Wednesday, October 23, 2013

FIRST LIGHT OVER LAKE MICHIGAN

The other night a cold front moved through and cleaned out any moisture in the air.  Getting up before dawn, I was hopeful that the air over Lake Michigan would also be clear of any haze or clouds and that I could get some clear shots of first light over the lake.  This was not to be the case, exactly, as there was a low cloud bank sitting a few miles offshore.  Even so, I decided to take some photos from the bluff overlooking the lake at Concordia University in hopes something would turn out.  Besides, I was already there, and how else could I justify standing out in the cold and wind.    After a few aborted attempts, here is the first shot that I kept.


For the record, this was shot with the aperture at a wide-open f/4, and a shutter speed of 1/3 second.  For all of these shots I underexposed by one to two f-stops from what my camera's light meter was recommending.  I was concerned that if I stopped the aperture down too much, the required exposure time would risk camera movement in the breezy conditions, even with a tripod.  I will confess to having worked a fair amount on these photos in post processing, as there wasn't really much to see in the shots as originally downloaded onto my computer.  I did like the meringue effect of the clouds that I was able to bring out.

Then I noticed a ship that had most likely come from the Milwaukee harbor and was heading north.


The ship was probably a mile or so out and this shot has been cropped some.  The waviness in the lights of the ship I believe represents the up and down movement of the ship during the exposure, which was a full 2 seconds, again at an aperture of f/4.

Looking to the south, I wanted to try to include the first light, the water, and the shore (Fox Point in this case).


The problem was that because my lens was wide open and with the focus on the line between lake and sky to the south, the weeds in the foreground are badly out of focus, which I found to be distracting.  Here's another shot that is perhaps not as distracting.


I cropped this shot down to exclude most of the weeds, but in order to include the radio towers at the far right, I had to retain some of those weeds.  In addition, I noted from the fuzziness of the tower lights  that this shot is not as crisp as I would have liked.  There was really barely enough light to get the camera's AF system to work and not nearly enough for my weak eyes to set the focus manually.

Finally, here is another shot that has been cropped to exclude all weeds.


A bit too simple, I'm afraid, but I did like the way the long exposure had smoothed out the waves on the lake.  This was shot, again at f/4 with an exposure of 1.6 seconds, at 2 f-stops less light than my camera was calling for.

All of the photos were shot at an ISO of 100.  I had tried some shots at higher ISO ratings, but in extreme low-light situations, high ISOs create a great deal of "noise."  And even at an ISO of 100 there was significant noise that I worked in post processing to reduce to a manageable level.

John

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