Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ripple Effect

Here's My Watertight Argument

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


The way light plays across any object – be it a landscape or a living thing – always endows it with a certain uniqueness. Because a scene is lit in a certain way at midday today does not mean it will be lit in exactly the same way at midday tomorrow. That, to me, is one of the great joys of photography.

When I was about twelve years old, I had an old Box Brownie in a leather case. Late one evening, I once saw a full moon playing across the surface of a pond, so I picked up the camera and shot the scene.

Weeks later, when I had finally finished the twelve-exposure roll and my Dad had it developed for me, I was completely downcast. As I studied the little black-and white prints, I could not understand how my splendid shot of the moon and its own reflection was nothing but lots of inky blackness, a little white dot for the moon and a pencil-thin spear of light across the bottom of the picture instead of the wonderful shimmering reflection I had seen.

Looking back on it now, I guess that single experience, that single shot, is the sole reason I enjoy using my camera in very low-light conditions. Balancing the constant equation of shutter speed, aperture and focal length can still be a testing experience – but hell, it’s great fun. And on a digital SLR, it’s a huge advantage to be able to review your image instantly and re-shoot it if you’re not satisfied.

I’ve photographed this scene across the Yarra, looking towards Princes Bridge, several times. I’ve shot it in pre-dawn blackness to capture reflections, I’ve shot it under clear blue skies, I’ve shot it under grey, moody skies. A river is a wonderful thing to photograph, because it mirrors light, it mirrors conditions and it mirrors everything around and above it.

I was walking across the pedestrian footbridge last week when I noticed the way the early-morning sunlight – just as the moonlight caught my attention all those years ago – was dancing across the water like some lean, incandescent lightsabre. Naturally, I had to stop and get my camera out. I had a 70-300mm lens with me, but I shot it with the versatile 18-125mm lens instead.

Why did I shoot it vertically instead of horizontally? It all depends on what you’re trying to highlight in the shot – and in this case I was able to capture the shimmer in the middle of the frame, with just one span of the three-span bridge and the giant ferris wheel in the background.

So don’t be afraid to use your camera in any weather. You just never know what sort of light you’ll be blessed with.

28 comments:

Louise said...

Beautiful picture and light (and ripples).

I'm not afraid to take pictures in any weather. What you are teaching me is to take my camera EVERYWHERE.

Hilary said...

Wow, David.. that's beautiful. I love the way you give the background of a shot.. literally and historically. This one is pure gold.

Kimberly said...

Beautiful pictures, and a very important point. You can photograph the same scene, the same object, and have in be different...unique, every time.

diane said...

Thank you so much David for the tutorial. You always bring new light into my photo life with your shots AND stories!

Mrs. Organic said...

I love these 'light on water' shots of yours - wonderful!

i beati said...

lovely lovely photo small honorariums my site sk

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

I very much enjoy looking at water, and photographs of water. This one is a keeper!

I've learned to carry my little Kodak P&S digital with me everywhere,'cause, as you said, you never know when a photo op might present itself.

Thanks for the mini-tutorial.

Daisy said...

Hello David! 74WIXYgrad recommended your blog to me so thought I'd stop by. I'm enjoying my visit here.

Lovely photo this one is indeed!

Nessa said...

I like the golden yellows and any picture with reflections is nice to me. Beautiful.

Kelly said...

Beautiful! I always enjoy reading your posts as much as I enjoy the photos!

Lana Gramlich said...

Another lovely shot. I tend to take my camera everywhere. It's like an extension of my being, at this point!

Tiffany Norris said...

Fabulous picture! Thanks for the inspiration (as usual)!
As I'm getting a teensy bit more advanced at this photography thing, I find myself more and more intrigued by light. It's fun to play around with it.

polona said...

lovely light and composition... and i enjoyed the story behind the shot

womaninawindow said...

Light is such an elusive thing. I tried to get a sunset for my son the other night but it just didn't measure up...

becky voyles said...

And I thought your photography was good! This is a very well written post. Love it! The photo isn't bad either. LOL Maybe its all about the words because they are a w word.

Vic Grace said...

I used to have a little Brownie Box Camera, my that is going back. I took it to Lebanon with me when I was a kid.I don't know what happened to it.

I took some shots of this place with it but where they are now I have no idea

http://www.sacredsites.com/middle_east/lebanon/baalbek.htm

kimmy said...

I think the right kind of lighting can make all the difference in a photo. Beautiful David, as always!

Kimmy

Momma said...

I have a little cheapo Olympus camera and recently came across a scene like the one you described from your youth. It was 3 a.m. and the full moon was shining on a perfect sheet of glass (our pond) below. It was breathtaking. I let the dog back in and grabbed my camera. I was so disappointed in the results. That view was amazing, and I couldn't capture it. So you know the pain of that.

I guess it's about time for a decent camera. I have the itch now, seeing all the great photos on the blogs!

Peace - D

CrazyCath said...

Simply beautiful David. So well captured and the framing is perfect.
Your narration is the icing on the cake. Lovely memories and background - it makes the shot all the more entrancing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana talks often about the importance of light and I'm really seeing it through her eyes these days.

just jamie said...

And *that* my friend, is why I love ya.

My favorite post yet.

Maggie May said...

Only last week I thought I'd taken a really good shot of the chimneys and dying sky behind! Turned out to be black!
You have captured the reflections & ripples in the water as though it was really there!

Lakshmi said...

thats the most wonderful thing about nature..one moment is never the same..thanks for those tips..I will remember them while taking a pic next time

pat houseworth said...

My back yard looked kind of like that David, after last night's downpour in west Ohio.

Craver Vii said...

I always appreciate learning the back story behind your photographs. It is a beautiful shot.

Mima said...

The reflections of the light in the river are beautiful, a great capture.

Texas Travelers said...

Amen on the changing light.

Each unique scene may only last a few seconds to a few minutes.

Being at just the right place at the right time. What are the odds? How many great scenes are lost forever? Well, maybe forever is too strong a word.

You have made a very valid point though.

Check my photo on skywatch today for a similar situation.

Anyway, I love the photo, and I really like the box brownie story. Been there, done that.

Troy

ed said...
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