Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow Day VB Style

Mount Trashmore, the single great attribution to making garbage a recreational playground, is the highest elevation in the relatively flat Virginia Tidewater. Decades ago, with Virginia Beach growing beyond leaps and bounds, some visionaries had the masterful idea of turning the city landfill into a man made mountain (ok, hill) that would provide endless entertainment possibilities. In it's early stages, a soapbox derby track ran down the East side. It was later decommissioned as interest in the longtime Boy Scout sport diminished. The park though continued to flourish with the building of a skate park that has hosted pro events as well as daily use by local boarders, a playground with a multitude of playground equipment, a running path, and picnic grounds. The sink holes used to excavate dirt for the mountain have filled in with water providing opportunities to fish, canoe, and bird watch. It has become somewhat of an outdoor recreation oasis right inside the confines of the new Town Center.

While still recovering from foot surgery, I missed the opportunity to photograph it during the december blizzard that blanketed the area with up to 14"of snow; however, I got a second chance in early January when a small Saturday snow shower temporarily coated the area in a blanket of white before disappearing by Monday morning. It was a good example of why it pays to have your camera with you even when you aren't on a planned photo trek. We just happened to be driving by on our way to a late lunch when landfill caught my eye, resulting in this image.

From a technical standpoint, the capture was fairly simple. The equipment used was just a Nikon D300, a Sigma 28 - 70mm f2.8 lens, an Induro tripod and a Nikon remote release cable. The latter 2 pieces of equipment were critical for getting a sharp capture. With an ISO of 200, aperture of f/11, and overhead cloud cover; the shutter speed registered at 1/60 sec. I set the exposure compensation to +.1 to ensure that the white snow didn't register as gray. The tripod and shutter release minimized any shake that could have caused blur in the image, either from shooting handheld or by vibrations caused by pressing the shutter button on the camera. The entire setup, shot, and breakdown took 10-minutes.

Compositionally, I wanted to capture the mount as a backdrop to the lake. From most vantage points this was nice but boring. I walked around for a couple of minutes until I found the angle on the wooden fence where it came across the base of the photo and then provided a leading line pointing at the mountain. It gives a strong visual line for the eye to follow within the final image.

Processing consisted of some minor tweaks in Lightroom and dodging/burning in CS5. onOne Phototools was used to make the colors in the photo pop a bit more and increase the contrast.

The one recreational shortcoming of Mount Trashmore is that the City of Virginia beach no longer allows sledding. Its sad that the one place in the city that can be used for rare snow-related sports is off-limits due to safety concerns.