Spontaneous Portrait: Waiting by the Climbing Tree

I’m by no means a portrait photographer—I know almost nothing about it—but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to capture people in more spontaneous situations. While I did ask my husband to “pose” for this picture, I did so because he had stopped beside it, bustling with an urge from childhood to hop on the low limb and climb this tree. I wanted him in it to preserve that moment, and also to give a sense of scale of the old tree. I also aimed to compose it so that it captured the entire length of the low branch, and I like the way it curves up to reach another leafless branch as if to tell the eye, “No, no! It’s not time to leave quite yet. Please explore a little longer!”

Since we were hiking, I did not have a tripod. But I did attempt to auto-bracket this image. Not easy even without a tripod, and much more difficult with a moving target. I ended up only using two of the auto-bracketed images, and even so it took quite a while to blend them in a way that I was satisfied with. (His head had moved significantly between the two images, so that was the hardest part to “get right.”) I already see a couple of things that I would change, but I am overall satisfied with the way it turned out.

I added the texture not only to give the image a little more interest, but also to tie in another element from that hike. This old tree sits along a creek that doesn’t always flow. There had been recent rains, enough to wet the creek bed, but not enough to create a lasting stream. Left in the wake was a bed of mud that dried quickly and cracked. I loved the texture it created, but a photo of cracked mud isn’t all that interesting in and of itself. So I made it into a pattern and used to to add a little texture to the sky and grass and also to create a “frame” for the image.

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