Tag Archives: composition

The technical art of capturing alpine wildflowers

26 Aug

Wildflowers are a joy to photograph. The colors, shapes, and sizes can add so much personal expression and emotion to an image. There is a multitude of creative approaches to employ while developing a vision for the subject.  Today, we explore some of the most effective techniques used to capture wildflowers. It is part one of my new series and I hope that you find it useful.

Composition

Fields of wildflowers offer the opportunity for show stopping photographs of epic proportions.  However, the margin for error is even smaller than normal and proper attention to detail must be precise in order to execute a stunning picture.

My first method of approach is to determine a point of view. How low or high do I want to get with my camera? Obviously the lower the perspective, the more prominent your foreground. This technique increases drama and brings your viewer into the picture. However, there are potential hindrances as well.

For instance, what about the flowers directly behind your foreground? Are they colorful and do they add or detract from your image? Would an overview of the area work better than getting low to the ground? Remember, a moving your camera just a few inches up or down or to either side can truly affect your composition,  so be aware of everything you are photographing. Take your time, look around, and experiment.

A stunning floral display accentuated by a glimpse of rare alpine light. The angle of the field of flowers and the varying lengths of growth worked wonderfully for this photograph.

The heighth, width, and overall size of the wildflowers plays a huge part in composition as well. Smaller and stocky wildflowers are generally  easier to capture than taller, lanky ones because they don’t catch as much wind and they don’t obscure other flowers.  On the flip side, the large ones take up more space in your composition and the differences in height can add texture and variety to your pictures as well.

In addition to size, the spacing of flowers is critical. Are the flowers evenly spaced  or do they occur in clumps? Is the color evenly distributed across your image or is it unbalanced?  Finally, are you looking to photograph an entire field or  prominently capture one clump?

My approach:  Find the biggest and best fields of flowers and work around that. I prefer as many flowers in my images as possible.

Best advice:  Experiment with both vertical and horizontal compositions of the same scene. More often than not, I find my first hunch for presentation is wrong when photographing scenes with wildflowers.

Techniques

Wind is the biggest natural obstacle in successfully executing wildflowers shots. It doesn’t take much, just a little breeze to really mess things up. Fortunately, in today’s digital age we can overcome many natural limitations by exercising a little bit of patience and creativity.  Let’s go over some techniques that can help.

Wind played a major factor in the capture of this shot. Multiple blends were necessary to keep the flowers from moving and to blend for depth of field. The differences in color from the previous image are mostly a result of a much warmer white balance or higher color temperature used as the basis for editing this picture.

1) Take off the polarizer – In one of my all time favorite photography books I learned that a polarizer should not be used within an hour of either sunrise or sunset. While this filter can be very useful in reducing glare while photographing wildflowers – if wind is an issue and it is a sunrise or sunset – take it off and spare yourself the extra exposure time.

2) Utilize your ISO speed – Depending on the quality of your camera and the size of your print, ISO speed can be raised considerably without any noticeable decrease in quality.  That is,  if exposure and focus are correct coupled with the right aperture settings.  For example, I recently compared a 16 x 24 print shot at ISO 400 with another shot with the same camera and lens at ISO 100 and I literally could not tell any difference in quality.

Getting back to the flowers – unless it is deathly still – try to keep your exposure times to less than one half of a second to prevent any kind of motion blur in your flowers.

My approach: Take lots of pictures of the same composition and blend out the blurry flowers if necessary.

Best advice:  Be patient – wait for the wind to die down. Even if the light changes – you still have a chance of pulling off a successful blend.

We’ll stop here for today and pick up this topic next week with more tips and techniques for capturing wildflowers. If you like post or have any tips of your own – I’d love to hear from you!

Day Five – Tips, Techniques, and Insight into Making Stunning Photos

21 Sep

Today we’ll examine the creative insights behind a different kind of image, this one called “A Subtle Acquaintance”. The title comes from the location of this scene, which was in neighborhood where I go walking with my fiancee, Joyce. One house in particular has a large cactus garden in the front yard and I noticed one day it had an incredible bloom going on. Around sunset the following evening, I came back and captured this image. (One side not about this image is it received the photo of the week (earth, sea, and sky gallery) award from Nature Photographer’s Network, a prestigious online showcase for some of the top contemporary landscape and nature photographers today. Check out the website, and if you join, please let them know that I referred you.)

A wonderful late Spring bloom caught my attention during a walk through our neighborhood. The combination of horizontal and vertical lines on this cactus with prolific colors captivated my attention to this scene.

 Location:  Phoenix, Arizona 

Technical Info: Canon 5D MK2, 70-200F/2.8, F/20, ISO 160, 140 mm focal length, 1.6 second exposure 

Filters: none 

Processing: Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4 

Creative Process: While walking by the scene I was immediately struck by the strong, repeating patterns and colors of the cactus. When I returned the next evening I had a good idea of how I was going to approach the subject. I wanted to capture the “tiers” of cacti layers along with the patterns of flowers. One issue with image capture I was concerned with was the depth of field. Originally, my plan was to blend images to create a better depth of field, but in the end, I was satisfied with the depth of  just one image. 

To maximize depth of field I chose an aperture setting of F/20. My goal was to create the best blend of depth and clarity and I was shooting from about three feet away. I originally started closer and kept backing up until I achieved a depth of field I was comfortable with. Compostion was fairly straightforward, I knew I was going to cut offf some of the flowers; I just didn’t want that to occur in the front of the frame. The only other issue I had to deal with during capture was vibration from passing cars because I was shooting in the street.  Post processing was straight forward and that’s pretty much the entire creative process behind this image. I hope you found it useful! Please let me know if you did. Thanks – Michael

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