April Winds

April winds shake the solitary Cottonwood at Lake Henshaw, near Warner Springs, CA. April 2014.

April winds shake the solitary Cottonwood at Lake Henshaw, near Warner Springs, CA. April 2014.

My photo of the month for April 2014. You can buy a print of this photo in my store (opens in a new browser tab/window).

For the April photo of the Cottonwood at Lake Henshaw, I was looking for something different (again). Conditions were absolutely wonderful on April 26th in the late morning, after a Spring storm had passed through during the night of Friday and Saturday morning (bringing a little more precipitation to drought-stricken California; only half an inch or so, but better than nothing).

The tall grass was swaying in the gusty wind, and so were the branches and leaves of the tree. The wind also drove the clouds quite fast across the sky. And I wanted to capture that. What you’re seeing now is a combination of a long exposure (60 seconds) for the sky and a multiple exposure (10 frames at a 10 second interval) for the tree and grass.

After I had my long exposure I carefully inspected the result on the camera display, and while the cloud movement was rendered nicely, the way the tree’s leaves and branches were blurred, as well as the grass, was just not what I had in mind. Partly, the grass was surprisingly sharp, in other parts, it was just a blur of green, without any definition. And the tree and its branches were without structure as well.

So I tried a multiple exposure as well – at 10 second intervals, I captured 10 frames and had the camera combine them into one exposure. This rendered the tree and grass very much like I had envisioned, with visible movement, but also holding up detail. The clouds were separated into multiple chunks with a lot of structure however, instead of soft the soft streaks of the long exposure.

At home on the computer, I combined the two renditions with a simple layer mask, and had the intended result. Can you see the wind?

Picked as a favorite of 2014. I think the photo marks the beginning of a change in how I approach my subjects – away from the serendipity of being in a place and making the best out of what is there, towards realizing a certain idea. Not that I would want to give up the randomness of making photos while hiking, of course. :)

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