I got up early this morning, with a nice case of acid reflux from Christmas dinner the night before. As I lingered over a strong espresso, I saw the dawn approach and had to get out to take advantage of the fresh snow and the rising sun.
After strapping on the Cotton Carrier and Cotton Carrier lens bag (which I use exclusively to hold about 5 different filters, lens wipes and an Allan wrench to tighten the fitting that anchors the camera to the Cotton holster), I felt more purpose oriented, and headed out.
As I got to the walking trail, I realized that the sun was hitting its peak, and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. I ran about a kilometer to get to a spot where I knew I'd catch the sunrise, and was able to snap a series of shots as the sun came up.
My mantra in photography is, that photography is light and knowing how to capture it. The best natural light is at dusk and dawn, and then at those times, the key moments are brief and fiercely unforgiving.
The great thing about winter's mornings, is that the red color of sun rise reflects really well off snow. Since our area had a fresh snow fall of about 4 inches last night, I could count on some nice reflective images, as well as exposures of the sunrise itself.
I was using my Canon 17-40mm lens, which is outstanding for sunrise and sunset shots; it's sufficiently wide angle to capture excellent landscape shots. The lens elements are L-series glass, and therefore provides solid chromatic rendition and sharpness. Additionally, the aperture construction is a 7-blade design which I find creates beautiful sun stars when shooting over f/13 with the fastest shutter speed that a proper exposure will allow. As the sun was coming up to the treeline, you can see a vertical shaft of orange-tinted light, a brief-lasting phenomenon of refraction as the sun clears the horizon. These are colloquially known as angel shafts, and I'm always trying to capture a better one. Not as challenging as the famous "flash of green" seen over equatorial horizons at sun set, but a similarly infrequent event which lasts a short period of time.
I used a Singh-Ray 3 stop, hard-stop split neutral density filter, which means that the horizon and above is shooting through three-stops of neutral grey filter to tame the bright sunlight, and the bottom half of the filter is clear, allowing for the less-well lit foreground to be properly exposed. Essentially, high dynamic range photography without HDR software and post-production.
Overall, some decent images. I met up with the dogs as my wife made it out to the trail later on. I didn't have the right lens for high shutter speed work, but the shots of the dogs in action are acceptable, but they're just not Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 stop-action sharp. Photography is a toolbox, and you need the right tool for the job. My 17-40mm landscape lens is great for landscape, but it isn't fast enough for really good stop-action work.
Finally, a few shots of some other parts of the trail; in a few, I used my Singh-Ray Blu 'n Gold filter to punch up the sky, others I used the split ND filter, and for others (like the tunnel of Tamarack trees) I used no filter at all.
Anyways, I ended up feeling a whole lot better for my morning run and photo work. I was using the Cotton Carrier side holster, which holds the camera fine even at a slow jog, which is about what I'm capable of doing in fresh snow the morning after. I was surprised that the base plate actually came loose on the walk, the first time I have ever experienced that. I have spoken to Joe Cotton on the phone, and he said that contrary to the info on his website, you don't need to apply a threadlocker to the base plate, but rather, just tighten the base plate sufficiently (the base plate screws into where your tripod plate would go; this plate allows you to slot your camera into a padded holder, which retains your camera superbly, releasing with a twist and a pull). I'm cautious not to over tighten, for fear of cracking the camera body's fame, which would be fatal for the camera. That said, I tighten to where it feels very snug, then just carry the Allen key that comes with your carrier so if needed, I can tighten up out in the field; better to have to tighten a base plate from time to time than to over tighten and crack the body I believe. And if I knew I was going to be running, I would have worn my chest Cotton Carrier, which is built for everything from combat to hikes in the Gatineau Hills.
Wearing the side holster Cotton Carrier on my right hip, with the lens bag on the left hip, I feel like I'm rigged to rappel. The strap systems Cotton uses are well padded, well designed and well laid-out. When I have both systems on and snug, I feel strapped-in, my camera is not swaying all over the place, and I have ready access to my filters, to go from 3-stop ND to 2-stop ND to Blu 'n Gold to a color graduated filter if I wish. Since I find myself changing filters in a frenzy during a sun rise to capture all the nuances, I like having the Cotton lens bag on my hip, where everything is organized, close and very secure.
Chris Kiez, a hardcore photographer since the 80's, learned to take a picture before the age of selfies and cell phone photography, training on mechanical cameras and film. After years of taking photos of all manner of subjects and people, he did over a 10 year stint as a crime scene photographer on two continents. Now, he does portrait and landscape photos, and is currently distressing the world with his relentlessly, excruciatingly boring blogging. To buy what you see on this site, click here!