Thursday, November 22, 2012

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS: TREES AND FENCES

When I am driving somewhere, I often find myself looking for photo opportunities.  In fact, I would refer to this mindset as obsessive.  Unfortunately, generally when I do spot something I either don't have my camera; or Geri and I are going somewhere and it wouldn't be fair to spend the time to stop, get set up, and take a number of shots from various angles; or I just don't feel I have the time; or I'm just feeling lazy.  However, when I was returning from my excursion to Holy Hill on Tuesday, November 20, none of these objections applied--I was alone, I had my camera, and I had plenty of time to take advantage of any opportunities.

The first opportunity came when I saw a sign for Glacier Hills County Park in Washington County.  Driving through the park, I spotted a stand of trees that were being lit by the late afternoon sun.



Based on how the trees were situated in rows and were about the same size, I assume that they had been planted.

Initially, I thought I could take these shots handheld, but soon realized that I needed my tripod.  The problem was that I wanted to get fairly sharp images of trees at very different distances from the camera, requiring a narrow aperture--and a correspondingly long exposure.  The above shot was taken at an aperture of f/22 with an exposure of 0.8 second.

I thought the above shot was just OK.  However, when I turned around I realized that the trees behind me silhouetted by the sun provided an even more interesting opportunity.  Here is the best of those shots.





The foreground trees are really the subjects of the photo, but the field, pond, and woods in the background provide a needed context.

This shot posed some challenges in post processing.  The sky was extremely bright relative to the rest of the image (particularly since the camera was pointed in the general direction of the sun) and it was difficult to bring out the colors and textures in the background without "blowing out" the sky.  At the same time, I wanted to make the foreground tree trunks as dark as possible.  After a lot of fiddling, this was the best I could do.  I will also confess to "cleaning up" a bit some debris in the foreground, to minimize distractions.

Feeling pretty good about myself, I got back on the road.  A few miles further on, I passed a mini-orchard that caught my eye.  I thought the dark gnarly limbs of the trees might provide an interesting contrast to the green fields in which they stood, so I turned around and parked my car again.

Here is one of the shots of the trees that I took.


Disappointing really because to exclude the sky and pose the trees against the field only I would have needed to be at a much higher elevation--not possible here.  My other option would have been to crop the shot down to exclude the sky.  Here's how that would have looked.  A little weird, frankly.


However, I then noticed a nice wood fence running along the road over the rolling terrain of the Kettle Moraine.  Experimenting with different apertures and angles, I realized that I wanted to keep as much of the fence as possible in good focus, so I needed to keep the lens's aperture narrow.  This meant, in turn, that I needed to use a longer exposure time to get an adequate amount of light for the shot.  I had left the tripod in the car and should have gone back to get it, but, frankly, I was too lazy.  Even so, I really liked the shots that I got.


This first shot was taken at an aperture of f/22 for 1/3 second, a very long exposure for hand-held.  Fortunately, I was able to use the fence as a brace to keep the camera steady.


This second shot was taken at an aperture of f/22 also, but I wasn't able to use the fence as a brace, so I increased the ISO rating to 500 and wound up with a exposure of 1/15 second.  I was really happy with the composition of these shots, neither of which was cropped in post processing.

Perhaps the lesson is that when you are shooting, keep looking around.  There may be other opportunities.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 lens.

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