Pampas Grass, Andrus Island, Circa 1985
Digging deep in the archives I ran across this Kodachrome slide from about 1985. I say, ‘about’, because the date stamp has faded.
The Delta’s rich peat soils are world renown for growing almost anything that can be grown. Late one winter afternoon after a good soaking rain I was cruising the levee roads of Andrus Island when I was stopped in my tracks by the low sun backlighting the pampas fronds growing about halfway down the slope of the levee. In order to isolate the subject against the wet, almost-black, freshly plowed peat soil, I decided to use my 500mm catadioptric, or mirror, lens.
This lens has a fixed aperture, meaning you cannot adjust the iris for exposure. You only have the shutter speed – with Kodachrome 64 that meant a very slow shutter – and me without a tripod in quickly fading light. In the Delta, finding a wide enough spot in the levee road to pull safely to the side took a minute, too.
The result is this dramatically back-lit pampas grass with the out-of-focus background going almost completely black.
The added bonus is the lens flare. Normally I work hard to keep this from happening. But when I saw it in the viewfinder, bingo, click!
Rich Turner explored, photographed, and aerial photo-mapped Antarctica as a Navy photographer, was a newspaper photojournalist for 19 years, and has operated his own fine art photography studio since 1990. “Delta Grandeur”, his traveling exhibit, is now touring California museums and libraries. His most recent passion is spreading the word far and wide about what an amazing place the Delta and Greater Bay Area is. With the help of very talented writers, artists and photographers, publishing this magazine seems a good way to do that.