Variety

Uncategorized
Summer Garden - NCMA © jj raia

Summer Garden — NCMA © jj raia

After a tip from some friends that there was a field of flowers in the expansive grounds surrounding the North Carolina Museum of Art, I convinced my son to go with me there to photograph them. But when we arrived in the parking lot, I realized I had neglected to remind him to bring along his mask, so we had no alternative but to head back home. It was disappointing.

But I returned the next day in the early morning hours with an overcast that would hopefully provide the lower contrast, even lighting that is helpful when shooting flowers out in the field. It was mostly dark when I arrived, so the three huge, partially sunken, concrete oval sculptures were still being lit with the overnight orange lighting as the sky began to lighten. Seeing a few breaks in the clouds, the thought was to photograph one of the lit sculptures, and without moving the tripod, wait to see if any color would creep into the sky. So the first image was for a properly exposed sculpture without regard for how the sky appeared. When some color did appear for a short minute, the second frame was exposed for the sky with the intention to mask out the sculpture and grounds so the initial frame would show through.

Sculpture at Dawn — NCMA © jj raia

Sculpture at Dawn — NCMA © jj raia

While at the sculpture, I noticed a lake down the hill and headed that way to see if there were a singular focal point that could be found reflected in the calm water. Not finding anything, I noticed a blue heron on the opposite shore and switched to the 70-300mm lens and tested my patience to capture the bird. After many, many frames, the bird had worn down my patience and simply hoped that I had caught something decent. I have to admire those who consider themselves wildlife photographers because of their determination and persistence. But I cannot count myself among those with the necessary patience.

Heron — NCMA © jj raia

Heron — NCMA © jj raia

After the heron, it was back up the hill to see the field of flowers. They were mostly smaller sunflowers, most were yellow while others were more maroon, with a lot of other flowers in various colors sprinkled among them. With the long lens still on, I tried to capture the idea of the meadow (below), but was not really satisfied with anything being seen that included a large swath of the flowers. For the image below, zooming in on the camera’s back screen to check focus revealed that the grasses and darker distant trees were not sharp. So a second frame was made focused there and combined in Photoshop with a simple layer mask.

Summer Flowers — NCMA © jj raia

Summer Flowers — NCMA © jj raia

As mentioned, images of the meadow itself didn’t seem to do much more than record the scene. I was after something more painterly. So, remembering the use of multiple exposures the previous Sunday in Raleigh, five frames were combined in camera to produce a plethora of pictures, moving the camera very slightly between each frame. Somewhere along the way, instead of using the auto-focus for each frame, I switched to manual focus for the final frame of the five, and turned the focus ring until everything was at maximum blur. This technique seemed to draw out a little more of the sought after painterly look.

Summer Flowers No.2 — NCMA © jj raia

Summer Flowers No.2 — NCMA © jj raia

But it seemed images with a closer view of a discernible group of flowers were better at focusing attention toward something more specific, unlike the one above which is a more scattershot frame of many flowers in a field of green. So getting in closer seemed to work a bit better as in the photo below and at the top. I even tried some long lens motion blurs which did not work out well during this visit, but haven’t given up on using it again on any return.

Summer Garden No.2 — NCMA © jj raia

Summer Garden No.2 — NCMA © jj raia

Since the air was very still up until this point of the visit, I thought to try the studio approach with a black background behind a singular flower as done in the past. But the piece of black foam core was back at the car. So I had to hoof it all the way back to retrieve it (uphill) and headed back to the flowers (again, uphill), not taking too long, but as you would expect, a breeze picked up during the interim, and it was almost impossible to get a crisp, clean and sharp image because of constant movement. Luckily, I did get one that was sharp (below) with which I was happy since this particular flower seemed to have a bit a story to tell having been attacked by some leaf eating insect, and being somewhat imperfectly formed.

Young Sunflower — NCMA © jj raia

Young Sunflower — NCMA © jj raia

Finally, just before reaching the car on my way out, these grasses with yellow heads were laying against a different type of plant or grass, and thought to record this little scene because of all the texture throughout the frame. Nothing to write home about, but an illustration of how differing things can grab your attention when you have a camera with you and you’re not shooting film.

Grasses — NCMA © jj raia

Grasses — NCMA © jj raia

All in all, a good morning that encompassed only two and a half hours (634am — 906am, 147 frames) from the first image of the concrete oval to the final of the grasses above; a wide variety of subjects for sure. But the thoughts during the course of the morning were important as a continual process of isolating possible subjects (other folks would surely find differing subjects) during the visit, and thinking through what techniques or procedures were deemed necessary, at the time in the field, and/or during post-processing to achieve the best possible final image (exposure blending, focus stacking, motion blur, etc). This continuing thought process is what keeps us focused on the creative aspects of our photography, and lost in a time warp where 2-1/2 hours seems to fly by.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s