Curse the sun and all it stands for!

Last weekend was both sunny and warm, maybe too warm, so I grabbed my trusty camera kit and headed to the local park to take some pictures.

Photographs.

Images.

I headed to the local park to do that thing one does with a camera.  There.  The river, which runs through the park, was rife with feathered life in the way of Canadian geese and male mallard ducks.  Joy and rapture!  Somewhat willing subjects that typically behave if I approach them slowly and quietly and they were out in abundance.

I strapped onto my Canon 40D dSLR my Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM IS lens, checked my white balance setting, my metering mode, my ISO, etc. and turned the camera upon my slightly unsuspecting prey.  My prey was, as I had hoped, pretty cooperative and actually deigned to allow me within twenty feet or so.  After spending some time snapping away (and remaining in one spot) they seemed to become even more comfortable with my presence and THEY actually moved towards me.  Well, the Canadian geese did, but the mallards stuck with the twenty-foot buffer.  No harm, no fowl (come on…..that was fucking funny!).  As I snapped away with my trusty kit I kept telling myself “Damn!  I’m certain to have gotten some great pictures this time.  They’re close, cooperative and look great in this four o’clock in the afternoon sunshine.  Damn it’s a good day to be out taking pictures.”

“Photographs.”

“Images.”

“Shit.”

Anyway…..I spent the rest of the afternoon taking more pictures, but I felt that none would be as good as those taken first, with the mallards and geese.  One would think that I would be anxious to get home and see my craft.  To get home and see the fruits of my labour.  To get home and bask in the glow of my glorious photography skills.

Picture skills.

Oh Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ…..stop it already!

However, this wasn’t the case.  I actually didn’t review any of these Ken Rockwell quality shots until just last night while lounging in a recliner in my t.v. room.  Mind you, the laptop isn’t the best vehicle for issues of colour reproduction, but I was only reviewing them after all.  As I made my way through this batch of images (with such high hopes and expectations) I was suddenly filled with a sense of minor, but impending disaster.  Of the images shot when the various birds were on/in the water the images lacked detail in the bodies of the mallards and geese because I had been shooting in the direction of the sun.

Yep.

I know that shooting with the sun behind you is a far, far better thing to do and these images proved exactly why that is so.  However, what was I to do?  The other side of the river doesn’t have the mallards and geese: they only come to this side of the river.  And as it was in the mid-late afternoon I didn’t have much in the way of choice as to where the sun was located.  My bad.

Still, many of the pictures of the geese (who moved quite close to me and away from the water) are very nice and I’m looking forward to posting them soon enough.  And the ones of the geese and mallards in the water aren’t horrible, unusable, wretched, etc., but simply lack the detail I would have preferred as I was shooting the side of their bodies that was cast in shadow.  I guess I’m going to be learning something about High Dynamic Range in the next few days when I get serious and go through the pictures for the purpose of posting and printing.

Oh, and speaking of printing pictures I’d like to pass on a bit of advice I read last year.  Printing pictures (or having them printed) can get pricey, but if you have your own picture-quality printer (and I have two:  a Hewlett Packard C7280 and an Epson PictureMate Snap) I have read that a great substitute for high-end (and high-cost) photo paper is to use brochure paper with a gloss finish.  I haven’t yet tried it myself, but the author of this advice said it gives very good results and at a much lower cost.  I’m actually thinking of printing all the pictures I really like in this fashion and putting them into a notebook so that I can see my work over time and enjoy it on something other than a computer monitor.

You can thank me by sending money.

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5 thoughts on “Curse the sun and all it stands for!

  1. Ah yes, the good old “keep the sun behind you” maxim.

    When I first got back into this photography lark (courtesy of digital) must confess that I was a bit blatant in disregarding that… and gradually came to understand there’s a vey good reason for observng it whenever possible.

    ‘course, when I’m doing my “activism” shots I don’t really have a lot of choice sometimes, but as for the rest nowadays I do at least make a token gesture of always checking the sun’s position.

    Bit of a coincidence you mentioning HDR though cos for the past few days I’ve been toying with the idea of having a play with it myself. In fact, came across a dedicated app yesterday that may prove interesting. Um… think its called Photomatix.

  2. You know…..the past week or so has been something of an eye opener regarding me and photography. I think I’m trying too hard. Or too much. Or too something. I blame you. You and Darren. And LifeSpy. And Dooce. And others I have found on my own, through you, through LifeSpy.

    I see everyone taking pictures and I look at them and think “Wow. That’s pretty cool,” or “Jeez, what a great location for taking pictures. I wish I were there.”

    I really just want to have fun. No. That’s not right either. I just want to take pictures. Instead what has happened is that I am trying to be a photographer. I don’t even know what that means though. I look over site after site and see what other folks are doing and what software they are playing with and they speak of all sorts of things of which I have no clue.

    But that’s not quite it either.

    I feel alone. Depressed. Uncertain of myself as a man. As a person. As a contributing member of society. Each day I go through the motions of waking up, moving about the house, making plans and such, but I can’t seem to follow through on anything. Motivated, I am. But I’m incapable of moving forward. And I feel the same way about picture taking right now.

    It’s almost as if I’m concerned that I will be a failure at yet another thing in life. And I really don’t want to feel like a failure at yet one more thing.

    I think this would actually have made a better blog entry than a reply.

  3. Oh shit (talk about failure)….I forgot to mention that when I say I blame you and everyone else I’m really blaming myself. You guys just do such nice work and I feel stupid.

    I forgot to add the ol emoticon stuff. My bad.

  4. Oh forkboy, lemme give you a big virtual hug!

    I know exactly what you mean (I think). When I first joined Flickr and started uploading stuff, I spent a lot of my time there simply browsing other folks’ ouput and, inevitably, comparing it to my own.
    And, also inevitably, thinking “Shit, I’ll never be as good as them. I’m crap at this. I dunno how they manage to get those results. I’ll never be able to do this photography stuff!”

    But then, cos I’m a bit of an obstinate bugger, I just “switched off” to what other people were doing/producing and simply started shooting loads of pics, uploaded them to Flickr more for my own enjoyment than anything else, and just hoped no-one would notice them!
    Then some of my pics started receiving a few “kindly comments”, which was sufficient to encourage me to do even more.

    Thing is, there are folk of all levels of expertise and competence who take pics and I think the real secret is something I said right at the beginning… enjoy yourself, have fun.
    Its not a competition, and ultimately there can only ever be one real judge of your output… yourself.

    I’ve developed another trick as well… I don’t think of myself (and never has) as a “photographer”. I’m simply a guy who takes pics (photographs, images, records… damn you!).

    So basically what I’m saying is… sod everyone else, just shoot want you want without necessarily trying to achieve a particular effect or being concerned about whether its artistic or not.

    The way I do it is just to wander around and look at things. Sometimes a particular angle or perspective will catch my eye, or the way a light shines on something, or maybe just a very pretty scene that appeals to me. So I shoot it, for no other reason than in times to come I can look at it and remind myself of being there, of having seen it “for real”.

  5. As usual, you make perfect sense. I was having a moment. For whatever reason they have been coming often and regularly lately.

    Thanks for being understanding and all that.

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