If you saw the blog two weeks ago, there were two images of wisteria at peak bloom, a subject that is generally difficult to photograph. Not for any lack of beauty on the part of the flowers themselves, but more for the chaotic way in which they wrap around the branches of trees, with the challenge being to create a composition within the frame that is both balanced and contains a specific focal point or grouping that will initially draw the viewers attention.
Since an area was in bloom a few minutes walk from my house, I headed over there as the sun went down so that the area would be in shade, but with more evenly directional light; something that a completely overcast sky generally lacks. The problem was finding a grouping of the flowers that had a separation from the rest of the trees and other flowers, and when I did find something, the photo still seemed lifeless. I liked the composition with some bright green and yellowish grasses as a base, so I thought to try a blur. Using the 70-300mm zoom to narrow the angle of view and avoid the sky peaking into the frame, the lowest ISO, a polarizer to cut glare, and the smallest aperture, I was able to get the shutter speed down to almost 2-seconds. There was no worry about using an aperture of f/32 and possible diffraction, since the idea was to have the image blurry in the first place.
The longer shutter speed allowed time to move the camera during the exposure; too short an exposure results in a photo that just appears out of focus or there was camera shake. Composing the shot a bit wider than necessary so the main group of wisteria would remain inside the edges of the frame with the camera movements, the camera was moved in a tiny (very tiny) circle to create the blur during the exposure. Several attempts were necessary before the movements were right for the shot, and then took many more afterwards to pick which one worked best. In some of the attempts the angle of the line of grasses was purposely altered somewhat by swiveling the camera off level before beginning the exposure, and moving the camera from that angle. Vertical movements didn’t seem to work at all, and zooming during the exposure, although interesting, was NOT at all what I was looking for. The whole exercise was to create a more painterly approach to the scene.
Taking the photo was just the beginning, though. After some global adjustments in Lightroom, quite a bit of the “painting” was done in Photoshop. A few gaps in foliage or very dark, distracting areas were filled in using the cloning tool; some gaussian blur was applied to the areas surrounding the main group of wisteria; and general cleaning up to avoid any other visual distractions. Back in Lightroom, for some reason I decided to try using the de-haze slider in the negative (left) direction, and liked the effect, but did not want the effect on the wisteria themselves. To accomplish that, using a grad filter drawn for maximum affect completely through the image, the erase brush feature at varying strengths was used to erase the effect from the wisteria, slightly in some areas, more or completely in others. I suppose the same could be accomplished using the brush tool, or in Photoshop with layers and masking, but it seemed much simpler to do in Lightroom.
For anyone who lives in North Carolina, you know that for a month or so in spring, pollen creates a green haze that wafts through the air. Houses and cars are covered in green dust, and a lot of it makes its way into streams after a rain, and then into lakes where the breeze may concentrate it along the banks as seen above. It’s a battle for compositions as the pollen is in constant slow motion and one framing will be gone seconds later!! The big help here in the image above, was to eliminate reflections and draw out the colors, using a polarizing filter; the difference being like day and night.
One of the biggest draws that spring offers is the bright red buds of what is believed to be a maple tree. If they can be set against the brilliant yellow/green of newborn leaves, they combine to create a pointalistic character to the image. So after seeing this particular tree leaning out over some water, it was with that thought in mind that the scene was approached. All that was required was to arrange the branches within the frame and provide a darker base to anchor the image.
And now, as the buds have morphed into leaves and we move toward summer, I will miss spring.