When I’m out taking pictures, I am always looking in front of me, to my right, to my left. I will look down. I will even turn around and look behind me. But, I rarely find myself tilting my head back and looking up. That’s a very bad habit that I am working to break, and I wonder how many incredible shots I have missed over the years because I wasn’t looking at what was above me.
I took this picture in the Lorance Creek Natural Area, which is an approximately 15 minute drive from downtown Little Rock. Lorance Creek Natural Area is primarily a shallow, groundwater-fed swamp that spreads out along both sides of its namesake creek. An easy walk down a paved trail leads to a boardwalk that extends into the swamp area.
I was actually making my way back to the parking lot when I happened to look above me and noticed the graphic lines created by all of the tree branches. The day was very overcast, and when including the sky in a picture on such a day, one of two things will tend to happen: the exposure meter in the camera will be fooled by the light sky and underexpose the picture or the sky will become too light, featureless, and visually distracting if you try to compensate for the possible underexposure. Because of this, I usually either try to avoid including the sky in my photographs on cloudy days or I position the camera in such a way that I can somewhat easily replace the boring sky with one that is more dramatic later in Photoshop.
I knew in this particular case I had no choice but to include the sky. I also knew, because of the intricacy of the branches, replacing the sky in Photoshop would probably take quite a bit of time and still not look realistic. Understanding these limitations, I decided to make this situation work to my advantage. Knowing my camera’s exposure meter would underexpose the picture, I decided to let the trees and branches go dark and become almost a silhouette against the sky. When I got home, I used my computer to I increase the exposure in the darker areas of the tree trunks ever so slightly to increase their visibility.
One other thing I did when I took this picture was to use my 14mm lens, which is a super-wide angle. Using this lens allowed me to do several things. It elongated the perspective and made the trees seems taller. It produced a keystoning effect in which the trees appear to lean inward toward the center of the photograph creating an effect I think is very effective in this picture. And, because I was hand-holding the camera rather than using a tripod, I was able to use a larger aperture and faster shutter speed.
This image all started because of one thing I thought to do. I looked up to see what was above me.
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 14mm, 1/1000 sec, f/8