Alan Pelletier Photography

Landscape and Travel Photography

Apple Cider and Pushing Myself and ISO

Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill

Recently, I visited  Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill in Old Mystic Connecticut to sample some apple cider and take photographs.  I enjoyed my visit and taking photographs as it was not my typical landscape subject.  First a little more about Clyde’s, it’s the last steam-powered cider mill in the USA that’s been in operation since 1881 according to their website.  It’s listed as a National Historic Landmark that is still family owned and recently featured on NBC world news.  The old cider mill is a very popular destination, especially being located near other attractions such as Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium.  The parking lot is usually full, so plan on parking on the side of the street as I did during my visit.  

At Clyde’s, you will find the old mill house where they press apples into apple cider, a store to purchase all sorts of apple products, wine tasting, as well as other vendors providing kettle corn and craft items just to name a few.  They also sell hard cider located in the basement of the old mill house.  One of their main attraction, besides watching them make the cider is trying their apple cider and apple cider donuts at the store.  I indulged myself in a cup of warm cider with two donuts that I enjoyed sitting on the porch taking in the sights and sounds of the place.  

After enjoying my mid-afternoon treat I explored the old mill house to take some photographs.  The apple press was not operating as they schedule breaks in between actually apple pressings, a good opportunity to photograph the equipment inside without crowds.  

Peering into the Old Mill House
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

Peering through some open windows and doors I was fascinated with all the older equipment and the overall feel of the old barn with all it’s exposed roughly sawed wooden timbers, much like the old barn when visiting my grandparents in Maine.  I also was intrigued by all the light and shadows inside the barn and how they played with the old equipment and items hanging on the walls.  Normally I have my tripod with me, but not this trip.  Determined to take some photos I proceeded to challenged myself to get some photos without my tripod or any flashes or lighting.

Shadows and Light
70 mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 2500

Using my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with vibration reduction and setting a high ISO, higher than I’m accustomed to using.   I started taking photos of the old metal press first, checking my results and adjusting my aperture to get a soft background while keeping a higher shutter speed as I was hand holding my camera and trying to lower the ISO as much as possible to reduce noise.  I chose to spot meter most of my photos, exposing for the highlights to avoid blowing out bright areas of the scene.  I also bracketed a few sets of photos using 5 shots with 1-stop intervals providing 2 photos overexposed, 2 photos underexposed, and a single neutral exposed photo.

Apple Press 
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000
Spiining Wheels
102 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, ISO 2500

Next was all the piping, valves, flywheels, and belts that look interesting in the lighting, how the black cast iron metal and brass fittings provided a contrasting effect, and the oil sheen on the equipment glistened in the light.  I also visualized how the photos would look like as black and white images.  Some of this equipment, in particular, the flywheel and belts reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse where they had an old White engine that turned a sharpening wheel.  I can still remember the old engine sputtering as it turned the sharpening wheel.  

Fly Wheels and Belts
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000

Looking around I noticed all the wall hangings and how the light and shadows were creating interesting images, including these clay jugs hanging from the ceiling.  Using my lens to zoom in and out, capturing different aspects of the interior of the mill.  Then I walked around the other buildings taking additional photos.

Old Jugs 
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 2500

Downloading my photos the next day I was eager to see the results and how the higher ISO would impact my images.  In general, I was shooting with an ISO between 2500 and 6400.  Certainly not that high given that newer cameras can go much higher.  However, as mentioned higher than I typically use and with subjects having lots of detail framed tightly using my telephoto lens.  I processed the photos in Lightroom (LR) and upon inspecting the first few images I was impressed with the quality of the images.  Looking closely and did notice noise in the images, but after making adjustments, including noise reduction and sharpening in LR, I was very pleased with the final results.  While I did take several bracketed shots and processed them as an HDR images, I felt the results were not realistic and preferred selecting a single image to work with that provided more realistic results.  

Valves and piping as B/W
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

As for my Black and White photos, again I used LR to convert my color images.  Typically, I make a virtual copy of the color image and reset my settings to start with the flatter image and then convert to B/W photo.  I like to apply different presets, and adjusting the contrast and tonality of the image to enhance the darker and lighter areas as well as the texture in the image.  

Wall Hangings
70 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, 2500 ISO

An important take away from this experience is knowing how far I can push my camera’s ISO setting and still get quality results, especially without a tripod.  I recommend experimenting with your camera’s ISO setting to determine it’s upper limits and still get acceptable photos.  Please let me know what processing method you use to reduce noise in your images.  Or other tips when shooting in low light situations. 

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