More thoughts from "the zone." In my previous post I wrote about the joy I feel simply wandering in nature with no distractions, and I shared an image from the afternoon Don Smith and I arrived in Zion. Today's image was captured the following morning, when the previous afternoon's experience compelled us to make one more trip up the canyon before our 12 hour drive home to California.
Though our time was limited, a couple of things made this morning shoot even more productive (and enjoyable!) than the first visit. First was the familiarity I had gathered from the prior afternoon. And second was the utter stillness of the morning. I was the first person to enter the canyon, and without wind or human interference the air was so still that it seemed even the river was whispering. In these conditions it's easy to forget time, ignore the morning chill, and immerse myself in world devoid of human obligation and discomfort.
What struck me most on first impression of Zion was the vivid crimson maples, something we just don't get in California. While the yellow was ubiquitous, red leaves were quite plentiful, and I tuned my vision to identify red I could highlight against the predominant yellow foliage. Isolating a subject requires more than positioning it in the frame's two-diminsional up-down/left-right planes; it also requires controlling the virtual third dimension, depth, by careful management of the background and depth-of-field. Identifying this bunch of red leaves was just the beginning of my composition. Next I refined my find by moving left/right and up/down until I had a complementary background.
The next task was finding the appropriate depth of field--too little DOF would mean not enough of foreground the maple leaves would be sharp; too much DOF much would have resolved so much background that it would compete with the leaves. I decided to use my 70-200 lens, moving back far enough that I could include my primary subject, the red maple leaves, at 200mm, a focal length that would compress the foreground leaves and background trees (make the trees seem closer to the leaves). Because depth of field decreases with focal length, I was confident I could achieve enough background softness at f16 if I used my lens's maximum focal length.
A few other subtle but significant considerations went into this image. First, note the long shutter speed: the air was so still that I had no qualms about using ISO 200, f16, and a polarizer, even though it dropped my shutter speed to four seconds. Second, don't underestimate the importance of a polarizer in shady or overcast scenes: color-robbing glare from leaves' waxy sheen is reduced significantly by a properly oriented polarizer. And finally, in front of these leaves were a few fluffy white seed pods--I knew they were close enough that at 200mm they would be blurred to little puffs of white, and simply decided to shoot through them.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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