Friday, March 12, 2010

Filter, Focus, and Fantastic Light

Has this ever happened to you?

You are still 5 minutes away from your location as the sun begins to set. If you really hurry, you might catch the end of what promises to be a beautiful sunset. You pull into the parking lot, slam the car into park and jump out. You grab your camera bag and tripod and run like heck - tripping over stones on the uneven path. You find a decent looking bush for a foreground object (nothing spectacular, mind you - there just isn't time!), rip your camera out of the bag, and fumble with your tripod as you try to get it set up on slippery rocks. Quick! Grab your hyperfocal distance chart (What's my aperture? And how wide do I want to go? Hyperfocal distance is 1.2 meters with this focal length... so what's the near focus...?) You have to get your focus right, and then adjust the composition until your happy with it (not that it's that great a shot considering the fact that you are tripping all over yourself trying to get the darned camera set up before this spectacular light is gone!) Ok - now, you've got to pick the right GND filter. Choose the appropriate shutter speed! Hook up the remote release, set the camera on mirror lock up and two second timed release, and get ready to bracket! Lucky you! There is still some color left in the sky! Hit the shutter release... and nothing happens. Your battery is dead. And the other one is charging in the car.

AAHHH!We've all been there. ;)

Although you can't avoid this situation all the time, we do try to make sure we reach our location well before sunrise or sunset. In many cases, we'll check out the area the day before - or on a previous trip - so we know where we want to set up. When I get there, my camera is ready to go. (If you run into me at the airport, you'll probably find me cleaning lenses and checking camera settings while I wait for my flight.)

I have the hyperfocal distance memorized for the lens I use most frequently, and with experience, choosing the right filter gets easier. Batteries are charged after each trip - so they're ready to go at any time. I've also set up the menu options in-camera to include mirror lock-up and bracketing options under the "favorites" tab, so I don't have to dig through a series of menus to find them.

Now all I have to worry about is that other photographer who comes stumbling right into my shot just as the sky gets good - fumbling with his tripod, chasing his hyperfocal distance chart as it blows out of his hand in the wind, and screaming like a banshee....

No worries, buddy. I've been there.

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Blogger Tex said...

I love this humorous story. Are the initials of 'that other photographer' JP?

March 19, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger kosha said...

Oh it so happens all the time! So true! And thanks for the tip, will keep it in mind for that next sunset shot :-)

March 19, 2010 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Jay Patel said...

@Tex: Too funny!! You get extra assignment from me in our next workshop for that comment. :-)))

March 20, 2010 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Burdick said...

Oh this is so funny! I remember a specific instance of doing just this: running from the car with tripod in hand to get to Mono Lake before the color left the sky. Only to run to the lake's edge and completely sink into the slimy, smelly, grey mud shore! =)

March 24, 2010 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Oh boy - that must have been fun to wash out of your shoes, Aaron. :)

A few years back, Jay and I were shooting at Maroon Lake in Colorado. I found my shot and set up the camera - and waited for the light. When the sky went nuts, I started shooting... but my battery died after a single frame. I popped my second battery in, and that one died immediately, too! The cold temperatures were draining the batteries too quickly. I ended up running about a mile back to the car for the battery I'd left in the charger. I don't have too much trouble running 5 or 6 miles at home, but at 10,000 feet, one mile felt like ten.

The worst part was that there were hundreds of other photographers along the shore of the lake, and nobody was shooting the fantastic sky because the mountains were shrouded in fog. I wanted to run over and grab somebody's battery, take a few shots facing away from the mountains, and then hand it back. By the time I got back from the car, it was too late to capture the colors. Ah well - Jay got some nice shots that night. And I just try not to cringe when I see them. :)

March 24, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

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