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12 July 2018

In February we concluded our Shooting South piece with a promise. "We'll be back, informed by our experience editing this shot, for a better image. Just to prove we can."

The Edge of the World. Captured with a Nikond D300 and 18-200mm Nikkor with polarizer at f11, 1/60 second and ISO 200.

But we went one better and climbed back up the mountain on foot, inspired by our quick read of Paolo Cognetti's prize-winning The Eight Mountains. Not just a re-edit, that is, but a re-shoot.

The ash from the fires to the north had by then largely subsided, but the angle of the mid-afternoon summer sun seemed almost as low as winter. There were strong contrasts in the rock and bushes against a bright blue sky.

Turning south, we caught these two women wandering at the edge of the world.

Don't worry about them. That section of the roadway has been closed to traffic for months now. The most dangerous thing they ran across were some skateboarders who evidently needed a lot more practice.

The only flaw with the composition, we thought, was the angle of the white wall.

We were shooting at ISO 200 to capture the most dynamic range possible from our sensor and f11 to get the most detail. At 70mm our 1/60 second shutter speed was just fast enough to hand hold.

So we didn't have to change anything. Good thing, too, because a second later, the women had moved on.

The only flaw with the composition, we thought, was the angle of the white wall. It seems more suitable to Daytona than Twin Peaks.

And we do shoot cockeyed. But look at the road surface itself and the church in the valley below and you'll see the composition is leveled.

This time, we left the image in color pleased with the contrast between the mountain's color and the blue distance, which we tried not to ruin with the Dehaze tool in Adobe Camera Raw.

In Cognetti's novel, which won the 2017 Premio Strega (The Girl with the Leica won this year), the protagonist Berio describes the daily routine of his mountain man friend Bruno. After getting up before sunrise to milk his cows by hand, he would make cheese the rest of the morning. And then he would take a break:

By this time it was noon. He would eat something and throw himself into bed for an hour, dreaming of grass that wouldn't grow, or of cows that would not give milk, or of milk that would not churn; then he'd get up with the thought of building an enclosure for the calves, or of digging a drainage ditch where the rains had waterlogged the pasture.

You may recognize those anxieties. We did.

But that's what we loved about this image. Walking on the edge of the world, free from the things that can go wrong and the problems that demand to be addressed. Above it all for a moment where the air is clear and you can look down on the birds floating on the updraft without beating their wings.

If only for 1/60 of a second.

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