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How (and Why) I Took the Shot #2: Persistance

Dustin Abbott

February 16th, 2014

Persistance 2

Preface:  This is the second post in a new series where I will tell you a little bit about a certain shot, focusing on how I shot it and equally importantly, why I shot it.

Photography is about the individual.  We don’t all see the same things.  Much like opinions, a photographer’s eye (and mind) is uniquely shaped by their personality, experiences, and influences.  I hope to let you “into my head” a little bit and show you how I think…and why I clicked!

Why I Took the Shot

Winter came early this year, and shows no signs of being in a hurry to leave. It has been a hard one. Cold, bleak, and with heavy storms. Winter at its best can be fabulously beautiful, but amongst all the seasons it is also most likely to come with a lot of dark, dreary days.

It doesn’t help that as winter sets in, most of the color gets leeched from the world. The trees are bare (other than the evergreens), and that, combined with frequently overcast skies, leaves the world a pretty bleak place. I often feel like the world has become monochrome.  It seems at times like I am stumbling around the woods looking for something with just a hint of color to photograph.  Desperate…..for…..color!!!

It is for this reason that I have a special place in my heart for the beech tree.  It breaks the rules.  Deciduous trees are supposed to lose their leaves.  The word means, “falling off at maturity” or “tending to fall off”.  The beech tree seems to jump through that little loophole left in the word “tending“.

Sure, the leaves dry in the autumn, but instead of releasing and falling to the ground, they….persist.

That persistence speaks to me.  It speaks of survival.  It speaks of determination.  It speaks of “swimming against the current” or persisting against the odds.

And I love the result.  The beach leaves provide beauty and color in a colorless world (kind of like we should be – see Matthew 5:13-16). They stand out as different and unique.  They never fail to lift my spirits when I see them, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from a hike with some photos of beech leaves.  These two shots were from just such an occasion last week.

How I Took the Shot

On a more practical (and less philosophical) level, I made a few specific choices in framing these two shots.  In the one above, I purposefully chose the shot with two practical concerns in mind:

  1. I chose leaves that were illuminated by some low, angled sun filtering through the trees.  This gave the leaves some luminosity that helped them stand out.
  2. I purposefully chose what my bokeh colors would be by making sure that I aligned the shot with evergreens behind.  I love the interplay of the two primary colors in the shot.

In the shot at the bottom of the article I made a slightly different choice.  I chose to frame the leaves (the same ones) with an area behind them where light was coming through the trees and would create circular bokeh highlights.  I have always been impressed with the great quality of the bokeh highlights created by the optics of Canon’s excellent Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens lens.  It produces bokeh that looks more like a large aperture lens than a relatively slow variable aperture zoom.  What’s more, the bokeh highlights continue to remain nicely circular even when the lens is stopped down somewhat (these shots are f/6.3).  I knew that the lens would do beautiful things with the out of focus highlights, and I think you will agree that my faith was justified.

Because of the framing choices, I had to do very little in post.  I’ve added a bit of contrast and slight bit of saturation (I add no saturation in camera, preferring to do that in post) through a preset I’ve made.  I’ve only used Adobe Lightroom for the adjustments to these images.

In conclusion, let me add one small tidbit:  I am very much a gear guy.  I love trying out new equipment.  Still, there is something to be said for gaining familiarity with equipment and knowing what it will produce in certain situations. My familiarity with my gear allowed me to know in advance how these shots would turn out.  My 70-300L is one of my favorite lenses, and this series just reminds me why.

And that is how (and why) I took the shot.

Equipment I Used:

Canon EOS 6D Full Frame Body (Read my review here: )

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens (Read my review here: )

Adobe Lightroom 5 Editing Software


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