Summer Solstice June 21, 2015
Day 7 of taking only one photo per day and the final day of my short project. Skies have been clear with no clouds and I went out to capture the moonset for my final image this week. Shortly before the moon dipped behind the Wasatch Mountains, the one and only cloud in the sky obscured the moon. The cloud shifted for a few minutes before dissipating and I honestly could have taken quite a few more photos. This is the challenge though! Identify a moment, a scene, something to make you click the shutter, not just press the shutter over and over.
You’ll notice a few things in this image. First and most obvious, why the 2 moons? When shooting at night, the moon is extremely bright compared to the sky. You can only expose for the sky (moon blown out) or the moon (sky black). If you want images with the moon and landscape, you have to catch it earlier in the day, evening works nice for this. So I took one picture of the moon behind the clouds at a 15 second exposure on a long lens. My tripod was on pavement and there was a slight breeze. I didn’t use a remote or mirror lock-up, just a 10 sec timer and the image stabilization turned on. There was a slight breeze too. I say all this because shooting at long focal lengths is tricky. You have to use a very careful shooting technique to ensure sharp images, especially at night. That’s a different blog post though.
I took the picture and of course the moon is blown out. 15 seconds of moving and diffused light gave the moon an odd shape and extreme brightness. I wanted to show more detail in the moon so I chose to do a multiple exposure, taking one more photo to merge into the previous picture. I’ve experimented with this in-camera feature before and I enjoy the creativity in this process. The result is a single RAW file, one image. The 2nd image (below) was the first exposure so you can see how it looked before the added exposure. The shot of the moon by itself is merged into the RAW image so there is no actual file for that one. For those interested, you can change this setting to save all images. I like the resulting image much better than the first exposure because it gives your eyes a few clues to the image, then plenty of space to put the pieces together.
I’ll write one more blog post soon about the entire 7 day process to highlight a few things I’ve learned. This project was not about making images as much as it was about learning. It was definitely a challenge although it wasn’t as tough as I anticipated only taking one photo. Doing so didn’t detract from the experience of taking photos and exploring in one bit. I found I wanted to shoot many, many more photos but I think I improved my observing skills as much as any photography skill, which is more important anyway. At the end, I came away with a few images I really like as a bonus. It was a fun week and I’m looking forward to more photography this week:)
Thanks for reading,
For today’s image, I spent some time near the McPolin Barn in Park City. This is the iconic white barn that every visitor sees when arriving to Park City. Skies are clear again today with vivid green covering the mountains. Basically, it’s really nice here:) I almost settled on a photograph of the deep blue polarized sky, the crisp white barn and a striking American flag on the front. This would be more of a tourist view though and not an image I’m after. I stopped by the tractor and John Deere baler and had a look around. With a nice shadow and dark blue sky, I thought this image would pop out in B&W. Finding a composition I liked took some time but that is the fun of this. Your eyes explore the rusted details, the weathered textures of everything and machines of moving parts locked in place. I chose to use the shadow to create some depth to an otherwise flat image. A slightly tilted perspective gives the eye a path to follow through the image and a separation of some details. I shot this handheld so I kept my shutter speed high, shot at f/8 ISO 200. The focus was on the screw on the right and was outside the focus points on the camera. Choosing a right side focus point, focusing the camera, switching to manual focus, recomposing without changing distance and clicking once the composition is framed was the main challenge with this image. It’s one I practice with frequently though so I wasn’t hesitant to use this for this one shot.
This image is in line with a new project I’ve been working on this summer involving the mining history in Park City. You can see some of the images here: Park City – A Vivid History. As with farm equipment, people collect relics of past years for mining and since much is dirty, rusty and gritty, the images are a nice alternative. I see these photos as pieces to a larger collection for display. Much more to come on this soon.
Thanks for reading,
This week I have been challenging myself to only shoot one photo per day, one click of the shutter. I’m not limiting myself to a particular subject but all images are in B&W. You can see Day 1 and Days 2 & 3 on previous posts. I didn’t have a particular destination in mind and was prepared to hike for a while, with morning light filtering through the aspens. I stopped at the cemetery to see if the flowers were in bloom and sure enough, it was filled with flowers and slivers of light.
I walked around for a while, reading the various dates and names on tombstones. These particular tombstones caught my eye because of the untold story. Between 1886-1891, G. & M Wilkenson lost 3 children, none living beyond 14 months. Times were tough for people in this remote section of the Utah Territory (not yet a state) as seen by the numerous graves of those taken too soon. One tombstone is inscribed “Just came to show how sweet a flower in paradise would bloom.”
From a photography viewpoint, I now had a strong subject and had to determine how to make a photograph. The air was perfectly still so I knew I could safely include the wildflowers in the image. White flowers tend to show up nice in B&W images, imagine that! I first found a composition that worked using the light emphasize the white flower and keep the other flowers somewhat against a shadow. The next choice is aperture. I chose one that would allow for some depth, allowing the flowers in the middle to remain in focus. With a white flower in the light, this must be in focus for this image to work. Too shallow of an aperture and all other flowers go out of focus. You can guess where I focused in this image based on this. Next was exposure. If you were to set your camera on Auto-Mode, the flowers would likely be blown out due to the coverage of shadows. You can guess how much to under expose based on the auto reading, but this doesn’t seem too exact. I spot metered the white flower and underexposed 2/3 stop from there because the reading included a slight bit of shadow and the dark stem area. The highlights could possibly still be overexposed and that doesn’t work. A quick double-check of the wind and click.
The second image (yesterday morning) was taken from around mid-mountain at Park City Mountain Resort. I hiked up to this spot in the dark and dawn light and watched sunrise from a great vantage point. My eyes scanned the horizon and valleys and they kept coming back to this view. King Road climbs from Main Street and goes to the now abandoned Silver King Mine. The aspens in this section are as tall and picturesque as any I’ve seen in Park City so I focused my view there. Technically, this image was fairly straight forward. It contains blue, yellow and green with strong shapes of the white aspens and a more subtle curving and ascending road. With the first light of the morning illuminating the forest from the side, the aspens remain white and the shadows deep black.
I metered the road, the side of the road, the tree tops of yellow and green and found them all within a reasonable range. I was perfectly fine with shadows being near black, making the exposure fairly easy to determine from the camera. There was no great depth to the image so I used f/9 to keep the trees in the upper left to bottom right in focus. My concern with this image was wind. I was only shooting at 70mm but because of the distance and 1/4 sec exposure, a slight gust could make an out of focus image. This can’t happen with only one shot! I waited for a minute or two, the stood up wind from the camera, waited for a lull and click.
Thanks for reading along and feel free to ask any questions,
June 16, 2015
For day 2 of this project, I didn’t have near the dramatic weather to work with as on the first day. Summer has returned and the weather is perfect for hiking around Park City. I went to the Canyons Resort to search for a view I like of the McPolin Barn, hiking up and around until I found the spot. Partly cloudy skies made for some nice spot lighting but the sun was still high in the sky and the contrast was a little too much. With time to kill until the light softened, I continued hiking around until I came upon this view. I sat and watched for a while since there was a hawk circling the area. At one point, the hawk flew no more than 15 feet in front of me, catch of the day in hand.
Looking back at the barn once more, I decided I liked the view of the mountainside more. The range of light from this scene was fairly narrow so some additional editing was done to accentuate the shadows and highlights. The low wind made for shooting a telephoto scene technically easy. Lower lit scenes require more effort in terms of a remote or mirror lock but bright scenes are fairly straightforward. This was a much-needed mellow scene after the intense evening the day before.
For the 2nd image, I wanted to photograph these columbines with morning light and with hopes of no wind. It was mostly calm with a slight breeze from time to time and the sunlight filled the forest ever so slowly. This image was a bit more complicated to find, compose and capture. These columbines live under a dark pine tree and one bump of the limb and the flowers move too. Being under the tree, it was relatively dark compared to the bright white bark of the aspens. There was no hope to capture the full range of light with one exposure. If I exposed too much, the trees turn all white and the flower has blown highlights. Too little and the noise created from shadow recovery ruins the image. I opted to expose for the flower and let most of the trees go white. This made for a natural decision to edit this image the way I did.
Park City Mountain Resort
June 17, 2015
This image is interesting to me to think of the different ways to capture this scene while keeping a balanced exposure throughout the image. I have a few ideas on this. One would be to use an ND filter for the top half. This would create dark and unnatural shadows in the trees and look odd. Another way would be to compose a tighter framed image. I think doing this would work but you’d lose the space of the aspen grove. You could also shoot at F/2 – F/4 and get a nice bokeh effect but I don’t think the composition of the wrapping trees would hold as well. Plus, I don’t own a super wide, shallow depth of field lens. Lastly, shooting this in the evening would be ideal for light, but not for wind. Photographing this scene with wind would be next to impossible, or require several frames. This is the point though, I only had one click of the shutter to capture an image, not 100.
I have no idea what I’ll shoot the remaining 4 days but my eyes are open and I’ll be sharing the next images soon.
June 15th, 2015
Silver Lake – Deer Valley
Over the next 7 days, I’m challenging myself to find and capture 7 images. Sounds easy, right? Just go out and take a bunch of pictures and a few will turn out ok. What if I were to only take one single photo though, per day? Can I find something image worthy and capture it on the first attempt? I’ve asked myself these questions numerous times and this week I’m going to find out. Doing so is a strictly personal challenge and I want to use this as a learning tool for myself. Maybe someone else could benefit from these 7 images so I’m sharing them all here with a few words to go along. As an added challenge, they’ll all be in B&W.
Today is beautiful and sunny in Park City, with vividly green mountains and a few puffy white clouds. Yesterday was about as opposite as it gets. Extreme lightning cracked the sky all around Park City and much of northern Utah last night in a surprise outburst from the sky. Later in the summer, monsoon type storms roll up from Arizona and produce big lightning but mid-June is an odd time for this. I went out hiking later in the day to hopefully catch the tail of the storm before sunset but Nature had a different idea. Her idea was to electrify the sky and further soak the already green mountains. I was near the ridge line above Deer Valley when I realized what was about to happen.
I sat in a grove of aspens and it literally poured rain. There was no escaping the water and I was soaked from the waist down. I’ve learned a few times to always carry an extra coat and it felt reassuring that it was safe and dry, along with my camera, in a dry bag inside my pack. During one particular downpour, the light opened up to a glowing yellow and laughed at me. There was no way I could get my camera out to photograph it. No photo. A bit later, the slightest sliver of light illuminated the tips of some trees along a distant ridge, but the wind was strong so a clear telephoto image was out of the question. No photo. My last 2 compositions I found were almost a click of the shutter but the lightning and rain moved in incredibly fast. As you guessed, no photo.
I finally came back down to Silver Lake in the rain with my headlamp shining bright in front of me. I could see lightning blowing up the sky all over the horizon behind Park City and I counted. Over and over I counted and no strike was more than one minute apart, often being seconds apart. From there, setting a shutter of 2 minutes bettered my chances seeing a strike. I decided on a wide angle to hopefully catch a strike in the frame. My concern with this exposure was if too many bolts of lightning struck within the frame, I’d have massive blown out highlights. I adjusted my exposure -2/3 stop. I’d have black throughout the image but I wanted the contrast anyway so this was fine. After a quick review of everything I clicked the shutter. About 90 seconds in this single bolt cracked the far right of the scene. No other bolts struck during this exposure, in this frame. Upon reviewing this image at home, I was actually pretty happy with the result. The only overexposed area is the bolt itself and the blacks are pure black in the correct areas.
I’m not certain what I’m going to shoot today but I have a few images in mind. I’ll share more in the next day or two as this project progresses.
Thanks for reading,