On a recent spring-like Sunday drive, I happened upon the Benson Sculpture Park in Loveland, CO not far from where I live. I love viewing art of all sorts, so I stopped to enjoy the garden and some of the 144 sculptures that are spread throughout the park. There is just about always a camera in the car with me and this day was no exception. After all, you never know when you will see something that inspires image making.
Wandering through the 10-acre sculpture park, I enjoyed the variety of sculptures and was inspired to shoot some hand-held and some tripod-mounted images. However, it was a windy day and those gusts were zapping my creative energy. So I folded up the tripod and headed back to the car.
Just then I rounded a corner, almost stumbling into a larger-than-life sculpture of people pulling on a wishbone, “Big Wish,” by Linda Prokop. Though wind-beaten from my trek around the park, the piece inspired me to stop and take a couple of shots.
Times like this are when really knowing how your equipment will perform comes in handy. I had one of my “go-to” lenses, the Tamron 16-300 VC PZD, attached to my APS-C sensor DSLR. I knew I wanted a large depth of field for the shot I envisioned. I set the camera to aperture-priority mode and stopped down to f22. Since it was a bright sunny day, I set the camera at ISO 100. Because I have taken the time to understand my camera’s capabilities, I knew with this scene I could trust that the “matrix” or “evaluative” metering mode in the camera would get the exposure just right.
The camera chose a shutter speed of 1/15 sec. I set the lens to the 16mm focal length and held the camera just barely off the ground to get this exaggerated view looking up at the sculpture. It wasn’t necessary to use live view, or even attempt to lie on the ground. I know my gear well enough to know what to expect in the shot. And as you can see from this image, I nailed it with the first shot.
As always, I worked the subject from several different angles, but I knew that the first shot was the one I would deem the keeper. The lesson here is to shoot your camera and favorite lenses regularly so you know how the light meter reads scenes, and what to expect from lenses at different focal lengths and angles of view. Then you too will be able to ‘shoot from the hip’ -- or in this case -- from the ankle.