Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Smoky Mountain Rain

A gentle rain fell most of Monday morning in the Smoky Mountains, so we slept in for all of 30 minutes, and got to eat breakfast sitting down before heading out to Cades Cove. The Cove is one of the most photographed locations in the Park, without a doubt, so I was eager to see if my shots would look as good as others. The light qualified as both "soft" and "wet", and the mountaintops were often hidden behind the low clouds.
The Oliver Cabin is the first structure on the 11 mile driving loop. We had to watch carefully to avoid taking pictures of other photographers taking pictures of the cabin.
I liked the end of this log on a cabin. You can still see the ax marks made when the tree was felled almost 200 years ago.
We practiced the elements of composition in our photos this weekend. A curve or diagonal line to draw the viewer's eye into the shot is always a plus. The Rule of Thirds says to avoid putting the subject of the shot into the middle of the frame, but offset it a bit. My camera has a tic-tac-toe grid to display in the view finder to help line things up. When composing the shot, always consider the background as well. Avoid any distractions, such as twigs or seeds where they don't belong. Move some sticks out of the way, if necessary. Give the subject's "face" room to look into, and yes, even flowers "face" in some direction. If there is a tip of something else protruding, decide whether to include more of it, or to eliminate it all together. If you pay attention, you can do this on site, otherwise Photoshop comes to the rescue.
Some photographers spend a lot of money on macro lenses to get close-ups. I often use my zoom lens for the same purpose, but have to back away more than six feet for the zoom to focus. I love the delicate details in a flower.
Maindenhair ferns grow along the roadsides, and fortunately the Park leaves lots of pull-offs so you don't get run over when going back for a shot you saw in passing.
The low clouds and rain required special attention when setting the camera for a shot. Automatic programs might have compensated, but we were trying to do everything with manual settings as much as possible. (Get ready, I'm going to explain the technical side of photography. If you already know this, feel free to jump down.) Three settings can be adjusted to allow just the amount of light you need into the camera lens. The first is the Aperture - the hole that allows light to enter the lens. The Shutter controls how long that hole is open, and thus the amount of light entering the lens. The third item is the ISO setting. In film days, the ISO was a part of the film, and controlled how sensitive the film was to light. In digital photography, this is a setting that can be changed as desired. The darker the light, the higher your ISO goes to compensate. The first turkey picture was taken with ISO 200, and the second with ISO 400. No other settings were changed, but look at the difference this makes. I was proud of myself for remembering it!
Landscapes and flowers make terrific non-moving subjects for a photograph, but I love animals, especially birds. Somehow, the park rangers have trained all the animals on how to avoid having your photo taken, or at least a good photo. Number one lesson, stand between two trees so that your whole body cannot be seen. Extra points are awarded to animals that keep their head hidden, showing only the side or rump.
Lesson two, always stand behind brush, sticks or leaves, so that at least one of these prevents a clear shot of the animal without resorting to Photoshop to clone out the impediment. Lesson three, keep your head to the ground as much as possible. Do not look up so the photographer can see your eyes, or you will be followed around for a much longer time. Lesson four, no many how many people point cameras at you, stay cool and just ignore them. This bear had at least 25-30 people with cameras pointed at him, but he just continued grazing. This tactic teaches the photographers patience. Lesson five, keep moving. The turkeys are great at this. If the photographer doesn't know how to change settings quickly, all their photos will be blurred. Extra points also are awarded to the animals who created blurry photos. Just think how silly photographers look running down a road, tripod legs fully extended, splashing in puddles because they aren't watching where they step. These three Toms walked down the field together, stretching out their head in unison every time they gobbled. It looks like a Turkey Lake ballet!

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

What a great series of images. I love our land that we live near, so versatile in landscapes and wildlife. Did you ever hear how the Eagle nest held after Thunder?