Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spring Mill State Park, Part I of two

I used Thursday to check off another item on my mental "photo destination" list when I visited Spring Mill State Park in Southern Indiana, about 3.5 miles east of Mitchell, hometown of the late U.S. astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom. But this park has so much to offer, I didn't spend nearly enough time to see and appreciate it all.

I'm chagrined to admit that I got a late start on my trip, which is about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis. I didn't arrive till after noon (pretty much the worst time of day to shoot outdoor photos) and spent nearly all of my time -- close to four hours -- in just the park's Pioneer Village. I used my tripod extensively, since I had decided beforehand to bracket virtually all of my shots for later high-dynamic range (HDR) processing.

I pushed my Canon 7D pretty hard; in addition to the bracketing, I leaned heavily on the camera's live-view feature, which comes in very handy for HDR work, not to mention off-tripod low- and high-perspective shots where angles are such that you physically cannot use the viewfinder to compose. But live view uses a lot of battery power, which is a key factor in high temperatures. Extreme heat (definition: prolonged direct sunlight) plus high-battery stress leads to overheating in the camera circuitry. Sure enough, about two and a half hours into the shoot, the 7D's "overheating" warning started flashing. Even though I tried to spend as much time as I could in shade after that, about a half-hour later, the 7D shut down. I turned to my backup, a Canon 30D, to finish my shots in the village (A reminder to photographers reading this: This is why all photographers should own and carry a second or backup body). The 30D does not have live view, and for the remainder of my use of the 30D, this left me appreciating that 7D feature more than I had previously.

Another piece of equipment that turned out to be very handy Thursday was my Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 wide-angle lens. I used my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens for the early shots, including the panoramas. But when it came time to do the building and interior shots, the Sigma clearly was the "go to" lens for pictures.

During my departure -- but before exiting the park -- I noticed a small cemetery off on a knoll on the side of the park road and was compelled to check it out. By this time, it had been about an hour since I turned off the 7D to allow it to cool, so I used it for another half-hour to 45 minutes of picture-taking in the Hamer pioneer family cemetery.

I'll do posts on this visit in two installments. Today's will be devoted to the Pioneer Village; the second post will entail shots in the cemetery.

One other thing of note from my trip Thursday. It marked the first time I attempted to compose a panorama -- the process of taking multiple, overlapping frames and stitching them together afterward in post-processing photo editing software.

As it turned out, "the stitching together" was pretty simple -- and magical, using Photoshop Elements 10. I was motivated to take a stab at it after attending, the previous evening, a "how to" presentation on panoramas at a meeting of the Indiana Photographic Society. Donna Adams, a club member and University of Indianapolis associate professor of photography and printmaking, was the presenter. So thank you for that, Donna! A word of credit, too, to Marty Benson, assistant director of communications for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and managing editor of Outdoor Indiana magazine, whose suggestion earlier this month prompted me to put this park on my "photo destination" list.

I tried two panoramas at Spring Mill Park -- one landscape (horizontal) and one portrait (vertical) orientation; each involved three total frames. The photo leading off today's post is the landscape orientation panorama; it also was among the first compositions I attempted after arriving at the park. The portrait orientation of a tree appears immediately below. In a bit of self-editing, I should have used a fourth frame with the shot of the tree below to catch the tree tops. But, I figured I was just experimenting with these anyway; they weren't designed to be prize winners.

To view a gallery of my full shoot from the trip to Spring Mill State Park, visit my site at

Above: The mid-day sun was such that I wasn't happy with most of my "full view" color shots of the familiar grist mill in the Pioneer Village, even though I turned to HDR to hopefully make something work. But I do like this "antique" tint monochrome conversion of the mill from this angle, which also depicts the flume that diverts creek water to the mill for use in powering the mill operation.

Above: A detail shot of the mill (see image below for perspective). Initial HDR processing rendered a heavy and deep magenta sheen on this that I didn't like. So for the color version, I went to the color sliders and lowered the magenta register then slightly reduced the full saturation to effect this muted color look. I was somewhat satisfied with the result.

Above: The above is my favorite of the full view shots of the grist mill.

Above and below: Mill Creek dissects the Pioneer Village property near the grist mill. The milky stream in the mini-rapids section of the detail shot below was made possible by using shutter speeds as slow as 1/5. 

Above: This is the first photo I took with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. From this angle, these barrels look like artful landscape decorations, not the trash holders that they really are. 

Above: A view of the elevated flume from an angle only a few feet from Mill Creek. 

Above: Another detail shot from the front of the grist mill. The original HDR rendering for this also had heavy elements of magenta, that I fought to diminish in post-processing. 

Above and below: Two views of the Leather Shop exterior in the village. 

Above: The village distillery, a stone's throw from the grist mill and flume.

Above: The first in a series of shots taken inside the various log structures on the grounds. Foot traffic (other visitors) was almost nil while I was there, so I had the needed time (and, therefore, patience) to set up my shots and maneuver the tripod to where I wanted (or needed) it. Because I was bracketing for HDR processing, I didn't feel daunted by the back lighting presented by the window light that I knew would distort my metering if shooting single frames.

Above: This was one of the few frames where back lighting conquered, despite my bracketing. You can probably guess where the color version had trouble -- near the floor with the front-and-center object. But I do like the monochrome conversion, particularly this antique tint. 

Above: A crop to detail these objects. 

Above: A sort of courtyard, as seen from the doorway of the log structure I was preparing to exit. The color version of this came out fine, but I like the Old World sheen of this antique-tint monochrome.

Above: Another Old World look in the gardens area. 

Above: One of the first shots I took with the 30D after the 7D overheated and timed-out. Turns out the 30D delivered marvelously, even though I had to work harder because it was not equipped with a live-view feature, which made composition easy using the 7D.

Above and below: Shots inside the grist mill.

Above: Inside the garden.

Above: This shot, and the two below, also taken with the 30D, came during a trip down a small portion of Trail 4 near the Pioneer Village parking lot. 

Above: The finale in today's post is a fun shot ... deliberately including a shadow of the 30D atop the tripod. 

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