A Game of Inches

Linden Elementary School - HDR  ©  jj raia

Linden Elementary School – HDR © jj raia

Baseball is a game of inches!! That’s something I’ve always heard when I used to play and watch games on television. A ball would go just beyond the reach of a fielder, a pitch would cross over just the slightest portion of home plate for a strike, or a fly ball would barely clear the fence for a home run. An inch either way would have produced a very different result.

Photography can also be a game of inches because just the slightest repositioning of your camera, whether hand-held or on a tripod, can make a world of difference in the visual rendering of a scene.

About three years ago, I was fortunate to tag along on a short photo excursion nearby to an abandoned elementary school. There were no attempts made to restrict entrance to the place, because all the entry doors were open and anyone could walk in and explore the effects of weather and the passage of time on the interior. Entering that school brought a rush of so many memories from my own time spent in eight different elementary schools, including three separate kindergartens, as our family traipsed across the country, following my father’s assignments to different naval bases.



Berg and Duck — Jokulsarlon, Iceland  © jj raia

Berg and Duck — Jokulsarlon, Iceland © jj raia

Many times when we create a photograph, we have some idea of how we want it to appear in its final version. We may have already determined that it will be combined with an identical image with a darker or lighter exposure, or combine several into an HDR. There may be a particular distraction that needs to be removed, or changes in light values done in Photoshop. And quite often, we already have a particular crop in mind.

So when I clicked the shutter for the image below (posted earlier this week), I was focused on only the center of the frame to be cropped to a square. I suppose I was fixated on the fact that there were several bergs in the photo, each with differing textures and translucence, and one with a couple of streaks of soot or dirt. In a way, trying to illustrate the variety of the bergs in the lagoon. It was also an attempt to create a simple abstract.

New Discoveries

Small Berg at Diamond Beach  © jj raia

Small Berg at Diamond Beach © jj raia

As is usually the case, after going through all the images from a major photo trip several times, I try to eliminate many of the less than stellar images, and come across a few that may have slipped through the editing cracks. Where originally, I saw no hope for redemption, with a bit more time on my hands, I was willing to dive into the attempt to make some of those “rejects” respectable. With the image above, it was the simplicity that drew me in, and after eliminating a singular distraction, felt it had found its way into the keeper column. Even though there wasn’t the drama of sweeping strokes of surf, the gentle waves added a sense of calm, enhanced by the smooth clouds and cool blue tones in the water.

Sugar Plums

Skogafoss at Night  © jj raia

Skogafoss at Night © jj raia

Prior to heading to Iceland last May, I have to confess, that I had more than a few pre-conceived images in my head… especially after seeing countless stunning photographs on the internet and in YouTube Videos. They were like sugar plums dancing around in my head at Christmas. One of those, although not one that I had seen previously, was of Skogafoss under a starry sky. It turned out that a starry night is not something that occurs in Iceland in the latter half of May, but with all the clouds and rain, it was darker than it would be otherwise. So when the rain finally let up for a while during the overnight there, I climbed out of the “hotel” and made an attempt to record the falls and create the night shot that was roaming around in my mind.

I brought out the 50mm lens, which ended up barely being used during the entire two weeks, and took a few images using ISO100 at f/16 for 20-seconds, and some others around f/8 for detail of the rocks around the falls. But instead of blending two exposures, since it really wasn’t completely dark, during processing, I simply used a single image and reduced the exposure quite a bit for the “night time” look I wanted.

A conversion to B+W eliminated the blue cast of the water, and the distracting, sickly green of the moss and grasses on some of the rocks. I suppose, to create the image I was really after, I could substitute a starry sky for the clouds above the waterfall; or go crazy and paste in a Milky Way sky! And someday, when I’m sitting on the rocker (that’s what we retired folks do), twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do, I may try it. But for now, I’m happy with the result. One major advantage in taking the shot during the overnight, was there were no tourists clamoring in front of the falls that needed to be cloned out.

In all, I took 7 frames during 6-minutes trying to capture varying exposures for the falls, clouds and rocks, before it began to pour again. So it was back to the “hotel”.