While searching for a February photograph that didn’t have ice in it I found a series of abstracts I did of the river in 2010 and 2011. I’ve made a print of the above photo years ago and it is one of my favorites. I know that abstracts aren’t what I normally use as the monthly wallpaper, but hey, it’s not an ice formation!
If you are interested in how the photograph was made, scroll down to the technical discussion below. If you are just wondering what you are looking at, it is a river flowing over some rocks with reflections of the sun “drawing” patterns on the water’s surface (done with a long exposure).
Download the 1024×768 version here. (Great for your iPad)
Download the 2448×1836 version here. (iPads with Retina Screens)
Technical: Canon 5D Mk II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L at 125mm, 2 seconds, f/14, ISO 100, ND and polarizing filters. Processed with Lightroom CC 2015.
While, in some sense, all photographs have some level of “previsualization”, when you start moving the camera into the non-human realm of vision there’s a lot more thinking about how the various parts of the photographic process are going to come together when you finally click the shutter. Details on how I got to this point are documented in this article I wrote at the time (Feb 2010)
Here is the unprocessed photograph. It still represents an abstract photograph because anyone standing next to me would see glints of sunlight on water flowing over some rocks in shadow. As your eye would scan the scene your brain would make out the light and color of the rocks below the surface, but the sun is just a collection of sparkles and droplets of spray.
What happens in the camera is that in a 2 second exposure those sparkles and droplets of spray embody the word photography: they are drawing with light. The f/14 aperture assures that the sun’s “etching” on the water will be a very fine point (and frankly, I don’t own enough ND filters to bring the light down any further.) The result is an un-natural look of one of the most fundamental scenes in nature: sunlight on water.
From there we have to deal with the limitations of the camera vs. the human eye and brain. For the camera, the brilliant sunlight on the surface overwhelms the sun-lit bottom of the river, so we have to expose for those highlights and bring out the details in the shadows later. Once I have the image in Lightroom there is a lot of competing contrast adjustments going on to “compress” the light captured by the camera closer to the mid-tones that you would see if you were standing there. Here’s essentially what I did for this image: EV +0.7, highlights -50, shadows +13, black point -55, clarity +44, vibrance +15, saturation +10, linear curve with highlights -15, darks +44, shadows -13. Sharpening was also pretty aggressive: 113 with a strong low-contrast mask (59).