Welcome to the Essential Light Photography Blog By Jim Sabiston

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yard work

Yard work is not the sort of thing that tends to inspire one to creative heights. But one must make the best of the opportunities provided. Fortunately, our yard offers plenty of surprises left over from years of horticultural experiments, most of which are left to fend for themselves after the initial planting. Our yard could be considered a bit of a test lab for which nursery plants are of the rugged individualist type.

Happily, spring flowering bulbs are a big winner here. Crocus, narcissus and daffodils not only seem to thrive, but they actually spread. Flowering trees and perrennials are another winner. We have peach, apple and crabapple trees that bloom enthusiastically in season. Much of the tedium of the work is relieved by admiring these transient beauties around the yard.

Here are some of this season's floral finds:

Evening Peach Blossom

Dawn Daffodil

Bleeding Heart coming into bloom

Dawn Peach Blossom

Some consider photographs of floral subjects to be a bit passe, and on some level there may be something to this. I still enjoy taking some fairly straightforward floral shots when the light is interesting just the same. The real fun is using the natural beauty of flowers as the starting point for the creative impulse. A good macro lens is indispensable to fully realize the endless artistic potential to be found in flowers. Interesting angles, unusual lighting situations, extreme closeups can all be used to create interesting images.

Full sunlight is usually avoided in photography, as the available light tends to exceed the dynamic range of the film or sensor and care must be used to adjust to these conditions. Late (or early) in the day, as the shadows lengthen abd the midday intensity of the light backs off a bit, opportunities start presenting themselves for the observant. Such it was that I noticed some late afternoon sunbeams on a patch of tulips. The sun was still too bright for a straight-on shot, but I wasn't much interested in that anyway. What caught my attention was how the sunlight was passing right through the tulip petals from the backside. This would call for a difficult exposure, shooting towards the sun.

Hot Tulip I

The trick is to meter off the brightest part of the subject and let the rest of the scene go dark. If the conditions are right, and your technique is on target, you can get some really interesting lighting and color effects. I worked the tulip patch for about 30 minutes or so and obtained two images I found satisfactory. The results can border on the abstract.

Hot Tulip II

Notice how the everything around the tulip has faded to black. The actual scene was well lit, but metering to the brilliant sunlight on the flower petals, the rest of the scene fades to black, leaving an image almost searing in its intense light and color.

(Click on images to enlarge)

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