Thursday, June 6, 2013

Afterthoughts...

One of the most important things I've learned in photography is to turn around. How it is important is what this post is about, and my what my experience has been with this valuable lesson. This one will deal with a phenomena that I've come to find is not unique to me, and many pros I've spoken with have the same experience.

I'll usually head out with an idea in mind for what I want to shoot and how it will turn out depending on what I find when I get there. I'm getting around to the idea of actually plotting weather and sunrise/sunset, tide patterns, etc., but that's for another post. But I pretty much know where I'm going to end up and what I want/hope to shoot when I get there. I'll set it up, wait for just the right moment or light, then fire away, check, adjust, fire again, and so on. I can spend anywhere from several minutes to possibly hours making an image that I believe will wow the crowds and bring me instant fame and fortune. I smile, satisfied that I've finally "hit it."

Then I'll usually stop and look around before I pack up, and often take a few exposures of something I find kinda sorta interesting, then head out confident I've sufficiently showed us Ansel Adams. I rule.

Afterwards I'll get home and pop the card into the reader and set up the download into Lightroom, waiting in rapt suspense as each slide pops into the program. I'll see the set of magnificent images I expect will finally allow me to travel the world, and then impatiently wait for the rest to download.

Then I'll spend hours processing the images, trying different effects and filters, getting the colors to pop just as I want them until I am completely satisfied the galleries will be clamoring over each other to get this piece. I'll even walk away for a bit just to give me a chance to wind down and take a look at it again after a while to see if I missed anything. Eventually the masterpiece is finished and I'm ready to present it to the world.

Confident that this is truly the ONE, I wait for the accolades such an image so richly deserves. Then, cricket chirps. Maybe a few "nice" and maybe even a "beautiful" or two. Phone stays silent, email is dead, nothing. What in the hell is the matter with you people! Can't you see this is THE image of the century!!!

Then I'll go back to the gallery and start doing some work on the 'afterthoughts,' as I call them. And yes, I've really come to call them that. I'll put a filter here, a curve there, and spend a fraction of the time I devoted to the 'masterpiece,' give it a once over, save, and push it out to the public.

WHAM! The crowd goes wild! People will comment and message me on what a great image it is, and some will even purchase a print. If this sounds like I'm ungrateful, I'm not. I'm always flattered that people like any of my work, but I do get a chuckle out of what I think is great, and what others think is great, or even nice. It's happened enough that there is something to it. I have no idea what, but I don't pass up a chance to catch an 'afterthought' on just about every shoot I go on.

Sometimes, though, the 'masterpiece' comes around after bouncing to a few different places, but the same 'afterthought' effect will happen. I'll get into that from my recent trip to Point Reyes.

I wanted to go back and get some more shots of the waves at Drakes Beach. I also had a mind to put together another star trails image at 'The Boat' using a different technique, but I mainly wanted to catch the waves and the spray closer to sunset than I did the previous week. The specular highlights from this shoot were too strong, the result of the sun being too high in the sky.

When I got there the wind was non-existent, so the awesome spray you see in the image to the left wasn't there, and that's what I wanted.

I waited a bit, and let me say that the waves there are perfect. Not very big, but they do have a beautiful break. I haven't checked but surfing may not be allowed there, or the currents are just too strong. In any case, the two times I've been there a surfer is nowhere to be seen.

But I digress.

I left the beach, heading up the road back to Sir Francis Drake. On the way I saw a herd of elk. I may have seen elk here before but I couldn't remember when, so I stopped to rattle off a few (dozen) exposures.

Now I'm thinking these are pretty damn close to being keepers. Elk in the San Francisco Bay Area! Gotta be cool. But these weren't going to be the 'one.'

I had an idea that I could get a really serene shot of the wetlands, near the Drakes Cove Oyster joint heading back towards Inverness. I stopped, took another few exposures, wasn't really enthralled with them, and moved on.

On a whim I decided to head down the road to the oyster place just to see of a better angle of the wetlands existed. As I was driving along, the 'masterpiece' presented itself. A truck had rolled off of the road and was laying upside down at the edge of the wetlands. I immediately stopped and check to make sure nobody was hurt or trapped in the vehicle, and once confirmed there wasn't, I broke out the camera and tripod. I fired off a few exposures and quickly realized this needed a gradient ND filter. I just happened to have a 1.2 all set to pop on the front of my Sigma 17-70. I also had a CPL filter attached to the ND bracket, and I was set.

What I saw in the little viewfinder made my heart flutter. I'm thinking this is going to be better than I expected. A vehicle overturned in the wetlands. They'll have to soon come to pull it out so I'll be the only one to get this, no photographer will EVER get this particular setting again.

Once done I scoot out of there and plan on getting in touch with the authorities once I'm back in cell phone range. Having a vehicle in the wetlands is not a very natural thing, and having all that fuel and oil, not to mention paint, rust, etc., can't be good for the environment.

Well, someone beat me to it because as I was heading back towards Inverness the emergency crews were already on their way out. So that part of the story ended.

As it was still light I decided that I would indeed head back to Inverness and shoot the star trails with The Boat. I was to meet a buddy of mine for a later dinner around 11:00 pm, so I had plenty of time. It takes a little over an hour to shoot the trails once the sun goes down, and getting there early to get a set up and get a few shots of The Boat while it was still light would be perfect.

I get out there, get set up, fire off a few dusk shots, and prepare to wait for dark and get the rest of the exposures. My buddy texts me that he caught an earlier flight and we can meet earlier than originally planned. Since it's about an hour or so from where I was to where we were going to meet, I decided I now wouldn't be able to get all the star trail exposures and get out of there in time to meet my friend. But, I didn't want to leave without SOMETHING, so I fired two or three exposures towards the mouth of the bay, towards the sunset, with The Boat and a beach house framing Tamales Bay. Nothing really awe-inspiring, and I forgot about them for the most part, as I was so excited about the elk and, especially, the truck.

Get home, download the images, start to work right away on the truck. I won't go into the details of that but I was really happy with first edition. Popped that onto all the sites, then went to work on the images of the elk. Afterwards, did the same and waited for everyone to be as immensely impressed with those as I was...

.....

.....

.....hardly a peep. Geez, people, these are two very unique captures with some pretty bitchen scenery, how can you not love these!! Puzzled, I even spazzed out the sky in the truck image, which even wow'd me. But again, not much. I love that image, BTW, and will most likely get that on a metallic print. I really want to see the colors on that pop.

After a day or so I decide to go back through the gallery to see if I can salvage something. I come across the pictures of The Boat and Tamales Bay, and decide to play around a bit with those. I didn't do much, a little color adjustment and a curve, and a Color Efex Pro Brilliance/Warmth filter, and not much else. Maybe 15-20 minutes of work.

Pop that onto the sites and it quickly becomes the most popular by far of the images I published. I just laughed. I'm still not all that impressed with it and look at it often to see what I'm missing.

I'm not trying to be cocky here, I truly believe the image of the truck blows this one away. But most others, at least the ones to whom I present my work, think otherwise.

And this isn't an isolated instance. It's probably happened a dozen or so time, which is why I know it's a real occurrence.  Don't get me wrong, it's not every time. Every so often I head out with a clear plan and get exactly what I want. The image 'Beached' with The Boat and star trails, is one example.

So I'll keep turning around and shooting these 'afterthoughts,' and hopefully people will continue to enjoy them. And really, that's all that matters. As long as folks find any of the images I create worthy of comment and/or appreciation, well, I can't really ask for more than that.

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