Monadnock Sunset

The temperature hovers around freezing, providing a thin layer of melt atop the ice of the stream. The white floe shivers and waits. Bare rocks jut into the path as it meanders further and further into the darkening woods. With elevation, the trees will thin, but here they huddle close for protection from the wicked winds. Somewhere out of sight, the rocky summit of Monadnock hides. Its allure draws many and has for years. Voices trail off into the distance, leaving only silence dotted by the random babbling of water. In peace, he sits on the rocks and spins a black umbrella.

Juxtapose – to place together for contrasting effect.

As I ventured out the door with a 50mm lens, a flash, and a single colored gel, I had an image involving an umbrella in mind. The vision was to capture something out of place by having someone sit on a rock beneath an umbrella and to hide the flash away to let the umbrella become the light source. Underexposing everything else so that you could still see a darkened mountain in the distance would make the person stand out. Between the wind, a time restraint and an uncooperative umbrella, I was forced to rework the idea into something less ambitious.

The darkened woods provided the backdrop. With the 50mm lens opened up, I could get enough light to shoot handheld without turning up the ISO. The Fantastic Mr. Fox sat on the rocks while I dialed down the exposure to darken the forest by about two stops, then even more patiently waited while I popped flash after flash into his face to expose him properly. A color correction gel on the flash head at first meant that he was coming out orange, but with a simple shift in white balance to tungsten light, he was his normal color while everything else took on a moody shade of blue. All he had to do was strike a pose.

With his hand on his hip and the umbrella on his shoulder, he tilted his head and the juxtaposition was complete. A tough guy in a dark and moody world striking an unmanly pose with attitude. If only we’d been able to find a tutu…

The point of the gel was to play with the color of the lighting. Our eyes don’t usually see it, but each light source has a different color temperature. Normal household light bulbs put out orange or yellow light. Newer CFL bulbs can be bluish, while fluorescent bulbs can be green or even purple. Color correction gels can either be used to make lights match or to add color casts of our own design.

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