Margaret had a great idea, which is to go out on a photo walk but limit ourselves to just twelve exposures. Not twelve resulting photos, but twelve presses of the shutter button. She thought it might make us think more carefully about what is a worthy subject and help us pause to carefully make an interesting composition — but also result in an instant photo series about the place we walked.
We made our first Twelve Exposures walk at Starkey Nature Park in Zionsville. This heavily wooded park has a small system of trails for hiking and running. Eagle Creek borders it, and an old railroad bridge lurks along Trail 1.
I decided to get out my old Kodak EasyShare Z730 for this maiden Twelve Exposures walk. It was a very good consumer point-and-shoot digital camera when it was new more than ten years ago, and I’ve always liked the cheerful color it returns.
And then we got to the park, and I saw that we’d passed peak autumn color. Most things in view were some shade of brown or gray. The Z730 doesn’t get on well with such dull colors. It tends to tinge them with green. I wished I’d chosen a different camera. But then I thought perhaps I could turn this into a positive, and seek out scenes that played to this camera’s strengths, or at least didn’t play to its weaknesses. We headed in.
I’ve grown used to “working a scene” with my digital camera, just taking a bunch of throwaway photos of it to get a feel. But limiting myself to twelve exposures took that right out. I felt like a kid again, having just put a costly 12-exposure roll of Kodacolor II into my Brownie Starmite II. Every shot had to count.
Film and processing were expensive, which kept me from experimenting freely. Chalk one up to the digital era: you can waste all the pixels you want. A photographer learning to make good photographs can readily take all the bad ones he or she needs to, because they don’t cost extra.
I knew that my first two shots involved too much dull brown and gray, but I shot them anyway. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t find scenes this camera would like, and decided to just shoot anyway. I wasn’t looking hard enough. When I saw this bright yellow sign, I started to get my head wrapped around this assignment.
One section of a trail was littered with bright green leaves. I wonder why they fell before turning color. But they made a decent subject, providing good color and contrast against a background of crushed, dead leaves.
Before long we came upon the old bridge, a 1919 concrete arch affair that once carried the New York Central Railroad’s James Whitcomb Riley line between Chicago and Cincinnati. Today this bridge and much of the railbed in this county are part of the Zionsville Rail Trail.
Eagle Creek was still enough this day to provide a good reflection. This is my favorite shot from the day. I love the shade of blue in the sky as it reflects in the water. I could have photographed this bridge all day, but I didn’t want this photo essay (of sorts) to be bridge-heavy.
I did get one more bridge shot, of some of the graffiti painted onto it. Zionsville has some talented graffiti artists. Someone took considerable time to paint this scene from Adventure Time, a show on Cartoon Network. Someone else spent considerably less time adding his spray-painted condemnation of the show.
I knew the Z730 wouldn’t capture the light on this tree as well as I wanted. It tends to wash out anything sunlight directly touches. I hoped in vain that it would behave differently just this once. I kind of wished I was shooting Tri-X, perhaps in one of my fine compact 35mm rangefinders. That combo would have crushed this scene.
I saw all sorts of good black and white opportunities, actually. I shot them anyway. So much for seeking only scenes that showed the Z730’s strengths.
Like so many older digital cameras, the Z730’s screen suffers from total washout in bright light. Fortunately, the Z730 has an optical viewfinder. And, shockingly, it has a diopter dial. I gather it adjusts only from -2 to 0, but that it does it at all is pretty remarkable.
I shot this one with the sun directly behind me. It created strong contrast, but it works for this shot. The Z730 really does its best outdoors work when the sun is directly overhead.
I made some quick corrections in Photoshop on all twelve of these — which cut haze in this photo and brought out definition. Unfortunately, it’s not all that interesting of a scene. It looked better in real life.
This was a useful exercise in being more thoughtful about choosing my subjects and in learning to work within my camera’s limitations. We’ll do more Twelve Exposures walks.