Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More than meets the eye


Don’t let the serenity of this scene fool you. There was a lot of stress involved in capturing this image. My wife and I had just finished dining in the town of Avon on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I asked the owner of the restaurant (Froggy Dog - excellent seafood) if he knew of any good spots for us to catch the sunset. He began to direct to us to a spot outside of town, then stopped and asked us if we had a four wheel drive vehicle. Nope. PT Cruiser. Okay, change in directions. Take a right at the next traffic light and drive to the end of the street. We did, and found ourselves by several rickety docks and fishing shanties overlooking Pamlico Sound.

By this time, I figured I had only a few minutes before the sun disappeared, so I went into overdrive. Find a suitable location to set up. Decide it’s not suitable. Find another suitable location. No time to find another, live with it. Get out camera and tripod. Discover tripod had broken. Coax tripod to give its last measure of devotion. Rummage through camera bag to find that blasted graduated neutral density filter – where was it? Find filter. Discover filter holder is on other lens. Change filter holder. Frame shot on wobbly tripod. Take meter readings under duress. Rummage through camera bag to find blasted cable release – where was it? Attach cable release to camera on wobbly tripod. Prepare to shoot the first series of frames. Discover only one more shot on roll of film. Throw up hands in disgust. Grab camera off wobbly tripod. Remove used roll of film. Rummage through camera bag to find that blasted roll of film – where was it? Load film, reframe shot on wobbly tripod. Take another series of meter readings just to be sure. Reframe shot. Take two series of shots. Watch sun disappear.

Get film back from photo finisher. Marvel at how well the photos turned out. So tranquil. So peaceful. Hah.

Click on photo to enlarge. Photograph © 2005, James Jordan. Posted by Picasa

9 comments:

Dana said...

Absolutely gorgeous photo!

Just Wandering said...

Wow...the stress of getting the perfect picture before the sun goes down! Been there before a few times :)

Jeff said...

Reminds me of how much work goes into a film, or a book, or anything where editing and rewriting and the like are key to the finished product. Thanks for giving us an idea of what goes into what comes across as serene.

Marie said...

Beautiful! I love the Outer Banks...

Jem said...

That is stunning! Wonderful capture. Definately worth the stress ;)

test said...

James, great shot. Would you care to share a few tips on what you worked with. What is the purpose of the filter you used- neutral density? How do you take a meter reading - how is that different from using the meter in your camera? What kind of camera do you use. When you convert your film picture to this digital presentation what process do you use - pixel density, etc. I'm trying to learn something about digital presentation. Thanks, Craig

atomicvelvetsigh said...

great photo! and yeah, being at the right place at the right 'second' makes it all so perfect..

you have a nice collection of photos here 8)

James said...

Thanks, all, for your kind comments. The end result makes all the aggravation worth it, although it wasn't much fun at the time.

Craig, as far as your questions go, the graduated neutral density filter is a square filter, manufactered by the Cokin company (and others, but I'm most familiar with Cokin), that fits into a holder that attaches to the front of a lens. It is a filter that is dark at the top and gradually fades to clear about the middle. It basically darkens the sky without affecting the ground. At sunrise and sunset, the sky is usually several stops brighter than the ground; the n-d filter just helps to even out the exposure for both, ensuring that the film can capture details of each equally. I used grad n-d's extensively in my photos in the Smoky Mountains (July archives) as well as several photos from the Outer Banks, usually early morning or late evening photos.

I use the camera's meter (a Nikon FM100) for my metering. I take readings from several points in the photo to be sure everything is within a four-to-five stop range, correct with the grad n-d's if necessary - the n-d's come in two- and four-stop densities, and go to town, usually bracketing my exposures up and down for insurance.

I usually just get the standard picture CDs from a 1-hour photo place as "proofs" - they have plenty of pixel density for this blog and for printing up to 8" x 10" on my inkjet photo printer. If I want to make larger photographic prints or submit photos for publication, I rescan the negatives to the specification of the print house or publisher.

Hope this is helpful.

Sounds like a lot of work, and I've often thought about making the plunge into digital phototgraphy, but thought digital has come a long way, it still hasn't been able to match film in its ability to capture color and detail.

Leo said...

Best of your stuff methinks. Great colors, I like the composition and contrast. Well shot.