Project:52, sparkly ice (week 4)

miniature ice landscape

I can't get over how magical and surreal a tiny patch of ice can become with the right perspective, perfect sunlight and a simple close-up filter.

Yesterday morning it was cold.  Cold enough to cancel my regularly scheduled morning walk with a friend, cold enough that the snow makes hard crunchy noises underfoot and your breath makes huge clouds around your face, cold enough for most normal people to avoid the outdoors whenever possible.  So why is it, when I looked out the window that morning that I bundled on extra layers of clothing and ran outside into the parking lot?  Well, clearly, because I am a photographer.  (You could probably safely substitute ‘crazy’ for ‘photographer’ in a multitude of cases … this one included!)

But honestly, how could I resist?  The morning sun was just coming up over the rooftops, and that extra-cold snow sparkled all kinds of awesome when the light hit it.  Since Erin and I decided that our weekly photo challenge this week was to bring some sparkle to the snow, I figured that this was the perfect opportunity and not to be missed!  Such are the trials of a photographer really.  We’re always chasing moments, and trying to capture the perfect light.  So who am I to stay cozy inside when that perfect light is sparkling just outside my window?

In fact on this very chilly morning, I actually had to make 2 trips outside to satisfy the photographer bug in me.  When I first saw that gorgeous golden sun kissing the snow, I was just a bit too slow pulling on my winter gear and made it outside just as the sun faded behind a thin layer of clouds.  I was able to get a couple decent shots before my extremities began to chill, but nothing truly sparkly and epic.  Of course, not 15 minutes after I was back inside, the sun broke out of the clouds again … so back out I went.  This time, I noticed the lovely little patch of ice next to our walkway.  Frozen drips from the last warm day had left a bubbly impression on the surrounding snow, and the light was hitting it just perfectly.  What’s a photographer to do but lie down on the concrete and start shooting?  I had one of my close-up filters screwed onto my 50mm 1.4 lens in order to get nice and close to the tiny hills of ice.  Usually I like to keep the lens wide open to blur the background, but with the close-up filter I needed to give myself a bit of extra depth of field in order to capture the sparkly bokeh as the sun reflected off the ice and snow, so I opted for an aperture of 3.5.

Because I was back and forth between inside and out, my white balance inadvertently got left on tungsten.  However, when I checked my screen after the first couple of shots, I really liked the look, so I didn’t bother to switch it to a more accurate setting.  One of the bonuses of shooting files in RAW is that I can always change it back to ‘normal’ later while editing, and I did test it, but in the end the blue was just too cool.  As far as post-processing goes, there was really very little to do:  I increased the contrast with a curves adjustment, de-saturated the blue just a touch, and removed a couple tiny flecks of black seeds that were caught in the ice.  The final image reminds me of some amazing bug photography here … I almost wish I had a teeny figure to include in the scene.  Alas, this morning’s snow has hidden that ice world from view – I’ll have to see if I can get myself a teeny tiny little model (of the non-bug variety, preferably!) before I find the next frozen miniature landscape.

 

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I need some colour!

close-up, bird of paradise

It’s winter, so of course I’m feeling a little bit blah.  I often find it a real struggle to get inspired with so little colour around in my world this time of the year.  Luckily, the University just up the street has a fantastic greenhouse with all sorts of tropical plants.  It’s a great place to hide out from the winter and be creative.  Last week was one such opportunity, and I spent most of the time testing out my close-up filters.  I’ve had the filters for a couple of years now, but they don’t make it out of my kit nearly as much as I would have thought.  The greenhouse, however, is the perfect place for them.

On this most recent visit, my favourite flower, the hibiscus, was not in bloom, so I was forced to seek my colour fix in other places.  The brilliant orange of the bird of paradise drew my lens, and I spent most of my time trying to capture it in a unique and interesting way.  With a close-up filter on my 1.4 lens, my depth of field got razor thin – which can be absolutely magical…  except that even the slightest wobble with such a shallow depth of field would throw the focus completely out of whack.  It’s funny how wobbly you realize you are when you are trying to be perfectly still.  A smarter, more prepared photographer would have had a tripod along for cases such as this.  But not me!  I laugh in the face of preparation, and scoff at the mere … well, that’s not entirely true.  I do very much value being prepared, and my camera bag is constantly stocked with all of my other camera supplies…  I just never really think of that poor tripod until it’s too late.  So, again, this shoot was complicated by the fact that I had to focus on keeping myself as still as possible – not to avoid camera shake this time, but simply to keep the focus where I wanted it.

Despite my knack for providing extra challenges such as this for myself all the time, I’m quite happy with this shot.  It’s a lot more abstract than I usually shoot, but the vibrant colour is just what I need in the middle of this white winter, and I did eventually manage to get that petal curl perfectly in focus.  It will definitely fulfill my colour fix until my next trip to the greenhouse … or Mexico!