Critique A challenging photo op: You judge the results.....

Butlerkid

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First some background:

"Angel Oak has been growing for at least four centuries and has had a lot of time to mature. The tree is 66.5 feet or six stories high, and the trunk has a circumference of 28 feet. The canopy, dripping in Spanish moss, spreads over 17,200 square feet, and the most extended branch reaches 187 feet from tip to end. There are supports under some of the most massive branches or wires attached to the tree to help keep the giant limbs from breaking. Typically, Live oak branches will grow underground and then come back up and grow outward. Some of Angel Oak’s branches do this as well. This feature makes the tree look almost otherworldly. "

Angel Oak used to offer wonderful photo ops. Back in 2014, one could still create reasonable images. That is certainly not the case now. Why is Angel Oak now so "unfriendly" to photographers?

1. Access to the park begins at 9 am, well after the sun has risen, and frequently presents the photographer with bright skies.
2. No tripods allowed.
3. There are now many large 3' placards surrounding the tree with warnings to not climb or sit on the tree.
4. They have recently placed large bright yellow stanchions surrounding the tree that hold a bright yellow chain around the diameter of the tree.
5. And they no longer allow visitors to park in the parking lot to the far side of the park. Now visitors must park along the road, which is behind the oak when taking some of the best compositions.

In spite of this, I once again visited the tree. But knowing the challenges, and having been fortunate to have photographed it years ago, I knew that creating "keeper" images was going to be a huge challenge.

So, I took one camera and one lens. My plan was to shoot UP into the tree! This would eliminate the placards, chains, people walking around, and the parking lot! I knew these images would show only "parts" of the tree but I thought they might reveal interesting close ups. The lens I chose? The Sigma 15mm fisheye.

So, my questions for you are:

1. What do you think of the images?
2. What could I have done differently?
3. How would YOU have approached this photo op?

#1 First an image from 2014 for perspective. Notice the people in the lower left corner for some perspective on the size of the tree. FYI - the new parking lot is now on the other side of the tree. This shot, taken today, would have cars and trucks across the background from the left all the way to the right! More images HERE.
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#2 Fisheye A
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#3 Fisheye B
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#4 Fisheye C - for this shot I stood with my back touching the tree, and shot straight UP. The trunk is above my head and the tree branches are radiating out from the trunk.
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I agree with Nick. It's a good thing you made the first photo years ago because it provides so much context. I sure do hope you have a large print of that hanging over a sofa or a fireplace. Great conversions and exposure on all of the images.

The only other thing I would try is to isolate some interesting patterns in the branches without including the main part of the center, but that would be for another day with a different lens.
 
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I think as a group they make a great series. I'm glad I got to see number one for context. But the others are great detail shots. Fisheye A is my favorite of the three. Fisheye C is a bit confusing to me. I keep wanting to turn it 180 degrees. But I love your post processing. I think you did an amazing job. It's sad when our favorite locations become too popular. I can see why people would love to visit this tree.
 

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You have done a great job in trying to salvage something interesting from this location. I am sure thre are lots of alternative takes to be had with different lenses.

Reminds me of the mud volcanoes near Modena. Until a couple of years ago you could wander at will and get some nice abstract shots of the flowing mud. Then the Region decided to make the place a "tourist attraction" "nature reserve" and walkways and fences now mean you cannot photograph you mud formations.

Or Stonehenge which I visited as a child. You paid sixpence to a guy in a small shed at the entrance and mostly you had the place to yourself and again you could wander at will. I always remember it being deserted. Now a multimillion visitor centre has been built, you pay a fortune to enter the crowded field and look at the henge from a distance.

Progress I suppose.
 
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I very much enjoyed my visit to the Angel Oak tree. I arrived by 9am...and was fortunate to be the first and only one by the tree for about 45 minutes of photography. Even more fortunate was that I didn't realize tripods weren't allowed until I returned to the hotel later than night and discovered that fact while reading about the Angel Oak tree on the internet! So, I was able to bracket exposures and control the 9am lighting.

The signs were a bit of a pain, but I was able to clean everything up in Photoshop.

All of my images were of the entire tree (or most of the massive tree). I didn't think to do closer shots like you've presented in this thread. I enjoy your closeup photographs (especially the 2nd image)...they are quite abstract. Who would have every thought to break out the fisheye at the Angel Oak! Very effective!

Glenn
 

Butlerkid

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I very much enjoyed my visit to the Angel Oak tree. I arrived by 9am...and was fortunate to be the first and only one by the tree for about 45 minutes of photography. Even more fortunate was that I didn't realize tripods weren't allowed until I returned to the hotel later than night and discovered that fact while reading about the Angel Oak tree on the internet! So, I was able to bracket exposures and control the 9am lighting.

The signs were a bit of a pain, but I was able to clean everything up in Photoshop.

All of my images were of the entire tree (or most of the massive tree). I didn't think to do closer shots like you've presented in this thread. I enjoy your closeup photographs (especially the 2nd image)...they are quite abstract. Who would have every thought to break out the fisheye at the Angel Oak! Very effective!

Glenn
Yes, as I recall, you were there about 2013 or 2014.....?? So different then.
 
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Your pics are superb Karen, including the others on your site, and I wouldn't change a thing. The tree is magnificent and if I were anywhere near there I doubt I would be able to stop myself from photographing it, no matter what was behind it. It would dominate any shot anyway. I only really noticed the people in yours because you mentioned them. I wonder why tripods are banned?
 
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Yes, as I recall, you were there about 2013 or 2014.....?? So different then.
Yes...2014. My experience seemed similar to your experience with the exception that I was able to park in the lot. Tripods were prohibited (as I later learned), the gate didn't open until 9am and several signs were present around the tree.

It seems that everywhere I go photography is more challenging than in previous years. Access is much more of a problem for interior spaces. I see that one of my go to photography locations, the Brookfield Zoo, has prohibited tripods. That's a deal breaker for me and my 500 f4 lens.

Glenn
 

Butlerkid

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Yes...2014. My experience seemed similar to your experience with the exception that I was able to park in the lot. Tripods were prohibited (as I later learned), the gate didn't open until 9am and several signs were present around the tree.

It seems that everywhere I go photography is more challenging than in previous years. Access is much more of a problem for interior spaces. I see that one of my go to photography locations, the Brookfield Zoo, has prohibited tripods. That's a deal breaker for me and my 500 f4 lens.

Glenn
IMHO - It is much worse now. There are more signs. The large bright yellow stanchions and large yellow chain around the tree weren't there in 2014 and stand out like a sore thumb. And worse is the line of parked cars/trucks with reflecting chrome in the background. And there were a waiting line at 8:45 in the morning.
 
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IMHO - It is much worse now. There are more signs. The large bright yellow stanchions and large yellow chain around the tree weren't there in 2014 and stand out like a sore thumb. And worse is the line of parked cars/trucks with reflecting chrome in the background. And there were a waiting line at 8:45 in the morning.
Wow...I didn't catch the part about the large yellow chain around the tree. The parked cars are also a problem...I remember having to wait for a car or two to pass due to the reflecting chrome (but people weren't parking out there then). Lines really frustrate me.

I was fortunate that nobody was there the day I visited...until a couple walked over to take a few photos with their cell phones at about 9:45am or so!

I guess I'm glad I visited when I did. You certainly made the most of it given the challenges this time around.

Glenn
 
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Excellent work, Karen!
I would also have aimed up. Not with a fish eye though since I don't have that :D
Probably with the Tamron 15-30.
If I would have to pick one, It would be A. That composition and processing resonates best with me.
 
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can stand there at 200 pounds, but my 2 pound tripod is a threat to the tree?

A very long time ago, our physics teacher claimed it would hurt more when a small women in stiletto heels would stand on your foot than when an elephant did.
An example of the calculation of pressure.
In those days I was still a good boy so I didn't voice my thinking if he would be willing to demonstrate that :)
 
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Those are outstanding photos, Karen. Shame that people can't employ self control that the owner has to use signs and barriers. Isolating the branches is very effective and I can't see how you could improve on your first image. That is a wall hanger! I wonder if one could make arrangements with the owner to show up pre-opening for a photo shoot.

My first trip there was 1989 with my dad while we were playing golf on Kiawah and Seabrook Isl. The day we visited was a rain out day, so the road leading to the tree was muddy. We had my front wheel drive 5 speed Honda Accord. I had to do some fancy driving to avoid getting stuck. My camera gear consisted of Nikon FE and 50mm 1.4. I will have to look up the print.....
 
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You met the challenge. The constraints elicited your creativity. And the images from 2014, including the linked gallery, when you could capture the tree in its full magnificence, are stunning.

By the way, is that Nick on the chandelier of the Aiken-Rhett House?
 
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Very well done, a classic approach to covering a topic.
First shot sets the overall scene and lets us see what we are looking at.
Then the detail shots- the close up abstracts.
Black and white is glorious for this type of work- well done and well seen.
What would I do differently?
First shot- would I show more tree? Depends on the surroundings.
The people are what makes the shot- they have to be there to give it scale. I sort of wish they were walking towards me instead of away. If I were staging this- I would have had a small child standing on the branch were the present people are. Subtle, hard to see- but a wonderful surprise for those that look.
Otherwise I can't think of a thing.
The other abstract shots are wonderful and endless. I think we could all stand there at the same time and our detail shots would all be different. Better? Who knows, but definitely different.
I am in a bit of a photo slump right now, it is work like this that drags me out again.
Thanks
gary
 

Butlerkid

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I think you nailed it and then some. The first shot pays homage to it's size and the others to it's complexity. Well done indeed!
Thanks, Nick. I almost didn't visit Angel Oak because of the current situation.
I agree with Nick. It's a good thing you made the first photo years ago because it provides so much context. I sure do hope you have a large print of that hanging over a sofa or a fireplace. Great conversions and exposure on all of the images.

The only other thing I would try is to isolate some interesting patterns in the branches without including the main part of the center, but that would be for another day with a different lens.
Appreciate it, Mike. Maybe another option would be to use a long lens and capture the lush moss and patterns on the limbs. I'll be in Charleston again next October......
All of them are awesome!
Thanks, Walter!
I think as a group they make a great series. I'm glad I got to see number one for context. But the others are great detail shots. Fisheye A is my favorite of the three. Fisheye C is a bit confusing to me. I keep wanting to turn it 180 degrees. But I love your post processing. I think you did an amazing job. It's sad when our favorite locations become too popular. I can see why people would love to visit this tree.
Fisheye C is my favorite, but I think most people agree with you about the confusing composition! LOL! I was confused at times just taking it! But, the next time you are outside, go stand under a large tree, with your back to the trunk, and look up!
You have done a great job in trying to salvage something interesting from this location. I am sure three are lots of alternative takes to be had with different lenses.
......
Thanks for commenting!
I particularly like Fisheye A. Nice pattern and your B&W conversion is great.
Thanks, Phil! I actually struggled quite a bit with the conversions - and noise!
Excellent work, Karen!
I would also have aimed up. Not with a fish eye though since I don't have that :D
Probably with the Tamron 15-30.
If I would have to pick one, It would be A. That composition and processing resonates best with me.
Thanks, Bart. I lusted for the Sigma 15mm fisheye for many years. Finally a NikonCafe member put his up for sale. I was thrilled. It is a specialty lens and often is perfect for architecture images. Using it for Angel Oak was a real creative experiment! LOL!
Those are outstanding photos, Karen. Shame that people can't employ self control that the owner has to use signs and barriers. Isolating the branches is very effective and I can't see how you could improve on your first image. That is a wall hanger! I wonder if one could make arrangements with the owner to show up pre-opening for a photo shoot.

My first trip there was 1989 with my dad while we were playing golf on Kiawah and Seabrook Isl. The day we visited was a rain out day, so the road leading to the tree was muddy. We had my front wheel drive 5 speed Honda Accord. I had to do some fancy driving to avoid getting stuck. My camera gear consisted of Nikon FE and 50mm 1.4. I will have to look up the print.....
Appreciate the comments, John! The tree and park are managed by the city!
Your pics are superb Karen, including the others on your site, and I wouldn't change a thing. The tree is magnificent and if I were anywhere near there I doubt I would be able to stop myself from photographing it, no matter what was behind it. It would dominate any shot anyway. I only really noticed the people in yours because you mentioned them. I wonder why tripods are banned?
The explanation I got years ago is they didn't want spikes poking into the ground!!!!! Sounds like the folks making the rules are clueless about how the majority of people use tripods!
You met the challenge. The constraints elicited your creativity. And the images from 2014, including the linked gallery, when you could capture the tree in its full magnificence, are stunning.

By the way, is that Nick on the chandelier of the Aiken-Rhett House?
Thanks, Bill.
Very well done, a classic approach to covering a topic.
First shot sets the overall scene and lets us see what we are looking at.
Then the detail shots- the close up abstracts.
Black and white is glorious for this type of work- well done and well seen.
What would I do differently?
First shot- would I show more tree? Depends on the surroundings.
The people are what makes the shot- they have to be there to give it scale. I sort of wish they were walking towards me instead of away. If I were staging this- I would have had a small child standing on the branch were the present people are. Subtle, hard to see- but a wonderful surprise for those that look.
Otherwise I can't think of a thing.
The other abstract shots are wonderful and endless. I think we could all stand there at the same time and our detail shots would all be different. Better? Who knows, but definitely different.
I am in a bit of a photo slump right now, it is work like this that drags me out again.
Thanks
gary
I was hoping you would comment! Your work is such an inspiration to me! Whereas your work is clean, simple, classic and stunning , these images seemed way too busy and cluttered to me! BUT - taking my time and experimenting with compositions must have helped me figure out how to use the fisheye for the concept I had previsualized a week before. The images above were the last images I shot that day! I just didn't think they would be so hard to process! LOL! BTW - Fishseye C is my favorite.....but Fisheye A seems to be what most folks like.
 
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