01.08.17: Hazy shade of winter

071230SharWd036-Pano.jpg

A dusting of snow coats a field on a winter morning in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
Dec. 31, 2007,
10:40 a.m.

Location
40°6’50” N,
82°57'30" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Camera: 
Canon EOS 40D

Lens: 
Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L  (25mm)

Aperture: 
f/9

Shutter: 
1/160th second

ISO: 
400

As I gazed across this scene on the last day of 2007, Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Hazy Shade of Winter” started running through my brain.

To me, the scene epitomized a winter morning: a patchy, grassy snow on the ground beneath bare trees reaching toward a thick cloud cover that created a hazy, light gray ceiling. 

It looked stark. It looked cold. It looked like winter.

But capturing a photo that would convey that cold, stark scene in a way that viewers could feel it, in a way that would make them feel like shivering, was going to be a challenge. 

I knew immediately that the scene had to be shown in black and white. That was obvious. The only color I saw were the patches of pale yellow grass showing through the light snow.

But composition was not so obvious.

I liked how the tall tree to the right of the field reached into the winter sky, but looking at that tree through the camera’s viewfinder showed what would be a very boring vertical shot. I also liked how the tree line behind the left side of the field gradually faded into the sky and hazy background. I could fit most of the tree line into a horizontal shot, but it still didn’t convey what I saw or what I felt when I viewed at the entire scene.

As I looked at the scene again I realized that my eyes were panning from the tall tree at the right to the tree line at the left and back. That’s when I decided the only way to capture what I wanted to convey was through a multiple-photo panorama, “stitching” (or combining) the individual frames into one large image.

Usually when I shoot for a panorama I start at the left side of the area I want to cover, shoot a frame, rotate slightly to the right until about 20 percent of the area in the first shot is still visible in the left of the viewfinder (important to allow the software some overlap to use when stitching), shoot another frame, then repeat until the scene is covered.

But this time I needed to go in the opposite direction. The tree at the right was the tallest, most dominant object in the scene and I needed to compose the panorama in a way to ensure the entire tree was captured. So I turned the camera for a vertical shot, framed the tree and field the way I wanted it, clicked off one shot, then rotated slightly to the left and repeated the process until I had captured the tree surrounded by brushy growth at the left, which I thought would provide a secondary focal point for the viewer’s eye. It took five vertical photos to cover the scene.

When I returned home from my photo hike and loaded the morning’s shots onto the computer, I selected the five frames of the field and instructed the software to combine them into a panorama. The color version looked OK. Then, as planned, I converted it to a black and white.

Bingo!

It looked stark. It looked cold. It looked like winter.

But more importantly, it felt stark. It felt cold. And I felt like shivering.

I had the image I wanted.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.