Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Time Suspended


ANON.: "To stop the flow of the river, float with its current."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: Taking Stock of Ice Storm Lessons, continued:

5. (Lesson 5 is worth restating in another way.) I can only be in one place at one time. If I start thinking about a place further down the trail while I'm shooting here, I'm really not any place at all. So, if time is limited, and nothing suggests the place down the trail will be better, I try be totally here.

6. Sometimes fragile conditions DO last. The air stayed frigid, and Friday the sky was nearly cloudless and cerulean; the iced orchard seemed alive. By good fortune, there had been just enough direct sun on Thursday that in reviewing the photos I was reminded of lesson 7.

7. Ah, specular highlights! Sometimes, no matter how into the shoot my head may be, I may not fully appreciate that the camera sees differently. Specular highlights are bright spots of light reflected off shiny objects. The camera records them differently than the eye sees them. The word specular is to indicate that the light is perfectly reflected (or refracted) from the light source to the viewer. If the reflecting lens is small and perfectly reflective, and the light source is distant, the specular highlight will be very bright and concentrated. A background of trees full of ice crystals and water drops provided billions of tiny, perfect lenses focusing the bright, distant light of the sun at my lens. To my eyes, these were a texture of tiny dots. However, inside the camera's eye such small, bright light rays take on the shape of the shutter. Furthermore, there size balloons larger, the further they fall outside the optimum focal range, and passing by edges or through lenses diffraction may break down the spectrum making them different colors. Reviewing Thursday's shoot reminded me of all this, so I was ready to make use of the effects on Friday. The picture above and some others use these specular highlights to provide a background to the subject, but there are many other ways to use specular highlights. I've been reading further since and looking at photographs that feature them. Here is a subject to master.