Shooting in the (almost) Dark

Dark

I love going for bike rides with my camera in the early evening, especially just as the sun is about to dip into the void off to the left of where that giant elephant carries the world.

(Don’t worry though, somewhere around morning, the sun invariably bumps into the elephant and the elephants says, “Ouch!’ and uses its trunk to toss the sun back up to the world. This is called sunrise.)

Finding patches of color in the (almost) dark is like finding a rough diamond and saying, “Wish I’d seen you an hour earlier.”

OK, so an hour earlier the rough diamond would still look like Smokey the Quartz, but both Smokey and the patch of color have one thing in common: with a bit of polishing, they present incredible beauty.

Now, I will admit…the patch of color isn’t going to look all that great if you enlarge it to poster size. I mean, you’ll have to bump the ISO up, which will degrade the image to an extent, and you’re still going to have a lot of (almost) dark.

But we photographers have magic tools that turn us into diamond cutters and polishers. Mine is Lightroom. In the image above, I set the ISO to 800 (a respectable ISO for a Canon 5D2). but there was still a lot of (almost)…well,¬†dark¬† in the image. But it threw the reflections of the stream in the distance into a beautiful backdrop for the color in the foreground and, with a little brightening in Lightroom, a few of the flowers became polished diamonds.

Sure, it’s not something I’d enlarge to poster size. It would look like pixelated crap. But it looks OK online…and isn’t that what the internet is for? To make high ISO images look good?

I guess what I’m trying to say is…don’t let the (almost) dark stop you from finding diamonds in the rough. Especially in the (almost) dark.

(Lens: Canon 100mm (with 2x extender); f stop: 4; shutter: 1/45 (hand held); focal length: 149mm)

 

Discovery

Every weekday morning for the last three years, I drive by a strip of woods that defines parallel symmetry, vertical symmetry and a nice sky. Every time I see those woods, I say to myself, “You have to take a picture of this.”

“And did you?” said the fox.

“I’m getting to that…if you don’t mind, fox,” I said.

Unfortunately, it’s on a stretch of road where it’s impossible to park…but has just enough room to set up a tripod and squeeze in a telephoto lens.

So, I’ve been doing this decision thing where I have to make an important decision each day and carry it out. It’s getting to be a royal pain in the ass and I think I’m going to stop doing it. Maybe that’ll be my decision for tomorrow, even thought it’s led to a few good things, like this morning, when I decided it was time to capture those woods. And today was a perfect day for it…mild with a mixture of sun and cloud and the air had a friendly mood. I had to park about a quarter mile away from my set-up spot, but since I didn’t go for a run that morning, the walk fit in nicely. Except the part where I opened my camera bag and saw that the lens I needed was still in the car. What the hell…did I mention it was a beautiful day with a big smile in the sky?

Now, this was the first time I’d seen this area up close. When I drive by it, I’m in the far lane and there’s a metal guard rail blocking most of the view. I’d always pictured nothing but wilderness, a place where bears and deer could congregate to talk about the human condition and maybe, like, figure us out because we sure as hell can’t.

Boy, was I wrong. There was a road down there. No bears. No deer. No solution to the human condition. I’d imagined something lofty reaching into the happy sky. But…a road? WTF? But, hey, it made for a nice leading line image. Like this one…

1

While I was taking this picture a passing car almost took my ass off. Yeah, that little room. I’d forgotten to put the photographer’s body into the equation. So, next picture I’m wrapped around my tripod so closely that we were one. This seemed to have an eerie effect on a woman in an SUV who was staring so intently at me wrapped around my tripod that she veered off the road a bit and was driving straight at me. Fortunately, she snapped out of it in time to veer away from me. So I got to keep my ass one more time. And I got this picture…

2

This is how I pictured it every time I drove by it. I looked around to see if anyone else was trying to separate me from my derriere but the road was clear and I got this image….

3

More of what I imagined. And I thought, got my images, time to head home and have a late breakfast. But then I saw this…

4

Got the camera out. Set the tripod up. Wrapped myself firmly around the tripod and got the image…about ten times before I got it right. Had three near-death experiences while I was shooting, but when you’re hot…you’re hot…and I was hot. I will say one thing though…trucks with those really really wide mirrors really suck. Especially when you can feel the wind coming off them a few inches from the back of your head.

And then, of course, I saw this…

5

Who in their right mind can resist a tree shot? A few minutes later, I saw this….

6

Surprisingly, nobody tried to remove my ass or the back of my head this time. This a really busy picture but I like the foreground. Somehow it reminds me of a farm I lived on just outside of Toronto when I was a kid. (That farm is now a big bronze building.)

A couple minutes later I came across something that made the whole trip out there ten times what I thought it would be. The lighting and contrast were perfect. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be black and white. I took a properly exposed shot and an underexposed shot. The underexposed one described the feel of the place to a T. And this is what I ended up with…

7

I’m always amazed by this phenomena of getting so much more when you get off your ass and go for what you want. It’s kinda like…a discovery

Lesson learned: Always check out your equipment to make sure you have the lenses you need. And…you can replace your camera…but you can’t replace your ass. Keep it tucked into your tripod.