Putting the Scare in Scarecrows with a Rokkor Lens.
Sometimes photos find you, instead of the other way around. I encountered the figures shown here while training my dog at the Schiele Museum trails in Gastonia.
Fortunately, I had my Sony A7S with me, along with a Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens. I am working on a review of the 58mm f/1.4, so I brought it along on the off chance I would find something interesting to shoot.
The trails are not very large and I have been there many times. To my surprise, I found a collection of life-size figures scattered along the trails. I had no idea the museum was hosting its annual Scarecrow Walk. Instead of a casual walk in the woods, I was suddenly surrounded by lifesize fantasy figurines.
Limited to a 58mm Rokkor Lens
Since I wasn’t expecting this bonus, all I had was the 58mm. it’s a great lens, but probably not the one I would have chosen had I known about the scarecrows ahead of time.
Most of the figures were suspended on trees above the ground, so I would have preferred a longer telephoto lens so I could capture more of an eye-level perspective.
Despite this handicap, I was still able to record some intriguing images. To a degree, the low angle of few made some of the figures more sinister and intimidating.
Creating a Spooky HDR
I bracketed several of the exposures, and wound up making handheld HDR photos in Lightroom. The resulting images were crisp and clear, but lacked the ominous vibe I thought these effigies deserved
Generally, when I’m working in Lightroom, I try to make my images as true to life as possible. I adjust the white balance to make skin tones accurate and carefully tailor colors to match what I saw when I snapped the shutter.
In this case, I wanted a somewhat spooky, otherworldly look. Nothing too crazy, no exaggerated unrealistic colors. I wanted something with a natural appearance, with just a subtle hint of mystery.
I tried darkening the background to suggest day into night, but I didn’t care for the result. So I reverted to the original daytime settings and started experimenting with color grading.
The Lightroom Effect
I first started with the calibration tool in Lightroom. I tuned the blue and red saturation sliders to get the effect I was looking for. For some of the images, I experimented with some presets, then adjusted to color grading dials in the color grading area.
I like the final results. As I said, this isn’t my typical workflow. I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and seeing what I could achieve going away from the original art.
Notes on the Rokkor 58mm lens
I really like the Bokeh effects created by this 55-year-old lens. If you examine the guy with the pumpkin head and false teeth, the background is smooth and creamy. The wolf’s head bokeh isn’t as gentle, but I find it pleasing. The out-of-focus artifacts on the ’80s lady and the stuffed policeman have some jarring elements, but they are still acceptable.
The bokeh in the image of the Scary Potter figure with the jack-o-lantern face is pretty messy. I might find it objectionable for a calm, serene study, but I think it actually works well for the spooky subject matter.
All of the images look sharp to my eye. Any vignetting you see is deliberate. I wanted dark corners to direct the viewer’s eyes to the subject. I applied a dark vignette around the edges of all the photos in Lightroom.
I am so glad I had my Sony Mirrorless Camera with me when I happened upon these figures. Cell phone captures just wouldn’t be the same.
The moral of the story is always be ready and keep a Rokkor in your back pocket.