Falls & Fowl: Why It’s a Good Idea to Always Carry a Camera
I was on my way past the waterfall next to the Assembly in Harrisville, RI last night, right at the perfect moment of sunset. The light was shining right across the water and making everything perfectly golden. I was looking at the house on the shore (this one) and debating whether or not to stop and take some snaps of the absolutely perfect reflections with my phone when I caught sight of these geese just chillin’ atop the waterfall itself. I wished nothing more than to have my dSLR on me at that moment, then I remembered I did! It was sitting in the backseat in hopes of using it at the event I was heading to.
It’s really amazing how quickly the light can change at sunset. I whipped the car around by speeding through the “village”, potentially cutting someone of in spectacular fashion, and parked across the street from the falls. By the time I’d gotten across the street, the magnificent golden glow was gone. The time frame from spotting the scene to having the camera to my eye was only 90 seconds or so, but what a difference that minute and a half made. Oh well, the geese were still there, and that’s the shot I was after. See, I’ve shot all of the landmark spots in this town so many times that It’s hard to get very excited about going back. It takes a monumental change in the scene (a forty year flood, ice feature, wildlife element, etc.) for me to even bother taking off the lens cap now.
So, the shot… I was able to walk (slowly) right up to the fence at the edge of the falls. The geese were so comfortable being where they were that I probably could have run right up on them, but why take the chance? I still had the 40-150mm, f4-5.6 Zuiko attached to my Olympus E-600 from the last time I shot. I started off in my old standby aperture priority mode set to f8, then I tried opening the aperture to f5 to get a shallower depth of field. I was hoping to blur the fore and background and get some added definition to the geese, but I soon realized that I’d rather have the water be blurred. To achieve this, I switched to shutter priority mode and set a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second. The camera selected an ISO of 200 and an aperture of f8. I kept the lens zoomed all of the way in for most of the shoot, which gave me some stability issues. In hindsight, I probably should have sped the shutter up to around 1/30th of a second (or been lucky enough to have my tripod in the trunk!).
I spent about 5 minutes taking photos. Since there were a pair of geese, I needed a bit of patience to catch both of them with their heads up and necks stretched in a pleasant way. I spent about half the time shooting with manual focus, but finished up using auto-focus, selecting which focal point to use and then using focus lock. It had become hard to tell if the focus issues I was seeing were because of camera shake or my poor vision, so this at least took one of the factors out of the equation. By the time I shot the last two photos (the one presented here and another in vertical orientation showing more of the water), I knew most of my focus issues were taken care of and I had gotten what I needed.
Today, I loaded the set of 24 images into Lightroom. I was able to eliminate 15 or so right off the bat for focus issues and/or unflattering poses. The rest I processed very similarly; adding contrast, clarity and saturation then reducing noise, warming the shadows and adding some vignette. To be honest, I really only do this to the first photo in the set when they’re all similar, then I just paste the settings from the previous photo and hit the auto exposure button. This works out more times than not.
Once all that basic processing was done, this photo stood out as the clear winner, but I was dissatisfied by how flat it looked. The answer, as is usually the case for me, was to convert to black and white. The image still looked flat after pushing the B&W button, so I had to add some more contrast. I did that by using the adjustment scrubber in the contrast and B&W mix panels. I really love that feature in Lightroom! It allows you to grab whatever specific tone you wish to adjust right in the picture and drag it to your liking. Very slick. My last step in the process was to do a bit of sepia toning using the split toning panel.
There you have it… a shot I never would have gotten if I didn’t have my camera on me. Being able to carry a camera phone around at all times is all well and good, but there’s those moments in life where you just need the real thing.