In class, my photography professor distinguished between taking a photograph and making a photograph. Taking
a photograph is the process of getting behind the camera and pressing the button, capturing whatever may be in front of the camera based on the settings that the camera is set for. Making
a photograph is the process of taking the knowledge of how the photographic process works and creating a photograph that resembles the vision in your head.
While I've tried certain techniques before and have made a handful of photographs, I consider this to be truly the first photograph that I have made. My reasoning is thus: I had a friend over who had went outside for a smoke. I was sitting in a portable chair and I saw this stalk of grass (or weed or whatever this is) and I imagined an image where the only thing in sharp–or any, for that matter–focus was the one stalk with the seeds or pods on the top.
I knew that I would want to use a lens with a longer focal length to give me two things: a narrower field of vision and a shallower depth of field. Compositionally, I didn't know where I wanted the stalk, but when I looked through the viewfinder I used the rule of thirds, putting roughly two-thirds of negative space to the left of the subject and about a third to the right of the subject.
I also knew that I was going to have to get the camera level with the stalk. This meant using my shiny new Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod
for the job for which it was designed.
I knew that I wasn't going to be able to shoot wide open, mostly because of the fact that the telephoto lens that I have only opens to f/5 on the low end anyway, so none of my favorite f/2.8 or f/1.8 apertures. I didn't really think through what f-stop I was going to need; I knew that it needed to be somewhere close to the middle.
As for white balancing, I was shooting during the golden hour. The light was angled from the left (I was facing north). I didn't know how color temperature was going to affect the shot in terms of having an ultra-green subject with ultra-warm light. I figured that I wanted to cool down the image quite a bit, but I had no point of reference other than knowing that daylight is 5500ºK.
In setting up the shot, I had to be able to focus on the stalk. In order to do this, I had my friend put his finger near or on the stalk so I had something to look for through my viewfinder. The lens I had to work with was a 70-300 and had a minimum focusing distance of 5'. I got a tape measure and put the camera between 5' and 7'. Once I got the camera on the correct level (which took a lot of effort and my "assistant" had to help me with greatly) I was finally able to focus on the blade.
Looking through the viewfinder, I had the shot that I wanted. Now it was a question of depth of field, exposure and color balance.
As I stated previously, I don't own a meter, so I used the camera's multi-point TTL metering system to get correct exposure. The f-stop was set for f/10 when I looked through the lens, so I adjusted for what I already had, thinking I would need to make many exposures, "walking" in on the final image. I wound up taking an exposure of 1/50 sec at f/10 and ISO 200 (lowest my camera will go) with a focal length of 190mm. The color balance was set to cloudy from my previous bumblings, so I started there.
The image you see above was the first and only exposure and required no post-processing.
This is the first photograph that I have made. Somehow this one exposure has flipped a switch in my brain that now makes me feel like I can make any photograph I want if only I continue to apply the lessons from class and personal study.