Stop and Smell the Dryopteris Erythrosonol

(You can click on any image to see it full screen)

San Diego – Tomorrow I will be ending the fourth week of my recovery from the shoulder replacement surgery.  And it has been a very, very good week indeed.  On Saturday and Sunday I gave presentations for the International Photo Exhibition at the San Diego Fair.  I gave talks on HDRI, Printing on Canvas, and “Photography as an Art which is a discussion on what is required for a photograph, or any visual work, to be considered a true work of art.

The presentation on art is always one to elicit discussion since it treds on so many of photography’s sacred cows.  In fact, I developed the topic into an 8-week, one credit class that will run for the first time this coming Fall Semester at City College.

Walking from the lot and then through the Fair grounds was a true labor for me.  The sedentary life I’ve had for a month has really weakened me physically.  The result was that a simple walk plus the energy of standing for an hour and a half for each presentation thoroughly wore me out.  The good news was that those two nights I actually slept the entire night through without a single wake up which was the first time that has happened in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday I also passed a milestone of great importance to me.  A good friend took me for a walk and we went to the park so I decided I would take a camera.  Although I have been doing a lot of forum and technical reading in the field during my enforced home-incarceration, this was the first actual photography I was able to do.  And it allowed me to do a test.

Since I could not put my photo vest on with my sling, or take a shoulder bag or backpack, I was limited to one camera body and one lens to carry around.  I took the Canon 1Ds Mk II and my 8-15mm “Fisheye” zoom lens.  I chose it because it was NOT what I would normally think of as a “walk around” lens, so it would be a challenge.  I also only took a small 512 megabyte memory card to force me to deliberate and be selective just as I would have to do with a single roll of 120 film in a medium format camera.

As we walked up from the parking lot, the air was filled with the sound of someone playing the big pipe organ in the organ pavilion.  Monday’s are the days for the organ concerts but he appeared to just be practicing and working his way through some very technical passages of such work as the Can-Can from Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld.”  Wow, I was mesmerized and we just stood and listened for a while.

Oh man, where was my long lens to reach out and show the intricacy of the organist’s hand and feet movements as it was obvious playing this organ was a whole body experience.  The shot or series I could see in my mind was not possible for me (you might check out my posts on how the tool DOES matter) since I was not allowed to go up on the stage where perhaps some fisheye views right down on the organ might have been interesting.  I tried a few compositions but none of them conveyed what I was feeling so we moved on.

We then went on toward the famous lath botanical house and its reflecting pond now fully abloom in colorful glory.  What had normally been a grassy area along the street had also been planted with a variety of flowers and now the 180 degree view of the lens might be one to do the job.  It was still morning with the sky grey from the marine layer that would fight off the sun for another couple of hours.  Someone forgot to tell the weather gods that June Gloom, as it is called here, was inappropriate since we were now in July.

This one turned into an interesting “test” shot that, in the right lighting could be a nice decorative shot of this scene.  But to me the initial capture was just unacceptably flat so with nothing to lose and perhaps a lot to learn, I created a “pseudo-HDR” to enhance tones and contrast (normally HDR compresses tones but it can be made to do exactly the opposite) and then applied about 15% intensity of a Topaz Filter.

Flowers in bloom in front of the famous lath botanical house in San Diego’s Balboa Park.  Shot with Canon 1Ds Mk II, and Canon ultrawide 8-15mm fisheye set to 15mm.

Finally we went in where the lath covering acts as a diffuser and renders the sky’s condition nearly meaningless.  This has always been one of my favorite places to shoot.  With the ground covered with short plants and taller ones wrapping over you to completely envelop you in a plant world, this was a perfect place for a full fisheye shot.

I removed the hood so I could do a true 180 degree circular fisheye and spent a few minutes finding the spot, angle, and level that allowed me to cover the scene and yet not appear so overtly distorted.  That effort resulted in the following shot, “Stop and Smell the Dryopteris Erythrosonol” ( which is in the middle of the shot).

Full Fisheye view from inside the lath botanical house in Balboa Park, San Diego.   Shot with Canon 1Ds Mk ii, and Canon’s ultrawide angle 8-15mm fisheye set to 8mm

Here too, except for the shot above, I would have been far better served with a longer lens or, better yet, a macro lens.  My 180 macro would be perfect.  But I had what I had.  So, it was time to play and experiment.  I decided to see what happens when I used the lens almost like a macro (since it will focus so close and has such extraordinary depth of field) but with objects that no one would know whether they were distorted or not.

A beautiful piece of what appeared to be petrified wood sat in the midst of a variety of deep green plant leaves and this lens really let me move in and capture a sense of the flora surrounding the mineral specimen.  I did this as a full frame fisheye (180 degree view corner to opposite corner).

A piece of what looks like petrified wood sourounded by plant leaves in the lath botanical house in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Shot with Canon 1Ds MkII and Canon ultrawaide 8-15mm fisheye set to 15mm.

None of the shots were destined for fame and fortune but the exercise and experimentation were all good; and in the end I learned some more about that lens and how it use it, and, most importantly, it showed me I could physically once again handle a camera… sort of…

However, I should have used the 5D body since it is FAR lighter.  The strain was more than I expected and by the time we headed back to the car my shoulder ached deeply and continued hurting for the rest of the night and is still a little bit sore this morning.  That’s OK… that is why they make pain killers.  And besides, a week ago I don’t think I could have done it at all.

This Friday I am scheduled for my first Physical Therapy session so I am REALLY looking forward to getting that process officially underway and on my way back to some normalcy.

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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4 Responses to Stop and Smell the Dryopteris Erythrosonol

  1. Best wishes for the ongoing recovery from your shoulder surgery. We really enjoyed your presentation on photography and art at the fair on Sunday.

    • ndking says:

      Thanks for the good wishes and the nice words on the presentation. It is always nice to hear that someone liked what you said. Oh heck, sometimes it is nice to just hear that thay LISTENED even if it provoked some thinking leading to different conclusions.

  2. Rick Stanford says:

    It sounds nice to finally get back to creating images. I can relate, since I broke my hand on 7/1, and the MD says the cast will stay on for at least 4 weeks. Hard to use a camera with no right hand, may have to try something. If it works, I will share.
    Keep healing faster.

    • ndking says:

      THanks. it makes me a little crazy when I cannot create images but I’m sure some of my friends and students would question how one would tell the difference between crazy and not. Because of the grip on my camera I can use my right hand to hold it, my index finger to work front controls and thumb to work real controls, the only problem is sheer weight: I cannot yet hold it for long. I’ve almost recovered the flexibility to be able to reach up with my left and provide a good steadying for it and hope that will happen quickly. Then except for carrying a camera bag or backpack or whatever, I’ll be good to go. I have a waist pack large enough to carry a couple of lenses and did not even think of it until just now so next time I’ll give it a try.

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