Capturing Spring Color

Stewart Creek, near Luzerne. Photograph by Mark Bowie

Exposure Data: 

About 1 second, f/16, ISO 50, Fuji Velvia film

Nikon N90, 35-70mm lens, Nikkor Circular Polarizing Filter

After a long and dormant winter, come spring the Adirondack forest explodes with fresh growth. Trees leaf out in an artist’s palette of soft colors. It’s an exciting transition to photograph. The small leaves still allow you to see well into the forest and the colors add a festive atmosphere. Here at Stewart Creek my initial inclination was to photograph the water from its banks, but eventually I stepped back and shot through the trees to give viewers the sense of discovery I felt upon encountering this scene, as if they were the first explorers to see it.

Rivers, streams, brooks and creeks have their own personalities, which change along their course. Paddle them, walk their banks, and get in them to discover their interesting perspectives. There are grand scenics, intimate scenes like this one, and numerous macro opportunities. Take the time to explore with your eyes, ears and other senses to get a feel for what’s special about a scene before setting up the tripod and camera. View it from different vantage points. Compose carefully. Run your eye around the perimeter of the frame to avoid elements that distract from your composition.

This image was shot on a drizzly, overcast day: my favorite conditions in which to photograph the springtime forest. Light rains had cleansed the atmosphere and the trees. With the cloud cover, there were no harsh shadows and each leaf stood out in vivid detail. The sun poked out intermittently, casting highlights on the water. I used a circular polarizer to cut glare off the wet leaves, rocks and the water, which increased the image’s overall contrast and color saturation.

Compositionally, the diagonal lines of the water lead the eye through the frame. The creek’s swollen spring flow gives the image energy, and its blue hues resonate against the forest pastels. The image celebrates renewal in the North Country woods, the resiliency of life on earth.

Mark Bowie teaches photography for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He and fellow instructor Joe LeFevre will lead a waterfalls photo workshop to Ricketts Glen State Park in northern Pennsylvania May 30–June 2. For information, including program descriptions and pricing, see For more on Mark’s work, visit his website:

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