Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pines at Denver Church, Bass Lake, Sierra National Forest, California

Pines at Denver Church, Bass Lake, Sierra National Forest

1/20 sec at f/4, focal length: 184mm - June 4, 2008, 7:14pm PDT
Photographed with Canon EOS 20D, EF 70-200mm f/4L, handheld

This image is an example that open eyes and no expectations can sometimes lead to something wonderful.

I live relatively close to this lake and one evening, while my wife was at work, I decided to take my kids for a walk along the southern shore. My children are 2 years and 9 months and with two so young and so close, but in two totally different directions, it can be quite demanding on time and energy. And even though I knew full well that the opportunity to create, let alone connect with a moment that could actually invoke some kind of emotion upon viewing, would most certainly be non existent, I grabbed my camera and a single lens.

We reached the lake and put Bowie, my 9 month old son, in a jogging stroller and let Haven, my 2 year old daughter walk along side so that occasionally she could wander a bit off the paths and explore. As it came time to eat, Haven had chosen a nice bench right along the water line so that we could enjoy our dinner.

As we were eating I noticed this great grouping of trees sitting in the water, completely shaded with beautiful, soft directional light filtering in from the right. I could see that even though the light was great, there were still a lot of distractions in the scene. (My children were very preoccupied with dinner at this point and allowing me an unusual amount of time to contemplate things of which that have absolutely no concern to them) I quickly started to set up my camera for the image I was beginning to visualize in case they continued to be so gracious.

I set my camera to Daylight White Balance to keep the overall cool tones that I was seeing in the scene, and although I am always in RAW mode and could have easily adjusted white balance in post and left the camera in Automatic White Balance, I prefer to work this way as it helps me to stay focused on the image that I'm seeing in my mind. If I would have left the camera in Auto WB, it would have most definitely biased towards a warmer color temperature, losing the cool tones and therefore losing the emotion of the scene. If I were to see this on the back of the LCD as I was making images, I may have lost interest before I got the right one.

Next step was to eliminate the distractions.

I am William Neill's assistant. Bill has been creating some very provocative Impressionistic images lately and its hard not to be inspired/influenced by his work, especially when I get the opportunity to study it every day...I love my job. But being familiar with this technique, and having used it numerous times over the last couple of years, I knew that it was my solution. By setting my ISO to 100, I knew that I would be able to get a slow enough shutter speed with any given f/stop to eliminate distractions. It would then be a question of what shutter speed was the right one, which I could only determine by actually making images and seeing which one I responded to most, though I do know that I usually prefer to hang out in the 1/10 to 1/15 of a second range when creating "Impressions".

So now the camera is set, I'm already envisioning a composition, and dinner is all done. All I need is continued cooperation from my two amazing kids.

We begin to make our way towards the stand of trees and Haven and Bowie are doing great. Haven is telling me all about the ducks she sees and how one of them is a baby duck like Bowie. We get to a spot along the path that I like and happens to have some rocks that Haven has taken interest in. Bowie is happy as can be watching the water lap in as boats pull their skiers by. I instantly pull my camera to my eye and start photographing before the chance is lost.

I quickly see that I'm liking whats happening with 1/20 sec and stick there for most of the frames. I'm keeping enough texture in the tree trunks but still losing enough of the distracting details in the background.

I get about 2 minutes into photographing and find out that Haven was so contemplative with the rocks because she's also been working on something else that I quickly need to change, so we head back to the car, get everyone cleaned up and call it a night.


  1. great site my friend. this picture is mind blowing.

  2. I've been to Denver Church many times to swim with my kids and hike on the nature trail across the street. Never in my life would I have guessed that this is where that photo was taken. You clearly have an excellent eye in transforming images into something extraordinary.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I should make it clear that there was only contrast adjustments made in post production and no other filters or effects were applied. This is basically how it came out of the camera.

  4. Great image and wonderful story about it as well. Very nice John!