A Notable Tree

Good scenes and subjects are noteworthy.


August 13, 2022 :: Practical Matters / Landscapes


My friend and photo workshop co-leader, Rod Barbee, told me about this tree. He hoped it was standing in the canola field that we could see from miles away. He was right.


A lone tree stands in a blooming canola field.

His knowledge about the tree and the classic working farm just down the slope from it came from many visits to eastern Washington’s Palouse Region on his own and with photography clients. He’s the best example of a smart photographer who gets to know a place intimately.


Even though I had my marked gazetteer maps with me, I’d have found this tree only by stumbling onto it in the maze of unpaved country roads. He knew where to go by dead reckoning.


Still, he had the same gazetteer along for finding all our locations that afternoon. The difference between ours was his had more Xs and notes on it. A few more coffee stains, too, he pointed out.


No matter where and what you like to photograph, you’re wise to keep notes about the scenes and subjects you're fond of. They will help you plan and successfully get back to those spots when the season and the light are right. After all, you wouldn't want to miss something like this noteworthy tree that is outstanding in its field.



MAKING THE PHOTOGRAPH


SUBJECT: Lone tree in canola field


LOCATION: Palouse Region of eastern Washington


CONDITIONS: Mostly sunny, fair, slight breeze; 75 degrees F; late afternoon.


EQUIPMENT and SETTINGS: Nikon D850, Nikon 24-120mm at 80mm, Gitzo tripod, Really Right Stuff ball head. Matrix metering, Aperture priority exposure, Auto focus, polarizing filter.


EXPOSURE: 1/500 sec. at f/18, ISO 2000


Making this photograph was straightforward with no tricks or special techniques. You can see the settings are about what you’d expect for the scene in these conditions. It was more about slowing down, looking around and waiting for something good to happen.


We were photographing from a quiet road, so it was easy to move side to side, forward and backward. I did this without the camera to my eye. When I found a promising place, I looked through the viewfinder and saw I was getting closer to the right spot. Then I locked the camera’s L-bracket into the ball head’s clamp and fine-tuned the composition.


I started zoom cropping a wider view down to a focal length that was pleasing. I wanted the tree to be big enough in the frame to show its importance in the scene. And I wanted the right amounts of yellow canola and blue sky to claim their diagonal spaces across the frame.


That’s when the “something good” happened. A diagonal band of clouds drifted in from behind the canola. I watched and waited for it to glide into a comfortable place in the sky. When it did, I clicked away. It was the last element the composition needed. My watching and waiting paid off.



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