Monday, April 7, 2008

January Went Rather Well

It was a crisp and cool winter day in San Antonio.
Light breezes and sunshine, low humidity and temps in the mid-50s.
Pretty typical for January around here, including the crazy clouds.
I had noticed them while still downtown, and driving north on Broadway I was scanning the catalog of past locations in my mind trying to come up with the right subject to put in front of them.
But nothing was coming to me--I needed tall and majestic and inspiring and couldn't recall anything in the area. My fear was that the upper-level winds that created the cloud shapes would also dissipate them before I got my act together.
I had a few minutes at best.

Driving through the Hildebrand intersection I suddenly saw the scene I wanted, and knew it would be perfect.
I was passing the University Of The Incarnate Word and the tallest building had exactly the look I saw in my mind's eye, in exactly the right position relative to the clouds and sun. It didn't come up in my mental search because I have never shot anything here before.
A quick, safe and legal U-Turn later and I was in a parking lot screwing IR and ND filters onto my Sony F717's lens.
Test exposures told me how much light filtration would be needed so I was quickly in a good place exposure-wise. Even with all of my filters the bright sun on a dry day was almost too much.
Now to find the right composition. Starting close to the building, my first shots were imposing and a little scary. I moved the car to another parking lot so I could get something with a more friendly spirit.

Being further away allowed me to set my zoom lens in the middle of it's range for minimal distortion and maximum detail of both the tower and the cloud.
I was at either 1/50 or 1/60 shutter and shot handheld.
Didn't have my monopod with me, but as it turned out almost every exposure was sharp enough.

Extracting a 'best' result from the original image file in this case took at least four attempts, and even with all that work there is still a small blown-out area in the clouds on the print.
At my art gallery show in March many people were stopped in their tracks by it, and it ranks as my #1 favorite infrared photo.

It's hard to top a success like this, and once the prevailing IR-friendly weather changed and other photographic interests took priority, I stopped trying.