River Rock Rust Rainbow

Last weekend we took the kids into the woods to spend time with their great-grandparents and get away from technology for a little while. You can read more about that adventure over at In Such Times. While playing in the river, Walker found a rock which, when thrown in the way of eleven year olds given reign over a stretch of stony beach, split in half to reveal gorgeous striations of color.

Colors, in parallel

I’m no geologist, but the colors in this rock suggests a high copper and iron content, oxidized by millennia of exposure to the air and water of West Virginia. A geologist buddy also suggested that they might be a form of oil shale.

I captured these photos using my iPhone X and natural light with no flash. Tap-to-focus and tap-exposure gave me a dramatic light balance. There are no filters on the image. The stunning swirls of liquid color are brought to life by getting the rocks wet in the river before placing them on a large flat stone to be photographed.

Colors at 45

For the second photo I wanted to break away from the strict parallel lines and show off the complex topography of the break. The reflectivity of the wet stone was almost to much, creating highlights which are a little stronger than I would like, but as an unedited photo it is still stunning. I will likely adjust this a little before printing to tone down the highlights and boost the shadows, but the overall effect of the photo is what I had hoped for.

Time for a dip

After capturing several photos on a dry surface, I thought it would be fun to partially submerge the rocks in the stream from whence they came. Here you can see part of the struggles which comes with taking photos that include water. The refraction of light in the deeper water combines with the glossiness of the wet surface to create an environment which is a significant challenge for computational photography. I didn’t have to resort to activating the AF/AE Lock on my camera and physically moving my iPhone in and out to achieve the desired focus, but it was a close call. After taking about a dozen photos I managed to capture this one.

Plenty more photos to come from the river expedition, but for now tell me what you think of this set and how you overcome the challenges of excessive brilliance when photographing wet surfaces with a phone camera.

Shooting the Moon

The other night I stepped out to the dock to put away some paddles that the boys had forgotten in their enthusiasm to go to dinner with Walker’s dad… and thirty seconds later came running back into the house because I had to try and get a shot of the moon rising over the bay.

It turned out better than I expected, but isn’t quite what I had hoped for:

Moon Rise Over Chesapeake Bay, 2020/10/2

The difficulty of capturing a moon photo comes down to glass size. The moon already looks large to us because of an interaction between the curve of the atmosphere, density of the atmosphere affecting how light bends, and our own eyes being quite nearly spherical. It’s all a stack of lenses piled up one upon the other, giving you the effect of a giant moon.

That’s why when you try to take a moon shot with your phone, you’ll almost always be utterly disappointed. Even multi-lens fancy phones are still using an array of barely curved lenses. To shoot the moon properly you need a nice, large, curved glass lens. The basic stock lens on my Nikon (AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G) is just barely adequate.

I like this shot, but I do think I should have put the foreground water into focus, rather than trying to focus on the moon and the island, and obviously it would have been better with a larger lens that would show off how large the moon looked over the island, about three miles away.