Attention to the details in one’s life is what makes for a harmonious whole. Omit just a pinch of salt in your favorite recipe and the importance of attention to detail will become very clear by what is missing. Overlook the anniversary of your marriage or your wife’s birthday and you will be reminded in a persuasive manner how important it is to remember and take care of the details!
The focus on the the details involved in the creation of a great image is, well, what makes the image great. Sometimes it might only be a slight adjustment of camera angle when composing the shot. Or it could involve the area chosen to place the focus. In the editing phase also, every decision you make becomes an important detail in how the finished image will appear. Whether it is dodging an area here or burning a spot there, increasing saturation for one color while decreasing in another, or any number of other adjustments commonly made in the editing of your work, all will either contribute to or detract from the quality of the finished image. Like the salt, omit or overdo any one detail and the outcome will not be the same.
As you can see, the two images that I have chosen to illustrate this thought are vastly different in their final rendering, but the same care and methods were employed to capture each one.
To reach this destination on Wright’s Creek in the Florida Panhandle, I had to paddle some 800 yards upstream from camp. I knew the forecast called for thick fog but I also was well aware that the fog would not linger, but lift early with the rising of the bright sun and the slight breeze that was also part of the weather forecast. Without the fog, the images that I envisioned would not have been possible. Therefore, I had to rise before four a.m. and be on the water as soon as the light from the sun would allow me to see. The details involved in the final work, finished two days later, had already begun.
Always check the camera settings before you begin a shoot! I know it sounds elementary and we have no doubt heard and reminded ourselves of its importance many times, but I’ve been far into a shoot on many occasions only to discover the camera was not setup properly for what I was trying to accomplish. It is very frustrating, often impossible even, to repair in post what could have been avoided if only one would slow down and make sure all is as it should be in the camera’s settings.
If you do not yet acknowledge you must use a tripod, I would assume you’re not yet fully committed to doing the very best work you’re capable of doing. Use the tripod! Buy better than you think you can afford and use the thing! The one tool that will cause you to slow down, help with framing the composition, and stabilize the camera at the same time is the tripod. These photos simply would not have been made without the use of a sturdy tripod. They were taken in the early morning fog with low light. The ISO in the camera was set at 100, resulting in shutter speeds so slow that the images could not have been sharp without stabilizing the camera with a good tripod. Besides, it’s not a self-portrait if someone else is holding the camera.
The whole process involved in capturing these photographs began with planning the night before, rising early to be at the location at the opportune time, and then setting up the camera appropriately both internally and on a sturdy Gitzo GT3530LS tripod. However, it did not end there.
I have been on the receiving end of applied pressure. The kind applied by some less patient (and of course less interested) than me when I am attempting to arrange and adjust every Speedlight’s intensity and angle when attempting to properly expose a family portrait. You know the feeling. You have experienced the same one while on vacation with others. Remember the times when you paused to compose a photo and everyone quickly grew weary of your determined efforts and said to you, “just take the picture!” That is the feeling I refer to. But if we “just take the picture”, let us be honest with ourselves, we’re no longer pursuing art and work which is truly beautiful but just taking snapshots instead.
I didn’t want these photos to end up as snapshots so much effort, time, and technique went into their creation.
After determining the composition for the shots, I relied on the D300’s Live View function to nail down the focus. I then went one step further with a technique I learned from George Lepp. With Live View turned on, I increased the magnification of the image and viewed it through a Hood Loupe while manually focusing for proper depth of field and fine focus. In Live View, I was able to scroll around the frame and check the focus, thereby assuring sharpness throughout the image. Because of the slow shutter speeds, I then switched the camera to utilize its “mirror up” function, which helped to minimize movement even further. I also used a shutter release cable so as not to touch the camera at the moment of exposure.
Postproduction involved work in Nik Software’s Color Efex 3 and Silver Efex 2, and Adobe’s Lightroom. The color image is a four-framed HDR processed in Photomatix Pro. I shot five frames for the HDR image, but after inspecting them all individually at 100% crop, one was determined to be too noisy for its inclusion in the final merge. Again, attention to detail is crucial.
God has blessed each one of us with an amazing tool. No, it’s not the best camera in the world or the latest software to edit the images that we capture. The tool is our brain. Connect the knowledge contained there with the desire resting in your heart to produce great images, then patiently go about your business paying close attention to the details and produce those images that you envision.