrections. I happen to fit into the later group. To me, change is inevitable, whether we like it or not. It's how you deal with it that is the most important.

So whether you make new resolutions for the coming year (never do because I inevitably don't remember, or keep them), or just sit back and let be what will be, do it with goodwill and a positive outlook. We can all use a little bit of both.


We have had some exceptionally harsh weather over the past few weeks. We survived an ice storm on the Winter Solstice that lasted several days, and in the end, deposited over a half an inch of ice. For most, a difficult few days of travel and getting around, but for us photographers, a rare occasion to create some different work from the norm.

The storm finally passed on the morning of the 22nd, and I started thinking about a good place to go. I had been wanting to go and photograph this derelict windmill for some time, but I had been waiting for some fantastic sky to use as a backdrop. I decided to go and take a look.

The foreground is non-existent, as the piece sits very close to the edge of a 12 foot drop into a ravine. After a hike down the fence line quite aways, I was able to find a spot to climb up, then back down the fence line to the windmill. This navigation was tricky due to the ice that was an inch thick in places. I finally arrived at the windmill and took in the view. The warmth of the cold Sun was creating just enough heat to begin the melt process, so there was this constant crackling and tinkling sound all around me as I surveyed the scene. Magical!

After making a few generic shots while waiting for the Sun to get lower, I found the composition that I wanted for the final image. I did not have long to wait before the Sun dropped into that little space just above the horizon. The Sun angle was perfect, illuminating the ice encrusted grasses in the field and the small branches of the tree. I could not have asked for a better moment. After a few exposures, I switched and created a few verticals; and then the Sun was gone. The magic show was over, but oh what a show it was. Here is the final edit of the photograph I call "ICE".

ICEICEAn abandoned windmill crusted over with ice from our Solsitce storm. Crunching ice underfoot, crackling ice from the warmth of the Sun, and the bitter cold afternoon were elements of the image that were so appealing. The tree in front of the windmill was coated in ice up to a half an inch. The Ssunlight shining on all of the ice was the final element which made the image spectacular.

"ICE" - Nikon D700 / Tamron SP 17-35/2.8 LD ASPH @ 17 mm. ISO 400 @ f20 @ 1/25 second. Processed entirely in Lightroom 5.

Once the Sun had dropped below the horizon for a few minutes, the landscape around me began to cool very quickly (the temperature had only reached into the upper 20's on this day). The crackling and tinkling began to cease, then suddenly there was just the silence of the cold. I decided to wait around for twilight to see what it might bring. Little did I know that I was in for another treat.

I switched lenses from the 17-35 to the 80-200 and started looking for a composition. My feet and hands were starting to get a bit cold from walking around in the 'icicles'. I finally singled out this solitary tree (which you can see in the above photograph on the middle-right horizon) as my main compositional element. Twilight arrived and the horizon turned magenta pink while the foreground had turned a cold blue. The fading light highlighted the ice encrusted trees and grasses with a soft, almost pastel light that made this image just as magical as the first. This one is titled "FROZEN OVER".

"FROZEN OVER" - Nikon D700 / Tokina AT-X Pro 80-200/2.8 SD @ 160 mm. ISO 400 @ f22 @ 1/8 second. Processed entirely in Lightroom 5.


I have recently upgraded from the DX format to full-frame FX. I am now using a Nikon D700 as my primary camera with one D200 as backup. The Tamron 17-35 lasted a few weeks before being replaced this week with Tokina's new AT-X Pro 17-35/4 FX. This lens has very little distortion and is much sharper than the Tamron. It is also better built. Lens tests and reviews from around the web indicated that this lens is just as sharp as Nikon's 17-35/2.8 ED, but at a third of the cost. I have used Tokina lenses for many years and have always been very satisfied with their performance and build. Unmatched quality for the price. My kit is rounded out with the Micro-Nikkor AF-S 60/2.8G ED-IF N for the middle range. This kit is basically the same setup I used back when I was shooting film with a Nikon F5. I would like to thank my dear friend from Switzerland, Annick Jaquillard for her input on making this acquisition, and for her continued support.

I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year in 2014!


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