Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chasing The Light

It was going to be a glorious morning and I was running late after staying up till two watching a movie on television. I crawled out of bed going on seven and I wanted to be at Hull's Woods in Fish Creek Park located in the south part of Calgary before the sun broke the horizon. It is not in my vocabulary to miss seeing the sun rise and today would be no different as I scanned the eastern horizon while making the drive south on Deerfoot Trail. I began to think that I could pick up a coffee at Tim Horton's just off of Canyon Meadow's drive with time on my hands before decent shooting light. The drive into the park while enjoying my coffee had to be put on hold as I passed these two broken cotton woods and realized that there was a image to be captured. Backing my truck back down the lane way, I kept a eye on the cottonwoods until the sun was looking at me through the center of the two trees. At that moment I stopped my truck and set up my camera for this capture. Remember, small apertures (f16) create the diffraction spikes on the sun in the photo. If you count the number of points on the stars in my photo, you will come up with the number eight, the number of aperture blades in my 70/200 lens that is creating the diffraction spikes. Do not allow to much light to peek through and onto the camera's sensor or the light will wash out the image. You will also find that you will have to under-expose from your cameras lightmeter reading for a proper exposure. I found that a exposure of two stops under was in order for this capture.

From my first capture on this day it was only a few minutes before I parked my truck and got my gear ready to go. As per usual I take way to much camera gear into the field with me, but find that this is preferable to be missing a lens or my flash mount or maybe a diffuser or....well you know how it goes. I have a multitude of camera bags to choose from depending on what I have in mind for the day, however my favorite that I find serves me well is a modular system by Lowe Pro that you wear around your waist giving you instant access to all your gear. This setup allows you to move about freely without being annoyed by a backpack that needs to be removed to access, or a shoulder bag banging into you or constantly falling off your shoulder. When in the field I include a lightweight pair of binoculars that allows for scouting potential captures nearby.

Do not pass up on anything that could possibly pass for a good photo. I find that a camera is to a photographer like a hockey stick is to a hockey player. If you don't shoot you don't score. I'm not saying that you should not put any thought into the photos you shoot, however you know the old saying "Practice makes perfect".

Today's digital camera's are wonderful for checking your captures on the camera's monitor immediately. Learn how to use the histogram for each capture as it will allow you to see the exposure level inclination and the overall tone reproduction condition. Of course there are times that you go with your gut feeling (that's me most of the time) as to the exposure you feel is required to set the tone, you wish for the image to convey to the viewer.

If you are not familiar with some of my captures on this day, the photo of the red crested woodpecker is a male Pileated Woodpecker whom I captured the photo of while he worked on getting his breakfast. The next capture is of a White-Breasted Nuthatch who make their gravity-defying headfirst struts seem routine. All my bird photos are captured using fill flash that adds a nice catch-light to the eye, giving life to the photo. Watch the exposure settings on your flash as not to over-power the natural lighting of the image, as well as wash out the colors.

My capture of the smallest and most familiar woodpecker in North America is of a Downy Woodpecker. Downies are generally more approachable and more tolerant of humans than other species. The photos of the White-tailed deer need no explanation as they are common throughout the forests, farmlands, and river valleys of Alberta.

Wouldn't you know it, I rambled on way to long about some of my thoughts on shooting photos, but I can tell you that I had a great time in the woods on this day, being one with nature.

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