Saturday, March 10, 2012

3/10/12 2012 Wildflower Gallery & Tutorials

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica Lost Valley 3/9
Thought I would share some pictures from this year's wildflower season with commentary. It is still early, but I have a few wildflower images that please me. This blog entry is a brief wildflower tutorial based on my voice. The important thing though is perhaps to copy my approach to composition, even if you arrive in a totally different place.

My takeaway point for you is to THINK, please ask and answer your own questions about wildflower pictures and composition. This blog entry is a glimpse into my thought process. I want you to have one of your own.

This first photo is of a sharp-lobed hepatica that I took yesterday. I like long contrast scales with brights and darks. When wandering looking for compositions, I am drawn to selective lighting and shadow plays. This photo has them both. I believe pulling back to grab the context and grabbing the texture of leaves is essential. Spring wildflowers are about the renewal of life. Dead leaves provide the contrasting backdrop for rebirth. To me at least, the shadow tracing the bloom expresses the cycle of life -- it makes the connection. Note that the two flowers are counterpointed (facing a different direction and at different bloom stages). The photo has a huge negative space to the left that is unified with the flower though the shadow.

Done well, photography is poetry, communicating various inflections of the human experience. If an image does not pull you to take it, that quality of evoking viewer engagement and emotion is not there, after all, at some plane we all resonate as one. 

Emerging Trillium Sessile -- Lost Valley 3/9
The photo on the left is of an emerging trillium sessile. No purple bloom yet, but there is a bud. I was drawn to this because of the light and that magnificent leaf. The moss makes the photo sensuous to me, adding lush texture and color.

There is no need for a bloom. An effective photo can be carried by light, texture, lines and color. This image is rich in contrasting forms and textures.

To get a photo like this one you need to take pictures at the ends of the day. Low angular light is a key ingredient that animates texture and form with subtle shadows and gradients of light. What I often see is a nuanced composition absolutely fried by on-camera flash. Found light is your friend.

Found light and long tonal scales separate an artistic composition from a snap shot. 

Emerging Trillium Sessile 2. Lost Valley 3/9
This image goes to the issue of texture, lines and negative space, meaning here space away from the main subject. Note that the rib on the leaf on the left roughly resonates with the curve created on the right by the three trillium. This photo has a circular flow to it. Note that the light dynamics create their own shapes.

Maybe the biggest lesson here is to give your compositions space, and please, don't just slam your subject in the center of the frame. I call those pictures "splats".  I have taken my share of splats, but I hardly do anymore. Getting past "splats" is the first step to creating your photographic voice. The natural experience is both subject and context. Mine the context.

Now back to my first and most essential takeaway point. If you are to find your voice, you need to think, you need to question, you need to experiment and you need to fail. Be fearless about failure, failure leads you to insight and learning. If you gain a critical insight from coming up short is that really a failure? I don't think so.

I believe it was Einstein who said "insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result". Be thoughtful. Ask questions and experiment -- dig in. Inspired photography is about thoughtful hard work. Try this and that, learn, and bring together all that learning. You will find your voice.

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