Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MANASSAS NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK

The Manassas National Battlefield Park is located in northern Virginia about 35 miles west of Washington D.C. and was the site of two of the major battles of the Civil War.  We visited the park with our daughter Michelle and her boyfriend Tobias on Sunday, November 2nd.  Although it was a mostly sunny afternoon, the temperature was unseasonably cold and there was a persistent strong wind out of the northwest.  We made the best of it with a two-hour walk through the park's extensive woods and fields.

There were extensive open fields surrounding the visitor center that included, inter alia, a large equestrian statue and beyond that what appeared to be a handsomely restored historic residence and outbuildings.  Initially, I tried to photograph the statue with the residence as a background element.  


Maybe this was a good idea, but it certainly didn't work, at least given my location.  The statue overwhelmed the residence.  So then I tried the residence cluster as its own subject.  


Not great, but better, I thought.

There were a large number of cannon positioned in the field, and I assume that the cannon barrels, if not the wagons, were authentic.  My goal was to feature one of the cannon as a primary foreground element with one or more other cannon as background.


OK, except for one problem, at least in my view.  The cannon is pointing out of the photo instead of into it.  Perhaps that's unavoidable in that the cannon, wheels, and hitch pretty much take up the full width of the image.  Here is another shot that rectifies that, although the featured cannon occupies a much smaller portion of the image.


Some of the cannon were at the crest of a modest rise, and I wanted to capture the cannon in silhouette against the sky.


I missed this in this first shot, at least with respect to the tree on the right.  If only I had walked a little further, I think I could have eliminated this issue.


Better, but perhaps a little stark.  Too much negative space, I think.

Here is one more shot that takes a little different perspective, incorporating some of the distance hills on the horizon.


Although we spent time exploring the woods of the park, our favorite area was a large open field of tall grass that was showing its fall color.  I tried to capture this in two ways.  First, I wanted to focus on nearby grass with more distance grass as a background.  To do this I needed to reduce depth of field as much as possible so that only nearby grass was in good focus.  The theory was good, but one of the problems was situational--a wind running 15-20 mph.  In any event, here are a few of my efforts.


What helped this shot was that I was able to position the grass against a dark background.  Here are a couple more.  In this first shot I had set the aperture at f/8, in the second, at f/4.  



The background in both shots is too busy, despite being out of focus, but it is clearly worse in the first.

The other way in which I attempted to capture the grass field was to photograph Michelle as she was walking back through the field.  



And one shot of Tobias enjoying the photo opportunities.


One final interesting point.  I took a detail shot of a small chain attached to one of the cannon.  At this point there was bright sunshine and here is the shot I got on the sunny side of the cannon.


And here is a similar shot taken on the shaded side.


Same colors, same white balance but a very different feel to the shot.  I prefer the second shot even though it is considerably more muted.

John

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