Rainy Drummer Hill Hike

Posted on May 31, 2015 in color, photography

I woke up to very dismal looking, cloudy skies with a forecast of on and off rain showers throughout the day. After an initial shower there appeared to be a lull in the rainfall, so I doused myself with bug spray, grabbed my camera, and headed out into the Drummer Hill forest.

Almost immediately after leaving my house, light rain started to fall from the sky. In less than ten minutes, the light rain would became a steady, and increasingly heavy shower. I had checked the weather radar before heading out, convinced that the small green blob heading my way was nothing more than a few sprinkles. Someday I will actually remember that radar does not always pickup all of the rain that is falling.

Knowing that my time was limited, I had to work quickly. For the first few shots, I had forgotten about the polarizer on my lens and did not bother to rotate it. Eventually, I remembered that it was there, and started to pull some intense green colors out of the newly grown Spring leaves. This was my first outing since switching back to a conventional Nikon DSLR after almost a year of using mirrorless cameras with EVFs. I noticed that the viewfinder looked unusually dark because of the polarizer, since the light levels were quite low under the heavy overcast sky.

Color photo of a moss covered stone wall

This was my first outing with a full-frame DSLR in very poor light. I noticed that with the polarizer and the heavy overcast, the auto ISO function of the camera was choosing values in the range of 1250 – 8000, with more values toward the higher end of the range. Given my experience with APS-C sensors, I was a bit concerned that I would be coming hope with weak colors and a bunch of noisy mush since I was shooting everything handheld without stabilized lenses. I was quite surprised to see such vivid colors and detail at ISO 6400 when I processed a photo taken from Old Gilsum Road:

Color photo of Old Gilsum Rd in Keene, NH

One big lesson that I learned from my extended mirrorless camera experiment was the value of having a tilting rear LCD. My new D750 has one, and it came in handy when I found a mushroom pushing up through the leaves on the forest floor. Normally, this would be a good opportunity to get my knees and elbows soaked and muddy as I attempt to compose such a shot through the optical viewfinder. This time around I pulled out the tilt screen and threw the camera into live view mode to take the shot, which allowed me to get nice and low while still having good control over framing. With the low light levels, I did not bother to cover the viewfinder eyepiece like they say you are supposed to.

Color photo of a large mushroom pushing up through last Autumn's leaves on the forest floor

It is truly amazing that ISO 6400 shots can have such detail, color, and smooth tonal transitions with very little noise. I will not think twice about letting ISO values go as high as 8000 on this camera, knowing that I will still get excellent results when they do.