What Shall I Photograph when its windy? 

Lilac

Oregon Grape

Allium

Oriental Poppy in wind

Iris in wind

B&W Iris in wind

I looked out the kitchen window at my wife’s garden. It was late afternoon, the sun was peaking out under the clouds after a light rain, and the garden was glowing with a gusty, light breeze.

Linda mentioned that we hadn’t taken any pictures of the spring garden yet and suggested that it looked so fresh after that rain that I should be able to get some good flower photos in spite of the wind.

Wind? Wind is not a problem if photographers take the time to problem solve. I could increase the ISO or shutterspeed, but that wouldn’t do much for the ambient light, and I like more control. My normal technique for photographing flowers is to underexpose the ambient and illuminate the subject with a flash. I recall years ago having given my photography students a “stop action” assignment. They were to go out at night or find a large, dimly lit room, and use a flash to stop a moving subject in a photograph. All they had to do was select enough flash power at a specific distance to illuminate their subject properly when they released the shutter.

Those were assignments given before modern, computerized cameras and TTL dedicated flash when the flash would always produce the same amount of light and the aperture controlled the amount of light exposing the subject.

My technique for my windy garden was the same. I placed my 200mm macro lens on my camera and attached a ring-light on it. I really like is using a ring light on rainy days. I keep it on manual mode and stay at a specific distance so it won’t under or over expose the subject I am photographing. My ring flash also has ¼ and ¾ power increments to reduce the flash power output if I need it.

Just as my photography students learned all those years ago, when I pressed the shutter the flash stops the movement of the flowers in the wind. Nevertheless, the wind was quickly drying out the plants, so I had to quickly search for leaves that still showed raindrops.

The movement problem was almost solved. I took extra shots when I thought some motion had wrecked my shots, however, it was the sun that became the biggest concern. I had hoped the high clouds would block the sun, but instead of getting more bad weather, I got less, and with the clearing sky I began to struggle with the bright light.

The bright light would have been fine if all I wanted to do was document plants in the sun, but I wanted to go beyond that. Just pointing and shooting is boring. I would have liked to get out lightstands, a couple of off-camera flashes, and even a black backdrop, but the wind continued on, and would probably blow all that stuff over and I never followed up on that option.

So while other photographers might have celebrated the sunny, clear sky and be willing to put up with windy landscapes, I was done for the day.

I think I am pretty lucky that I don’t have to go far when I want to take pictures. Over the years I have looked hard into what is close to me and instead of being one of those photographers that depends on a car to find a location to get inspired. I just look around the yard and adjust my thoughts and camera for what awaits me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Do I Like Photographing Flowers?

Iris sculpture

Columbine bloom

 

Columbine

 

Foxglove

 

Poppy bud

 

Dandelions seeds & Oregon grape

When I am bored, stressed, or just want to get away from crap that sometimes happens, I grab my tripod, camera, and flash, and head out to my wife’s garden.

I admit that I am not really a flower kind of person and plant names are more my wife’s interest than mine, although, I do try to document her sprawling garden as creatively as I can throughout the seasons.

Somehow pointing a camera at some colourful plant is calming, and wandering through a garden of differing shapes and tones offering photographic opportunities gives me a different experience than any other subject.

Unlike photographing people, animals, scenics, sports or almost any other subject, garden plants just wait to be looked at. One doesn’t have to cajole, creep, or climb, and it’s not necessary to get in a vehicle to search for some secluded or exotic location. Most of us can find a welcoming garden close by that is, in most cases, easily accessible.

The result of 30 years of my wife’s effort has put me in a fortunate position of having about a half-acre of garden right out our front door. However, even if I lived in a city and only had four or five potted plants, I still would have a place in which to get lost.

The past month has been busy keeping me constantly on the go. So when my wife and I went to the car to drive to a mid morning appointment, the doggone thing just stopped working, and I was confronted with another stressful problem. To make a long story short, I was (I’ll use nice words here) very irritated as I watched it disappear down our rural road, chained to the bed of a tow truck.

I stormed around for a while. Then as the bright afternoon sun began dipping into the mountains and the light started to fade I looked around. I had walked back into our yard and was standing hidden from the road in my wife’s garden. Everything was bathed in what photographer John Sexton called “quiet light”.

“It is light that reveals, light that obscures, light that communicates. It is light [that] I listen to. The light late in the day has a distinct quality, as it fades toward the darkness of evening. After sunset there is a gentle leaving of the light, the air begins to still, and a quiet descends. I see magic in the quiet light of dusk…”

As I wrote in the beginning, I was “stressed and just wanted to get away from the crap that happens” So I returned to the house, I grabbed my tripod, camera, and flash, and started looking at the plant shapes waiting in the garden.

Sexton had continued by saying, “I feel quiet, yet intense energy in the natural elements of our habitat. A sense of magic prevails. A sense of mystery – It is a time for contemplation, for listening – a time for making photographs.”

I immediately began to calm down. I wonder if it was the act of setting up a tripod and attaching the camera. Maybe it was figuring out the exposure and balancing the fading light with my flash. It might have been choosing an interesting plant and searching for a creative angle. Or it just might have been all of those together that stole my attention and allowed me to redirect my energies.

Another of my favorite photographers, Robert Mapplethorpe wrote, “With photography, you zero in; you put a lot of energy into short moments, and then you go on to the next thing.” I guess so.

I expect capturing an expression on someone’s face, photographing an exotic scenic or some sporting event, will get more raves from friends than a picture of some delicate flower. But none of those help to relax me and sometimes even trouble me more. So, next time I am, as I was this week, confronted with problems or just feeling pressure. You’ll know where to find me. And maybe it’ll work for some readers, whether it’s in their garden, a public park, or even on the side of the road; there are plenty of photos for the taking.

I enjoy all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com