As I write this, it’s summer here in the subtropics. That means that it’s raining every day or as it has been lately, all day, day after day. Since we live on a well, I’m all for having enough water in the ground so when I turn the faucet on, something comes out. This is the typical Florida pattern. During the summer months we get rain every day, however in winter the cool dry air moves in and living becomes quite comfortable. But, we don’t see rain for months on end so I guess we have to stock up while we can.
I had a photography field trip scheduled. However, there was a “disturbance” in the weather and it was raining quite a bit. A tropical storm was trying to form in the Gulf of Mexico, but it didn’t have time to get organized. What we got was rain and quite a bit of it. At first I thought I was going to have to come up with plan B for our outing. I checked the radar on my iPhone and there was a gap between squalls and this would be our window to have class. It rained all the way down to the park, and all I could think of was that this wasn’t going to work. I was going to have faith that my iPhone wasn’t lying to me and there really was going to be a break in the storm. As I rolled into the parking lot, out came the blue sky and the rain had ceased. I love technology….when it works!
We assembled under one of the pavilions and I answered a few questions and we were off. As I pulled my camera out of my bag, it was then I got a surprise. In the early hours of the day, before I had both eyes open, I thought I had put my 70mm-300mm lens on my camera, as this is what I had used in the past to get some great wildlife photos. Well as my sleepy eyes would have it, I mounted my 105mm macro instead. Instead of going for distance, I was now going to shoot a bug’s eyelashes. We decided to start down off the beach and go into the mangroves to see what we could find. Since it had just been raining there, this was going to be a great day to get plants covered in raindrops.
As we made our way around the beach into the mangroves, there was a Sea Grape tree. The first thing that caught my eye was the contrast in color. Red and green are classic Christmas colors, but I also had the bonus of the lines in the leaf. At first someone asked why I was stopping to take a photo to a tree. Since I had my macro lens with me, I wanted to concentrate on the details and not the whole. The raindrops were beautifully sitting on the leaf and this is exactly what I was looking for. I composed the photograph and took one. Then I showed it to my students, and then the light went off, this lone leaf on a tree could be a beautiful subject all on it’s own. This would look great in black and white as well.
I knew this tree was called a Sea Grape, however I had never seen any fruit on these trees before, until today. This tree was loaded. Since I’m from upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region, we are kind of known for our wine. Immediately I was wondering if these were edible. When I got home I looked this up and in fact, they are edible and some folks make Sea Grape jelly out of them. They are ready when they are dark purple. I may have to be brave one day to try one. As I was looking at the clusters of grapes on this tree, I wanted to bring some kind of composition together. I was always told that odd numbers are more interesting than even numbers. After inspecting cluster after cluster, I found one that had three grapes that were turning in the midst of a cluster of green. At this point in the day, it started to cloud over again and this was perfect. This knocked down the contrast to where the camera could capture the complete dynamic range in one shot. I even got a “bell” shaped histogram. I love this light as the highlights aren’t blown out and the shadows aren’t so black that you can’t see what is going on.
We were walking along the beach and there was this lone leaf that looked as if it had been battered by the elements. The sand had a rough character due to all the rain we had received. What grabbed me was the color and texture. Some of the students wanted to see how I was going to pull this together. I really wanted to get on the ground to take this photo, however it was early in the day and I didn’t feel like walking around in clothing that was soaked in wet sand. Plan B again, I crouched down as close as I could, but still being on my feet and composed the shot. When I got home I received a surprise, there are two little flies perched on top of the leaf. After processing and looking at the texture of the leaf, it kind of looked like brushed copper to me. Who knew an old leaf on the beach could be so photogenic?
The mangroves are a great place to get some photographs. However, being 6’4” tall I usually have to be on the look out for spiders. They are everywhere and some of these are not so nice. I came upon a spider building a web and wanted to add another spider to the collection. Since I had the macro lens on, this was perfect for this subject. I ended up using f/8 as with macro, your depth of field is in quarter inches. Also, I was handholding on a cloudy day. This is a recipe for slow shutter speed so I raised my ISO to 800 to get a shutter speed around 1/500 of a second. I use spot focus on my camera, this way I know exactly where the camera is going to lock onto. Keeping the rules of thirds in mind, I placed him in the lower third of the frame. If you look closely, you can see a piece of silk that is coming out of his rump to make another piece of the web. This is why I love manufacture lenses. Yes, I know they are more expensive, but if I can get detail such as this, I’m buying the good stuff all the time.
On the other side of the park there is a boardwalk that extends out into the mangroves. This can be a great spot to see birds, crabs and beer cans. There wasn’t too much activity, so I thought I would try and get some raindrop photos. This leaf with a raindrop on the tip grabbed my attention. This kind of looked like a piece of glass that was being blown. (What can I tell you, I lived down the road from Corning Glass!)
Upon leaving the boardwalk, I noticed some vibrant yellow flowers that had raindrops on them. The other detail that caught my eye was that the ends of the petals were frayed and tattered. Sometimes seeing plants that have been roughed up in nature tells a story about what happened in the past. Since I was working on composition, I thought that if I placed petals of other flowers in the corners, it would balance out the frame and also give me that odd number that works so well. I also took another set of just filling the center of the flower in the camera’s frame and that also looked decent.
Just because it’s a dark, dreary and the possibility that the sky is going to open up and soak you, shouldn’t deter you from shooting. The most important piece of equipment that I had in my pocket the whole time was a giant Zip Lock bag. You can get these at home improvement stores or any of the mega marts. This simple $2 investment will save your $3,000 investment. Also, when shopping for a camera, find one that is weather sealed. Note this says weather sealed, not waterproof. Weather sealed means that it can take a sprinkling and be ok, but if a monsoon comes, your better have the plastic bag with you, and a boat! I have had my Nikon D300 in numerous light rainstorms before I had the bag and it’s still working like a champ. Go out and photograph Mother Nature as she is hydrating the Earth, your photographs will thank you for it.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean