Monday, October 29, 2012

Magic In The Camera Rather Than In Photoshop

It's true.  Sometimes the magic has to happen in the camera.  Or on the camera.  Today's image is of a small water fall along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, USA.  It was taken in late morning on a bright sunny day.  Everything that could go against the image was there, but then again, so were we.  It's great to be at the right spot at the right time (the golden hour), but that isn't always possible.  We were up shooting at a reasonable hour.  Sunrise wasn't until somewhat past 7:00 AM and we were in the field by 7:30 or so.  Not ideal light, but "good enough" light to get a few interesting shots.  By time we'd arrived at these falls it was almost 11:30.  We'd gotten to the Conway, NH start of the Kanc before 9:00 but stopped every fifty feet (or so it seemed) to try to get the flavor or the road.  Between Conway and Lincoln, NH the Kanc is only something like thirty four miles.  If you live in the area and your daily commute takes you from one end to the other you can probably do the whole thing in one hour.  If you're tourists (us) it could take you all day.  There's a reason why it's listed as one of America's most scenic drives.  So, would do you do when you arrive at one of the prettiest spots on one of the most scenic drives at something past 11:00 AM?  Hit the "Read More" to find out.

The first thing you do is grab the tripod.  Wait a minute???  Bright sunny day.  A wide shot (20 mm focal length).  Easy F 16 at 1/200th of a second.  Why the tripod?  I could have taken the shot, hand held, at those specs, but I wouldn't have gotten today's image.  The water would have looked like slush.  Not the silky, flowing water you see.  Besides the camera and tripod, the other thing I grabbed was a six stop neutral density filter.  I typically keep three screw-in filters in the bag.  The six stop, a circular polarizer and an infrared.  All, basically require using the tripod.  So, the "rule of thumb" is "grab a circular filter, grab the tripod". 
People up and down the Kanc must have thought there was some kind of nut taking pictures.  A few car loads of people were pretty much in sync with us as we travelled the road.  When they stopped at the Albany Covered Bridge, there was this guy sitting on the rocks out in the river with a tripod rested on several other rocks.  Arrive at the falls?  Same guy sitting on the rocks with his tripod again.  All this on a bright sunny day.  Must have seems a little weird to some.
But, that's the way you get silky water at almost high noon.  Since I had to compose and setup the shot before putting on the six stopper I don't have precise data on the shutter speeds.  The camera was in aperture priority.  The F-stop was F22.  The shutter speed was about 8 seconds for today's image.  I did bracket the shot three stops up and three stops down from what the camera determined was the "proper" exposure.  Not necessarily for HDR, but more for choice.  The shot selected for today's image was four stops under the cameras guess.
Here's a "rule" for you.    You make the decisions, let the computer (camera) do the math.>  Today's cameras are amazing at figuring out what it takes to record an exposure.  The most important part of that "rule" is that you make the decisions.