Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Photographing the Spring Bloom

One area I've struggled with over the years is to effectively photograph the annual Spring Bloom.  Seems I can manage other seasons more effectively...maybe it's because the Spring bloom only lasts a couple weeks and I just don't have time to get out enough.  Even so...there are a few things I've learned on how to enhance the potential to capture this wonderful transitional time of year.

One of the mistakes I believe many aspiring photographers make is when they attempt to capture the entire blooming tree without taking into account the environment in which it resides.  Spring blooms like anything else in photography lends itself well to the concept of Simplicity.  Our visual senses can often be overwhelmed by the magnificence of the beauty of let's say a large dogwood in bloom.  Our tendency is to want to capture the entire tree...when in reality what we need to do is focus in on the details of why that tree caught our attention.  Most of the time I rarely try to capture an entire blooming tree...what happens when we do that is we get caught with the old...can't see the forest for the trees...cliche.  The tree of itself may indeed be wonderful...but it's difficult to see why. One exception to that rule is when there is an opportunity to capture a series of trees where line, angle, form, and color all come into play.

One thing I try to keep in mind when I'm out photographing the Spring bloom is to always have something from the environment included in the image...or in other words to include something that gives the photograph a sense of place.  Because of that I will often neglect an otherwise gorgeous blooming tree simply because there is not anything near it or around it that I can include as an effective part of the background...or to place the tree in a location.  Almost anything will work, but there are a few things that work really well.

Let me give you an example.  One of the best backgrounds you can have with blooming dogwoods is an old fence row...split rail is best...but any kind of wooden or rustic looking fence row will add a tremendous amount of depth and personality to the image.  Old barns are also wonderful backdrops to include in your photographs.  Here in Kentucky we have an abundance of I am lucky in that regard in that I do not have to look far and wide to find something that I like.

Having said is good to keep in mind that the background is just that...something to add flavor to the overall composition...not to overwhelm it...that is unless that old barn really has a lot of character and then it becomes the main subject with the blooms becoming that added flash of color.  When I photograph the spring blooms I want the emphasis to be on the blooms...with the background adding a subtle sense of place and belonging to the blooms.

Another thing to keep in mind is the time of day.  The best time to capture the Spring Bloom is early on an overcast day.  Early, because the air is fresh and the blooms often will have some dew or moisture on them giving a more appealing appearance...overcast because that soft diffused light is best for capturing blooms and foliage of all types.  On bright sunny days you tend to have very harsh light with bright contrasts making the exposure difficult to get right.  When you encounter bright light...there are ways to use it to your advantage...I call it...Turn around and look the other way.

Blooms by nature are translucent and with a little back lighting and isolating the blooms against a dark can get some wonderful images.  The key here is to isolate...use the light to your advantage...

Depending on the shot I am trying to capture, my choice of aperture is really critical.  In some instances I want to have as much of the scene in focus at the same time as I can...on other occasions I want to isolate a depth of field becomes a consideration.  For the first situation, I use a small aperture...something like f/16.  This will effectively keep the entire scene within the same focal plane.  On the second issue, I use a small to medium aperture...something like f/5.6 or lower if the exposure and lighting will allow for.  Also...the focal length of my lens is important as zooming out to say something beyond 300 mm, I can more easily isolate and narrow the depth of field at the same time.

The Spring Bloom can be an exciting time for photographers...just being out and about during the transition from the cold winter to the warmer and sometimes stormy weather will often stimulate your creative senses.
Enjoy the does not last very long.


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