Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Working the subject

An unexpected break in the weather, and an afternoon to kill, saw me grab a camera, long lens and tripod to try to add to my collection of photos of fallen trees in the local wood. I chucked a short lens in the bag for good measure.

I thought the dead-fall pictures were working quite well with the light coming through the canopy shifting as the wind blew. Once again the camera's screen lied and a number were actually out of focus in critical areas. The ones which were sharp were rubbish. I ended up with one that's sort of okay (which means it isn't really) before the sun clouded over.

After waiting a few minutes for the clouds to blow over I realised they weren't going to. I set off back through the wood not defeated. Not half way to the exit I spotted a dead wood pigeon wedged in the fork of a tree. How it came to be there or what caused its demise I'll never know. It was something to photography though.

My first impulse was to make a picture that showed the environment and the corpse - which reminded me of still life paintings of hanging game birds. I set up the tripod, framed a composition and played around with the aperture to provide separation from teh cluttered background.

I made a few frames from a few angles before trying for the inevitable portrait orientation, moving in close for a different view.

Although this showed the bird's foot for an added touch of complimentary colour it also 'lost' the bird against the tree trunk. A closer still view might be interesting to show more detail and make the flies more obvious. Flies being flies they wouldn't land where I wanted them. Not only that the wind was causing motion blur. I upped the ISO so the shutter speed could be increased too.

The curve of the ivy stem seemed crucial to whatever picture I was to end up with. An even tighter zoom lost that. There was still the niggle of the slightly out of focus ivy leaf obscuring part of the pigeon's head.

These pictures are not the only ones I made. In total there were thirty frames shot over an eighteen minute period. It didn't seem like that long, but that's what the info from the files tells me! You have to love digital for giving everyone the chance to work over a subject for free, and to review stuff in real time. Even if the blasted screen can't tell you for sure if their in focus...

Not sure if I'd got what I wanted I decided to move on. There was one last thing I had to do though. All the while the camera had been on the tripod shooting from a distance there was a voice in my head telling me to put on the 35mm and get in closer. There was nothing to lose so After folding up the tripod I swapped lenses. Leaned in, framed and tripped the shutter. I liked what I saw but I hadn't altered the settings and the shutter speed was too low. A quick fiddle with the settings and I made two more frames. The first one pretty much got it.

Everything is there: the curving ivy to the left (the lower leaves nicely filling the space of the path behind); the gnarled ivy stems climbing the tree; the whole of the bird's head visible; a sense of depth from the receding trees and aerial perspective. I think the subdued light works to the picture's advantage too. All it lacks is a strategically placed bluebottle.

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