Although Sunday’s annual Borrowdale Shepherd’s Meet had been cancelled, I knew the fell run was still happening. A book I’d been given last Christmas contained Patrick Ward‘s great wide-angle photo of the nearby Wasdale fell run, and I wanted to exploit the combination of the D700 and my 17-35mm f2.8 lens in a similar way. Wide angle shooting is the D700’s biggest plus for me so far (funny how easily you can forget what wide really means).
These blokes, some young and others in their 70s, race up to the top of Borrowdale‘s 750m / 2500ft Dale Head fell and the fastest ones are back in Rosthwaite village in just about 45 minutes. A “fell”, if you’re wondering is the Lake District word for the hills, and is of Norwegian Viking origin. So, like the word “dale” for a valley or “thwaite” for a clearing, the names reveal the region’s settlement history – nearby Keswick’s kaese is from the Norse for cheese and the wick indicating a farm.
I already knew the route and chose a spot just above a gate where I knew the runners would have to pass – it took us 45 minutes to get up there – and where I would be able to scoop up the runners and the valley.
The previous day, at a Sealed Knot battle, I had played with the D700’s focus tracking, leaving the focus mode on Continuous and the focus area on Auto – “the camera automatically detects the subject”, says the manual. The D200 had a similar feature which I never found very effective, but during the battle I let the D700 identify a fast-moving subject and track it across the frame. It was one of those bloody hell, it’s really doing it, road-to-Damascus moments. So I decided to try it for real with the fell run, and it worked like a dream, snapping focus onto the runner and tracking him perfectly. Previously I would have worked in 3 phases – focus, recompose, shoot – but now the camera was allowing me to compose and shoot when the subject had reached where I wanted him to be in the frame. As a result, I got loads of these shots of the runners on the way up and then leaping over a gully on the way down.
Another D700 aspect is that I think the camera has an Auto ISO mode somewhere. If so, I didn’t use it, and these pictures were mostly taken at ISO 800, with some at 400, and others at 500 or 640. In other words I was always thinking about the ISO as well as the aperture/shutter speed combination for enough depth of field to show where they were running while also freezing the action (in this case generally f7.1 and speeds over 1/500). Just as the D700 handled the focussing and let me concentrate on composition and timing my shot, the quality of the D700’s higher ISO captures make me wonder if I should have chosen Auto ISO and eliminated one leg of the ISO/aperture/speed triangle. Scary perhaps, but certainly not absurd.
As an experiment, I’m displaying the pictures here using SlideShowPro. As usual, they were processed in Lightroom and I then used File > Export and the Lightroom to SlideShowPro Director plug-in to upload them directly to a new SSP Director album. The beauty of this solution is that it’s quick, a few clicks, and I can use the images for multiple purposes – SSP Director holds the images at full size and generates the output size on demand. Here I display the pictures in this post, inserting an IFRAME with a web page which calls up that album in a Flash movie (that page is PHP and accepts the album code as a variable). Alternatively, SSP Director could supply different-sized images for my existing web galleries and also for my Flash site. If my Flash site scaled images to fit the user’s screen size, SSP Director would automatically handle that for me, caching the pictures on the server via ImageMagick or GD. Hopefully that’s an interesting detail – at least for some of this blog’s readers! In short, it’s a very efficient Lightroom-web workflow and not as complex as it might sound.