The wheat-growing area in Washington State consists of rolling hills of loess soil blown in as dust from retreating glaciers 15,000 years ago. The soil is rich and deep, with top soil up to 100 feet thick in places, making it one of the most productive wheat- growing areas in the world. The hilly terrain causes the wheat growers to plow their fields in serpentine patterns, which are quite intriguing to look at and photograph. However, finding the most interesting areas usually requires many miles of driving on dirt roads.
This photograph was made in 2005 from a high vantage point, with a spectacular view, and is another of my wheat/corn field photographs. (See “Portfolio: Images From the Heart- land,” PT, November/December 2004.)
Capture and conversion
I used a Canon 1Ds digital camera with a Canon 70–200 ƒ/2.8L Image-Stabilized lens. It was shot, handheld, in a gusty wind, at ISO 400, focal length 75mm, 1⁄160 second at ƒ/16. After studying the image I found only a small part of the original (figure 1) that really worked for me. One might expect that such a cropped original would not be sufficient for a fine print. However, the high-quality 11MP capture made this possible. I had taken some shots at longer focal lengths, which would have been preferable, but none of them completely covered the area I was interested in.
I converted the image to black-and- white using Adobe’s Raw Image Converter. Saturation was set to –100, rendering a grayscale image. I adjusted the Temperature slider to simulate the application of a filter on black-and-white film. I tweaked the Exposure and other sliders to optimize the image in its 16-bit RAW mode. Once in Photoshop, I converted it to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale).
The cropped image became the raw material from which I hoped to make an exciting image, what Ansel Adams called the “performance.” This image is flat and its potential has not been developed (figure 2). The next part of the process was to develop the proper tonal range for each part of the image, with the whole making an artistic statement.
My plan was to darken the image, but have a bright path, starting from the bot- tom right, proceeding to the vertical stripes at left center, and then up to the striped region at the top right. I also wanted to bring out the curved road at the top left. This gives the image harmony and movement.