Friday, November 5, 2010
It is now my routine to get up before dawn, then hike into the narrows with only the light from my headlamp. As each day passes, I set out to capture a photo on my shot list. This highly structured shooting method allows me to shoot at least one photo every day.
Today’s shot is a mid-day glow located a good ways up the Narrows. I know exactly what time to be there, and when the light is best.
I am taking my 8×10 camera back into the narrows, along with a normal lens. When hiking into a location for a shot, prefer to bring at least two sheets of film with me. Today is the exception. Since I shot a single photo yesterday, I am left with a half-used film holder. Rather than load another sheet of film, I decided that the single remaining sheet of Velvia 50 would be sufficient.
The photo must be executed with absolute precision — I only have one chance.
Upon reaching my shooting destination, I spent time studying the composition.
At this bend in the river, a narrow slot opens into a larger canyon. In the foreground, the river rounds a gentle bend, and passes a small stand of young cottonwoods. During mid afternoon, the rear canyon wall glows like a furnace. Peak color for this glow is a mere 20 minutes.
I decided on a vertical composition to emphasize the towering background glow. To place the viewer in the scene, I included the entire river.
Often times, I can tell when a composition “clicks” in place when viewing the ground glass. In this case, I couldn’t tell if I liked the composition or not. I included all of the elements I wanted, and excluded those that I didn’t want. Despite viewing it on the ground glass, I didn’t know what to think.
I decided that this composition was the best I could do, and dedicated to it for the shot.
When the light was at its strongest, and the scene was clear of people, I started my exposure. According to my light meter, I needed to use a 1 minute exposure. This was on Velvia 50 @ f/40. Also, I used a polarizer to help control stray reflections.
Velvia 50 suffers from reciprocity failure when using long exposures. To compensate, I added one full stop of compensation. This doubled my one minute exposure to two minutes.
On the note of exposure, this is a difficult to expose scene. If it wasn’t for my Sekonic 558 spot meter, I would be lost.
For the photo geeks out there, the highlights near the top of the glow are metered at +2, and the darkest shadows along that same slot are metered at -3.5. Fuji Velvia 50, along with most slide films, will hold detail in the highlights up until about +2. Anything below -2 will be nearly pure black. In short, I made the decision to keep the highlights as bright as possible, but maintain detail. To do this, I sacrificed the darkest shadow regions. However, I can attest that those areas along the side of the glow REALLY were black. With my eyes, I was not able to see discernible detail in that region.
Even though I captured the photo that I set out to shoot, I’m not very attached to it. From a technical standpoint, it’s sharp, and it has a good exposure — but it doesn’t have the impact that I hoped it would have. In any case, it was a good exercise in proper exposure.
And now the embarrassing part. Even though I clearly remember looking at the ground glass when adjusting the lens hood, I somehow managed to chop off the top of the composition. I wonder if I somehow bumped it when cocking the shutter? In any case, I have reconfigured my lee hood setup so this will not happen in the future. It makes me wonder if that added 10% of photo up top would have placed further emphasis on the glow, and make the composition click even more? I’ll never know.
I packed up my gear, and headed back.
Along the way, I found a very interesting area of reflected light. It was an upstream view complete with trees, a good section of river, and wonderful reflected light. I made a note of the time and the location so I could return in the coming days.
Tomorrow, I am making a return trip to Subway — this time with fellow photographer Bob Ross. Clouds are in the forecast, and nearly all of Subway’s permits have been issued. Both of these factors could prove disastrous when shooting subway — but I’m up for a challenge.
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