Our cameras love to measure time and light in fractions of a second. But often I do not. Walking through our field there is always motion. Even in the stillest of winds, the hoppers fly and bees buzz around me. Usually there is breeze that waves our grassland and wildflowers into one sea of flowing color and moving highlights.
When you give control to the camera it aims for clarity and thus it tries to slow time down to the point of stopping motion. When I walk our land or hike in our forests nothing seems still and frozen. Everything is moving, constant change, the wheel never stops. It is a bigger illusion to believe we have stopped time in clear print than the illusions and abstractions I present in these images.
All of this is not new. The Impressionistic painters in the 1800’s and JMW Turner before them, departed from the tradition of painting clearly. A new way to communicate the beauty and majesty of this world was born.
My first introduction to this way of approaching photography was found in William Neill’s Impressions of Light. Check out his ebook on capturing nature’s beauty in this manner.
All these images were created utilizing long exposures with camera movement. To gain long exposures times I had to use a Lee Big Stopper filter which adds 10 stops of light reduction. The only edits were performed in Lightroom for color, clarity, and “lengthening the histogram”.
In many elite sports such as figure skating, body building, gymnastics there is the practice of compulsories during competition – basic maneuvers that have to be proficiently completed. There seems to be an unwritten code that there are compulsory image types to complete if you practice nature photography. You have to have the one flower with a blown-out bokeh background. Your have to master the basic composition rules, and then break them. Then there is the field shot and the wet flowers after a rain with drops on them. Flowers with a sunrise background, sunset direct light, sunset back light, etc. And you get big bonus points if you can work in any baby animals into your nature shots!
If you look at the prevailing photo sharing sites it seems that the swing is to more dramatic light/dark range. Check out the most popular on 500px and there will be many ultra-dramatic nature images. A few years ago it was HDR. Speaking of HDR, here is graph of a photographer’s artistic progression from five or so years ago (link location). It was popular back then simply because of its accuracy and universality. I have certainly progressed that path – a couple of times unfortunately. I do not learn my lessons very well!
So where does this leave creativity? True creativity that matches an internal vision of how you connect to the world? That is for another post and a few drinks. But until then, there are few more compulsories to post. More Spring 2015 nature images from our land follows. But this is it for the compulsories.
I am a different person when I walk our land. The birdsong and wind’s whisper are seen even more than heard. Every cactus needle and yucca tell a pointed tale. The roadrunners are leaning forward into their runs. A thousand firewheels orchestrate a symphony of swaying waves. And yellow blooms breathe in-out, in-out, in-out lungfuls of air. I have not found it yet out here but somewhere there is the pulse of a beating heart.
“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” ~ John Muir
There is a natural progression to the wildflowers appearing on our land in central Texas. Verbena and Bluebonnets mark the beginning of Spring wildflowers. They give way to firewheels, mexican hats and the prickly pear cactus blooms. The fields turn from purple and blue to yellows, oranges and reds.
We live in the country southwest of Austin, Texas, closer to the towns of Dripping Springs and Driftwood – on the edge of Texas Hill Country. We sit on the border of the Trinity aquifer and the Edwards aquifer recharge zone. Porous, layered limestone hills and a thin scratch of rocky topsoil provide the base for juniper, oak and field grasses. Come March every year our land lights up with wildflowers. Bluebonnets come first and then it is a parade of paintbrush, daisy, primrose, firewheels, thistle, sunflower, etc. Each year I walk our own land and our state parks looking for the one image that captures best the sights, smells, touch of our Texas Hill Country Spring. This image is the one so far but we have more Spring to walk through yet.
Photography Notes: I shot this image with my Olympus OM-D EM-5 with the 75mm f/1.8 lens. I took multiple images at different f stops to capture as much depth of field as possible before image degradation at small apertures became apparent. The winner in my eye was the f/18 aperture for extensive depth of field before small aperture lens distortion appeared. The larger aperture images were sharper at the focus point in the foreground but the second set of bluebonnets were too blurry. Photography capture settings decisions are often a compromise. Also, I cleared out some small dead, brown sticks leftover from last year in this scene. I missed one in the foreground and it is a distraction. Need to be more diligent next time.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is my 6th favorite place in Austin, Texas to grab my camera bag and tripod and spend a morning practicing my nature photography. I was there last weekend with the family and the bluebonnet, blackfoot daisy, paintbrush and other early wildflowers abounded everywhere. But what caught my eye most were these deep orange poppies. And I heard that distant voice from 1915 with McRae whispering his war lament… “In Flanders field where the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”