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 Nature Photography :: Tutorials :: #10

Previously published in Digital Photography + Design magazine.

Sometimes you just get lucky. Did I wake up on the morning I took these photos thinking I would take shots like this? No way. Did I even know this reed existed? Nope! As usual I simply got “out there” to see what I could see.

I had been photographing some damsel flies resting on the reeds in a small pool on the Finke River in Northern Territory. While photographing the insects I decided to see just how close my 70-200mm zoom lens could focus.

Looking for a nice simple subject, I focused on this reed, literally. Through the viewfinder it actually looked quite good though, so I decided to get serious about taking a shot.

I sat down in the muddy pool shore and assumed a position that allowed me to comfortably hold the camera. Because I use a right angle-finder I could easily rest the heavy lens on my knees and look down into the viewfinder.

Fig 1: The first photo, a good start and I would have been happy with it if I hadn't seen the ripples.  

As I took a couple of photos, and looked through the camera, I noticed that every second or so a bubble popped to the surface from the base of the reed. When it burst it caused ripples in the water that radiated as concentric rings from the reed's base.

Now I was really interested in getting a good shot.

I made a couple of exposures, however, by the time I saw a bubble and reacted it was too late, the ripples were well away from the reed. The only course of action was to try and time my shooting to occur just as, or just before, the bubble appeared, then rely on my reaction time and the shutter lag to actually fire the shutter at the correct moment.

It was very hit and miss, and required quite a few photos to be taken, but of course this is one of the areas that digital shines. I made about 10 exposures and reviewed them after each one. Of all the shots, two had the rings exactly where I wanted them, the others had rings at varying distances away from the reed.

With film I would have had no way to review the shots, and therefore probably would have taken a lot more to ensure I got it. This would be a double whammy, having to take more photos, and having to pay for the film.

The main photo (Figure 2) depicts what I was looking for, an extremely simple image of a reed and a near perfect reflection, with just that little extra.

Fig 2: Ahh, that's better.
Image #23573
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