General Thoughts
Aspens and Fence

Aspens and Fence, CO © jj raia

Occasionally, you see things that are not in your usual subject to photograph, but there is something compelling that pulls at you to break out the camera and record it anyway. Generally speaking, I consciously try to keep my landscape work free from indications of civilization or evidence of human presence. Boy! was that ever difficult when most of my photography centered around the landscapes of New Jersey. There were many times where I’ve had to clean up picnic trash or cigarette butts, fish old tires out of lakes and, since it was before Photoshop and digital, I even tried to keep lit street lights out of shots that were taken before dawn or after sunset. But seeing this small group of aspens along a fence had something special in the lighting and in their leaves. Every leaf had a bit of brown around its edge, creating an almost iridescent glow and combined with the soft lighting of the very late afternoon shade, I was able to overcome my initial reluctance to photograph them because of the fence. Yet, I did look at them for quite a while before pulling out the camera. A lot of things went through my mind, which looking back at it now, I should have just taken the shot without all those deliberations. I guess it was just a throwback to my film days when every shot constituted an expense! The Fence? (Absolutely No!); I knew it would probably be the last shot of the day and had a long nighttime drive ahead of me to get to Lost Lake before sunrise (move on, don’t bother with the shot); the light was dimming rather quickly (don’t); there was a slight breeze that may have made it difficult to get all the leaves perfectly sharp and in focus (no); and it was a bit monochromatic (again, no). Obviously, I still took the shot in spite of all the negatives. Luckily, I still had the use of my cable release to allow for the patience needed to wait for the breeze to let up enough to trip the shutter when the leaves were still. It seemed that whenever I hit the shutter button the first time to raise only the mirror (to reduce camera shake), it was also a signal for the breeze to pick up again!!! I ended up with many attempts, several of which I thought had been successful in taking the photo at just the right moment of calm. But it turned out none had all the leaves still and crisp; this was the best of the lot. In hindsight, I should have boosted the ISO and opened up the aperture a bit in order to increase the shutter speed resulting in a bit more success getting the leaves without movement. But at the time, as is usually the case, I tend to use the lowest ISO I can to keep noise to a minimum. I should have realized that there probably wouldn’t be a problem with noise since there were hardly any deep shadows and contrast was minimal. So, next time I’m there (which will probably be never) I’ll be sure I get a faster shutter speed one way or another. Lesson learned.

It wasn’t much later on that the connection for the cable release somehow broke free from the camera body, “floating” inside, and I wasn’t able to connect the two any longer. From then on, for the remainder of  last year’s west trip, I was relegated to using the self-timer, making the use of the mirror up feature useless and leaving the precision I like to have when tripping the shutter left to chance. Shooting stationary objects is not the problem, but shooting trees with any slight breeze and the lag in the shutter release with the self timer leaves too much to chance. Now, I try to keep the cable connected to the camera as much as possible, even leaving it attached when I pack it back up in the bag.

As far as the placement of the trees within the frame, the shot almost composed itself. Because of the nearly perfect symmetrical shape of the group, they almost had to be placed directly in the middle. All the lines of the fence and meadow’s edge lined up while the vertical and parallel trunks seemed to work with everything properly placed in the center. I would have liked to have the other vertical fence post perfectly positioned to the left as one was to the right, but I guess the trees just grew in the wrong place for that. Trying to get the posts centered left them partially blocked and bothersome. So I tried to block one out completely and only blocking the one on the left worked out.

Autumn Tree and Fence — Smoky Mountain National Park, NC © jj raia

Autumn Tree and Fence — Smoky Mountain National Park, NC © jj raia

The fence was what bothered me most in taking the photo of the aspens. It was a similar situation when I saw a beautiful tree with autumn leaves against a stone wall in Smoky Mountain National Park. The problem was that I could not in any way eliminate the fence that was just in front of the tree. Because of it, I really didn’t want to take the picture, but again, it was a tug that just made me get the camera out of the bag and take the shot. Sometimes, you just can’t resist.

Goldenrod and Slate Wall — Smoky Mountain National Park, NC © jj raia

Because I took that shot, the fence led me to another spot along the same slate wall that was included in the recent “Revisits” post where I was able to avoid that dilemma and get between the fence and the slate wall.


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