A Little Front Porch Photography

· Reading Time: 8 minutes

December 16, 2020

The working title for this entry should really be “An Apology to Toni”, and it almost was.  You see, she doesn’t care much for my decay images and wasn’t all that hot on my recent photoshoot with the Mazda either.  She is much more of a landscape kind of gal and trees are her thing above all else.  I felt I needed to get a few new images for her into the collection and with the impending winter weather that was approaching overnight on Tuesday, I was thinking I might have the opportunity to go out and get some of those snowy landscapes which should be a lot easier here then when we lived in Winston.  As the night went on, I kept looking at the weather and saw that the chances for snow were getting slimmer and slimmer and it was looking like a sleet and freezing rain event more than anything else.  That is never fun to drive in, and I just wasn’t really looking forward to doing anything in the ice.

When we woke up and looked outside it was more rain than anything.  There was a little ice in the trees but nothing too interesting.  Through the day, I kept an eye on the conditions of the trees to see if there was anything that I might want to do with them as the ice covering got a little thicker.  It was nice to be able to consider doing some photography right from the house and not have to go out on the road to find something.  I have been getting more and more familiar with the trees here at the house and was starting to see the possibilities developing in the front yard.

As the ice built up on the branches, the trees started to have a much different personality which was getting me more and more interested.  I was finding that most of my interest was on the one lone tree in the front yard which I had photographed before at sunset just a little while ago.  On that particular evening, I was interested in the grand landscape of the front yard and was working with a very wide angle lens.  What was grabbing my attention this time though was the small details of the tree with the delicate ice covering.  When I saw that the light was right and I could get enough separation from the background, I went downstairs and grabbed the camera bag and tripod.  As you will remember from my sunset venture, this is not something that I need to be particularly dressed for, so I just went outside in my sweats that I had been sitting in most of the day.  I slipped my feet into my yard boots to keep my toes warm and grabbed a jacket.  There I was in the middle of a pretty steady rain really wondering why I  put up with these terrible conditions as a landscape photographer.  Then I remembered I didn’t even have to leave the front porch, and if I got too cold I could just turn around and go back inside.  Hey, this was pretty easy.

Final Days of Fall“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, 2X Teleconverter Mk3, No filters

The only difficulty that I had was in how to isolate the area of the tree that I really liked.  It wasn’t all that far away, but it was elevated quite a bit.  In order to keep the background dark I would need to stay kind of far away from it so that I wasn’t shooting upwards.  It seemed that the porch was the perfect distance from the tree, I just needed to get the reach from my lenses to get the image.  I knew that it was going to be beyond the  reach of the 70-200mm lens to get what I was really after, but I thought that 400mm would get it.  I had just the trick for that with the 2X teleconverter which doubled the reach of the telephoto lens.  This was going to be a good test of the new 5DS R as the resolution of that camera would show any imperfections.  Hey, if it didn’t work out what was I really out?  I didn’t even have to leave the porch to get the image.

I got the camera all put together and started to figure out my composition.  It came together nicely and I just had to do a little dancing on the porch to get the relationship of the foreground and background right.  Once I did that, I used the auto focus on the lens to get me close to focused and then manually adjusted to fine tune that focus.  I opened the lens up to f/5.6 which works well for woodland photography and I set a relatively quick shutter speed to make sure that I wouldn’t get any motion in the branch.  I fired off the shot and it looked really good.  I did a few more with slight changes in framing and exposure values before I was happy with what I had.

I thought about packing it in at this point, but that almost seemed too easy.  I decided to look for some more complex scenes to capture around the front porch.  I mean I didn’t have to go far, and the ice was looking good in the trees.  I found another scene off of the side of the porch which included a spruce tree which was fairly well iced over.  The entire scene wasn’t all that interesting, but I was seeing a pair of trunks in the background that balanced with the foliage quite nicely so that was what I focused on.

Iced Needles“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, 2X Teleconverter Mk3, No filters, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

I had the camera built the same way and just left it as it was to frame up the next shot.  This was was a bit more difficult and I wasn’t overly happy with the icy greens in the frame.  They seemed a little overbearing and became a distraction to the textures that I was after.  I figured that this was going to be a black and white shot so I exposed it with that in mind.  I went vertically and looked for a composition that would fit the spiral rule which I thought would be the best way to organize the trunks and the clumps of foliage.

I only shot a few frames of this scene because I really wasn’t sold on how good of an image it was going to be.  It wasn’t until I got it inside and started to look at the textures that were present that I really got excited about it and wanted to see it through.  I processed it as a black and white as I planned and tried to really bring out the needles with the tree trunks being a secondary element which provided the depth.  It actually turned out much better than I had hoped and I am pretty certain that it will become a part of my Black and White Gallery.

Not knowing exactly what I was going to come away with, I looked for one other composition that interested me before I packed up the gear and made the long walk home.  What I found was a section of trees where there was one which kind of stood out from the other vertical trunks.  It was just interesting enough to put in front of the lens.  My goal for this image was to create something that would instantly chill the viewer and bring them into the icy woods.  I didn’t really like the ground beneath the trees here so I had to work around that and figure out just how to capture what I was enjoying seeing.

Frigid Trunks“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, 2X Teleconverter Mk3, No filters

What I decided to do was to give this image no foundation and have the trees almost floating.  This is not something that I like to do all that often, but I thought that the ambiguity of the scene fit this.  There is no sense of scale, or how high up the camera is aimed.  It is almost an abstract without any of the typical anchors involved.  By treating the diagonal branch at the bottom kind of like I would the base of the trunk, I found a way to ground the composition and provide a visual framework for the lower side of the image.  I was well on my way here because I wanted to focus more on the icy limbs than the trees, but I needed the trees for structure to keep the eyes occupied as they moved around the scene.

There was a transition of light through the image that I liked with the brightest being at the top and the darkest being at the bottom.  That progression keeps the eyes moving vertically in the image and exploring as they go.  This was my least favorite image of the day, but it did say what I wanted it to say so I did a full edit on it and have posted it here in the blog.  The other two images I am much happier with, and the most exciting news of the bunch is that I only shot 12 frames while I was out on the porch.  I was really figuring that I would get just a single image, so to get three that I am happy with really made all of the work that I put into this shoot worth my while.

I do hope that you enjoyed this really quick trek out to the front porch.  I am hoping to get back to a more dedicated trek tomorrow if the clouds cooperate.  I have spotted a barn that I would like to shoot and I think that the forecast for tomorrow is promising for that subject.  I hope to see you back here tomorrow!


Until next time…