Stephen Craton

  • E-M5
  • 11mm
  • f/4
  • 1/1000 sec
  • ISO 200

Spring Mill

Jun 7, 2014 Indiana, United States 4 min read

Shortly before turning 24, I decided to make good on a promise I’d made to myself at the summit of Mt. Pinatubo. I kept finding myself exposed to all of these naturally beautiful scenes, exploring all of these unique locales, and I wanted to share what I saw with my friends and family back home.

I’d never been a particularly good storyteller, so my words weren’t doing the things I saw justice. I’d tell someone what I’d seen, but my programmer brain kept describing it in such bland detail that I never saw the glistening reaction I was hoping for.

“If only they could see what I saw,” I thought to myself, “then they’d be inspired to travel too!”

So I went out and got myself a nice camera as an early birthday present. And with Spring Mill State Park being nearby, it became my test bed.

The park has always had a special place in my life, so it made sense that it’d be where I wanted to start my photography. My father would often take me and my brothers hiking there. One year in particular, I must have been 10 or so, we’d gone the day before the new school year started. On the hiking trail we came across some mushrooms.

“They’re called fungi,” my dad explained to me.

“Fun…gi? I thought they’re mushrooms.”

“They are, but it’s a type of fungus. The plural is fungi.”

My dad always liked educating us on new words.

The next day, I was very nervous about starting school. I was worried no one would like me, that I wouldn’t fit in, and it made me reluctant to get in the car to start the new school year. My dad sat me down for a moment and told me, “remember those mushrooms we saw yesterday? You’re like them.”

“I’m a mushroom?” I asked, a bit confused.

“You’re a fun-gi…a fun guy!” he told me with a smile.

I don’t know if it was the bad pun or the compassionate care, but I felt warmth in my heart.

  • E-M5
  • 20mm
  • f/5.6
  • 1.6 sec
  • ISO 200

I didn’t want to just be any photographer, though. With the age of Facebook and Instagram upon us, everyone could snap some photos, and it seemed like everyone called themselves a photographer because of that. I wanted to be different. I guess I wanted to make sure people liked my photos.

Those photos you see of whispy waterfalls always made me think, “wow, now that’s a photographer!” So I started there. I researched how people were able to pull off such maigcal shots. As it turns out, it’s not so difficult.

The effect is accomplished by doing a long exposure. That is, rather than snapping a photo in a fraction of second, you leave the shutter open for a second or more. Easy, right?

I tried it out. Everything came out white. I was over exposing the image!

“What am I doing wrong here?”

I scoured the internet some more. “What’s this…neutral density filter?”

That’s the secret sauce to long exposures. It purposefully darkens the photo, letting in less light over time, allowing you to hold the shutter open for longer without over exposing the image.

With this new information in hand, and with a cheap variable neutral density filter attached to my lens, I set out once again to Spring Mill to try it out. The first time I tried it out, and I saw the image show up on the camera’s display, I was amazed.

“I’ve done it!” I thought. “I’ll be on National Geographic’s frontpage in no time!”

I started posting them to Facebook. Still wanting to be different, I’d think up a new pun to accompany each photo. “I hope this long exposure isn’t too mainstream.”

While I never did end up on Nat Geo, and likely never will, I do feel I accomplished what I’d set out to do. People started to like my photos. Or at least they liked the puns. Which I now realize in my older years can be attributed back to my father. It’s just me, ever trying to be a fungi.

Written October 27, 2019