The Making Of ‘Zig Zag’
by Albert Dros
My photo ‘Zig Zag’ which leads the viewer in a curvy way to the light at the end got many positive responses. There were lots of different views on this photo. Words often mentioned were ‘drunk’ and ‘forest fire’. Of course people were thinking about being drunk because of the road. Roads are normally straight. The light at the end signified fire for most people. This creative shot came without planning. It was just a random scene I spotted during a photography session in a forest called ‘the Speulder Forest’ in the Netherlands.
That evening it was misty. Sometimes misty weather can be amazing for taking atmospheric photos especially in the forest. At the end of the afternoon I arrived at the parking lot. The atmosphere was quite like a mystery. It was very humid and foggy. Good circumstances to make some moody photos of the forest one would say. Actually, the mist was not quite thick enough to show up great on the photos. My standards are always high and I am not satisfied easily. After a walk through the forest I eventually ended up walking back to my car. During my way back I encountered this curvy path. I am not unknown in this particular forest and I spotted this path a few times earlier already but never with this particular atmosphere. It looked different today.
That day I brought my Sony A7II with a manual 135mm f2.8 Minolta with adapter. This is one of my favourite lenses for in the forest. No zoom, keeping it simple, keeping it basic. This often enhances ones creativity. The longer focal length made the curvy path squeeze nicely into the frame. I made a couple of test shots when I saw it would be cool if there would be some light at the end of the road. I could easily realise this because there was a road with cars next to the path, and cars with lights often came driving by so I decided to use that light to light the scene. The light I wanted should be at the end of the road and not at other places. Execution would be quite tricky and I had to take a lot of shots to get it right. Timing was crucial. I might had to layer multiple shots to get the perfect shot, but the base had to be right.
With this in mind I got to work. At that time it wasn’t that dark yet, but dark enough to properly see the car lights. I started taking photos:
This was one of the shots I was satisfied with. I took some other shots and decided it was enough and started walking back to my car. When I was driving home I kept thinking of this particular shot. Actually, the contrast wasn’t quite right. And how do you improve that? By waiting a bit longer for some more darkness that causes more contrast between the car lights and the daylight of course. Stupid that I didn’t think of that before. I could have waited a bit longer to perfect this shot. I wasn’t that far yet, turned my car around and started driving back. I wanted to get this shot in a perfect way. As a photographer you might know this feeling of always trying to get the perfect shot. 10 Minutes later I was back at the parking lot, ran back to the spot and quickly set up my gear. I had to hurry because it was getting dark quite fast and I didn’t want it to be TOO dark because the contrast would be too much. Luckily I was on time and I immediately saw that the shots would be better. The contrast was actually perfect. Timing was crucial so I had to bump up my ISO a bit to not get too long shutter speeds. I made a bunch of photos with different car lights:
I took shots of both cars driving away and coming at me. Both gave a different feeling to the scene. After shooting a lot of different light I was satisfied. It started to get too dark anyway and I again decided to drive home. Back at home I knew that my footage was good and that I could process my vision into the final image.
I opened all the images and decided to use the middle one (in the grid you see above) as a base. The light was kind of perfect here, the way I envisioned it. The only problem was the streak from the car lights here. This was too distracting. To remove this I used the ‘empty’ shot without any form of car lights (the one upper middle). By using this shot I could effectively remove the car streak from the base image. I also used the upper right shot for about 20% to get a bit of more atmosphere in the yellow light. This is how the final shot was built. After this I applied some basic color correction. I didn’t have to do a lot as the colour and light was already close to perfect.
This shot was built out of creative thoughts. It’s a shot that originated by seeing this random scene and ideas that rose from this vision. Sometimes it just happens. It’s all about capturing, processing and eventually getting that idea on the final image just how you had seen it in your vision. This kind of images are often the most fun and interesting to create. I travel a lot, photograph a lot of beautiful landscapes and always try to capture them in a most perfect way. Photos like ‘Zig Zag’ are images that you can shoot basically everywhere, around the corner. It’s a combination of spotting the right elements, finding the right light and form your own ideas to execute them in an image according to your vision.