The Lone Tree

Last Saturday, my friend Mathieu Chiasson and I headed out for our third photography day trip.

This time around, our destination was the Fundy Trail Parkway, where neither of us had been. Although I did take some photographs out on the trail — some of which I will likely share with you in a subsequent post — it's the ones I took prior to and following our drive along the trail that I appreciated the most. 

Our first stop of the day was at a lone tree near Sussex, NB. We'd been there last year during our first photography day trip together to Saint John, but since we were in the vicinity again this time, we decided to check it out before heading south on our coastal drive.

As we pulled over to the side of the road, we were met with a magical scene: a deer was standing near the tree. I stepped out of the car, grabbed my camera bag from the backseat and attached my telephoto lens to the camera. As I reached the other side of the road, the one nearest to the tree, I immediately brought the viewfinder to my eye and took a shot without even so much as peeking at my camera settings. Fearing the deer would move, I didn't want to risk missing out on the one shot, even if it meant my settings weren't perfect. As soon as my camera had recorded the scene, the animal moved slightly before eventually walking away. I had one shot with the deer, and that was it. I reviewed my image on the back of the camera. It looked good, but seeing the settings made me cringe. I had taken the picture at 1/40th of a second, and avoiding camera shake at that speed using an effective focal length of 375 millimetres would have been a difficult thing to pull off. (I had been experimenting with slow shutter speeds the last time I'd used the camera.) I knew that my prospects of having a sharp image were slim to none. Seeing it on my computer monitor once I returned home would be the moment of truth.

We stuck around long enough to take a few more photographs, and then we were on our way.

We entered the Fundy Trail Parkway shortly after its opening at 9 a.m. and by 3:30 p.m., we were on our way out, starving and on the prowl for a substantial meal. We settled on a restaurant in Quispamsis and the layover gave us some time to discuss our plans for the sunset. Ultimately, we decided to return to the lone tree.

When we got there, there were over a dozen deer in an adjacent field. Unfortunately, there were none standing even remotely close to the tree. There would be no do-over. As for the sunset, it wasn't the archetypal extravaganza we had hoped for. Facing the tree, the sun was setting to my right. And the clouds, well decided to abstain themselves from a colorful show. Nonetheless, by experimenting with various compositions, exposure settings, white balance and saturation, I was able to come up with images that I liked.

In the image below, I decided to pull out more blues from the clouds. I felt it worked well in this composition and established a nice harmony with the textured green grass. If there would have been more sky in the frame, I think the blue would have been overpowering.

I chose to underexpose the following image in order to darken the clouds. I placed the tree lower in the frame since everything interesting seemed to be happening above ground: the tree's silhouette, the dark blueish clouds and the small band of orange sunlight.  

In the next photograph, the tree is still in the bottom of the frame, only this time it's centered horizontally. The black and white treatment, along with the vertical orientation of the image, emphasizes the tonal contrast between the ground, the small band of daylight and the clouds.


This last one from the sunset was taken just as the sun, which was outside of the frame, was peeking from under the clouds before disappearing below the horizon. It blanketed the grass with a lovely golden light.

Oh, and getting back to that picture with the deer from earlier. When I pulled it up on my computer monitor at home, I was devastated. The image was soft. It was too bad because I really liked the composition, including the location of the deer. When I showed it to my eldest daughter, she suggested I leverage its weaknesses, perhaps by enhancing or complementing the blur. I decided to convert the image to black and white, to add some grain and to enhance the vignetting, which resulted in a vintage look that I really liked. And the blur actually gives it subtle sense of movement. I'm glad I opted to run the image by someone else instead of simply deleting it!

If you have any questions or comments about the photographs I shared in this post, please don't hesitate to post them in the comments or to reach out using the contact form below. I always enjoy discussing photography, whether it's about my images or someone else's! 

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