Commentary on Bench Lake Reflection

by Allen Ruhl

I’ll provide comments on this image using Ed Knepley’s “4 Cs”:  Craftsmanship, Composition, Creativity, and Communication.  In reverse order.

Communication:  does this image speak to you?  how does it make you feel?

This was “made” in Mt Rainier NP.  Usually I head out with a camera to see what I can find.  In this case, the objective was finding an artistic reflection of Mt Rainer in a still lake.  To me the purpose is to communicate a feeling of calmness and awe of the beauty of nature.  Hopefully a viewer would feel those emotions.  

Creativity:  have you taken an approach to making an image that is at least somewhat original?

There is really nothing creative about this image.  Not all images need to be creative.  In some cases, creativity is part of creating communication, but not always.

Composition:  picking and arranging the elements

Getting to this lake was a lot of effort.  About a mile hike thru a forest starting out with flashlights. So, I “worked” the composition carefully.  I like to use a wide angle lens to create depth in an image.  If you find something interesting to put in the foreground, you can create a strong feeling of depth.  In this case, I picked these two logs.  I used a portrait orientation to focus all the attention on the mountain and the logs.  When using an wide lens, the placement of the camera is quite important; moving a few inches makes a lot of difference in the placement of the foreground element.  So, I experimented with the position and height of the camera.   This is a “wet boots” image.  I stepped into the water both to eliminate some things on the shore and to place the knot in the tree in the lower left exactly where it appears.  Boots and socks dry out!!  The height of the camera was picked to generate the space between the top log and the reflection; with the camera lower there wasn’t any space.  Higher, too much.  I put the logs leading in from the left and the mountain slightly off center to the right.  Didn’t want it centered.

Craftsmanship:   achieving a high quality image…technically.  Are things that are supposed to be in sharp focus in sharp focus?  Is the image noise free?  Have you avoided blurring objects that are stationary?  Is the white balance correct?  etc.

Fuji cameras do a great job with colors, so I didn’t do anything to the WB for this image.  The main technical choice was aperture.  I wanted the image very sharp from foreground to mountain.  The log was about 4 feet from the camera.  I could have used a very high aperture to try to get a large enough depth of field to have it all in focus, but lenses lose sharpness at very high apertures.  So I wanted to use the “sweet spot” of this lens for high sharpness.  That’s in the range of f7.  But f7 doesn’t give nearly enough DOF for this image.  So, I chose to take three

images and combine them later using the focus stacking technique.  One image was focused on the close end of the log, one on the mountain, and one in-between.  You can’t move the tripod or camera between shots.  In manual focus, the Fuji XM1 has a focus distance scale.  So all I did between shots was adjust the focus distance.  Back to focus stacking below.

I used the lowest ISO available (200) for the best image quality.  Along with the the f7.1, that generated a shutter speed of 1/25 sec.  That was Ok being on a tripod and nothing was moving in the scene.  I did have to lower the exposure in Lightroom.  Much of the image is quite dark, and that tricked the light meter into making the image too light.  Recall that auto exposure will make black grey (and white grey).  So, I had to darken the image to what my eye remembered seeing.

The focus stacking was done in Photoshop.  You simply put the three images in layers, then use PS’s features to align them, then blend them.  When you take the images on a tripod, not much alignment is necessary, but still a refinement step in the process.  PS then blends the images, selecting the most in-focus areas from each layer for the final image.

I won’t take the time or space to give the specific steps here.  Just google “focus stacking in Photoshop” and you’ll find lots of articles that tell you how.  It’s easy.

Camera:  Fuji XM1 (APS-C sensor size….not full frame) Lens:  Fuji 10-24 shot at 17mm (25mm full frame equivalent) ISO 200

Aperture:  f7.1

Shutter Speed:  1/25 sec

Tripod:  yes

Polarizer:  no

White Balance:  auto

Processing:  Lightroom and Photoshop