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Blowin' In The Wind Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 February 2014

We were trying to find our way along the top ridge of the less traveled side of Glen Canyon, which hasn't changed much since prehistoric times (we're told). We thought the views would be interesting.

Still Standing. Sutro Tower, Twin Peaks, clouds in the blue sky and this little thing.

Start Here. Just a screen grab of what we saw in Photo Mechanic.

And they were, they were.


We had a Nikon D200 with us and an f2.8 35mm prime mounted on it (because we see eye-to-eye with it). A polarizer on that because we had polarized sunglasses on and don't like surprises.

Should have brought along a telephoto. Those nice views were a bit faraway for the 35mm, which gives a more normal angle of view (the angle of view your eyes take in) on the D200 than a 50mm.

On the way back, though, we crossed the street and climbed through a hedge to what we thought was a park. Nope. Just a hillside. And this little thing flying in the face of the wind and Sutro Tower, too. Not to mention the drought.

We admired its tenacity.

We had set ISO to 400 to compensate for the light loss from the dark polarizer. And we were using Manual mode.


You can be afraid of Manual mode if you like. You can presume the camera knows more about the right exposure than you do. You can even suspect that the right exposure is wildly different in the middle of a sunlit day.

Or, you know, you can get weary of the shutter speed vacillating in Aperture Priority mode or the aperture always wide open in Shutter Priority mode. And give Manual a try.

All you really have to do is:

  • Remember where how to change the aperture (a manual ring on the lens in this case).
  • Remember how to set the shutter speed (a subdial).
  • Look at the meter reading to decide it you want to expose a little more or a little less to accommodate your subject.

Oh, avoid pointing at that bright sky when you read the meter. We pointed at the ground in the direction we were shooting.

You may just find that you get better exposures than any of the auto exposure modes. Just because you made the choices.


We knew, for example, that we wanted to open up the aperture to blur Sutro Tower in the background. We thought we'd go all the way to f2.8. So we did.

Then we just cranked the shutter speed up until our exposure meter said we were in range, maybe a bit darker. That ended up being 1/3200 second. That suggests we could have brought the ISO down to 200 and cut the shutter speed down with it.

But we weren't worried about noise. There are excellent tools for minimizing noise. And we knew we would be reducing the image to 500 pixels here, which certainly takes care of that little problem.

We actually spent more time fidgeting with our feet than with our fingers. We just couldn't line the shot up quite right. Something was wrong with every angle. Until we found this angle.


In the sunlight, we really couldn't evaluate our capture except to check the histogram for any serious clipping. We check focus (it's a manual focus lens) on that little LCD by magnifying the preview. We thought we did as well as we could and continued back to the bunker.

We had only shot Raw (not Raw+JPEG) so we were at the mercy of the built-in thumbnail and whatever optimizations our various image browsers (Photo Mechanic, Bridge, etc.) provide.

You can see what it looked like in Photo Mechanic above. Not very inspiring.


But we'd only done half the job. We still had some photo editing to do. And we thought we could turn this not very inspiring image into something inspiring.

After a quick import into Lightroom and a few minutes playing with sliders in the Develop module, we had something we liked a lot more. Inspiring.

Even something of a metaphor, now that we've looked at it all afternoon. You can think of Photo Corners like that little brown grass, starved for water, standing for something that the big tower broadcasting HDTV signals overlooks.

Even when the wind is trying to blow it over.

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