Photographers share their experiences from 15 hours of picture-taking. And
the images are pouring in.
I don't know what was tougher...the shooting, or the narrowing down of my choices. It was fairly easy to get it down to about 20, but getting it down to five was grueling. Well, maybe not grueling...
Saturday, Jan. 20, was a FANTASTIC day here. It was sunny most of the day, with just enough clouds to make for a gorgeous sky. We had about eight inches of fresh snow from the day before, and it seemed that everywhere I went I came up with photo ideas. I should tell you that my first choice for shooting is outside -- I live in a beautiful area. I had some good plans for the first few hours of Sunday, and I was starting to get stoked about the whole event. I have some friends in a nearby town who were also planning to spend the day behind a camera, and we were really getting each other excited about the shooting to come.
Sunday morning broke with a sunrise that was...BORING. A heavy overcast, and dead calm. I remember reading an article by a famous nature photographer, and he made a comment about Midwest skies commonly being WHITE...which is exactly what I was faced with on this dreary morning. A check of the NOAA weather radio didn't bring good news -- more of the same for the rest of the day. Suddenly the plans for a lot of my AM shooting were in the same boat as my previous days ambition...and that boat was sunk. I fed my dogs, and went back to bed. I had all but given up on the day. But as I lay there trying to go back to sleep, I remembered a paragraph in John Owens editorial..."We improve as photographers by forcing ourselves to shoot; by finding the photograph when there doesn't seem to be one; by studying the light -- every kind of light we encounter -- and seeing the photo potential in it." So even though I was getting a late start, I got my gear together, and before leaving the house, checked to see if my bird feeders were full. There was only one bird there at the time...an Evening Groesbeak. But that one bird was a kick in the head -- I was basically LIVING inside a huge softbox. The colors of that bird were spectacular. The Evening Groesbeak is gorgeous ANY time, but under these lighting conditions, they were so saturated that it was almost unnatural. I set up a portable blind, a tripod, a remote release, and spent the first couple of hours right outside my back door. No one who photographs birds with any regularity will find this next comment unusual -- the Groesbeak never came back. But there was a steady stream of my usual birds: Chickadees, Red and White Breasted Nuthatches, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, even a couple of Pine Siskins. But the bird that looked the best was the lowly Blue Jay...their colors really popped. It was quite cold that morning -- about five degrees -- and this picture just really seemed to express the mood.
As the day wore on, I was struck by the absolute lack of color in the general landscape...totally desaturated. But where there WAS color, it really came alive. Hence the No Trespassing sign. This photo was not touched at all in the computer...just slight levels adjustment. I caught a few Beech leaves in the background to the left to try to exhibit that...these posts really were that gray, as were most of the trees, limbs, etc.
This desaturation is very evident in the shot of the river. It was getting pretty late in the day, and the already flat light was beginning to go away entirely. The long shutter speed did manage to blur the slush floating in the water to give a slight sense of motion, and help give a little interest to an otherwise lackluster shot.
Because of the late start, I knew I would have to shoot for quite a while after dark to be able to get in the entire 15 hours. I opted to take my break just after the sun went down -- I assume it went down because it got dark...there certainly was no sunset to shoot -- so I stopped at Schultz's Party Store in Wolverine to get something to eat. Fortunately, I know everyone at Schultz's, so they weren't entirely put off when I started wandering around the store and taking pictures of anything that looked interesting. The shot of the row of different flavors of Pucker bottles came out a little different than I had expected. I wanted to use available light to keep some of the store atmosphere, but with the small aperture necessary to try to keep as many bottles as possible in focus (oops!) the shutter speed was too slow. So I tried to freeze things with a little fill flash, and all that did was add a few highlights in the bottles. But I guess if the bottles look like that to you, you have already had "Too Much Pucker." (Actually, this photo was a quick shot taken a couple of hours earlier when I stopped for gas.)
After they kicked me out of the store -- actually they had to close at 9 o'clock -- I realized that I was about done with what had turned out to be a very interesting day. But I was still only at 175 photos (by the way, 15 hours of 12 photos per hour works out to 180 shots, not the 225 quoted in the article) and wanted to get home and burn up the last few capturing my dogs in hopefully interesting poses. On the way home I noticed that the stop signs were glowing in my headlights at roughly the same intensity as my dash lights...another idea! At the last stop sign before home, I knew there wouldn't be much traffic this late on a Sunday night, so I stopped about 30 yards short of the sign and went to work. I set up my tripod on the driver's seat, and composed the best I could to replicate the driver's perspective. I wanted everything to be in focus, so I set the aperture at f/22, but this necessitated a long exposure. I set it at 30 seconds, and hoped for the best. By checking the LCD after each shot, they were looking pretty good...but something was missing. At this point I was getting pretty tired, and focusing was even becoming a challenge...and that was the subject I was looking for. Too tired to drive, what might the hazards be? So the next attempt was shot using the timer, and it gave me time to run up into the headlights and get set before the shutter tripped. Unfortunately, the snow was coming down pretty good and made it hard to keep the windshield clean...which turned out to be a benefit. I think it adds to the whole story. This series of photos were the only ones that I shot all day that needed some major manipulations in the computer. All of the photos were shot in RAW, so they all needed conversion in Digital Photo Pro, and most were treated to levels adjustments in Photoshop Elements. But this group needed a little something else. Since I shot this with the engine off to avoid vibrations, the tach showed 0 rpm, the speedometer showed 0 mph, and all of the idiot lights that come on when the key is on but the engine is not were glowing brightly and giving things away. So the idot lights were all cloned out, the tach and speedo needles were selected and moved, and then the 0's that were semi-destroyed by the move process were cloned back in. The only thing not fixed, something possibly noticed by the sharp-eyed in the crowd, was the oil pressure gauge. It is still at zero, which would be a very dangerous thing driving at 30 mph. Just wanted to see if anyone would notice.
All-in-all, the day went very well, and was a good learning experience. I have to admit that I didn't stick strictly to the one-photo-every-5-minutes rule. There were a couple times that I had to spend time changing locations, so there were a couple of gaps that were then made up for by shooting a little faster for the next few photos. And one of the hardest things was the fact that in many cases I would decide what I wanted to shoot next, but had to wait for the five minutes to be up. I think I may have rushed a few of those by a minute, also.
I may even end up doing this on my own some time...although maybe in smaller doses. Since I don't make my living as a photographer, it is hard to be able to set aside a whole day away from work and home responsibilities to do something that to most people is just a very miner hobby...but I guess that is one thing that sets photographers-- professional AND amateur -- apart from the crowd.
Thanks to everyone for participating! The complete entries can be found here. And for those who shot but haven't yet submitted, don't despair: the deadline for receiving entries to be eligible for the Pentax K100D prize package is noon February 21. For a complete list of guidelines, see our Rules page.