Archive for May, 2012

IN THE FIELD: Sunrise In Farm Country

May 30, 2012 32 comments

On hot and hazy summer mornings in the farmlands of Pennsylvania, everything seems to move in slow motion.

I got up before dawn one hot and humid morning to photograph the sunrise over a farm a few miles away. Since the camera equipment was indoors overnight in the air conditioning, I took the camera out of the camera bag when I got into my car. I did this to acclimate my equipment to the outside air temperature.

The driving time would be enough for temperatures between the camera, lens and outside air to equalize. The lens and viewfinder surely would have fogged up on site had I not taken this precaution. The air was thick and heavy, and by the time I arrived at my vantage point, I felt like I had just gotten out of the shower and forgot to dry myself off.

I set up the tripod and camera at a snails pace, and then took some meter readings from the sky and the foreground. After averaging the readings, I chose an appropriate aperture and shutter speed to obtain the best exposure for the look I wanted to achieve. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the cloud cover to lift and the sun to rise and bathe the scene in soft morning light.

Then I high-tailed it back into the air conditioning.




May 28, 2012 26 comments

In honor of those who sacrificed their lives serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

IN THE FIELD: Natures’ Salad Buffet

May 25, 2012 31 comments

There are many types of deer resistant plants available for the home gardener. Although if deer are hungry enough, even these are not always safe from their dining pleasure. Hosta plants are no exception. There must be some kind of invisible coded message embedded in the leaves saying “Eat this. It’s chock full of vitamins, a good source of fiber and you’ll like it.”

Many folks, ourselves included, have tried with no success I might add, to growing and cultivating many varieties of hostas up here on the mountain. The scenario goes like this.

Day one. Travel to garden center and pick out the most captivating and healthiest of plants. Drive home and plant them in prime shaded areas of the garden. Water well and enjoy fruits of labor.

Day two. Neighbors visit and admire the lush foliage added to the gardens.

The deer apparently have some kind of telepathic methodology or secret coded message system they relay from herd to herd throughout the region describing in detail where to find the freshly planted specimens.

On day three, most of the hosta plants now resemble stalks of celery. While humans and pets slept, the resident herd of 25 or so deer have crept silently around the gardens and visited the “open all night” salad bar.

I truly hope the deer feel a bit guilty at times when visiting a newly planted garden. Because you see, they never eat ALL of the hostas at one sitting. They save some for another day. And just when the homeowners hopes are raised, they visit again when least expected and finish where they left off. And, there are a few deer that don’t even wait until it is dark to feast on these leafy plants. We have even seen yearlings on our front porch peeking in the windows, as if to see if the coast is clear.

We do have a few plants that survive their gorge on the free eats. This is probably due to a plant nearby not to their liking. The hosta in this photo is one that has remained under the radar and still has all it’s leaves. I swear, I swear, I swear.


IN THE FIELD: Cheerful

May 23, 2012 36 comments

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have found one of the best times to go to our farm market for groceries is on a foggy or rainy day. Partly because there are no crowds and the folks who work there can take some time out and chat for a bit. And when I am finished shopping, I can head out to the garden center, camera and tripod in hand, and photograph the marvelous floral displays.

When I was there this week the conditions for photography were perfect. It was chilly, foggy and drizzling. Most of the flats of flowers, vegetable plants, hanging baskets, and planters were under roof, so protecting the camera from the rain was not necessary. An added benefit is the clear plastic roof material. It lets in all the light, but protects the plant material and photographers like me from the wind and rain.

The even overcast light present under these conditions is perfect for shooting flowers and plants of all kinds. Nature provides the huge diffuser, colors are richer and more saturated, and usually no flash or portable reflector is needed because of the bright even light.

These gerber daisies seemed to light up the entrance to the garden center and welcome me inside for a morning of photographic treats.


IN THE FIELD: Something Unexpected

May 21, 2012 25 comments

I know I have been obsessing lately about my neighbors’ wildflower garden across the street from our property. Until autumn, the only colors we see here in the woods are the rich and varying shades of green in the leaves with the muted grays and dark brown tree trunks. The sudden splash of color has been a welcome visual surprise.

Because of the orientation of our home and the 60 foot tall beech, maple and oak trees, we get a limited amount of direct sun. So we are restricted to mostly shade loving plants. We now have a splendid view of sun loving plants that our neighbor was so kind to plant, since this part of his property faces the sun.

On the foggy and misty morning I took this photograph, the flowers really stood out against the green foliage. It was a perfect opportunity capture the eye candy across the road.


May 18, 2012 28 comments

I was out shooting wildflowers yesterday and came across wild columbines growing near some large pine and maple trees.

I set the camera and tripod up for a nice composition and initially, the situation wasn’t looking good. It was late morning and the flowers were in direct sun and with all that harsh bright light, the color of the flowers was washed out.

But, I had my handy dandy 22 inch collapsable 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser with me to save the day. While kneeling on the ground and looking through the viewfinder, I metered the scene for a good exposure and then held up the diffuser to shade the flowers. The difference in readings was three to four stops.

There were two ways to remedy the situation. Choose the desired aperture and then turn into a contortionist and try to meter the scene for the proper shutter speed while holding up the diffuser. Or hold up the diffuser, use aperture priority, and let the camera decide on the appropriate shutter speed.

After I had my settings were I wanted, I held up the diffuser to shade the blossoms and to soften the light, and with my other hand, tripped the shutter with the electronic cable release. Using the self-timer would have worked also, but I like the instant response of pushing a button and the photo is taken. I took several shots using manual exposure so I could dial in a little underexposure and also used aperture priority. Both results were good.

When I left in the morning it was a bit chilly and breezy, but by the time I found these Columbines, it had become hot and calm. A six foot diffuser would have been nice to shade me on the way home.

HOW TO: Depth Of Field-An Alternative

May 16, 2012 16 comments

In a post last week I discussed Depth of Field, and used a photo of a rhododendron flower head to illustrate shallow depth of field. I liked the shape of the flower head, and wanted to isolate it from it’s surroundings. By using a wide aperture setting and the appropriate shutter speed to give a proper exposure, I was able to put the background out of focus. And by doing so, the center of interest became the flower head.

I visited the site a few days later hoping the buds had opened so I could capture the flowers in mass with a more apparent depth of field. Using a smaller aperture and the appropriate shutter speed to give a proper exposure, produces in increase in depth of field, allowing the majority of the image in to be in focus. In this photo the emphasis is on the groups of flowers.

The sky was bright but overcast, and it had just begun to rain when I took this hand-held photo of this cluster of Rhododendron blossoms. I’m glad I took this shot of the flowers when I did because it’s been raining for two days straight. With that much rain, I will probably have to wait until next year to photograph these flowers again.

IN THE FIELD: Magical Light

May 14, 2012 39 comments

Although I don’t have a favorite time of the day to be out shooting, I am drawn to morning sunlight. Early in the morning, the light is on the cooler side of the spectrum. By about mid-morning the light has warmed up to a point somewhere between the cool light of early morning and the harsh bright light of mid-day.

However, afternoon light ain’t too shabby either. Later in the day, the color temperature of sunlight changes from bright harsh light at mid-day to the warmer, cozier side of the color spectrum. There are situations I find shooting in the afternoon to be better for a particular location.

This past weekend, we took the dogs to a park in the city for a morning adventure. It is a relaxing place to go for a walk, as there are pathways meandering through various perennial gardens. This is definitely not a time to leave the camera at home or in the car. Plants are blooming profusely with the accelerated spring weather we have had here.

One of the garden areas was planted in multiple plots, each about five feet square with pathways in between. This gave me the luxury to walk around all four sides of each one, looking for the best compositions and lighting.

These lupines were backlit by the early morning sun, and I was able to position myself to capture the magical light as it glowed through the flower petals.

IN THE FIELD: Another Good Neighbor

May 11, 2012 22 comments

It’s been said, you can’t pick your neighbors. There are good ones and bad ones and if you are lucky, the bad ones move away. Far, far away.

We’ve been fortunate to have pretty good ones. One I mentioned in a previous post. He lives across the street and planted a wildflower garden alongside of the road. And soon I will have plenty of photo opportunities a short walk from my door. How cool is that!

Another neighbor has a small garden flanking both sides of his mailbox. There is a nice variety of specimens just starting to bloom. This Clematis climbing the wooden post for his mailbox is one of them. It burst into full blown glory in just two days.

It’s a convenient place to photograph flowers in the morning light. Partly because we are out walking the dogs early in the morning, and this little garden spot is the perfect place for them to take a break…and stop and smell everything. Which allows me to get some shots while they are busy investigating to see what other critters may have visited the garden overnight.

The mailbox garden was brightened by the early morning sun, allowing for a fast shutter speed, and a good depth of field, without having to bump up the ISO past 200.

I squatted down, turned myself into a stable shooting platform and hand-held the camera for this shot.

It’s so considerate of our neighbors to provide me with all these photo opportunities. I wonder what’s further up the street and around the bend…


HOW TO: Depth Of Field

May 9, 2012 30 comments

Most photographs can and are taken handheld, due to the convenience this affords. Especially since stabilized lenses and camera bodies are commonplace nowadays.

I have found shooting in a wooded setting, with the inherent low light levels typically demands the use of some kind of camera support, especially if I want to achieve greater depth of field. Which requires a smaller (higher number) aperture setting and a slower shutter speed to increase the depth of field. For example, if I wanted to show the interior expansiveness of the woods, and have the majority of the image sharp and in focus, I would want a greater depth of field.

Woodland photography also lends itself well to shallow depth of field images. This is more the norm, due to the lack of light and having to use wider apertures (smaller number) which decreases the depth of field. Using a shallow depth of field is perfect for isolating subjects or capturing small vignettes of a scene.

Some of my favorite woodland plants are the understory varieties which include dogwoods, azaleas, rhododendrons (flower bud in above photo), redbuds, and mountain laurels. I love how these shrubs and trees, along with wildflowers, add a splash of color in the shade of the forest. The colors are more saturated and contrast well against the green of the leaves. Photographing the blossoms in the filtered light is something I look forward to every spring. And playing with the depth of field adds to the enjoyment and creativity.

Achieving a sharp photo and a good exposure is possible without a camera support. Although using one will make the task easier by providing a stable platform, allowing for more choices of shutter/aperture combinations, which in turn means more ranges of depth of field.

A nice reward indeed.