Swinging Liana

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A single woody vine clings to a tall tree in lush woods. Cane Creek State Park, Arkansas, United States.

Story

I visited southern Arkansas in mid-July as summer storms were rolling through: during a short two-hour visit to Cane Creek State Park, I was continually soaked either from repeated downpours or my own sweat. If I had just been hot and drenched and uncomfortable, I still could have enjoyed photographing the beautifully lush forest. But not with the swarms of mosquitos.

Mosquitos love me. I am the sacrificial anode for mosquito infestations—if I am around, no one else need be concerned.

Once the true extent of the mosquito swarms became evident (about five minutes in) I had to change my strategy. I had to largely abandon the tripod because I could not afford to stand still long enough to use it in shorts only protected by what was clearly ineffective mosquito repellant. Almost every exposure became hand-held and I stuck to one zoom—a 24-70mm—on my new Nikon Z7. This was not a bad choice overall, but I had other lenses—including two tilt-and-shifts—that would have been nice to try in the forest. But that was just not going to happen.

Even without the tripod, I still felt rushed in my compositions since every time I looked down I had to swat mosquitos off of my calves. (Next time I am definitely bringing pants, better repellant, and a head net!) Whenever I had something I was excited about but really wanted a bit of sun to break through the clouds, I would wait by pacing back and forth about 20 yards to present a moving target.

One consequence of having to rush my exposures hand-held was that my framing was a bit sloppy. This example is a case in point. I could have (should have!) zoomed out just a little bit to capture this frame, but in the end I had to stitch two exposures vertically. The top one barely reached to where the curving vine rejoined the foreground tree trunk and the bottom one included the fallen log across the base of the frame. I feel lucky to have been able to cobble this image together despite some sub-optimal execution. So, the lesson learned here is that if you have to rush, you should probably make sure that you have a little extra coverage with the lens just in case!

Analysis

Compositionally, there are a lot of nice things going on in this picture. The upper two thirds of the photo is very green and obviously very alive, whereas the bottom third is mostly decaying wood and leaves. The unobstructed foreground tree trunk is echoed by the partially-hidden-but-still-quite-evident tree trunk on the left side. The two fallen trees bracket the base of the foreground tree. And finally, the one curving feature in the whole frame, the liana hanging from the same foreground tree at very top edge of the frame emphasizes it by swooping around it to the ground. The overall focal point is the base of the tree, surrounded by a few low green plants, in the lower right of the frame. From there, the eye follows the tree trunk’s growth right up the frame to the top before following the curving vine and exploring the rest of the frame.

Creation

As described above his photograph was stitched in Adobe Lightroom from two hand-held frames that had about 90% vertical overlap. Some global adjustments in Lightroom complete the processing.

Technical Data

Nikon Z7 with Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S at 42mm, 1/25 sec, f/11, ISO 450, handheld. Two frame stitch.

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