Renewing my fondness for Eastern Washington's old barns.
July 17, 2022 :: Landscapes
Revisiting a favorite place breathed new life into my old vision of it. The last time I was in eastern Washington’s Palouse Region was in film days.
Since then, my Velvia* memories of the Palouse had faded to Kodachrome. Getting out in the farmlands and getting reacquainted with this graphic world was as welcomed as the new images I began to make.
Most times the foreground of a landscape photograph begins at our toes. This time it starts at my shoulder. The composition was inspired by my friend and co-leader, Rod Barbee, when we were scouting locations before our photo workshop there.
Many thanks to him for jump-starting my eyes as we visited favorite spots in a landscape that’s as familiar to him as his own backyard.
My fondness for the region's photogenic farmlands and old barns may not have been reborn, but it was revived.
*Velvia, a Fujichrome slide film, was the pro film of choice for nature photographers before the digital age dawned. It was prized for its saturated colors. Kodachrome preceded it and was once the standard. But it paled in comparison to the new Fujichrome film and fell out of favor with photographers and publishers.
MAKING THE PHOTOGRAPH
SUBJECT: Old barns
LOCATION: Palouse Region, eastern Washington
CONDITIONS: Partly cloudy, slight breeze; 65 degrees F; midmorning
EQUIPMENT and SETTINGS: Nikon D850 body, Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens at 24mm. Hand held. Matrix metering, Aperture Priority exposure, Auto focus, Vibration Reduction.
EXPOSURE: 1/60 second @ f/22, ISO 800
Making a photograph without a tripod feels wrong.
I'm happy to walk around with the camera in my hand when I'm looking for a good composition. But making an image while I'm hand holding it demands some courage. Still, that's what I did here. And I liked it.
Landscape photos most often require sharpness near to far. To achieve that, we find we need small apertures and slow shutter speeds. Add to it that we want to watch the frame's corners and edges and we see we'd be better off using a tripod.
But this composition would have been almost impossible with a tripod. I was too close to the barn to use it comfortably. Instead, I became a de facto tripod.
I engaged the Vibration Reduction, set the exposure mode to Aperture Priority and choose f/22. I turned on Live View, closed the eyepiece shutter to keep out stray light, and positioned the camera at the height where a prominent barn board joint vanished out of the upper right corner of the frame. I made sure there was comfortable spacing between the two barns and equally good space to the left of the left-hand barn.
Now I cradled the camera and lens in my left hand and tucked my left arm in against my ribs. Then I held the shutter-button side of the camera body in my right hand, lifted my bent right arm horizontally, pressed my elbow against the barn siding and leaned on it for support.
This made my body act as a tripod with its three points of contact -- two feet comfortably planted on the ground and my elbow resting against the barn.
Now I focused about two feet away on the barn and checked the sharpness on the far barn by zooming Live View in on it. After a few slight adjustments on the focus point, I made an exposure and checked the histogram for correct exposure. Then I fine-tuned the composition, exhaled and clicked the shutter. I did this a few more times, checking the composition and the depth of field before each exposure.
After making the single-exposure images, I switched to Manual exposure, adjusted the aperture to f/8 and corrected the shutter speed. I checked the composition, focused on the closest point on the barn boards, relaxed and exhaled. Then I engaged the Focus Shift function for focus stacking. I knew the camera was set to take 30 exposures for stacking, so I held the set up as steady as I could while the camera clicked away.
I repeated this several times, making sure to refocus on the closest point in the composition each time. Later, I found at least one series was steady enough for successful focus staking. The image above is from a single f/22 exposure.
This windy description could make you think I was standing there until the seasons changed. Or at least until my fellow photographers honked the horn impatiently. In actuality, it went quickly enough. I credit the good results to my comfort with the camera controls and my familiarity with the steps of the techniques I selected.
Now I know a new trick for hand holding my camera when a tripod can't fill the bill. Let's just say it's a method I can lean on.