Photo Talk 6

September 26, 2014

This article is my sixth "Photo Talk" article, showcasing the photo below: Half Dome Echoes an Elm Tree

"Yosemite landscape photography" "Yosemite elm"Half Dome ElmAn elm tree in Yosemite Valley

 

This photo's story is simple; driving through Yosemite Valley one morning, I immediately saw this beautiful elm tree.  Correction; I saw this beautiful Elm tree.  It deserves a capital "E."  

 

Yosemite's Elm would be wonderful no matter its surroundings, but, by a beautiful coincidence, this Tree decided to grow in the shape of Yosemite's iconic Half Dome.  

 

In this photo, before a viewer even recognizes that the Tree and the Dome are intrinsically linked, he or she will notice a sense of calm in the photo.  An echo of peace calls from Half Dome to the Elm, its silhouetted form a subtle reminder that this tree has a partner in Yosemite.  

 

Composing this photo was simple once I found the right viewpoint: I simply made sure to exclude distracting elements on either side of the frame, then I took the photo.  I am beginning to recognize that one interesting aspect of my personal style, especially in my favorite photos, is that the vertical line dividing the frame in two is often the centerpiece of my composition.  I'll write an article about that soon (and how it goes agains the traditional "rules" of composition), but for now it's suffice to say that a vast majority of my photos either position the main subject on this line (especially near the bottom of the frame), or there is a subtle vertical line in the photo itself.  In this photo, the trunk of the Elm is almost exactly on the dividing line (which is how I think of it, often times dividing the frame into two different halves), and I would have put it more towards the middle if the evergreen on the very far right hadn't needed to be cropped the way it is.

 

I took this photo from a field of waist-high grass and weeds, but that didn't stop me from reaching the composition I wanted.  I was going for something subtle enough that it would take the viewer time to see the tie between Half Dome and the Elm, but I also wanted it to be clear that I composed the photo intentionally with the echo in mind.  Thus, I settled on this angle.  I think I reached my goal of drawing a subtle echo between the elements of the frame, although next time I will try to put Half Dome's form directly onto that of the Elm, just for fun.

 

To see my processing, take a look at the original:

 

 

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory: I darkened the photo, lowered the highlights, brightened the shadows, darkened the blacks, and converted to monochrome.  Then, I added a very mild orange tint to the monochrome highlights to show a subtle feeling of warmth in the image.

 

In terms of camera settings, I was trying to take the sharpest photo possible, and f/4 to f/8 is roughly that on the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8.  Thus, since most of this scene was towards infinity focus, I decided to choose f/4 for its lack of diffraction.  Knowing what I know now, I would probably have changed that to f/8 in case I had any focus errors, but it makes next to no difference in the sharpness of this photo.

 

1/1250 second shutter, f/4, ISO 100, 45mm (67mm full-frame equivalent).  I used the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on my Nikon D7000 camera for the photo, and I used aperture-priority mode at -2/3 EV. 

 

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