Rural Mailboxes with Volcano
Kind of the big mountain to pose for me with these...
I have photographed these mailboxes before, but I keep going back because I am always trying to find the right composition. I get a different idea every time I visit.
But this visit had a particular purpose. Sometimes you start to use a tool in your trade, and for whatever reason it feels more comfortable, perhaps a little more inspiring. That has been the case with the lens I used for the shot: a Canon 85mm f/1.2. It is a special lens, but it is almost never recommended for landscape—and I have found it to be particularly inspiring for landscape.
It is typically considered a great portrait lens, because it very effectively blurs everything but the subject face (or even just the eyes alone can be left in focus). Here, I am going out of my way to to get everything in focus: this is a merge of two shots with different focus, to make sure both foreground mailboxes and background mountain are all sharp.
So why is my heretical use of this lens so important to me? I’ve been wondering about that, and today I think I understood it. This lens sees the world in a way that matches my imaginations. It zooms in a little further than a ‘normal’ lens, and it is not as much of a zoom as is often used (e.g., 135mm). That’s the long way around to “it suits me.” The bottom line is that it matches my imagination; when I look through it see with my artistic eyes. I feel planted in the scene, integral with it, I can allow myself to be deeply fascinated.
As mentioned, I took too images with approximately the same framing, one focused on the front cover of the left mailbox, and the other focused on Mt. Rainier. I then combined them as a Focus Merge in Affinity Photo (it’s really good at just that kind of thing). I wanted both near and far to be sharp. Technically, I could have stopped down the lens to get everything in focus, but I would have had to force that so far that it would have softened the overall shot. Didn’t want that.
As luck would have it, there wasn’t as much haze as there has been for weeks, and you can make out the color of of the volcanic rock that makes up Mt. Rainier. The series of recent heat waves have taken their tool on the heavy winter snowfall, exposing a lot of the mountain’s structure. I also used a polarizing filter, which darkened the sky a bit to make it more blue, and keep the intense reflective glare off of the mailboxes so you can see the details. For me, having shot this area a number of times, this is my perfect shot, the one that makes me happy, that gives me the feeling of the place.
Amusingly, I was so absorbed in the shot that I didn’t notice a local homeowner coming up on me to get out of his driveway - I was blocking it. I introduced myself and thanked him for not getting angry with me.