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All it takes is a minute
As long as you spend an hour or two planning ahead of time
A few weeks ago, in a rare fall moment of sunshine, I noticed that we get some light on the tall birch in the back yard. On that day, the sunlight came in the morning, and didn’t last long enough even to grab a camera and get a photo of it.
Today, we had similar conditions: thick clouds overhead, with the occasional sun break. When the sun broke through a little before noon, I ran to get my camera, but by the time I had focused, the sun was gone.
I wandered around with my camera, taking a dozen or so shots of the tree to try to find a good composition. This side of the yard seemed best. But I had to wait two hours before I got that minute of sunshine on the tree.
If I were able to shoot in the morning, the light would be directly on the tree, and it would shine like gold from every leaf. But it was about 2pm, and the sun was already low (we are very far north) and behind the tree. Even so, the lighting was really good, so I planted my feet, and took the shot. My camera battery immediately died and shut the camera down. Oh boy, just made it!
The battery was low because I took a lot of photos while wandering, and I took a lot of photos of the tree unlit by the sun to determine things like what aperture and shutter speed should I use. I would have less trouble with focus if I used a small aperture (f/8 was what I wanted to use), but then the shutter speed was too low and the fluttering of the leaves in the breeze (wind was 10-15mph) made them look out of focus.
So I shot at f/4, for 1/100th of a second, and it worked.
Sometimes, you have to take a lot of shots to get the shot. I enjoyed my walk around the yard—I took a lot of photos that didn’t pan out because it was so darned dark without the sunlight. Here’s a photo of the Japanese maple next to our rear deck. No sunlight, but it has about doubled in size in the three-plus years we’ve been here.
To my right when taking the photo above, I noticed that the thread leaf maple had some pretty striking color.
From a few steps back, it looked like a ghost or a tree made of fire.