A Tale of Two Photographs

June 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Columbine 2p1259669094-5

Columbine 2

Columbine 1p1259669114-5
Columbine 1
It’s going to be a few months before we start seeing flowers up here again but with forecast temperatures in the 50 degree range this weekend my thoughts are turning to more colorful images of the summer. Signing my contract to teach with the Crested Butte Wilflower Festival again this July might have something to do with that desire as well. I’ve been teaching photography classes with the Festival for the past four years and always look forward to working with photographers from all over the country, helping them improve their techniques and offering encouragement. It seems every class has a “student” that I learn more from than they do from me but I always hope they feel otherwise. This year I’ll be offering a new class. The Wildflower Master Class will be offered to no more than 5 “advanced” photographers looking forward to fine tuning their techniques and vision with the hopes of selling their images or at least decorating some walls with new “killer” flower photos.

That brings us to today’s photos. The first image to the far left was a result of my initial excitement in finding Columbines in reasonably good shape and color out in the open with a nice mountain background. You should know that the Colorado Blue Columbine, our state flower, usually prefers a shady location in my neck of the woods. They will grow in bright sun but their colors fade within a day or so or they get eaten by local wildlife. I’ve been told they’re a favorite food of our deer population. I am of the opinion that our state flower looks more attractive without the harsh shadows cast by direct sunlight. The Columbine is a pretty complex form for a wildflower and the increased contrast of sun and shade coupled with the features of the flower make for difficult viewing. Other flower forms suffer this same fate when photographed in bright sun in my opinion. Orchids, generally speaking, are another example. This is not to say Columbines or Orchids can never be photographed in direct sun successfully, just that it’s much more difficult to get a pleasing image.

For the second image I waited for a cloud to soften the harsh light, choosing not to haul studio light modifiers into the field. The more gear I take the less fun I have photographing flowers. I also chose to raise the camera position slightly thus lowering the flowers in the frame. I wanted the horizon to have its own space in the background without being encroached upon by the actual subject, the flowers. Allowing both of these elements to have “their own space” gives them both importance to the viewer. Having a clean horizon also adds apparent depth to the image as does the sunshine in the distance. I still wanted the flowers to be the main subject so I forced the background out of focus a little more than in the first frame. Psychologically, this tells the viewer it’s not as important as the flowers because they are sharply focused. The background becomes more a scene of summer colors than of a specific subject which reinforces the main subject. If the background had been a snow-covered hillside the “story” would be much different.

These will be the conversations I’ll be having with my 5 Wildflower Master Class students and you get to hear it first! These discussions are always a part of the private tours and workshops that are offered through The Crested Butte Photo Workshops with my buddy J. C. Leacock. It looks like we’ll be offering a fall color workshop again this September so stay tuned.

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