April Showers Are Still Just Rain

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Filling the Void
The weather for my two days off has been rather bipolar.  Saturday, it was raining pretty much all day long and the temperature was dropping steadily through the day.  Sunday, Nothing but clear blue skies for as far as the eye could see.  Neither situation is what I would call ideal for photography, but I knew that if I was going to get anything in this weekend, I was going to have to brave the rain to make it happen.  Clouds are always better than a featureless blue sky for me.  The question was where to go?

The forecast for Saturday morning was calling for very low clouds, so I was actually hoping for some foggy effects, so I was thinking about woodland photography for the most part.  Since the rain would probably prevent me from doing too much, I decided to stay close to home so that I could get in and get out quickly.  The idea was to leave early in the morning before the heavy rain started and be back home before Sierra woke up.  Well, that didn't work out well because when Toni left for work and woke me up, the rain was already here and I didn't feel like fighting the steady rain that early in the morning so I went back to sleep.

Sierra and I ended up going to a movie since doing anything outside was really out of the question at that point.  However, on the way back, the rain was slacking off to a steady drizzle.  I could deal with that in the woods, so I asked if she would like to go on a hike with me.  She agreed, and I got my gear at home and headed out to the Piedmont Environmental Center located in Jamestown, NC.  I've been here a handful of times as a photographer but have never really gotten anything that I particularly liked.  I've tried to shoot various landscapes, but it is just so cluttered with undergrowth that photography is rather difficult.

Tiptoe in the Woods
The plan was to go out and to shoot black and white images with a woodland theme.  This was something that I had not tried out there before, and thought that it might have a chance of getting a few images.  Well, when we started to hike, I could see that isolating trees was going to be quite difficult.  The lighting was great, but without any fog, there was just too much clutter to deal with in order to capture the shot.  I narrowed my focus a bit more and decided to shoot some isolations.  That was another technique that I had not tried here before.

We made our first stop along the lake where there were some bits of driftwood floating around the shore.  I grabbed my camera and fitted the 70-200mm lens with no filters so I could have the benefit of the lens hood to keep the front element dry.  If I found a need for the polarizer, I would add it later on for a particular shot.  As it turned out, I really didn't need the filter because the glare from the rain soaked surfaces actually worked out for what I was going for.

As I was working on my first subject, Sierra made mention that there was a nice hollow branch floating to my right.  I had seen it, and I thought it looked cool as well, but hadn't really considered how to photograph it yet.  When I decided that my first subject wasn't really going to work out the way I had envisioned it, I moved over to her idea.  I tried a couple of things that didn't really work.  As a last resort, I thought about really getting in close on the parts that I found interesting and making that the composition.  This actually worked and had a nice texture element to it as well as being slightly abstract.  This actually turned into my favorite image from the day, and the decision was to leave it as a color composition.

The Delicate Touch
As we hiked around, it was the trees that grabbed my attention.  They all had really interesting bits on them which were super saturated thanks to the rain.  These were the elements that I started to work with using the same long lens.  I was always looking for that woodland shot, but nothing at all jumped out for me.  I was also on a schedule since we were supposed to meet Toni for dinner in a couple of hours.

For the most part we enjoyed walking through the woods as I took some of the same trails that I did as a child years ago...many, many years ago.  It was kind of nice to share that with Sierra, but she is a teenager, so for the most part I just wanted to toss her in the lake.  Now, I'm not that mean, I did give her my jacket as she refused to dress for the weather conditions as I suggested.  With that, I thought my karma score was evened up.

Fleeting Idea
I had come out here looking for striking monochrome images, but that just didn't happen the way I was hoping.  I did get a few black and white shots that were much better than the original color captures.  Had I been shooting with color in mind, I would have passed these images by.  Since I was looking for textures though, I was drawn to some very subtle characteristics in the wood.

Of course, it seemed like every cool tree I came upon, there were initials carved in the wood.  All I could do was shake my head.  When I was hiking these trails as a kid I wasn't allowed to carve in the live trees.  I could only put my initials in the benches and on the wooden bridges.  It is a right of passage I guess, but it is something that I am not wild about as an adult.

The Fiber of Life
Shooting these tree isolations did end up with a funny experience though.  Right at the end of the hike, I found a nice tree that had fallen.  I wanted to capture this section (right above) as a tight isolation.  I was still shooting with my long lens, and the only composition that looked right was shot at 200mm.  The problem I was facing was a minimum focusing distance.  I kept fine tuning the composition so that it was in focus.  I ultimately found myself with the tripod almost fully extended.  On the last stretch, I realized that I could no longer really see the LCD even standing near six feet tall.  I had to shield the glare on the screen so that I could get the focus right using live view.  I could just barely see the composition, but was pretty sure that I had it right.  It was an awkward shot, but it didn't look right at the 70mm end where I could have gotten closer with my 24-70mm lens attached.  I needed the compact quality of the 200mm.

After about two hours of hiking, we needed to get back to the car and head off to meet Toni for dinner.  Of course she asked how it went.  I wasn't sure if anything had turned out, and I wasn't that excited for the day.  In fact, I decided to wait until Sunday to actually process the images.  They were better than I thought, but not as good as I had hoped.  I will just chalk this trek up to another example why this location is so hard to shoot.  It was nice to get out and go hiking with Sierra, and she made it home in one piece.  She didn't even get tossed in the lake.  She is a 13 year old, so I can't make any promises about the next 6 or so so years.

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