Our local park will never cease to be a source of inspiration to me. When I can't get away, or only have a small amount of time available, it's my go-to locale to dust off my skills and have some me time.
This study of a new sunflower is from a ramble I took last weekend. This was not done in a studio. This was out in a perennial bed at Gage Park. I love its color and the elegant way the greenery stretches to each corner or the frame. As I hovered near each brilliant flower or bud with my telephoto or prime lens, I noticed a gentleman watching me work as he wandered around the gardens. Finally curiosity got the better of him and he asked if I was busy taking pictures of only the flowers. I always find this question funny... I'm bent down, crawling on the ground at funny angles, aiming into clumps of flowers ...so I'm obviously photographing classic cars. I said I was indeed and his next question was, "why so many?"
Where would I start? Nature studies are intense and fun at the same time? Floral studies demand I pay close attention to clean exposures, tiny details that will draw the eye, and to feed my need for beauty and color? By the time I'm done I always smell nice and flowery?
Instead of attempting to explain myself, I held up the back of my camera and showed him why. This image was on the view screen and he looked at it carefully then said, "That's THIS sunflower?" and pointed to my subject sitting across from us in the sun. I asked why he was surprised. He pointed to the stalk in the sun and asked why in my photo it was only black in the background, but clearly we could see all the bushes and greenery surrounding the sunflower not five feet away from us. I carefully explained that the bush just behind the flower was in shadow, and if I was careful about how I used my settings, I could use it like a dark screen and make the flower pop.
To my surprise, he asked me to take another one in front of him and prove it. I laughed and agreed. I set up the shot again, and then showed him my result in the screen once more. Satisfied, he shook my hand, asked if I had a website, and said he will watch for more photos from the garden.
We parted ways, and it got me thinking about how we intentionally use exposure to provide the viewer with the story and feelings we wish to create in a photograph. Not just because we know it's good photography to have a good exposure, but because it's a way to showcase the beauty around us. The visitor was expecting to see the rest of the garden within the frame along with my sunflower, and instead he experienced something dramatically different. And that's why I love floral studies.
Photography on any level should be able to do that for you too. Keep that in mind the next time you raise your camera to your eye. Have a great week, and thanks for another ramble, friends!