See The Light

This is one of those images that is wonderful and yet full of regret. It was one of the earliest I took with my new camera, a Canon EOS Rebel XS. I was still learning about how to work it when this picture was taken.

The story behind this picture is a little long, so bear with me a moment.

We had just had a foot of snowfall and the weather forecast called for dense snow and temperatures around 20 degrees overnight. I knew this would make for idea conditions for frost on the trees and my mind was full of all sorts of beautiful pictures, again from the Dudgeon area. So I set my alarm for 6:30 on December 27, not wanting to miss a moment of daylight. In the morning I bundled up warm and drove to the area.

After a couple of hours of trudging around and snapping pictures left and right, I got tired and was actually quite discouraged because I had hoped that the sun would burn off the fog by then and provide some really spectacular shots. And it did, about 30 minutes after I returned home. And after the sun came out, there was only about another 30 minutes before all the frost came down from the trees like a blizzard.

The picture here is actually not even taken at the Dudgeon area. It was something I snapped a couple of miles away on the trip home.

It is a striking landscape photo and I am proud of it, but as I mentioned above there are many regrets associated with it. One: The scene didn’t really look much like it’s depicted above. The morning was still quite gray and the scene was colorless. A lot of post-processing work was required to produce the result you see. I am pleased, though, that what was required was not anything more than what you might have achieved in a darkroom through burning and dodging.

I learned many things from this photograph, and from the morning in general. Again, I learned that composition is perhaps my largest weakness. There are small branches in the left foreground that detract from the overall effect. They might have worked better if I had actually had enough foreground to add to the image, but as it is they hang out there in the open lending nothing and distracting the eye.

I learned that it is not enough to go to a “pretty place” and look for good pictures. For truly great pictures, you almost always have to know what you are going to take a picture of. Accidents will happen and you will get good pictures that you didn’t plan on from time to time, but that is less common than you might think. A vague notion of “I’ll get pictures of frost” isn’t really planning well enough ahead. Had I had a clearer idea of what I wanted, I may not have even gone to this area.

I learned that you can’t afford to let being tired prevent you from waiting for the shot you want. Had I sat in my car another hour and then walked to the area I’d been in previously, the sun would have been out and I would have ended up with perhaps dozens of enormously striking photographs instead of maybe six so-so ones. Contrast would have been sharper, colors would have been more brilliant; it would have been hard to NOT take an interesting photograph under such conditions. But I got tired and went home instead.

My largest regret? I may never see these conditions again. I may never have the chance to capture such a scene again. The hoar frost was incredibly thick that morning, and the snow was so new there were hardly any animal tracks. I don’t recall ever seeing conditions quite like this before, and I spoiled my opportunity through laziness. I also missed some good shots through simply not knowing how to use my camera well, but I have a lesser regret over that. I chose to learn when I did, and I can’t change that.

Technical details: 1/800, f 7.1, Focal Length 55 mm, ISO 100 with a 18-55 mm lens

What’s Good: Visually striking, interesting colors

What’s Bad: Slightly out of focus, composition would have been greatly improved moving my body 3 feet to the right, despite the low ISO there is a lot of noise in the photo, which was necessitated by bringing out the blues and diminishing the grays.

This entry was posted in Landscape, Nature, Photography, Winter and tagged , , , , .


  1. Samir January 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Simply Stunning!

  2. jessiethought May 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    It’s a good thing you learned from it, though! At least you learned now and not later.
    Actually, I didn’t notice the branches until you pointed them out.

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  1. By Blue Christmas | My Visual Journey on February 1, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    […] is a variation of my earlier picture See The Light. There is much the same effect as the earlier picture, but the framing is a little different and […]

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