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JR learns a new camera - Day 19

After The Flood:

The Return of the JournaPhotolist

<last   Index    email J R   more victims and details in Day 20  next>

Nasty Masking - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/320 @ f9     iso200 FF HH  pattern   11:33:23  OX (masked quickly)  matrix  OX

Day 19, March 20, 2006 - One of my favorite photographic perches at White Rock Lake is the back corner, up against the fence on the meadow down from the White Rock Lake Spillway Parking Lot. Right there where there isn't anymore.

Isn't anything anymore. It got washed away yesterday in the big middle of the biggest hydraulic spillway event in years.

Not that the area along that meadow hasn't experienced issues before. There are four different places — holes, we call them — where dirt disappears after every rain. I assume the City has plenty of dirt and turf, because it has been replaced often. All that would be left would be a new bright spot of grass for a couple weeks, then a hole again — usually two to 4 or 5 feet deep, nestled right up to the concrete retaining wall.

The retaining wall is still there, but it's not retaining much anymore, except an uncertain verticality and the high expectation it won't retain that position much longer.

Spillway Event - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/400 @ f/10     iso200 FF HH  pattern  11:30:48   matrix OX (over exposed)
primitively masked; shot upside down (so I'd have a couple inches' rise over the fence)

For the moment, notice the big, sharp bite where the flood took all that dirt in what looks like three big bites (above). I keep thinking that if I'd had the sense to be at the spillway during the rain yesterday, I might have right there against the fence that's standing on the clod of dirt islanding off the surface (calm here, not so yester) of the spilling water.

Lucky, I was already scared from driving on surface streets, not to tempt the fates at the spillway. I'm trying to decide whether I would have let go of my new camera as I fell into the drink.

Years ago, after sinking our canoe (we lodged it in some rapids and it had to be winched out later, when we got back), I got dumped out of the canoe and sluiced downstream at a high rate.

I had shoes on, and had only ten years before been a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor, so you'd think I'd know better, but as I got hurled down the rampaging river, I managed to guide my descent and bounce off rocks for about three miles. Compared to the turgid water running down Ash Street yesterday, my trip was quiet and gentle. We won't even get into spillway water. (I hope.)

[See the water rushing in the photo on the top of the page on Day 3. That's probably about a quarter of what it was yester.]


Bridge End - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Bridge Closed (something about the underpinnings)    1/250 @ f/8     iso200 FF HH  pattern  11:36:36  
matrix  XP (exposed near perfectly)

Yesterday would have been easy. Today, I had to start work at Joel Cooner Gallery at noon, so I had to get up forty minutes early, gas up the car and make a quick visit to my favorite lake.

I didn't notice when I shot this early image of the closed-off bridge (they'd put a fence over it by the time I got back after work), but it seems to tilt dangerously downward. Telephoto lenses sometimes play havoc with ups and down.


Bridge Over Troubled Water - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Bridge Over Troubled Water   1/250 @ f/8     iso200 FF HH  pattern  17:57:43 CWA XP

I've shot this same shot many times on my Sony F707. It has a zoom, so I could frame it more carefully and more comprehensively. The 180mm is unforgiving in that respect.

Only now, looking at this image do I sense a bridge falling into the water. Part of the story. I used to be a photojournalist. It's still in me. And it's nice, for a change, to have someplace to show off. Thanks for watching.


White Poles - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Bridge Underpinnings   1/250 @ f/6.3     iso200 FF HH  pattern  17:58:46  CWA XP

Boring photo. I'd hoped for a bit of rhythm in the contrast of stark poles and all that rippling water. Not much of that here. But it is in focus, and I'm still having issues with that. And the exposure was close to correct — which did not occur on most of today's images.

So much so I've been thinking maybe a full-time compensation of –1/3 stop EV. (I should know what EV stands for. Exposure Value?) would be good. But not all today's shots were overexposed, only most of them. What to do, what to do?

The answer is simple. Learn what I am doing. But how?

I just put exposure information under each photo on this page. Not always, but way more often than average, matrix metering leads to over exposure. Hmmm... Learning is.

Island - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/200 @ f/5.6     iso200 FF HH  pattern  17:59:32  CWA XP

Near-perfect exposure but a boring photograph. I thought there'd be some interest in the fenced island slowly sinking since this morning's shoot. I thought adding in the rolling foamy below would help. But not much.


Plucked Tree - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/200 @ f/5.6     iso200 FF HH  pattern   18:00:16  CWA  XP

I tried to show that there's no uprooted roots on this tree. You can't see it and wouldn't have known to look for it. It looks like it just popped out and fell down. This is close to where the press (below) are standing.

A perfectly nice tree just breaking out with spring buds, but its dirt got pult out from under it. Makes me wonder how safe this side of the spillway is. Then again, maybe one of the press dorks knocked it over in their zeal to park close.


TV News - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/250 @ f/6.3     iso200 FF HH  pattern  18:02:43  CWA XP

The press has been all over this tragedy. I shot this for texture, not meaning. I like that they're all just standing around doing nothing. The sign behind them is annoying and annoyingly bright. But they're perfect, exposure, focus, composition. This is the video press corps I know and understand — rendering life as a series of stills — not an original notion among them.

I hope I'm still a little origininal. But I too, render life as a series of still shots...


Wounded Gull - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/100 @ f/4     iso200 FF HH  18:04:38  CWA XP

Another casualty of the storm?

I usually feel disgust toward gulls, because they're such a greedy gut bunch and always picking on coots. Though this guy's left wing was broke back and sticking straight up, he paraded back and forth in front of the crowd gathered to watch the water still draining through the spillway.

What he's walking on is the steeply angled cement apron from our grassy knoll down to the spillway, much like the one visible on the other side.

I may be a tad liberal with that XP(exposure perfect) indicator, but this exposure was absolutely right on the money. I did not adjust it in any way for this web image, I only sharpened it enough so his eye sparkled.

In the D200 DigiTutor on the Nikon site, they claim that "in most situations [matrix metering] virtually never fails." But in my experience of more than 2,400 shots, it fails often. At least in the way I shoot, CWA (center-weighted average) may be almost perfect almost all the time.

Police Tape Down - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Police Tape   1/125 @ f/4.5     iso200 FF HH  pattern  18:04:55  CWA XP

This morning, I dared not get up close to the fence on the down side of the spillway. There were cops all over the place and all this police tape keeping humans back from the dangerous old ground beneath us. As if it would give way without notice.

Like it did yesterday.

The odd texture of the ground shows that water and lots of it got onto this meadow and nearly destroyed its crust, almost as if it had got flash frozen. Eerily crispy.

Water Spill - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/180 @ f/7.1      iso200 FF HH  pattern   18;09;13  manual XP

Water rolling down the bottom spillway. Basically, the water falls over the top of the spillway portion of the dam, much lower than most of the dam. It sluices over the spillway where walking and wading is prohibited. (The whole lake is off-limit for swimming ever since either The Polio Scare or Integration, whichever version of history you agree with. Actually, the former was an excuse for the latter.)

Then, the way whoever designed this thing designed it (I'm betting it was the same city engineers who planned out SesquiCentennial Plaza that was opened the year after The Fair [Our State Fair is the Best State Fair]'s Sesquicentennial Celebration), the water makes a right turn...

Let's stop right there and consider how water, one of the greatest forces of all history, would know how to make a right turn and just how likely that would be, anyway.

...through the descending planes of the spillway and exits under the bridge (the one above that's fenced off because it was faltering and may fall) into the body of water called White Rock Creek (which has several waterfalls of its own downstream as it escapes through one of the largest golf courses in the county).

If water was to disobey the spillway's rules, it might just tear straight through those so-called "restraining walls" and crash through the meadow down from the Spillway Parking Lot that's now closed. Hypotenusing the spillway. Like it did yesterday. Water does not follow any rules but its own.

Bramble Rush - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Torrent   1/x@ f/x     iso100 FF HH  F707    6:32 PM

My trusty D200 and its usual faithful companion 180mm (my only autofocus) lens (left over from when I was a photojournalist) was too tele to capture this close a shot. I'd brought along my Sony for just such an occurrence. The Nikon's auto white balance does especially well outdoors, and would have rendered this scene much better than the Sony did (a lot less blue than this), but like I say, my 180mm f/2.8 was too telephoto for this nearby (down the concrete slope the gull was walking on) flooding among the trees.

I especially like the ripping tide foam framed through the trees and sticks caught in this particular rapid.

Parking Lot - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Spillway Parking Lot Closed   1/200 @ f/7     iso200 FF HH  spot  XP

This view, like most today, looks east. The street you see running past the spillway's endangered parking lot that's closed until we see just how many acres of turf will be sucked down into the spilling way, is Garland Road. East from here the road slides by much narrower chunks of concrete and dirt and the few trees The City in its Infinite (or is that infinitesimal?) wisdom has allowed to remain, clinging to the few chunks of dirt keeping the lake from slurping down the street its expensive homes.

I may have mentioned before how careful I was to select a homesite higher than any flood. My mother saw the news yesterday and worried I might float away. I won't. But the houses and the boulevard here could. Easily.

I figure White Rock will have eaten into the neighborhood significantly within the next 50 years. But it might not take that long. The parking lot is hardly unique in its precariousness. That whole Garland Road side of the lake is a cliff waiting to fall.

Surface Disturbance - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/80 @ f/4.5     iso400 FF HH  pattern  18:30:10

A little local colorlessness to add texture. Not fascinating, but a step in that direction. Roiled reflections of trees and sky.

Sunset on the Water - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Wrinkle Ripples with Sunset   1/60 @ f/2.8     iso400 FF HH  pattern   18:33:20

Pointed more westerly, however, we get little ripply reflections of the setting sun among the trees north of the spillway. The light was fading, and because I'd set it to do that, my camera was steadily upping the ISO, so I could continue to shoot held-still-enough shots.

I fully (100%) sharpened this image. Usually I only go to 38%, rarely up to 50% or 55%. But this one needed the wrinkles to be sharp.

One of the few times today when matrix (pattern) metering was a perfect solution for the shot.


Pelk Parade - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Parade of Pelks and Friends   1/320 @ f/9     iso200 FF HH  pattern  OX

After shooting the police-taped-off end of the bridge that may be falling into the spillway, and just before I shot the shadow of the same bridge, I had wandered off to the other side of the lake to see if anything else was torn asunder.

There, on the near edge of Sunset Bay, was a parade of Pelks, who probably knew about the coming storm all along (and we just haven't figured out how to ask them about these things) and knew it was going to be cool a while longer (down to 30 tomorrow night, say the weather persons).

I shot them seven times. And seven times I got wonderful little, nearly everything exposed just about right, shots just like the one above. And in every one of those, the pelicans were rendered as white blots on the otherwise cheery, spring-like landscape.

No feathery details, no shadows, no nothing but white, white, white and yellowish, not properly orange beaks. I.e., another exposure malfeasance, due to my idiot use of matrix metering. This is a lesson I keep having opportunities to learn. Perhaps someday when I think pelicans, I will automatically choose center-weighted metering and be done with it.

I assume they were fishing. When they're not preening, they usually are. That flotilla of littler birds they're with is with whom they do serious, after-storm fishing, driving fishes into the shallows — with a little something for everyone along for the ride.

[All shots above taken with the Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF lens.]


More flood victims and details in Day 20.