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So many bumps in the road...

We all know that many times things just don't go as smoothly as we hope they will. And it may depend on many factors, some of which are in our control and some are just not. We can't control everything and occasionally it just might frustrate you badly. But then we try to overcome every possible obstacle...

In September I went again to Italy. I had many photography objectives planned, so I rented a car and was thinking what equipment I will take with me. But then I hit the first unexpected obstacle.

Bump #1

My driving license was due to expire. I got the notification from our Ministry of Transportation and in the beginning of August I paid the renewal. According to the payments service website, I was supposed to get my new license before my trip. Worst case scenario - a few days before my flight to Italy. The key words - "I was supposed to". Long story short: the Ministry (or the printing service, doesn't really matter) failed to send me the license on time and there was no way I can get it before the trip.

The temporary license I had, along with International driving permit, just wasn't sufficient for the car rental company. Obviously I had to cancel the car reservation, 1 day before my trip. And of course I had to pay a fine for that. And of course I had to rethink the gear I'm taking. After all, it's very uncomfortable to carry all the equipment I planned to take with me in public transportation.

So I arrived to Italy and took the train to my first destination - Torino. Love that city! Beside walking in the city and visiting a football match, I planned to drive outside the city, as I wanted to photograph many interesting things. Well, now that wasn't gonna happen... So I did walk the city, I did visit a few museums, I did go to the football match and I did eat some great meals. But... I didn't go to other places that I had planned.

However, I did plan to photograph the Basilica of Superga at sunset. And it's just in the outskirts of Torino, on top of a hill. So I decided to take a taxi and go there. Arrived just on time before the sunset, just to stumble upon another obstacle.

Bump #2

I planned to take quite a few long exposure shots. So just before my trip I bought the necessary equipment - filter holding system, adapter rings for 2 lens diameters, and, of course the filters themselves.

I arrived to the location, picked a photography spot and began to assemble the equipment: opened the tripod, mounted the camera on top of it, hooked in a remote shutter release. I made a few test shots, adjusted my settings and decided to mount the filters. So I opened my bag, took out the system, took out the filters and... discovered that no matter how meticulously I packed my gear and double checked that I have everything I need, I still managed to leave the adapter rings at home...

I won't go through all the range of emotions I had at the moment. I just thought how I may overcome that obstacle. I didn't have many choices, so I just stuck the filters into the holding system and hang it from the tip of the lens. Luckily the weather wasn't windy, so the holder hung still. And somehow I managed to take a shot that I actually like very much!

After Torino I was heading to north-east of Italy to visit a friend. And of course I had a shooting planned as well! I really wanted to photograph a small lake between mountains in the South Tyrol, both during sunrise and sunset. And of course it had to be a long exposure shooting! So I began looking for solutions. Curiously, there was no official dealer of this filters in Torino. Luckily I found a dealer in a small town not far from the city where my friend lives, just about an hour driving. Ah, yeah, I had to ask her to drive me... I don't like to depend on other people, but this time I had no choice. Being a good friend, she drove me to the store to buy these filters and the next day we made an almost 3 hours driving to the lake. Each direction. But there came obstacle number 3...

Bump #3

I made all possible preparations before the trip - I researched the lake and its shore, I used various apps to see from which direction the light will come from, so eventually I knew where I want to be positioned for my morning and evening shots. Of course there was no point of talking about being there for the sunrise shoot, as I was not going to ask her do wake up in the middle of the night and drive me to be there before the sun comes out. But we went for the sunset shot.

We left in the midday to be there on time, just before the sunset. Even had the time to stop in a very nice small village to have lunch. But as we were nearing the place and drove in the mountains roads, I realized that I made a serious mistake in my calculations - I didn't take into consideration that the lake is between the mountains and they will block the light of the setting sun!

When we finally arrived at our destination, we quickly went to the place from which I was supposed to shoot. And as I researched the place before the trip (thanks, Google Maps!) - I knew exactly where to go. Surely, there wasn't enough of that soft golden light, which photographers love so much, and the light was in the transition phase, between golden hour and blue hour. Bummer!

I still made a few shots, of course. Since there were boats on the lake, I decided to take several shots - some with long exposure, to have the water silky smooth, and some with short exposure, to have the boats in focus. I knew that later I will combine these shots.

The trip eventually was over and I went back home, to edit the photos that I took during the trip. Of course first of all I opened the lake photos, as it was supposed to be one of the highlights of this trip! And then I discovered...

Bump #4

...that I made yet another serious mistake. I had a 10 stop ND filter mounted on, in addition to a soft graduated filter, and I already was at 3 minutes exposure. As the light was rapidly disappearing, I tried to make up for it by bumping up the ISO to 400. Rookie mistake! As I was at such a long exposure, of course bumping up the ISO resulted in heavy noise in my image!

Using Noise Reduction in Lightroom didn't help very much. So after many tries, I realized that this image just doesn't work. But before throwing it out, I decided to see it in black and white.

Eureka!

In B&W the image certainly didn't look that noisy and grainy! After a few more adjustments, during which I "ping-ponged" it between Lightroom and Photoshop (combining the long and short exposures seamlessly took a lot of effort) I ended up with an image that I really love!

In fact, I love it that much, that I put it on the cover of the printed photo album that I just ordered (probably will write about it at some point)! I also ordered 2 prints of this foto, 40x30 cm. I will hang one above my bed and send the second to Italy. She certainly deserves to have it!

"ERRARE HUMANUM EST"

Seneca

"To err is human". This quote by Seneca fits here just right. I'm human and I make mistakes. We all do. But that's where the rest of the quote comes in: "sed perseverare diabolicum" - "but to persist in error (out of pride) is diabolical". I learn from my mistakes and try as hard as I can to never repeat them.

Lesson learned:

  • Not that it's always up to you, but try and make sure you always have your documents valid and at your disposal before you make any trip arrangements.

  • Triple check you have all the necessary for the trip gear packed!

  • Try to think of every interference you might have during your shoot and prepare for it. Think of every possible scenario and plan ahead. If you shoot in the mountains or in the forest - take into consideration the mountains and the trees will block out the sun light (for good or for bad). Planning a shoot on the beach? Research tides or waves height on that specific day.

  • Don't bump up the ISO for long exposure photography...

Until next time, keep on clicking!

P.S. After several more calls to the Ministry of Transportation, I finally got my new driving license. About 1.5 months after my return from Italy...

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©2017 by Igal Kleiner.