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Shooting South Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 February 2018

Shooting south in the Northern Hemisphere is a tough assignment. And an irresistible one for us. The enhanced contrast of the landscape challenges us to somehow defeat the glare of the sun trying to sneak into the barrel of our lens.

Looking South. A question of tonality.

Shooting into the light is one of those tricks food photographers use to enhance the drama of some cooked stuff slopped on a plate. But it works for all sorts of subjects from product photography to landscape photography.

If you can keep the light out of your lens.

One way to do that is a lens shade. But if the sun is low enough (as it is in winter) it may not be enough. In that case you have two options: 1) use your hand as a portable light blocker (wary, of course, not to photograph your hand) or 2) stand in the shade of some object (light a light pole).

The scene always appeals to us. But it seems hard pressed to make its case.

We had some cloud cover for this shot but the scene itself was bright. We could see south a long way down the coast, the mist rising between the distant hills where the marine layer didn't sneak in.

It was taken from the viewpoint at the top of Twin Peaks at the end of last month when we biked up there again just to prove we still could. But the scene always appeals to us.

And yet, looking at it now, it seems hard pressed to make its case. So allow us to address the jury.

First, let us assure you it's straight. The proof is the radio towers on the distant San Bruno Mountain and the little buildings whose verticals are all upright. We confirmed that on the original because the roadway around the peaks is not level and it is disturbing.

Second, in this thumbnail (large as it is) you can't see the action in the sky. You might notice some dark pixels in the left sky. Those are crows. And you won't notice the light pixel that, in the large original, is actually a jet turning south.

Third (there must always be a third), there's some people standing on top of the southern peak. We like that. That might even persuade us to recrop the image to emphasize it:

Mostly, though, that's all spice. The meat and potatoes of this dish are the four layers of hills. The peak in the right with the roadway wrapping around it, the nearby crest above Glen Canyon, San Bruno Mountain and the distant coastal hills. The marine layer beyond them adds a fifth layer to the tonality that recedes into the distance.

The real trouble is that the camera is a one-eyed beast. It has no appreciation of depth. So we simulate depth with tonality.

This isn't the definitive image of that view, clearly. We'll be back, informed by our experience editing this shot, for a better image. Just to prove we can.

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