June 23, 2008

Photo of the Week: June 17, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I am fond of quoting the master photographer Ansel Adams, who said in a moment of spiritual musing, "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter." This image required little more than setting my camera on a tripod and waiting for the curtain to rise. I did make a conscious decision to compose the shot in two equal halves, but beyond that, it's all God's show. I have been asked several times about this photo, Is the color real? A more appropriate question would be, Is this how it really looked? The answer, then, is that it depends who's looking.

One of the most important lessons a budding photographer can take into the field is an understanding of the difference between how our eyes see and how a camera records what it "sees." Simply put, cameras attempt to replicate images the way our eyes see them. As good as cameras are at doing this, they are still not as good at "seeing" as the highly complex human eye-brain system. One of the innovations in digital camera technology is the white balance setting, which gives the camera a reference point for color. You tell the camera what kind of light you are working in (sunlight, shade, fluorescent, etc.) and it uses a preset formula to establish the color relationships so that the resulting images look natural. Most people are satisfied to use the automatic setting and never give this a second thought. In this shot, however, in the fatigue of dawn, I mistakenly left the camera on a white balance setting that allowed more of the blue light to be recorded and filtered out the warmer, red and yellow light of the rising sun. The camera did what it was told to do, and my eyes, although surprised by the dramatic results, were nevertheless quite pleased.

No comments: