Drawing In The Eye
The Corinth Canal is visually powerful, and an impressive example of engineering determination. Completed in 1883 it was an economic failure almost from the start, because it bankrupted the original builders and rapidly proved uninteresting to commercial traffic due to its narrowness and local navigational difficulties. All a lack of planning, you might say. Its attractiveness is now due to seaborne and land-based tourism.
It holds other challenges for the landscape photographer, since the view is dominated by harsh horizontal and vertical angles and the narrowness of the artificial gorge frequently leaves part of the image in darkness, at least as far as a camera’s capacity to handle dynamic range is concerned. There is also a physical issue related to the photographer’s viewpoint which I cover below in the “Technical” section. So, it requires some aesthetic foresight to improve the travel of the eye “through” the image, to give a greater feel of the tightness and length of the structure.
Timing is the Key
Having thought about the problem, I came to the conclusion that a view of the canal “naked”, with no vessels in sight was the worst visual option. Instinctively, I felt that the movement of a boat away from the viewer might create a direction to the composition that would lead the eye “into” the image and soften the effect of the verticals and horizontals. Luckily the canal has frequent movements of small vessels, phased into two directions, of course, so while I waited until the traffic started to go “my” way, I set up the equipment and framed the image.
I was lucky to get two tall-masted yachts to come into view, ahead of a tourist motorboat. They moved slowly and carefully, allowing me plenty of time to choose my moment(s). The wake of the boats and their masts seemed to point the way and make my “eye” theory work and their presence both enlivens the image and gives scale to the canal itself, I believe.
Lack of Perfection
That said, I am unhappy about the asymmetry of the vertical spars at each side of the bridge in the foreground. I would prefer that the one on the left had the same space between it and the side of the image, as appears on the right-hand side. Either I made an error in composition, or there was something ugly or inappropriate at that side of the scene. It is too long now since I shot this image for me to recollect whether the error was simply my fault in not “pulling” the zoom wider, or whether it was an irremediable result of the existence of something that would spoil the view, given the camera positioning.
This being Greece, the light was magnificent, therefore the choice of ISO 200 and f8 for quality pixels and good overall depth of field still generated a high speed of 1/2000s. The camera was also mounted on a tripod. VR is counter-productive at speeds higher than 1/500, or while mounted on a tripod, so it was switched off, but notwithstanding the rapid shutter speed, I was still very much concerned about vibration.
This was because my viewpoint was on a relatively lightly-engineered bridge, very like the construction in the photo. Cars, buses and trucks were rushing past regularly and generating significant vibration each time. Taking a photo just then would have been like trying to do it during an earthquake. I therefore waited until a quiet moment, giving the structure about 10 seconds to still itself before I triggered each of the bracketed images.
One remaining imperfection was the effect of the sea haze on the coastline in the distant horizon, which I treated by using a mask, as described below.
Camera: Nikon D300
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G ED
Focal Length: 155mm
Focus Mode : AF-S
Shutter Speed(Bracketed): 1/2000s
Vibration Reduction: Off
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -2.0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 200
Mounted on a Tripod
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