Monday, April 30, 2012

Back to Basics on a Rainy Afternoon

St. Mark Under the Light, 2012

This past weekend I decided to replace the back steps on our screen porch. They weren’t going to fall down. But there were drainage problems that had caused in a lot of wood rot. Besides, I’d wanted to replace them with a design based on stairs I’d seen in Edenton, North Carolina. (I wrote about that here.) 
Friday evening was for demolition. Saturday morning found me at the home center stocking up on lumber. By late morning I had the sawhorses up and a new blade in the saw. A few hours later the new lumber was cut and in place. I even primed all of the parts that will be painted white. By 3:00 p.m. I had all the wood cleaned and sanded and slathered with white primer.
At 3:01 p.m. it started raining. Not just a sprinkle, either. While I grabbed the tools and hustled them into the garage, the rain very quickly became a downpour. Within minutes, and before I could get any kind of cover over the new steps, most of what I’d primed was bare wood again. The primer had washed off and formed a milky white pool at the base of the steps.
During the night, a thunderstorm brought yet another downpour that left everything so wet that it would have been unwise to paint again before the wood had time to dry out.
That’s how I came to find myself with time on my hands on Sunday afternoon. Instead of finishing the steps, I was instead inside brushing up on my basic camera skills.
Given the technology available, it’s easy to depend on the camera to make all the decisions. Some photographers are downright snobby about people who don’t set their exposures manually. I’m not one of them. I believe in using the technology when it makes sense. However, the photography workshop I’m taking this summer may require me to do more manual exposures, and also to make more use of my camera’s flash capacity. So I thought I’d better refresh these skills.
The manual exposure part comes back pretty quickly if you’re old enough to have started photography before automatic metering was common. It isn’t always as simple as the old guideline of “f8 and be there.” But it’s not rocket science, either.
However, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to get things coordinated for using a wireless flash unit. I read and re-read the camera and flash manuals and was still clueless. I’ll admit this was a little embarrassing because I’ve used a remote wireless flash many times before, just not recently. I finally gave up and found a short instructional video on YouTube. (Is there anything you could want to learn that you can’t find on YouTube?)
I have such a bias for natural light that I’d forgotten how much fun it can be to use a flash. I wish I could flash those damned back porch steps dry, though, and get on with the painting. There are other projects to get done before the heat and humidity of summer set in for real.

Daschund, 2012


  1. Having once worked as a professional nail bender through a couple of Tidewater summers I don't blame you for wanting to finish before the 3 Hs set in.

    As for the photography, I'm still in the push the buttons and see what happens mode so the automatic features on my Canons gets plenty of use. I do, however, carry the as yet unopened manuals in my camera bag in an effort to absorb the contents via osmosis.

  2. Wonderful results--I'm glad it rained, but I'm sorry your steps project got compromised...

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