Backyard art.

The dappled light on our smoke bush and willow yesterday morning called for an impromptu excursion into the backyard. I wonder what the neighbours thought of the lady in her housecoat and slippers, shaking a camera at her garden shrubs?

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In the spotlight.

Our backyard faces south, which usually means we’ll melt if we hang out on the patio during summer afternoons. A canopied pergola is on my wish-list, but until such wish is granted – I’m not holding my breath – we’ll slather on our sunscreen and melt on, thankful to have a patio in the first place.

But in the early mornings there’s a bit of shade, and a dark patch in the corner of the garden where sunlight leaks through the slats between the fence boards, throwing lines of light onto the foliage below.

My growing interest in photography means I’m making efforts to learn how to observe light and how to use a camera to catch it the way I see it. Often I’ll point and shoot and inevitably be disappointed in the way the light is rendered in the photo, even if I’m happy with the composition of the shot. I finally realized it’s because when the camera’s in any sort of automatic mode, it wants to do its job and make you an evenly-exposed photo. As in, not too light and not too dark. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the photo looks good.

So I’m trying my hand at shooting in manual mode more often. The trouble here is that I’m already slow and bumbling with my camera even in aperture or shutter priority mode, so shooting in manual means I better be dealing with a subject that isn’t about to get up and walk away while I’m fiddling with dials and settings and test shots.

I wanted this photo of the smoke bush to be dark so that shaft of light illuminating the leaves would really pop. I didn’t want the camera to “fix” the exposure and lighten up the dark bits. I switched to manual mode and experimented with a fast shutter speed and wide-ish aperture until I got the look I wanted.

Well, I don’t know whether anyone else likes this photo, but that shouldn’t really matter. I like it. It’s a success to me because it represents one of the first times I’ve taken full control of the camera – my sometimes confusing and misunderstood tool – and used it to capture a quirky-light moment the way I envisioned it. Wish granted.

Now I just need to work on that pergola.

June 29 (1 of 1)