January Hath Thirty-One Frames.
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We had freezing rain fall for two days, painting everything with a bright mirror-like coating. Everywhere I looked, the world was transformed into something magical. I told my wife “You couldn’t shoot a bad picture today.”, as I reviewed some images. In true Photo Shoot fashion, here are “the proofs” (a nostalgic term from print photography days) without editing. Included are the good and bad, for your perusal and edification.
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Everywhere I looked there was a blinding glaze of ice, catching sunlight, emitting all the colors of the rainbow. Two troubles I encountered on this shoot: One, in person, everything looked beautiful and photo-worthy. Our eyes do a better job than any camera ever did at perceiving what is there, taking it all in. The camera was, at times, overwhelmed by multiple light sources, as the photographer tried to capture what the eye sees. Shallow depths-of-field are great for bokeh effects and making your subject stand out, but when there are a million little lights behind the subject, it sometimes started to look like confetti. The second problem was the blinding snow and light, which rendered the preview screen on the camera nearly useless. I relied a lot on experience, and some on the Histogram provided by the camera. (A histogram is a graphic display of the primary light of the subject. At the very least, it will tell you if your shot is dim or bright, or over-exposed.) Here are some shots that were breathtaking in person, but are reduced to brightness and confusion when viewed as one-dimensional images.
Ultimately the million sources of light added some dramatic appeal to many photos. Using a fairly large aperture (f6.3), the backgrounds of the subjects were unfocused. In the right cases, this produced some captivating photos. I found the best shots were a bit lower in light, allowing the sunspots of ice crystals to be more pronounced and reducing background distractions. Focusing on a specific subject (a branch or blade of grass) was more effective than trying to capture “the whole scene”. After day one, I thought a deeper depth-of-field might help alleviate some of the overwhelming visual confusion, but met with limited success.
Of course, the angle of light was an important element to keep track of on this shoot. From one angle, there’s an ice-covered stick, and from another there’s a hundred diamonds gleaming in the sun. One thing I’ve learned in photography, that angle of light is always important. Regardless of the subject, and especially outdoors, looking at a subject from different angles will show you how the subject reflects the sun’s light to our eyes and camera. Next time you want to shoot a tree or other object in nature, walk around it if you can and see how the light plays. Sometimes it’s about light itself, and its counterpart, shadow, making your composition. Other times, we may not realize that the beautiful tree you drove by looks different from this side. Go back to the other side, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s an “ideal” angle of light for any subject that changes the way it looks, right down to hue and saturation of color.
As always, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for other subjects, like this Golden Crowned Kinglet who visited the shoot!
Did quite a bit of reading up and preparing to shoot the solar eclipse. Ordered an inexpensive polymer sheet of solar filter material, advised it would be necessary for most partial phases. (Also made a slit viewer for my wife out of the leftover scrap.) Took the camera out the day before to try some exposures on the full sun with the solar filter.
Set up the tripod and the 300 mm lens in the parking lot behind work, and used a remote release to prevent vibrating the camera with the shutter button. Where I live (work is just outside of the state capital, Albany) we had some cloud cover move in about a third of the way through the action. At times, the sun was completely obscured. At other times it would peek through the clouds. Once the eclipse was well underway and the clouds further inhibited the light, I switched to a couple stacked neutral density filters to knock the light down enough to photograph. The orange images are shot through the solar filter, and the white images through the ND filters. The photos picked up a little color chroma from the ND filters, adding a surprise sepia tone to clouds in a spherical aberration pattern. (They were all white while viewing).
These photos are straight from the camera, in the interest of a “Photoshoot” post. They are untouched and uncropped. I’m still shopping for a teleconverter, which will further “extend” or magnify the focal length of the camera. With a 2x doubler (two-times), the equivalent focal length would have been 600mm. Click any photo to view the media file.
Shooting with the solar filter was pretty much wild guess exposures, with a little knowledge from Sunday’s practice and some general pointers from photo experts. With the ND filters, it was possible to use the exposure meter to get in the ball park. Above images are selected keepers, the following is a grab bag of goofs and also-rans.
Had a great time with the shoot, and actually I’m quite pleased with the images captured. Now I just need to hang on to that solar filter until the next one!