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Fallen Leaves, McGee Creek, Eastern Sierra

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 7 August 2009 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

I try to approach every scene with the understanding that the possibilities are endless, limited only by my ability to see them. When I get in that place, time loses meaning as I explore the scene knowing every missed rock or leaf is also a missed opportunity.

I spent several hours on this overcast fall afternoon patrolling McGee Creek, near Bishop in California's Eastern Sierra, with my camera and 70-200 lens. (I love a midrange telephoto in these situations because so much of what I'm looking for is isolation shots of individual subjects.) In a world bursting with colorful leaves, there was really nothing to set this pair apart, but for whatever reason my eyes found them.

With close scenes like this I generally focus on the foreground subject, using the background for context. I wanted the creek to be recognizable but soft--too much detail in the creek would have competed for attention with the leaves. I also found that eliminating the colorful trees and leaves on the far bank gave me a monochrome background that made the leaves appear to jump out of the frame. As it turned out, the angle that best served my objective required me to sprawl on my belly.

Achieving the desired depth of field was mostly trial and error with the DOF preview button. I know it's a pain, but I can't emphasize too strongly the importance of becoming comfortable with DOF field preview. The biggest problem with DOF preview is the light drop-off that increases as your aperture shrinks. But like any other situation that involves reduced light, your eyes adjust. (It also doesn't hurt to close your eyes for a few seconds before pushing the button to give them a head start.) With the histogram and blinking highlights I rarely bracket for exposure anymore. But photography is an inexact science, so I often bracket for DOF, trying several apertures (at least a full stop apart) with the same composition and selecting the best later, on my computer.

Next post: August 10 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Aaron from Orem, United States

Really lovely.

7 Aug 2009 5:30am

Anina from Auckland, New Zealand

Perfect shot!
Love everything about it.
Not only are you good photographer but also a very good writer - I love todays piece; very well said :)

7 Aug 2009 6:08am

@Anina: Thanks, Anina--of course the writing is the most time consuming aspect of this commitment, so I'm glad my words help.

shoti from Everywhere in the, Philippines

very poetic, Gary. great contrasting colors and energies.

7 Aug 2009 6:13am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

wonderfully done!!!

7 Aug 2009 11:43am

Marilla from Turku, Finland

Great shot! I like your way using colours, they are strong and yet the photos are sensitive.

7 Aug 2009 12:28pm

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

This is a perfect example showing that professional photos do not 'just happen'; they are calculated.
The more I read your text, the more I realize what a total amateur I am!
This 'old dog' has GOT to learn some new tricks!

7 Aug 2009 1:38pm

@Judy: We're all growing as photographers. That's the real joy of photography, isn't it? The trick is to balance your calculating self with your creative self. Most photographers have one side that dominates (stifles) the other--the key is finding that balanced place where they complement rather than compete. (And non-professionals have more opportunity to enjoy the process of getting there.) :)

Loner from Wörgl, Austria

Excellent shot - good composed !

7 Aug 2009 2:50pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Beautiful composition!

7 Aug 2009 4:53pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Very nice shot, the composition is fantastic.

7 Aug 2009 4:57pm

Mirko Herzner from Mühlheim am Main, Germany

Amazing shot and thanks for the insightful story behind it...

7 Aug 2009 4:58pm

@Mirko Herzner: Thank you, Mirko. They all have stories, don't they? I get a real kick out of reading everyone else's too.

dobbino from Cape Town, South Africa

Superb photo again - and another informative narrative. Thanks, Gary - I must work harder at getting used to the DOF button - just takes time and practice, I guess.

7 Aug 2009 8:13pm

@dobbino: Thank you, Rob. The DOF button is a total pain, but fortunately it does get easier the more you use it.

pernilla from Andonno, Italy

Wonderful capture. Love the colours and the DOF. Your blog is always a great sorce of inspiration, both the pictures and the texts.

7 Aug 2009 9:27pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Exquisite light. Marvelous composition and DOF.

8 Aug 2009 12:43am

Bill Jennings from (Bay Area Northern Calif), United States

the colors and DOF make the image. Well done. Who can't love the yellow aspens, against a cool blue stream?

8 Aug 2009 1:46am

@Bill Jennings: Thanks, Bill. I think I have more fun photographing the Eastern Sierra in fall than any other time or place. There are just so many opportunities for creativity there.

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

You are the master of photography! I am always wowed by every single one of your images! Truly an artist!!! :))

8 Aug 2009 4:52am

@Magda: Thanks so much, Magda. As you know, I'm a great fan of your photography too.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

I wish I had taken this photo. I love that.

8 Aug 2009 8:45am

@Ana Lúcia: Thank you Ana, there's no higher compliment.

cassiel from Mexico, Mexico

The beauty of the simplicity

8 Aug 2009 12:25pm

Michael Tissington from Port Townsend, United States

Love the simplicity of this ..

9 Aug 2009 1:20am

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Nice shot

9 Aug 2009 7:40am