Read Chapter 4 before you continue…
There was a prolonged second of that soft familiar ‘ka-chk’ sound like a knife grazing the ridge of a coin, signaling that the desired photograph was captured. Matthew unlatched the camera from its tripod, switched on the play button to display the finished product on the screen, and beckoned Jonny to step forward and examine the results with him. “Now that is a slow shutter photo with a small aperture setting,” explained he.
“And aperture is the size of the opening in the shutter that adjusts the amount of light you let reach the image sensor,” recited Jonny, testing his memory.
“Right. Good,” Matthew nodded approvingly at his student’s progress. “Since we’re working in broad daylight nearing noon, we can afford to set the aperture at a narrower diameter. But the aperture can also decide our depth of field, referred to also as DOF, which is basically how much of the image is in focus. This is where the tricky technical stuff comes in. The smaller the aperture setting we want, the larger the number, which we call the F-stop or the focal stop, we set it to.”
“I don’t get it,” frowned Jonny.
“You will. This screen is not large enough for a proper study but still have a look. Notice how, in this image, our depth of field is larger? Almost everything is in focus. That was possible because we set our aperture to a smaller opening. It allowed for a broader more sweeping landscape to be reflected to our image sensor. And the F-stop decides the distance and range at which our focus ends. Hence, larger the DOF means larger the F-stop, which means smaller the aperture – ergo, larger the DOF, smaller the aperture. Got it?”
“Yeah… Yeah, that makes sense,” beamed Jonny, pleased by how less complicated it now seemed.
Matthew grinned at the boy’s undisguised pleasure. “Great. In landscape photography, you’ll soon learn, that increasing your DOF is the best way to go. A broader range of focus ultimately means you’re allowing your viewers a sharper sense of the entire panorama, a chance to step into the picture, sort of speak.”
“Now, see how there’s plenty of light being captured from all these parts of the image,” Matthew continued, pointing to the different parts of the image on the screen. “How do you suppose we managed to do that with such a small aperture? Smaller aperture means less light going in, right?”
Jonny nodded, looking confused but meditative, and Matthew waited patiently to allow the boy an opportunity to add in the next part of the equation by himself. A patience that was soon rewarded. “Is this where the slow shutter part comes in?”
“Excellent, Jonny! That is exactly correct. The slow shutter speed increases the time the shutter remains open, thereby allowing more light to reach your image sensor. It gives the sensor time to capture light and project tones from various parts of your panorama. While in case of objects in motion, a slow shutter speed can create blur, but with a relatively still landscape, combined with smaller aperture setting, it can create sharp broadly focused imagery. But in such cases, tripods come in handy because with slow shutter, the camera needs to be very steady to avoid blur. It is the reason we can see the sharp plays of light and shadow even in these distant houses of the town.” Matthew pointed to the miniscule houses on the horizon of the screen.
“Sure is neat,” exclaimed Jonny, almost left breathless by his newfound knowledge.
“Want to try?” Matthew attached the camera on to the tripod and Jonny jumped at the opportunity, leveling his eye with the viewfinder. “You want to start by selecting a precise focal point and then slowly increase your DOF to your liking,” he instructed before looking up at the horizon to inspect the view for himself.
They were standing near the edge of a small woody hill that rolled down to the winding creek after which the town was named, flowing from north to south-west. Behind them they had left acres of private lands owned by local ranchers, of which, it appeared a significant amount belonged to the Coreys. Ahead of them was a road that led down to the creek and a bridge which connected to the main town sprawled over the lower terrain, and continued on until it cut off at the horizon to meet the interstate highway, declaring the south-east boundary of this private close-knit community. As far as a subject went, the geology of Lainie’s Creek was the perfect embodiment of the lifestyle of the people who lived in it.
It was serene in its wild abandon, just as the lifestyle of the majority of its populace, engaged in the most ancient occupation nature had to offer with an unperturbed attitude towards the world changing around them, opting for the slower pace of rustication. Confident to remain unadorned by artifice, charming in its easy self-acceptance.
Kind of like his Elaina.
The reminder of her stole some of the contentment he had allowed to seep into him while visually exploring the surrounding topography. That he was disappointed by her resounding rejection of his proposal to make her a subject in his portfolio was an understatement. He had not quite expected her to jump with joy at his attention. No, even in the twenty-four hours that he had come to know her, he could be sure that Elaina was much too unflappable to ever allow any adulation bestowed upon her to turn her head. Hell, he had expected that he will need to coax her into an agreement – an initial resistance was guaranteed. But her refusal was simply that – an irrevocable refusal.
He knew she would not be swayed. There was something in her air when she had told him she could not comply. That last moment before she had all but fled the parlor, there had been some kind of resignation to her voice threaded with an unexplainable resentment. It was that flitting show of emotion that had told him she would not submit to any persuasion he might send her way. And it had taken his breath away. His throat had been literally made dry by the knowledge that she could turn him down – no, that she could turn away from him.
He did not understand why she should be able to affect him in such a way. He knew her for but a mere day. There was no reason to lend her so much consequence over him. Another central topic for his country portfolio he could easily find. But not one as her. There was something about Elaina – something that went beyond the mixture of quiet reserve and satiric playfulness he had come to recognize in her. There was a mystery, the hint of a deep-set principle upon which she seemed to base all her actions and opinions, but one which she rarely allowed to surface enough to be perceptible by other than the most watchful eye. And he liked to watch her. She was like a curiously contradictory motion picture.
“Wha-” replied Matthew, startled to half a syllable.
Jonny was standing with a worried expression on his face. “Are you okay? You seem a bit… lost.”
Clearly he had been so lost in his thoughts that he had not heard Jonny’s initial calls. “Just woolgathering,” answered he, trying to inject the nonchalance in his voice that he did not feel. “Did you take the pictures already?”
Jonny nodded in response, apparently not convinced by Matthew’s dismissive tones towards his musings.
“Great. Let’s see what you’ve got.” Matthew unlatched the camera from the tripod again and this time took it to the back of the pickup truck he had borrowed from Brooke’s father, where he had his laptop set up. He used a cable to connect to his camera and after a couple of keyed instructions, the image Jonny took popped up on the large screen. Matthew whistled. “Not bad, Jonny. You obviously have a natural knack for photography.”
Jonny smiled shyly at the compliment. “It’s alright.”
“It’s more than alright. Especially, it being your first time.” Matthew paused reflectively. “This is your first time with landscapes, isn’t it?”
Jonny nodded. “It’s my first time with this kind of camera. We have a small film camera at home that we use on special occasions. And a Polaroid. I used those a couple of times.”
“Well, I still say you’re a natural. SLR is a completely different ballgame.”
“It helps that there aren’t any distractions.”
Matthew cocked his head curiously. “What kind of distractions?”
“I’m glad Brooke decided not to come with us,” replied Jonny, trying to be bold but ruining the effect by turning crimson in the face and neck.
Matthew chuckled. “Find her distracting, do you?”
“She is a supermodel.”
“That she is.” Of course Jonny would have a crush on Brooke. Grown men have been noted to be felled by her beauty. He himself once was enslaved to her biddings before they dated and he had gotten her out of his system. Thankfully, they had remained friends. Despite her unpredictable personality and self-centric tendencies, Brooke McKenna was pretty fun to be around.
“I don’t mean to offend,” Jonny added quickly.
“I won’t tell her,” promised Matthew but with a continued tease to his smile.
“Lucky she chose not to accompany us after all, huh?” Jonny continued absently, gazing with pride at the laptop screen where his photograph was still displayed.
Matthew limited his response to a vague “Hmmm”. He suspected that there had been more than luck which led Brooke to change her mind about joining them. He had been surprised earlier that morning when his friend had announced over breakfast that she would like to join him on his outing with Jonny to shoot landscape pictures. He had known Brooke for over three years now, during which time, they had initially been exclusively involved in a romantic alliance for six months, but never had she deemed to accompany him on one of his project excursions. She had always claimed that she found it boring to have to wait around while he prepared his camera to get the perfect angle or lighting for a picture. So when she had suddenly decided to find photography interesting, especially where she was not the focus of the endeavor, he had thought it profoundly uncharacteristic of her, which he had been polite enough to refrain from pointing out.
However, after their meeting with Elaina later that morning, when Brooke had suddenly feigned an errand that she had forgotten about and had to rush off to attend, Matthew had not been surprised. There had been enough underlying current between Brooke and Elaina in that parlor to light up a village circus. Though both the girls had quickly recovered, probably for the benefit of his presence, and kept their silent knife hurling competition within the limits of half a minute, Matthew had not missed the animosity they shared. It had made him curious about their past, indeed.
“You must’ve been very young when Brooke left,” Matthew now enquired, trying not to sound overtly prying.
“About nine, I think,” replied Jonny.
“I’m very curious about her as a kid. Do you remember what she was like?”
Jonny frowned, trying to remember. “Not so much. I remember she used to come around a lot to our place, visit Elaina. They went to high school together, you know? Were best friends.”
Matthew’s heartbeat picked up as Jonny reached the heart of his interest sooner than anticipated. “Best friends? Really?”
“Uh-huh. Back in the days, they were always together, running around on their escapades, having fun. And they never took me anywhere with them no matter how much I asked. Especially Brooke. She always made fun of me when I asked – said I was too young to hang out with them. I sure didn’t think her very pretty back then,” concluded Jonny, with a severe frown on his face.
“That wasn’t very kind of her.”
Jonny shrugged. “I’m used to it, I guess. Being the youngest and all. But there were Hayden and Tyler. I was more interested in tagging along with them anyway. Brooke and Elaina were girls.”
“They still are, I imagine – girls, I mean. As I’m sure you agree.”
Jonny smiled sheepishly. “Brooke is at least. I have my doubts about Elaina.”
“Ah… ever the bratty little brother.”
“Maybe. But I’m sure everyone in the county will agree with me. We’d all die of shock if we ever saw her in dress and makeup.”
Matthew’s eyebrows drew together in a frown. “Sounds just the opposite of Brooke. How can two such different personalities be best friends?”
Jonny shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. They didn’t let me hang out with them, remember? I just saw them always together giggling away like fools.”
Matthew took a moment to digest this new information. He wondered if he should push the topic further and decided against it. Though the question of why Brooke and Elaina were no longer as friendly as their alleged past was on the tip of his tongue, he refrained from making it known. It seemed that the extent of Jonny’s memories of the girls was limited to the customary disdain practiced between siblings with a wide age gap. But damn it, he really wanted to know what had made them dislike each other so much now. And if the cause of their falling out had not also led to, what everyone in her hometown had chalked down to, Brooke’s prolonged self-proclaimed exile.
But thankfully, Jonny had already moved on to the present and saved him from giving into his desire to snoop further. “Can I try a couple of more pictures before you get back to work, Matthew?” the boy was saying.
Matthew readily acquiesced and taught Jonny how to latch the camera body to the tripod and rotate the various appendages of the tripod to angle the camera to his likings. When his student’s attention was properly engrossed in the task that had brought them both to the hill, Matthew submitted to the thoughts that were most aggravating his mind and needed his perusal.
Surely, it was not his place to assess what had caused such a well-credited friendship to turn sour, which it definitely had if that morning’s episode was any indication. It was even less his concern as he was not even properly acquainted with all parties involved. But whereas, Brooke had come to become a rather permanent source of friendship, he could not deny just how much he wanted to get to know Elaina better. Already he felt an urge to unravel her mysteries the way it was man’s innate curiosity that had led to the discovery of controlled usage of fire in the Lower Paleolithic. He wanted to become privy to her intimate circle not only to advance his professional demands or to enjoy a romantic diversion for his remaining time in the country, but to simply know… her.
He felt guilty. He had tagged along with Brooke greatly on the foundation of needing an environment in which to base the subject of his next exposition. In fact, Brooke herself had suggested Lainie’s Creek when he had discussed with her one day that he wished to center his upcoming exhibition on country life and settings. And it had made perfect sense as it would be so much more accessible to enter and observe the inner folds of a community with someone who was already brought up in it. So they had wasted not a moment to pack up and journey hither.
And he had found Elaina. Intricate, curious, beautiful Elaina. The perfect center plot to an exciting narrative. So much so that it meant more than a simple photo exposition. And now one thing was for sure – he just could not leave her well alone.
Read Chapter 6