Sunday, August 11, 2013

Coyote Point Cleanup

They say the a picture is worth 1,000 words. This may be an exaggeration when you consider what words would come to the mind of the average viewer. By including relevant visual detail, you give the viewer enough information to provide a context for the image while giving details about this brief moment.

This shot was made at the Coyote Point Rifle and Pistol Range in San Mateo. If you have never been to a shooting range, they are usually not particularly interesting to look at. In the case of Coyote Point, it appears somewhat barren, being designed with safety, not esthetics, in mind. The challenge was to find a background for a photo that was both unique to the facility and hinted at what actually goes on there. There were other volunteers adding new gravel to the range walkways, but I felt that photo of a Bobcat dumping gravel on the footpaths would have come up short on both accounts.

I am not a "saturation shooter" when it comes to making a shot like this. I consciously try to place my subjects in an environment that suggests something about the story. In this case, I needed some visual elements that would suggest that this was a rifle range, and while you can't show people simultaneously shooting targets and throwing them away,  you can find something in the environment that makes the location pretty obvious. I found this "Sighting In Your Rifle" sign at the far end, which clearly suggested what would normally happen at a shooting range. The stacks of target backers awaiting repair were an appreciated bonus.

Photo #1
Photo #1 was taken to establish if there was any significant ambient light, and if so, how to use it in the photo. This shot was purposely underexposed, making the light from the background easy to see. Also, the bulb in the ceiling might be a useful visual element later on.Exposure settings from the EXIF date indicated a shutter speed, 1/50, an aperture of 6.3, and an ISO 200. Not a whole lot of light.

Photo #2
To brighten up the background ambient, I reset the camera to 1/30, F 5.6, ISO 400 for an effective overexposure of 2 full stops. This gave the photo a more open feeling. I also added a single SB-800, shot through a Zumbrella. It was mounted on a monopod, so instead of running back to the car to get a lightstand, I found some A-Clamps and used them the secure the monopod to the screen separating the firing points. The lighting arrangement can be easily seen in Photo #2.

Photo #3
For Photo #3, I moved a bit closer to the targets. The light is very even, coming from high camera left. The "44" identifies a firing point, which I thought  would add to the composition. I then moved the garbage can closer to the center of the composition so that the targets could be seen beside it. Now all I had to do was "populate" the image.

Photo #4
Photo #4 is starting to put a story together. The position of the hands and the rumpled arrangement of the target make it obvious that it is being discarded. Quite by accident, a brief discussion about the target followed, so I just continued to shoot, looking for a that "right" image.

After viewing this image with a Hoodman Hood Loupe, it became clear that the shooting bench at camera left wasn't adding anything to the image. So I zoomed my lens from 11mm to 16, and moved in for a tighter shot.
Photo #5

Photo #5: Here's the actual photo, right out of the camera. I chose an 8X10 aspect ratio, and in the crop, lost some of the target at camera right. But I believe the final image, seen below, has all of the necessary visual elements to carry the story. You don't have to know anything about shooting to figure out what happening in the photo.

Here's one last look at the final image. Some adjustments in Levels provide a bit of "snap" to the image, and the cropping managed to eliminate portions of the background. 

As an editorial photo, you can get a sense for what these fellows are doing. It is much more interesting that the common alternative, a photo with five people, squinting into the sun, standing beside of a mound of gravel. The target backers were going to be cleaned anyway. I just made sure that I was ready to shoot when they started peeling the old targets off the backers, and stayed around until I made the photo I wanted.