Saturday, July 5, 2014

Storm Clouds and Mangroves

It was one of those typical summer mornings, calm waters with virtually no wind and the sky was thick with clouds of various forms and gray tones. Storms were forming all around but never reaching my area. The mangrove shoreline of Biscayne Bay was not glowing as it does when the early sun casts a brilliant warmth. Instead the diffuse sunlight removed the contrasts among the shadowy browns and greens of the mangroves. In short, it was a perfect day to set up the tripod and see what might happen.

I staked out the boat and stepped into the water. The ground is quite soft in Biscayne's shallow grass meadow, so while I sank several inches into it, it was perfect for the tripod legs that would be buried and set firmly.  There were no birds in sight as it was three hours before low tide. I wanted to focus on the mangroves and sky today and took all my photos from the 16-50 mm lens. At first, I looked for a photogenic mangrove or two as I faced the shoreline. After setting up the tripod and camera (and giving the lens plenty of time to defog), I attempted some shots with the intention of stitching 2 or 3 images into one. The image below was created from two images stacked vertically and the panoramic image above is from three horizontally stacked images.

Stepping out of my comfort zone, I am using the tripod more often, particularly focusing on mangroves. With that, I have become obsessed with getting the sharpest possible images. Unlike bird photography where continuous automatic focus is the name of the game, I shoot totally with manual focus when using the tripod. A very cool feature of many new SLR cameras is Live View and I am loving my camera's live view for two reasons, peaking and magnified focus. As you compose the image before shooting, peaking creates red (or another color if you want) blinkies where the image is in focus providing you feedback. Combining the peaking with the focus magnifier allows you to see precisely the focus on specific parts of the image where you want sharpness. While viewing through the magnifier, I can adjust the focus.

After awhile, I turned my direction toward the eastern horizon and saw a beautiful scene. One mangrove stood out among the others about 50 ft in front of me. The clouds reflected on the water and next to the silhouetted tree, they offered some intriguing compositions. I was seeing the scene in black and white and once at home, I converted them.

While photographing the tree, Vivian was off in the distance fishing. The tiny boat was framed by clouds in the sky above and their reflections in the water below. As the boat drifted slowly, I magnified and focused on it quickly to take a shot.

My images from today are very different from most of my photos; but hopefully, this is the beginning of a new way to present the beauty of Biscayne Bay as I see it.

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