Prepared photogs can capture fast-paced action


Prior to going to the Vineyard Photography class this week I had noticed a "quick survey" message on my computer from National Geographic Base Camp.

The question was, "What technology device would you like to receive this holiday season?" The top four answers were most interesting, and leading the list was Apple's iPad: followed by a desktop or laptop computer; a digital camera; and an iPhone.

What struck me immediately was all four of the products were directly tied to sharing images in our 24/7 social networks today.

So as I entered the classroom at Walla Walla Community College I shared the above information with the class and thought I would add a caveat for our evening field trip. Since most of the students owned one or more of the wished-for devices the challenge for this evenings field trip would be to freeze the fast-paced action scenes and then share their best images with their fellow classmates.

Our field trip this evening would be to Trust Cellars, a small boutique winery in Walla Walla, owned by Steve and Lori Brooks.

The class was going to have the opportunity to photograph the newly harvested red grapes as they progressed through the destemmer, a machine that looks like a jet engine that separates the berries from the stems. They would have the opportunity to capture the berries being crushed by a round hydraulic press and juice freely flowing into large holding vats for fermentation.

Our first camera setup would be to catch the grape clusters being lifted by a forklift in the bins and carefully dumped onto a vibrating tray so workers can manually remove any vineyard debris ahead of the destemmer. For this scene we set the camera setting to shutter at 1/250 and the ISO at 200 as the camera will automatically set the aperture so the grape clusters will be frozen in the air as they fall from the bin onto the tray.

The next scene of the grapes bouncing down the vibrating tray would be best taken standing in the grape bin on top of the pile of stems with the camera lens focused right down the center of the tray. With a wide angle setting on the lens and the shutter set to 1/500 and ISO at 200 the students were able to capture the berries frozen in the air above the tray with some of the juice frozen as the berries fell into the destemmer.

As the destemmed grapes dropped they formed a purple dome in the stainless steel bin and wonderful shadows emerged. For this scene the student's cameras were set to auto focus without using a flash to create a silhouette of the pile.

The students then walked a short distance to photograph the berries being lifted by a forklift in the steel holding bins and dumped into a hydraulic press. Once again a fast camera shutter speed of 1/250 to freeze the berries and juice cascading from the bin would be critical.

Once the berries were loaded into the hydraulic press the berries' red juice began to flow through the porous stainless steel sides. A tripod setting at the level of the press was critical so there would be no lens distortion of the flowing juice. A close-up or macro camera setting revealed a vivid picture of the red juice flowing into the holding bin.

I always mention to the students on these field trips to watch for new subjects and be ready for the unexpected.

I was pleased to see some of the students were quickly focusing their cameras on the glass flow valve to capture the red juice flowing from the press to the holding bin.

The harvest photo shoot was a memorable one for the students as they enhanced their camera skills to freeze the motion and they had some quality pictures to forward into their social networks.

Don Fleming can be reached at and he is on Facebook, and Twitter.


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