Practicing What I Preach              

I am always telling students, and anyone who will listen, that the key to skill in anything (though in this case, photography) is not in any sort of inherent talent, but in unremitting dedicated practice.  Every day, I tell them, you should be doing SOMETHING that will hone some aspect of your skills.

Over the four day holiday I tried several times to link up to go do some shooting somewhere… ANYWHERE… just to unlimber a camera.  I was also awaiting the arrival of a new camera accessory so was beginning to write what will be a handout or blog post – or both concerning its use.  I had hoped it would arrive in time to take it out and play with it.  But NOOOOOOOOooooooo… Other potential treks fell through anyway.  Finally on Monday, President’s Day, my friend and shooting partner for food and sometimes portraiture, Cynthia Sinclair, was free so off we went.  She even drove which allowed me a rare chance to really see the stuff we drove by.

It was a day for pure undirected photo fun: no assignments, no specific tasks or illustrations to do (since the part had not arrived).  We were happy to just see if any wily images scurried out in front of us to tempt us into stopping for a shot.  Our semi-official purpose was to see if any of the mountain wildflowers were in bloom (just to provide an excuse that non-artists would understand).  So since it is a site of some glorious wildflower action we headed first to the Boulder Canyon Road.  We are too early for that it turns out.

An old well house or cisten along the Boulder Creek Road.  Canon 5D MkII with 85mm f1.8 lens.  Attempted hand held HDR with less than stellar success!

An old well house or cisten along the Boulder Creek Road. Canon 5D MkII with 85mm f1.8 lens. Attempted hand held HDR with less than stellar success!

But we were here, a car full of camera gear, hearts full of image anticipation, so it was all good no matter what may or may not jump out in front of us… so long as it was not a train.  Not long after the pavement ended we stopped at a wide spot to check out an old foundation.  It was too small for a cabin and right on what is an occasional spring so I assumed it might have been a well house or cistern but truthfully have no idea.  But liking old abandoned things this was worth a closer look.

I did discover one thing… the nerve damage in my right hand is sufficiently severe that I cannot even come close to hand-holding an HDR shot.  If you look close at the shot to the right you can see it is anything but sharp. I could tell in the monitor that the frame with the longer shutter speed was more than a little fuzzy.  I tried it three times but the result was the same each time.  With the 85mm lens I was using even 1/125 second shutter speed was not sharp.  That did not make me happy.  I included it here only so that you can sort of see what caught our attention.

However, in the immediate area were a couple of details that asked me to shoot them.  The

Bark and Barbed Wire.  Canon 5D MkII w/85mm f1.8 lens

Bark and Barbed Wire. Canon 5D MkII w/85mm f1.8 lens

Right next to it, now looking down instead of up, was a patch of golden lichen growing on the gnarly wood that looked like Jackson Pollack had experimented with a highly textured surface.

Lichen on Tree Trunk. Canon 5D MkII w/ 85mm f1.8 lens

Lichen on Tree Trunk. Canon 5D MkII w/ 85mm f1.8 lens

Farther up the road we pulled over at a spot we had shot before.  It had some fascinating tree shapes growing on a ridgeline so was worth checking out.  This time I was drawn to one lone tree with a puff of cloud seeming to be like smoke coming up out of the upstretched branches.  I shot it with a 15mm full frame fisheye lens then had to de-distort the ground line in post so it looked as it had appeared to me.  The lens let me see the whole tree which was very close to the cut of the road but in the original it wrapped the ground up around the tree.  That was interesting but it was not the way the scene appeared to me so I leveled it out.

Tree on ridgeline along the Boulder Creek Rd.  Canon 5D MkII w/ 8-15mm lens at 15mm.

Tree on ridgeline along the Boulder Creek Rd. Canon 5D MkII w/ 8-15mm lens at 15mm.  You can click on this image to see it enlarged.

Cynthia used that same lens set at 8mm for the full circular effect and got some really nice images from it.

As we drove on there were several patches of gorgeous bright yellow daffodils but I was irritated that I could not seem to hold the camera for the shots dancing in my head so let them go.  We even stopped for a moment to watch a small herd of dear foraging in a field.  They didn’t seem to mind us in the car but as soon as we moved to perhaps grab a camera they went on high alert on bounded off.

Cynthia had picked up an old chair that was in the back of her car and was looking for some interesting place to use it as a prop in a scene.  So we headed over to the Black Canyon Road and the original old 1913 bridge which is now blocked off to vehicular travel.  It is such a cool bridge with beautifully crafted concrete arches and is now replaced by a mud-ugly modern slab sitting right next to it and blocking what used to be the best view of the old beauty.

We carried the chair to the bridge and tried several different positions and angles.  Cynthia was drawn to the angles of the shadows it formed however for me I felt it was an interesting metaphor… this empty chair on an empty bridge over an empty stream bed… all waiting for…???  So as the closing images of the trip I took some variations on that theme.  I also took some texture shots of the surface of the old bridge to use as a layer with the primary frame.  I simply let my fancy play with the files until something that resonated with my feelings at the site started to appear and then pushed that a bit.  So here is my first pass at ideas for it titled “Charon’s Chair.”

Charon's Chair.  The 1913 bridge on the Black Canyon Rd.  Canon 5D MkII with Canon 50mm f1.8 lens.

Charon’s Chair. The 1913 bridge on the Black Canyon Rd. Canon 5D MkII with Canon 50mm f1.8 lens.  Click on image to enlarge.

Oh yes, and when I got home, the package had arrived…  Of course…  So next time I’ll show it to you.

 

 

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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