Friday, June 12, 2009

What Can You Do If You Don't Have the Right Lens?

I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have the budget to own every lens Nikon has available. There are great places to shoot that cry out for a certain lens. The shot that goes along with this post is a classic. If you're ever up on the Maine coast, you too can have a shot very much like this one. Pemiquid Light is one of those places that almost has a Kodak sponsored marker saying "stand here, point your camera toward the lighthouse, squat down and click the shutter". The small "well" in the rocks fills, daily, with water providing a reflection of the buildings. The clouds are a little more iffy. You can't expect to get the same, dramatic clouds every day. It's a bonus if they're there, but you can't count on it like you can count on the water being in the depression worn into the rocks.

I gave a reasonable sized print of the lighthouse to a couple of friends. They thought it was good enough to frame and gushed about the image. Later, after we parted company they did a Google "images" search on Pemiquid. Up popped a gazillion shots just like the one I had just given them. Next time I saw these folks they said "hey, we saw that same shot online. Did you really take that shot?" I had to explain that Pemiquid Light, from that viewpoint, is one of New England's classic shots and every photographer who's ever shot on the Maine coast has probably stopped there. Portland Head Light is the same way. It's probably been shot (or painted) since the day it was built (1791). I wouldn't be surprised to see degarotypes of the light. (Think Civil War photography.)

What makes the accompanying image a little different from many is the "wideness" of the shot. It was shot using a Nikon 18 - 200mm VR lens, at 18mm. In post production (in Photoshop) a perspective distortion was applied, stretching out the bottom. This gives the impression of having been shot with something closer to a 9 or 10mm rectilinear fisheye. The net effect is to make the distance between the puddle and the buildings appear greater than it actually is.

The other comment I hear about this shot is that it appears to be an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. Nope! The only (color) thing that was done to the shot in Photoshop was that the saturation of the individual colors (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and magenta) were brought up past "normal". The high intensity of each color produces a faux HDR shot. Other than that, the super clouds were there. That was just a matter of hanging out until the cloud framing the light got to the right position. They say that timing is everything. It certainly doesn't hurt.

If you ever do get to the Maine coast and shoot Pemiquid Light make sure you stop by at Shaw's Fish and Lobster Wharf. As you can see from the link, it's good. Have a good weekend. See you on Monday.