Enjoying the unexpected
Got out to Lower Rouge River trail with my camera despite the rain this morning. It wasn’t raining hard, but it was wet enough that, despite best efforts to keep the camera dry, eventually my microfiber cloth for cleaning lenses was soaked from multiple lens dryings. The shot above was not at all what I had expected to get this morning, but I think it’s my favorite of the day.
I headed east from the trailhead on the bluff above the south side of the Lower Rouge River. Coming down the hill where the bluff ends, the forest yields to plants and grasses usually taller than my head. It’s been months since I’ve been on this trail, and today I saw a large swath of brush had been cut a few weeks back, leaving stumps of nettles and other wild plants and flowers about 6 inches high. Alone, there stood a single bunch of beautiful yellow wildflowers about waist high that had somehow survived the razing. The contrast of these flowers all alone was striking, and I shot a couple pics from a distance with the 35mm prime lens I mounted on my D80 before hitting the trail this morning. Unsatisfied with the results, I moved closer.
In this clearing, the wind was stronger. When it came up, it blew from north to south, bending the flowers over. I headed to the south side of the flowers hoping to get a close up shot when the wind bent the blossoms toward me, and quickly realized the wind which bent the flowers so nicely toward my camera carried the rain straight into me, as well! I knew I could dry my lens with the microfiber cloth in my pocket if i needed to, but even so I figured I had just a few seconds to capture a good shot before the rain became an issue.
I squatted down (directly over a nettle plant), and tried not to think about losing my balance. When I looked through the viewfinder I realized the high tension powerlines were faintly visible through the mist at the top of the frame. The lone, delicate flowers bent in the rain before the giant metal forms carrying electricity — the lifeblood of industrialization. The wind came up just right, and I hit the shutter release. Less than 10 seconds later, I had 8 pics and soaked UV filter.
The shot below is a gigantic tree up on the bluff I descibed above. There’s nothing in this shot to give a sense of scale, but the trunk must be nearly 5 feet in diameter. It’s partially hollow, and there’s another section about 18 inches or more in diameter that has broken off and fallen at the foot of the huge tree. Every time I pass this tree it makes an impression on me, and I really wanted to get a good shot of it today. But the 35mm prime lens on my Nikon D80 is equivalent to a 52mm on a full frame camera, and I just didn’t have the width to get more than a small part of the tree in any one shot. Normally, I’d just back up, but amongst all the other trees in the forest this was not an option. What you see here is actually a composite shot of 16 individual photos.
In retrospect, I think I should have captured even more shots for the final picture. Even so, and despite the lack of scale, the composite captures the tree better than any of the individual shots.
The photo below was actually meant to be a test shot. In addition to a UV filter, I had a Tiffen 812 warming filter and a polarizing filter mounted on my lens today. I use the polarizing filter a lot, for all the usual reasons — help the blue sky and white clouds to stand out, reduce glare on water surfaces, etc. I wanted a few test shots of the river, because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to reduce the glare on the water today. I thought that the the dark brown, muddy river might show up like just a flat brown area in the photos. This hand-held shot retains a moderate amount of glare, and has an exposure of 1/13th second, aperture at f/4, and ISO set to 200. With some cropping and other post-processing, I decided I actually like it better than any of the shots that came afterward. The white dots visible mostly on the left side of the image are rain drops.
All in all, I was on the trail for about 1 hour 20 minutes this morning, and though it did not at all go as expected, just writing this post has me excited to get out and do it again!