After a long California summer of static days and harsh light, I so look forward to fall photography and nature's little gifts that start popping up everywhere. Fall is when the clouds return, when splashes of color and crisp reflections in quiet water invite leisurely strolls filled with intimate discoveries.
Today's image is the product one of these fall forays. It's something of an illusion that perfectly illustrates the difference between the camera's vision and ours. As you've probably heard me say ad nauseum, the more you can leverage your camera's vision, the more you'll be able to expand your images beyond the conventional. In this case the camera's inability to capture the full range of light, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights, allowed me to make this leaf appear suspended in a void.
On this overcast fall afternoon I wandered the banks of Yosemite's Merced River with my 100-400 lens. By October the river's spring urgency has given way to a relaxed tranquility that I have no trouble matching on my photography explorations. When I spied an assortment of colorful leaves trapped by a beautifully textured log, a composition immediately formed in my mind. My eye could see the reflection of golden trees on the opposite bank, but with a twist of my polarizer the reflection disappeared and the water turned black. Beneath the surface I could see the mud and rock of the riverbed, but I knew my camera would be unable to capture both the leaves' brilliant hues and the murk beneath--by exposing for the color in the leaves, I'd be able to make them appear to float in an inky void.
Upstream a second group of leaves approached; it occurred to me that if I could separate these leaves from any tangible anchor (i.e., the log), the floating effect would be enhanced. The slow water allowed just enough time for exposure decisions before the leaves drifted into position. I quickly dialed in an f-stop that would allow enough depth of field and bumped my ISO to 400 to enable a shutter speed that would freeze the motion. I metered on the leaves and underexposed slightly to maximize the color. When the leaves drifted into position I had time for just a couple of frames. If I had it to do over again I'd probably have dialed to ISO 800 (to further increase my shutter speed) and dealt with the noise in post-processing, but all things considered I'm pretty satisfied with the way this came out.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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