Reflections on a year in 365 photographs


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A misty marsh sunrise image from my backyard.


An old company commander once advised me that at times “It’s better to be lucky than good.”  In the grand scheme of life, I suppose there is not much more truth than that.  Of course, I also subscribe to the belief that we make our own “good luck” with thorough preparation.  Today’s image embodies a bit of both sides of the equation.

I had planned on waking early enough to get out to the beach for some ocean front sunrise shots.  After all, I am fifty-one images into the project and living in Charleston, SC, but haven’t yet made it out to our beautiful coastline.  Though I climbed out of bed at 5:30, the french press coffee took hold of me to the point that I didn’t think about leaving the house in time to make it to the beach before sunrise.  So I began planning the rest of my day and considered a window-lit self-portrait for the day’s entry.

Then I noticed the mist and clear skies outside.  I knew they would make for a compelling view over the marsh just a few hundred meters from my house.  Grabbing the camera bag, I quickly set up on the edge of the marsh and began to shoot.  While changing lenses from the 50mm to the 24mm, I happened to catch the singular cloud high in the field of view.  I knew this would make a good composition great.  Out of some 65 exposures I made from various viewpoints, this one excels.  The way the shape of the cloud mimics the crisp, low tide shoreline adds a significant dynamic.   Consider the image without the cloud in the sky.  To my mind, it becomes just another pretty picture of a sunrise.  The mist rising off of the marsh adds further mystery and depth.

I had originally thought the image worked well in the native format.  Cropping the image to 8×10, however, brought further focus to the curving shoreline and got rid of some dead space in the sky.  This emphasized the relationship between the cloud and the shoreline.

This shot makes maximum use of the camera’s histogram and the “expose to the right” concept.  Using the camera’s histogram to display all three RGB channels allowed me to ensure the exposure maximized the dynamic range captured in the original image.  For this particular shot, I focused and metered along the marsh line toward the bottom of the image you see here.  The light reflecting off of the water meant the camera would try to darken the overall image.  The proper exposure in this instance became +0.7EV or about 2/3 of a stop.   Doing this meant that I had maximum latitude to shape the details in post-processing.

In the end, this image combined the luck of seeing the mist outside with the preparation of having my camera gear ready to go and knowing how to get the most out of an exposure.

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Written by Brian Fancher

February 20, 2010 at 11:59 am

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