Another tree...

September 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Another Tree...

Tony's tree, Tones River, Middlehurst Station.
Phase One XF, 80mm Schneider f2.8 lens, f11 @ 30 seconds/1/80 second, ISO 50

Is this one or two shots? I love posing questions like this! Up front, it's two shots, but two shots of the same subject (camera locked off on a tripod), taken a few minutes apart.


A couple of days earlier, Tony Hewitt and I had been at this location with Barbara, Gary and Jim on our Middlehurst Art Photography workshop. Middlehurst is an amazing Tolkein landscape tucked away in New Zealand's South Island (and we're repeating the workshop next June if you're interested...).

We started well before dawn and were enjoying our time, exploring the area. Tony disappeared 'somewhere', but as we were all heavily engrossed in our own little worlds, it didn't worry us.

At some stage, I looked around from my camera to see the top of the tree above just catching the brilliant sunlight! Even better, from certain angles the background was in shadow. However, the worst part was seeing Tony in position with his camera, nailing a great shot as the light got better and better.

This bugged the hell out of me. How did he know? Was he just lucky? Or smart? Or just smarter than me?

Over the next couple of days, I dropped hints to everyone that we should go back to this location and all shoot the tree - I mean, I couldn't have Tony not sharing such a great location!

However, my version of the tree is more of a grand landscape, but I took two photos to make it happen! Click through to the website to see the two images I used.


Early shot before the sun reaches the tree. 

Photo when the tree is fully illuminated by the sunshine. 

My idea was to have just the very top of the tree illuminated by the sun, but my perfect planning didn't take into account the vagaries of the weather or the movement of the clouds.

The first photo was taken because I liked the clouds, but they were moving away from the mountain. So, to ensure I had an interesting sky, I locked the camera off on the tripod and took a long exposure with a neutral density filter. 

Then I waited.

And as we all waited, more clouds arrived from behind, covering the sun and so the tree sat in shade. And stayed in shade so by the time the clouds moved to illuminate the tree, the sun was higher than I had hoped for. The whole of the tree and its surroundigs were fully lit!

In some ways, I could have achieved the final result with a single exposure, but I do prefer the clouds from the earlier exposure and it wasn't a difficult 'composite': just two layers and a simple mask.

However, it's not a bad result. It earned a Silver Award at this year's AIPP APPAs and, since I'm going back next year, there's another chance to get just the top of the tree being illuminated by that rising sun!

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months, I have trips going to USA, Georgia/Armenia, Iran, New Zealand, Greenland/Iceland and Mexico. Full details on the Better Photography website!


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