Any day sitting on the side of the stream in the Smoky Mountains is a good day. Add beautiful fall color, a pretty sky, and a crystal ball and you can make magic!!
I received this crystal ball from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas last year, and immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. I had seen a crystal ball shot from earlier that December, showing the Christmas lights on the Plaza in Kansas City. It was glorious!! I wanted one of those balls! Imagine my shock when I opened my gift and there it was, without me ever mentioning it to my brother. He and I are like that!
So with no prior experience with crystal balls, but with lots of determination and a strong visualization of what I wanted, I headed into the woods in the Smokies and got to work. It was late October, so there was still some lovely color on the trees, but lots of cool, wet leaves covered the ground. I love the sensory experience of fall in the woods, the smells of the dampness coming from the ground, the sounds of the trees rustling in the breeze, the flicker of the leaves as they tumble like little ballerinas to the ground. It is my favorite time of year for sure, and I always go out with a hope of bringing some of that sensory experience to my photographs.
So armed with 2 tripods (you will see why in a minute), my macro lens and my crystal ball, I headed into the Elkmont area of the Smokies. I am familiar with this area, and love this one part of the stream there, it always has something to offer up. One time, I was treated to beautiful and unexpected gold water in the springtime! Another day, I captured a magical reflection of the autumn leaves in the stream. This day would turn out to be quite productive as well.
I found a pretty part of the stream, made my way down to the edge and caught sight of some colorful trees on the other side of the nice little rapids. This would do just fine! I set up the first tripod with the crystal ball sitting on top. This was a little tricky, that ball had other ideas in mind! It kept rolling off and threatening to escape into the stream! A little McGuyvering and I figured out how to secure the ball to the tripod.
Using a coiled up plamp to balance the crystal ball onto the top of the tripod.
Then, I set up my tripod with my camera and macro lens and got to work. I used the macro lens so I could get close to the crystal ball, and focus on the rapids. It took some fiddling with my settings to get it just right, because I wanted to be sure to give some texture to the water reflection. I worked for over 2 hours--well, if you can call this work!! I was having so much fun, the time just flew by. I must have been a sight balancing there on the wet hillside, trying to manage 2 tripods, a crystal ball and not slide into the cold stream all at the same time. You can't have this much fun without a camera!!!! I ended up needing to bracket my shots to preserve some color in the bright sky.
Here is the shot I came home with, after merging in Lightroom.
I used a large enough aperture to be sure that the background around the ball would be blurry. I wanted just a suggestion of color behind the ball. Of course, the stream in the ball is a refracted image, so it's upside down. (Maybe the funniest part of watching me take this shot was my constant flipping of the camera to check how the shot was going to look after rotation!) That made composition a bit of a challenge!
In Lightroom, I added a bit of clarity, merged the bracketed shots to create an HDR image, adjusted the highlight slider to bring down the sky a bit, then took the image into Photoshop, where I did some final adjustments and some cloning work to hide the plamp. I also did some cloning to add volume to the red tree. And of course, I rotated the image.
The serendipitous part of the shot is that I placed the leaves to hide the tripod under the ball. My only intention was to disguise the support. But when I looked at the final shot turned upside down, the placement of the leaves turned out to be critical to the composition. It looked like a drop of rain hanging down from some fall leaves! And as a bonus, I love the curl of the leaf on the left. Wish I could say I planned all that, but I have enough trouble without trying to compose upside down! Just dumb luck!! But don't tell anyone!
The final image is the one you see at the beginning of the post. It baffles folks that see it, is it a drop of rain? How did I do that?? Hmmm! Just lots of visualization, a wet fanny from sitting on the damp leaves, a surprise Christmas gift and the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in the fall--that's all it took! Oh...and a little luck!
Would you like to learn how to do this shot? I will be offering a Principles of Photography II class starting in May 2018! The first session of Principles will just be wrapping up, so this second installment will concentrate on advanced shooting concepts and how to get those special shots that you keep seeing but don't know how to get.
And Advanced Lightroom/Photoshop class will be coming soon!!
Contact me for more information about any of my class offerings! Learning is the best way to stay young!