Harris Creek


Harris Creek Clearing. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 115mm, 1/60 sec, f/11, ISO 500. Five frame focus stack.

One nice benefit to maintaining this blog is that it encourages me to go through all the pictures from a trip like this one to Vancouver Island and actually post-process some of them. I am particularly happy with my results for the image above. It is a blend of five separate photos, each focused at a different distance, so that everything is in good focus from near to far. When leaves and branches move from frame to frame in the breeze, there is a little ghosting that appears in the initial merge, but it wasn’t too hard to clean those few bits up. I also tried to use some of Adam Gibbs‘ suggestions for how to process images like this to help give an impression of depth. The changes are subtle, but do help. The right hand side of the image—which is closer to the viewer—has a little more contrast, is warmer, and is crisper, whereas the left side of the image—which is farther from the viewer—has a little less contrast, is cooler, and is softer. The result is that the foreground looks like foreground and the background looks like background. I find that this is important with merges like this because the focus blend eliminates the touch of blur in the background that usually helps cue the viewer about what is actually the foreground. Those subtleties are an important way of helping a two-dimensional image look like the three-dimensional scene it was.

This next image is most definitely not a focus blend; it relies on both a shallow depth of field and a long shutter speed to blur the background so that the ferns stand out against it. It is an interesting, graphical image that highlights a few fronds that have not yet given up the fight for life even though their doom seems certain.

Harris Creek Ferns. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 125mm, 4 sec, f/11, ISO 64.

This next simple image was taken with a borrowed Z-mount 20mm lens. I wanted to try it out because I have had two 20mm lenses in my life and loved them both. I would love having this one, too, but with my 14-24mm f/2.8 zoom and my 19mm f/4 tilt-shift, that basic focal length is well-covered in my usual kit. It has some different strengths—it takes reasonable 77mm filters, focuses close, is fast at f/1.8, and is the best choice for things like astrophotography—but I have remained steadfast so far.

Green Trillium. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 S at 1/6 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

I made little in the way of wildlife images on this trip, but this section of woods had quite a few hummingbirds. One nice thing about the 100-400mm zoom is that while 400mm is a little short for such small birds, it is at least respectable:

Hummingbird on Mossy Branch. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200.

It is undeniably a bulky lens, but that bulk does come with a lot more versatility than, for example, a 70-200mm f/2.8. Being able to go all the way to 400mm has its uses, and I like the way that the background has completely melted away in this image:

Rim-Lit Hummingbird. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200.

On this second hummingbird image I really like the subdued color palette. (I usually do.) The fact that the bird has just a touch of backlighting on it that adds a little rim-light effect helps it to stand out from that plain green background.

Both of the hummingbird photos were made with a much higher ISO—3200—than the others in this post. Since the backgrounds were so plain, they did benefit from using Lightroom’s fancy denoise function; I find that it works very well on high-ISO images like this.

This final image is another busy-forest image with a lot going on, but I think it works. the key to the image is the leaning tree in the foreground that stands out because, well, it is leaning, plus it is the one tree that is not draped with moss and it has brighter-green foliage than all the yellower-green moss elsewhere. There is nice sidelight on all the background trees that highlights their mossiness, too. I also think having just a glimpse of distant trees through the gap in the upper right is nice, too, because it highlights the density of the forest. Scenes like this are compositionally daunting and usually I am trying to feature something that catches my eye amidst the overwhelming chaos. Here it is that leaning tree:

Harris Creek Forest. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 69mm, 1/90 sec, f/8, ISO 500.

Thank you for reading this week’s installment. I am almost done with the forests for this trip and after next week I will move on to some beaches. I promise!

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11 responses to “Harris Creek”

  1. I went to Vancouver. I saw these trees which were uprooted and replanted upside down. They grew new roots. The couple that bought this land planted flowers plants in the top of those upside down trees.

  2. So many comments of interest as well as excellent images. You are absolutely right (I feel) about the glimpse into the distance in the final image.

    Great humming bird shots, too.

    Understand why the blurred background in the fern shots helps. Just wonder, though, if that can sometimes draw attention to itself as a “device”.

    • Thank you, Rob! I’m glad that you like them. Your last comment is interesting. Your concern is not unreasonable, although I am not sure whether you are referring to the shallow depth of field or the blurred water. Using a shallow depth of field is certainly common enough—one might even say “time-honored”; blurring water with a long shutter speed certainly is, too, although doing that to set up a background for something in front of it seems quite a bit less so. Obviously anything can be over-used: sun-stars (which I like), star-trails (which seem repetitive), tail-light trails (depends), intentional camera movement (runs the gamut from neat to just plain terrible), panoramic crops, square crops, one-lone-person-in-the-landscape-facing-away-from-the-camera-to-give-scale (shudder…hate that!), selective color (the bouquet of red roses held by the monochrome bride). A lot comes down to taste and frequency of use. Other somewhat cringy things are the “HDR” look. The “grunge” look. Et cetera. But here’s one to make you think: is black-and-white a “device”?

      • Quick responses.

        I was referring to the blurred water.

        Black-and-white is more than a “device”. It’s not how most of us see the world but it is broader in effect and approach than the specificity of “device” suggests.

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