I rested during the day, after my early morning shoot, and spent some time studying the photographs in the book gifted to me by John Eric Hawkins. John Eric went out a bit earlier than I did that afternoon and I headed out again around 5PM.
My destination for sunset photos was again The Nursery, where I would shoot with my Nikon 24mm PC-E lens. I do not have much experience with this lens, but I thought this would be a good place to use it. In my morning conversation with John Eric Hawkins, I asked him what he thought of my idea of using the tilt/shift lens in The Nursery. He agreed that would be a good place to make use of this type lens.
As I neared my destination, I saw John Eric shooting in an area with small features, that I had scouted the previous day. I recognized that area as a good place to shoot and I had thought that I might get back there at some point during my visit, so I was intrigued that John Eric was shooting there. We chatted for brief while. He really liked that little area for shooting and contrasted it to The Nursery. As we were chatting, he told me that the 85mm 1.8 lens was a good one for shooting here. I had recently seen other landscape photos taken with that lens and I could easily see that he was correct in his assertion. I had a Nikon 85mm 1.8 lens back in my vehicle and I had hoped to get a chance to try it out for landscape shots somewhere on this particular trip, but I never had time to do so. Not wanting to distract John Eric for very long from his shoot, I continued on to The Nursery, which John Eric pointed to from our location, indicating that I could walk more directly to it than the route that I had set up on my GPS via a satellite map view.
Arriving in The Nursery, there was no one else around and I had the place completely to myself for the duration of my shoot. Again the late day light was very good.
I began experimenting with the PC lens before the golden hour, just to get comfortable with the technique of using this unique lens. I’ve blogged about this lens and technique previously, but here is a brief description of how to use this type lens. The general procedure that I use, after setting my composition and determining a starting point for an exposure, is to focus on the nearest object in the composition, using a large aperture, then tilt the lens to bring distant objects in the composition into focus. At least with large apertures, the focus on the very nearest point in the composition tends to fall out of focus as those in the distance come into focus. Decreasing the aperture a little helps with this problem.
I found shooting with the PC lens was a challenge, especially determining when I had proper focus on distant objects, as I tilted the lens. It appeared that only a very small tilt on the order of 1-2 degrees was required to bring distant objects into focus and it was very difficult to determine when the focus was optimum. The PC-E 24mm is an entirely manual lens, with the exception of metering prior to tilting or shifting the lens. I was also trying to use large apertures with the tilt and still get good depth of field, since this is one of the capabilities with this lens.
I had what I considered good compositions, with the “cracked eggs” in the foreground and the hillsides in the background or an array of the “cracked eggs” and the focus looked good to me in the field. However, after reviewing my photos on a large screen, I was very disappointed. Nearly all of the images were poorly focused or had very shallow DOF.
So what went wrong on this shoot? There may be several possibilities. Firstly, the very slight tilt range with very slight changes affecting the focus made it difficult to fine tune the focus. It is also possible that the tilt might have moved slightly after it was set, even if I locked down the tilt mechanism or maybe locking the mechanism might have resulted in a slight tilt. Secondly, maybe my eyes can no longer properly detect sharp focus. Thirdly, maybe I expected too much DOF from this lens with large apertures in landscape photos with lots of depth and maybe I should have shot f/11 to f/16. In hindsight, I certainly should have made each image with a range of apertures, since I had so little experience with this lens.
On the positive side, this was an experiment, which even though, it was mostly a failure, I can at least learn from the poor results and hopefully get better results with the next trial with this lens and I must practice more with the lens before depending upon it in a shoot of this type.
If any readers have experience with using the PC-E 24mm (or any other tilt/shift lens) for landscape photography, I would appreciate your feedback on this topic.
I only deemed 4 (or parts of 4, cropping some of the images to remove out of focus portions) of the 70+ images that I made on this shoot to be presentable and those are included here.
As usual, these images are posted to my Flickr page, where they may be more easily viewed.
I had planned to get up early the next morning and shoot again at sunrise in the area with the many wing like hoodoos with the Nikon 14-24mm wide angle, which is easier to get more DOF with than the 24-70mm; however, as I walked back to the parking area with the desert rapidly going into darkness, feeling the tiredness setting in, I realized that with a long drive ahead the next day, that it would not be a good idea to start that drive after a short night of sleep and after hiking into and out of Bisti again. A morning shoot would have resulted in a late start on my long drive, so I slept in until just prior to sunrise Monday morning. When I peeked out the window, just after awaking, I saw that it was going to be a glorious sunrise with colorful clouds in the eastern sky and I immediately regretted my decision not to do the early morning shoot.
After getting everything packed away and ready for the road trip, I wrote a note to John Eric, since I had not seen any activity from his RV. As I was about to leave the note on the driver’s side door of John’s RV, he called to me from inside, telling me to come around to the sliding door side. He and Jean were just finishing breakfast and they were planning to leave that morning, too. He commented that I must have had a very good morning for shooting and I had to inform him that I had not gone out. I thanked John again for the book and we chatted for a few minutes before I got underway.
It was only late in the day, as I approached Amarillo, that I realized that my decision not to shoot that morning was for the best. Otherwise, I would have probably been driving after dark, tired, and less alert, resulting in less safe driving.
There may be only one more minor post related to this fall trip. I do not know when I will get time for another photo trip. I expect it will be in the New Year before I get time for another trip, so either there will be an extended break in these posts or, maybe, I might blog about much earlier trips, as I do have several interesting stories and photos that I could share from past years.
Here’s hoping and wishing that you all have a happy end of the year holiday season!