Serene Against A Clear Blue Sky
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
There are lucky shots and there are lucky shots. I'll explain what this image is, in just a minute, but in the meantime, can anyone guess what I've photographed here?
Is it the early-morning full moon before dawn? Is it the sun? Is it a UFO? Is it a ball of Edam cheese flying through the air?
As some of you might know, I bought a Sigma 300mm lens last Thursday and man, have I been having some fun with it! The focal length is awesome and I've been using the lens in all sorts of weather conditions. When I bought this Pentax K100D in September 2005, I opted for a multi-purpose 18-125mm Sigma lens which has been absolutely wonderful. But the time has come to have a second lens on hand at all times, to give me more options.
They're both detachable lenses, of course, so I can swap them instantly. This series of shots was taken with the 300mm lens, which gave me the sort of close-up I've always dreamed about.
Okay, so you're wondering what the photograph actually shows, right? It's time to reveal all. Here we go ...
It's one of the tourist balloons that dot the Melbourne sky right through late spring, summer and early autumn. It's the first week of autumn here but the skies are crystal-clear and the weather's been very warm, with temperatures in the high nineties.
As you can see, there is a subtle difference between the first image and the second. In the first, I composed the shot deliberately and focused on the fronds of a palm tree, to use them as a distinctive silhouette. Then, using a simple technique that I call "reverse focus", I simply changed the focus so that the balloon was the main object and the fronds became a secondary point of interest.
I waited a few seconds to see if I could get a clear shot of the design on the side of the balloon and I got lucky as the pilot gave it a brief blast on the burners.
The interesting thing to bear in mind is that this balloon was several hundred feet above me, so it was a good thing I was using a 300mm lens. They would still have been great shots with my 125m lens, but they would not have been so arresting.
And in conclusion, I'd just like to share what my teenage (and irreverent) son told me. I showed him the first photograph and asked him to guess what it was. "Something stupid," he said, without any hesitation.
"Why's that?" I asked.
"Dad," he said, almost reproachfully, "because you took it."