May 11, 2009

Photo of the Week: May 12, 2009

This week's dispatch features a slight departure from tradition as I'm sending two photographs. There is so much more to photography than simply learning how to use a camera and pointing it at something pretty. When asked what camera I recommend buying, I invariably answer that for most people, it makes no difference. My most important tools are my boots (when attached to my feet!), my eyes, patience and motivation. This pair of spring field portraits will help explain why.

I shot these two photographs within 20 hours and within 20 feet of each other. Standing in an almost identical location, I was able to capture two vastly different interpretations of this floral field of dreams near the Sha'ar Hagay intersection of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. I stumbled upon this site by accident after making a wrong turn en route to an assignment. After finishing with my client, I returned and spent an hour wandering and inhaling the heavenly sights and smells.

My boots: From my parking spot, I had to walk about 100 meters to the edge of the field, an easy trek but for having to ford a section of mud that eventually soaked my boots through to my socks. It was midmorning, and I fought with the bright, contrasty light, trying to get a shot of the entire expanse of purple and red.

My eyes: Failing, I trod into the thick of the growth, poking around in hip-high flowers and grass, trying my hardest not to trample even a single flower. Although I didn't get any winning shots at first, my initial observations led me to narrow my focus, which enabled me to spot a patch of wheat growing amid the flowers.

Patience: Inspired by occasional gusts of wind, I got a bit whimsical with this shot. I lowered the shutter speed as much as I could to 1/25 of a second so as to allow the flowers to blur as they danced in the breeze. I waited until the wind kicked up again and took the shot. The fluttering grass creates a strong focal point to what would otherwise be a beautiful, albeit monotonous, display of wildflowers.

Motivation: Unhappy with the lighting conditions on my first visit, I returned the following morning at sunrise, with a head full of ideas for exploiting this location. It's never easy to get out of bed in the dark, but this second photo is a reward for shooting while the rising sun is at a very low angle, casting a golden glow on the delicate red petals. I also chose to position the camera, which was mounted on a tripod, at a height just above the tallest flowers so as to maintain a view of the flowers in the distance. I pushed my wide angle lens up to the nearest flowers and pointed the camera down ever so slightly, which had the effect of adding emphasis to the immediate foreground.

Exposing in these situations is critical, so I always bracket a few shots to make sure the brightest areas are not over exposed. Many great photographs lie in wait. To find them, you have to move in, look around, and stand by until the right moment to shoot arrives. If that doesn't work, hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

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