A Memorable Day
I made a lot of photos on Memorial Day. None had as significant an impact as sunrise over the Field of Heroes at the Sports Complex on Cleveland Ave. I almost didn't get it.
Up early, I'd gone to bed with everything prepared and sitting by the door. Cameras, formatted memory cards, fresh batteries, tripods, strobes, water bottles, and great expectations. Also, a fresh pot of coffee to spur me on.
My plan was simple, on the surface. Make a good photo of sunrise over the Field of Heroes. That was the easy part. More difficult was choosing the best location about 300 feet up to show the flags and sunrise using traditional rules of composition, timing, and lighting. I also had to choose between shooting with the normal lens on my DJI Mini 3 Pro or the 2X telephoto. The normal lens is a wide angle. The telephoto is more like a normal lens on a hand-held digital camera.
One of the limitations of flying the drone is battery life. No matter what the advertised length of flight with a fresh battery is promised, it never lasts that long. Like gas mileage for a car. How fast are you traveling? Uphill? Downhill? Into the wind? All factors in gas mileage and drone battery life. Just like you don't want to run out of gas as you get close to your destination, you don't want to have to change batteries when you should be making photos.
I did all the required spatial calculus, created 3-D models in my head, launched the drone before the sun broke the horizon, and hoped this one-day-a-year photo would be good.
I got my wish as a large band of orange sky opened up below the darker cloud layer. One day a year for a bright, colorful sunrise. I was excited and ready to ply my photography skills 300 feet over my head.
I shot with the 2x telephoto to compress the angle. Shot several more frames with slightly different views and exposures then brought the drone home.
Pleased with the balance of brightness of the sky and flags lit by portable lights, I was confident I'd made the photo I'd planned.
I try not to dwell on missed opportunities, like Lot's wife in the Bible who was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. That creates a world of lament for missed opportunities and failed aspirations. After putting the drone in my car I could see the sky in front of me, away from the sunrise, brighten and change color from blue-gray to pink. The cloud layer has moved further east and the sun was now shining onto the lower levels of the clouds.
A quick glance and I had a fresh battery in the drone and it was on its way to the previously calculated spot for another photo.
F8 - My Final Photo News is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Shot with the wide-angle lens to get a larger portion of the sky in the frame. Also moved closer for a different perspective than the telephoto. The lighting ratio between the sky and flags was now different. The sky was brighter than before and proper exposure became critical.
I shoot dgn+jpg on the drone which means I have enough digital information to maintain details in both the highlights and the shadows. Still, I underexposed by 1 stop from the auto-exposure to keep the highlights from being blown out. The shadows would hold even if one-stop underexposed.
The resulting raw file, above, retained detail in both extremes and was easily edited in Photoshop using a variety of masks to separately edit the sky and flags. Finished in Luminar Neo for sharpening and tonal control, the final result was as perfect as it could get. Especially after I thought I was done with the first photo.
Using another biblical reference, I kept expressions of pride contained, wrapped in having succeeded in using my skill set to make the photo I wanted. I was accomplished, and slightly proud.
I made many photos on Memorial Day, as I always do.
Photo galleries from closing ceremonies at Field of Heroes and the Blendon Township Memorial Day ceremonies are shown below for paid subscribers. Please consider becoming a member. Thanks.