Have you ever lost your photo-mojo? After an amazing trip to the Gulf coast of Florida (Sunset Photography in Naples and Sunrise Seascape in Venice), I needed a creative reset. Going back to my YouTube roots, I visited the Fort Gratiot Light Station for a photo reconnaissance and to test of the Venus Optics Laowa 9mm zero-distortion ultra wide lens. I have photographed the Fort Gratiot Light before, most notably in my “Lighthouse Challenge” with Paul Cook of PC3 Photos (Part 1 and Part 2). Similar to those earlier photoshoots, the weather was totally uncooperative, but I did manage to learn something. Hopefully from this post and video, you learn something too.
I was surprised to realize I had a near total lack of motivation to create any photographs or videos after returning from Florida. I don’t know if it was the colder weather, the familiarity of surroundings, or simply the business of life that was the root of my malaise. To kick start my creativity, I decided to do a sunrise photography session at the Fort Gratiot light Station.
As documented in the video, I first did a reconnaissance to the lighthouse to see potential angles with the Laowa 9mm lens. With its 113º field of view, the Laowa 9mm Zero D lens has some very unusual and interesting characteristics. The main feature of this lens (other than it being super wide) is its lack of any significant pincushion or barrel distortion. Pretty amazing for a lens that does not electronically couple with the camera for in-camera distortion reduction. This lens is small, lightweight (only 215 grams!), and super sharp. I’ve not had much opportunity to shoot with it and was happy to have it be the only lens on my camera for this shoot.
In the video I show some through-the-lens footage showing how a super wide angle lens can stretch and shrink objects. I did choose a couple of angles and snapped a couple of photos that I’ve shared on this post. But the weather turned totally uncooperative with a surprise snow storm, delaying my scheduled AM session with the Fort Gratiot Light.
Finally a dry morning presented itself. The morning was definitely clear and calm. Virtually no wind, so I could fly the drone and capture some beautiful views of the lighthouse in the early morning. But that clear and calm came with two big difficulties. The first was no clouds. With a totally clear shy, there was to be no drama in any photos that morning. The second was the bitter cold. My weather app said it was 20ºF that morning, but it felt a lot colder.
I couldn’t wear gloves to fly the drone or operate my camera, so my hands froze. It was like they were a puppet’s hands. I needed to look at my hands and will my fingers to move. By the end of the photoshoot, I had lost almost all sense of touch. Packing up, I bumped my coffee tumbler and it spilled on the sidewalk. It was so bitter cold, that within a couple minutes, the spilled coffee turned to ice on the sidewalk.
I’m searching for gloves that will keep my hands warm. So far, no gloves that I’ve tried have kept my hands from freezing. Pocket warmers help. I have found a pair of amazing boots that keep my feet warm and dry even on the bitterest of days. I highly recommend the Alpine boots from Xero Shoes. They are “barefoot style” footwear, meaning they’re incredibly flexible and have no heel. They are as comfortable as a pair of soft moccasins. They’re also waterproof. I wouldn’t stand in a stream, but I’ve trudged through lots of snow and slush with them and my feet don’t get wet. Both Michelle and I have and love these boots.
In the end, the resulting photo was not only dull and uninspired, but was also out of focus! The Fujifilm X-E3 does not have an articulating screen, so shooting from a low angle requires laying on the ground to look through the EVF. Because of the cold that morning, I chose to not lay on the ground to focus. Instead I relied on the zone focus scale on the lens. I have never tested the scale engraved on this lens, and relying solely on it resulted in an out-of-focus photo. A lazy and rookie error on my part. But again, another lesson learned.
Regardless of the morning’s missteps, I did manage to rekindle my desire to create photographs. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just a slight push to get off the couch and get out with a camera.