Earth, Air, Water, Fire

Sketch for original ideaThis year the Muzerie is holding a photo competition for people in Overijssel with the theme: Earth, Air, Water, Fire. The competition was kicked off with an interesting lecture by Paul Levitton. The parameters of the competition were pretty loose, you had to live, work or study in Overijssel, make a photo matching the theme and only minimal post processing was allowed. Three lucky winners will have their photo displayed together with the 2010 World Press Photo exhibition from October 6th to 28th here in Zwolle, not too shabby. It was not mandatory to use all four elements of the theme in the photo, but I just had to anyway. My first ideas were a combination of somebody blowing (air) out a candle (fire) that stood in a pot of earth while somebody else was watering it. Pretty absurd but in my mind it could all work. Procrastination got the better of this idea.

Fire station ZwolleMy alternative was a night photo of the new fire station here in Zwolle. I had biked by it once during dusk coming back from the home improvement store and it just looked stellar, lots of glass, the red trucks lined up, inside lighting and outside lighting. So, one evening, or better night since the days were getting rather long already, I gathered up my gear and went shooting. Once home and reviewing the images on my computer I was pretty happy. Except I saw more potential. Especially the photos that not only had the building but also showed the flag pole with flag in front of it tickled my interest. My first thought was that fire fighters covered water and fire, and two out of four was not bad. But if I caught the flag waving it would cover air, and the little patch of grass in the foreground could cover earth. Four out of four, that was the ultimate goal. All I needed now was an evening with some wind.

The weather cooperated just in time, a few days before the deadline there was some wind so I set off again with my gear to the fire station. Once I found the right aperture there was just enough light on the flag to make it come out visible and blurry in the long exposure shots.  I was just not happy with the earth element. This is, until I found a mound of dirt laying in the gutter. With a creative angle I could get the mound, the fire station and the waving flag in one shot. Problem was that there was not enough light on the mound and if I followed the rules I would not be able to fix this in post. So I resorted to my flash, during the exposure of 20 seconds I would run about 5 paces away from my camera, aim the flash at the mound of dirt and fire it using the pilot function. I took some trial and error to get the angle and distance correct for the light to blend into the building’s lights but in the end it all came together.

The only post processing I did was in Lightroom, at the time still a version 3 beta trial. A little rotate and crop to maximize drama, I found clipping the lettering on the building made them less dominating. And a lot of fudging with the white balance to minimize the difference between the artificial building lights and the flash, some vibrance and saturation adjustments and I was happy and got an acceptable image before the deadline.

You can see all the entries on the Muzerie site. Judging will be completed by the three judges on June 29th. I like a lot of the entries and am not sure my own shot would be in the top three if I was an impartial judge, time will tell.

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