17 November 2008

Driftwood stump, Baring Head

Driftwood stump, Baring Head
On the morning of the Baring Head Rock Hop the cloud had already begun to show signs of burning off as I trudged along the beach towards the boulders (those big rocks in the background are where the event takes place.). I hoped it wouldn't disappear completely—harsh, middle-of-the-day sunshine makes photography difficult. I photographed most of the day, enjoying the company, the camaraderie, the chance to photograph people having fun and challenging themselves. Bouldering's a wonderfully social sport; one of the least competitive I know, even if this was supposed to be a competition. In 2009 I'll climb at the Rock Hop, maybe photograph as well. I love both activities.


All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

10 comments:

Relatively Retiring said...

I love the colours, and the lack of colours in this. It seems as if some great sea-monster is emerging from the sand - and the footprints are avoiding it.

I like the optimism about '09 too!

Greg Brave said...

From my point of view the footprints aren't contributing to the photo... but from the other hand what can you do? If I was in your place I also would shoot the picture even with the footprints :).
I wish the water was closer...

pohanginapete said...

Thanks RR. I tried this as a monochrome image and it didn't have the same impact.

Greg, I feel equivocal about the footprints too, but yes, they were there, and they're part of the story. I think I'd have preferred the more distant line of prints to have curved more, rather than being so straight. Maybe next time I'll have to be the first there. ;^)

peregrina said...

Funny - before I read the comments I looked at this for a while and, after I'd finished studying the stump, it was the footprints that intrigued me. Had two people walked along side by side, separating at the stump to look at it independently from different angles? Had one person come alone and walked back parallel to the first lot of footprints? Had two people walked a parallel path at different times? Did the ones in the right foreground continue along the beach? Were they your tracks, Pete (remember, I didn't know they were already there), or had you come in from a different direction, perhaps walking nearer the water? For me, those footprints enhance the image.

pohanginapete said...

Peregrina, those are intriguing thoughts. As I said to Greg, I'm equivocal, but perhaps that just means I don't feel compelled to decide whether the footprints enhance or detract. The same photo without the footprints might arguably have been more conventionally "pleasing" but it wouldn't have prompted your questions (and I'm not sure "conventionally pleasing" is necessarily a desirable attribute). Although I'm not suggesting it applies to this photo, I do find photos with a slightly uneasy feel often appeal strongly to me. It's often subtle — more akin to the loose end or unanswered question, rather than distinctly disturbing — but I've noticed it often enough to pay it attention.

Anne-Marie said...

If Pete had taken the photo closer to the water and with out the footprints – well, it wouldn’t have been this photo, because it wouldn’t have had the driftwood in it, presumably. I like this piece of driftwood. I like the footprints too. I wouldn’t mind a quiet stroll along Baring Head beach right about now. My one and only attempt at climbing was at Baring Head [apart from an indoor climbing wall at National Park]. I scrambled up a large cliff - which appeared to be made mostly of sand and box thorn – to get to the lighthouse. My hands were cut to shreds but it was worth it.

Pete, may be I’ll come along to the rock hop next year to cheer you on :-)

pohanginapete said...

Anne-Marie, true. A good point, and one that raises intriguing philosophical questions. Clearly, a photo without footprints and nearer the water would have been a different photo, but what if I processed this file differently (as a straight black and white, or with exaggerated colours and contrast, say)? It would be the same "original" photo, but the final version would differ markedly. The word "photo" sometimes seems inadequate, but other terms also raise difficulties; for example, some photographers loathe the word "image". This seems to show up the shortcomings of labels.
Ansel Adams, perhaps the best known of all landscape photographers, likened the negative (film) to a musical score, and his printing of that negative to the performance of that music. The analogy's apt in many respects, less so in others, but I wonder what he considered "the photograph"? I'm tempted to say it doesn't matter, but even that's not without its contentious aspects — if I said I'd composed this from several separate photos and some freehand painting in photoshop (I didn't, by the way), I think this would alter many viewers' perceptions of whatever it is.
Actually, it would have been possible to bring the sea closer (apparently) while keeping the stump similarly sized, by moving back a long way and photographing with a telephoto lens. However, that would also have brought forward the boulders and other background elements. In that case, "the photo" would have been unquestionably different (and not at all what I wanted).
Sand and boxthorn aren't my favourite climbing surfaces. I'll stick to the delightful boulders — and I'd be most grateful for some moral support next year :^)Thanks!

Lesley said...

Pete, I've commented on this aspect of your photography before, but it bears saying again. The depth of field you've chosen for this is perfect. The context is clear, right back to the range in the distance, but the driftwood stands out against the out-of-focus background. Do you have a record of the focal length and f-stop that you used? I'm trying to improve my own selection of d. o. f. in landscapes, but so far my guesswork hasn't been very good.

pohanginapete said...

Lesley, the focal length was 105mm, but that's on the 20D so it's the full-frame (35mm) equivalent of 168mm. Aperture was f6.3. However, on the smaller sensor the d.o.f. is greater than for the same aperture on a full-frame sensor (or on 35mm film); I'm not sure how marked the difference is, but I believe it's noticeable (the point-and-shoot digicams, with their even tinier sensors, can sometimes handicap photographers who want a shallow d.o.f.).
If you're a photoshop wizard it would be theoretically a good strategy to photograph well stopped down to get a large d.o.f., then applying a selective lens blur afterwards in photoshop. However, that's easier said than done, and with complicated subjects would require great expertise in masking. In fact, I'd suggest going the other way; erring on the side of too-shallow d.o.f. The preview button gives a very rough idea (surprisingly inaccurate, I find), but bracketing apertures is the best solution for critical shots.

lesley said...

Thanks, Pete. I'd thought perhaps that you'd used a shorter focal length than you did (maybe between 50mm and 70 mm), and that you'd been closer to the stump, but with hindsight I can see that the footprints going out of the frame would have been further apart had that been so. My d.o.f. preview doesn't seem to be of much use. The Photoshop solution definitely doesn't enthuse me! I guess the best thing is, as you say, to bracket, and also to keep written notes until I have some mental references established. Well, there's nothing like accumulating personal experience.