It’s official, I am, at age 18, a published photographer. Well technically, I became published when I was 17, just a week before my birthday. It was such an awesome experience and it started a snowball effect into a secret project I’m working on. It’s incredible that I was able to publish my own photograph in a local newsletter. This is the story of how that photo came to be, how I got it published and what snowball effect that started.
It all started one Saturday while I was working a slow shift at my job at Uncle George’s Market by the Dam. After dusting every surface area I could find, I looked for something to occupy my attention until the next rush hit. The store was always supplied with this black and white newsletter called the “Strafford Community Calendar”. There was always some amazing photograph displayed on the front and inside of the newsletter. Upon further inspection, I realized that these were all local photographers that were submitting their own photos. On the inside, it said that all the photos were taken in Strafford and could be submitted at the email listed. I knew that it would be an fantastic opportunity to be on the calendar, so I began to brainstorm ideas. I had to think of something impressive, something that would stand out in the crowd, something that not everyone could do. After I knew I had to stand out, I decided that I should do slow shutter speed photo of the dam on Province Rd. A beautiful, silky waterfall is actually not that difficult to achieve, if you have the right equipment.
Fair warning, the next three paragraphs will be about all the technical stuff that went into the photo and how I achieved the final product. It is not overly complicated, and I made sure that it would be easy for everyone of any skill level in photography to understand. I go into detail about how I took two photos and made them into the final photo. I also explain terminology such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focal length to help explain how I took the photos. However, if you are not interested in this, go ahead and skip ahead to where it says "Submitting the Photo".
A slow shutter speed photo sounds very complicated, but broken down, it's not the most difficult thing to achieve. A slow shutter speed just means that the shutter stays up longer, so more light can get into the lens. But it also means that it captures all the movement in front of the lens. The effect that this has is that the camera will compress that movement into a still photo. Because of this, it will capture the moving water and give it a silky effect. Just super fun, technical camera stuff. There is a negative effect to this. Because the shutter is open so long, it lets in so much light that the sky just becomes a white sheet. You have probably already noticed that the sky in my published photo, is not all white. In fact, I am very proud of the final sky and I think it looks very dramatic and clear. This is because of an outstanding technique call blending exposures. Now, I don’t have a super fancy camera, so I can’t bracket (if you don’t know what bracketing is, I would Google it. Bracketing itself could be entire other blog and I myself am still learning about it.) and I also don’t have all the fancy editing software to help me. What I do have is a tripod, a camera with manual mode, Lightroom and GIMP. Now I won’t entirely go into the step by step process I took to get this photo, because it was very long. In total, I probably spent over 5 hours on this one photo. In the end, I took several photos with different shutter speeds and ISOs, but they were all taken with the same aperture and focal length. This is because I did not want the depth of field to change or the images to have different fields of view; but I did want to change how crisp the waterfall was and how bright the sky was. Now, let me try and break down what those two very technical sentences mean.
For those of you who do not know what an aperture is, a very brief explanation would be that it controls how much light can get into the lens. Shutter speed and aperture are kind of opposites (kind of). The shutter speed controls how long the light is allowed to get into the camera lens and the aperture controls how much light can get in during that time. For those of you that don't know what ISO is, that's a complicated one. Very very loosely put, it controls how sensitive your camera, or more specifically your camera sensor, is to light but it can help compensate for the fact that I can't move my aperture. By moving my ISO up, the camera is more sensitive to light and by moving it down it's less sensitive to light. Because of this, I can slightly change how bright or dark the image is by moving my ISO; I can also change how bright the photo is by how long I let the light into the camera for, with my shutter speed. There are downsides to having a high ISO, but I won't get into them or how I fixed them. A depth of field is just what is in focus in the picture and what isn't. When you see a photo of a flower and the background is all blurry, it has a shallow depth of field. When you see a landscape picture, and everything is crisp and in focus, it has a deep depth of field. My photo, has a relatively deep depth of field. You can change the depth of field by your aperture. My photos have a narrow aperture, which means they have a deep depth of field. This does not mean that the number is small, the larger the number the smaller the aperture. For example, f/4 is a very wide aperture and f/22 is a very narrow aperture. Don't ask me why they did that and everything seems to be backwards, that's just how it is. A field of view can be a tricky thing to explain, plus changing your focal length does not just affect your field of view. But the best way to explain it easily is just zooming in and out. Changing the focal length changes how much or how little is in your field of view is when you're taking a picture. When you zoom out, you have a wide field of view. When you zoom in, you have a narrow field of view. I also had to take all my photos on a tripod. This is because one, I want the images to line up perfectly in my editing software; and two, because with an extremely slow shutter speed, the camera will pick up my own movement like breathing or unsteady hands. All of this allowed me to get a crisp, rich photo of the beautiful setting sun behind the dam, but the waterfall would be crisp and clear as well. This also allowed me to capture the beautiful silky waterfall, but it would leave drag marks in the sky from the moving clouds as well as a blown out, white sky.
After I had taken all the photos, I took the photo with the incredible sky, railing, tree etc. and blended it with the photo of the whimsical waterfall and stream. But before I could do this, I had edit the two photos I chose in Lightroom. What I did was edit the photo of the sky first, then I copied those settings and put it on the photo of the waterfall. This just helps to make the two photos blend together more and look like they belong together. So, the “one photo” that I spent so much time on, is a collection of two photos, that were carefully selected from dozens of photos of trial and error. The next step is to take my two photos in a program called GIMP. I would highly recommend GIMP to anyone that can't afford Photoshop. While Photoshop is worth the price, and I will be purchasing in the future; GIMP really made me look at photos in a different way and opened up my mind to the possibility of so many different things, such as taking the sky from one photo and the subject from another and combining them. In GIMP, I blended the two photos together to create the whimsical waterfall and sky. I won't go into the whole process of blending the two photos, because that alone took over an hour and I have already shared so much about how I took and edited this photo. After they were blended together, I put them into Lightroom for some fine tuning. After I was finally satisfied with the final product, I went on to the next steps of submitting it.
Submitting the Photo
After the final image was done, all I had to do was send it to the newsletter. After the email was sent, all I could do was wait. That was for sure the most agonizing part; I had no idea where my photo would be in the newsletter, if at all. The newsletter committee doesn’t email people about where they put their photos, so I had to wait until the next edition of the newsletter to come out to see where my photo would be placed. The newsletter also has a website, http://straffordcommunitycalendar.com/index.html , and you can still see my photo on there now! While I was at an NHPPA meeting, I checked the website and was ecstatic to see that my photo was on the cover! Then that next Saturday when I went into work, I was thrilled to see my photo printed out onto the newsletter. Little did I know, this was not the most exciting part.
Halfway through the month of April, I received an email from the Strafford Community Calendar. It turns out, one of the members of the Isinglass River Local Advisory Committee had seen my photo and wanted it on their website! This was such an amazing opportunity that I immediately jumped on. But I noticed something after looking at their website, they had little to no pictures of the river itself. I saw so much potential for the website and I think it’s for an awesome cause. I would highly recommend reading about their cause and amazing story ( http://www.isinglassriver.us/about-us.html ). But, a quick summary would be that they are dedicated community members, who are passionate about protecting the river and helping guide people to the many places were they can see the river. I thought they needed more pictures on their website to help people visualize the river and I wanted to help with that as much as I could. So, I came up with a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, that is where this story will have to end, for now. The Committee held a vote and I am now working on a secret project to help promote the website and the river. Sorry for such a cliffhanger, I guess you’ll have to come back in two weeks to find out what my secret project is and the process of how I completed it. If all goes according to plan, the project should be done in two weeks, which will be just in time for my next blog! So be on the lookout for that blog!