>>MORE INFO & RSVP HERE to volunteer
>>MORE INFO & RSVP HERE to volunteer
Some people are amazed to learn that I still enjoy getting out to photograph wildflowers. Well, the greater truth is that I just enjoy getting out to photograph – anything. It fuels my soul, and as long as I can walk and hold a camera that’s where you’ll find me, out in the field working the subject, whatever it may be.
As spring gives way to summer, the mountains around Seattle, melt out to reveal wonderful meadows of wildflowers. Mt Rainier is perhaps one of my favorite destinations for wildflowers and so many can be found just a short walk from the parking lot. For those familiar with the area I like to head to Paradise, drive past the main parking lots and down the hill maybe half a mile, parking where the road crosses Edith Creek. From there you hike up towards the mountain and the wildflowers will soon surround you with a rushing creek and smooth boulders to work with. Hiking maybe a mile will afford beautiful views of Mt. Rainier filling the foreground with flowers.
When you head out to photograph wildflowers one’s first instinct is to often isolate a perfect blossom at a 45 degree angle (any lower and your knees might get dirty!) and go home happy. I call this the trophy shot, it looks just like the image on the packet at the wildflower seed store – we all have them, myself included, so get that shot (I will) and then open your mind to more creative possibilities.
When I have lead workshops to Mt. Rainier in the past I’ll let the students know that we have “arrived” at our destination for the next hour and they will politely line up on the trail and begin to photograph the first flower they see, usually right from the very direction they had approached it. After all, that’s why we’re here, no? No. We’re here to stretch our creative imaginations, to see in new ways, and uncover new possibilities. Consider how you approach the flower as you would any subject. Over the years I have critiqued so many photos and the answer is all too often the same, get lower and get closer.
My approach is generally to first walk through the area and get familiar with the myriad of options, perspectives, background possibilities, subtle differences in lighting. I’ll look at the subject from all sides possible before choosing a location to begin. Remember, recolonizing, fragile, easily accessible meadows like those of Mt. Rainier don’t allow for venturing off established trails. So please be aware of your surroundings, trail markers and warning signs.
Initially, I will photograph the larger scene with a wide angle lens (16-35, always with a polarizer adding a 2 stop hard ND filter as needed) helping to establish a sense of location. This can be useful later when trying to remember where I was when the image was taken, perhaps a hold-over from shooting slides when it could be three months before I would see any results from the days’ efforts. The wide angle lens allows me to include the surrounding plants, trees, terrain and mountains leaving the to flowers become a pattern of color in the lower foreground. I’ll look for leading lines in the pattern, gentle curves, a way for the viewer to interact with the image as they move through the foreground, middle ground and background – an old, well established formula from view cameras that still works today.
As I move in closer, I continue shooting with the wide angle lens, allowing first, a group of flowers and then individual blossoms to dominate the frame. This gives me the ability to still tell the story of location and environment through the greater composition. When people first purchase a wide angle lens they see it as an opportunity to get a greater view of the distant vista, to include the mountain and the surrounding hills – and are all too disappointed with the results. It’s not until they begin to see the wide angle as a tool for getting in close to the subject, I’m talking within inches – not feet, do they begin to see the possibilities.
Once satisfied, I’ll switch to my 70-200 lens and look to limit the composition to just the flowers themselves. Here I begin looking for those ubiquitous patterns in nature, patters of petals filling the frame, of alternating colors, lines and form, positive and negative space. Ultimately zooming from the wide end up to 200 mm abstracting the subject as I bring the viewer to see the flower in a unique way. I’ll then put on extension tubes which allow me to focus even closer. As you abstract the elements of the flower, digital photography now allows you to “rack focus” with a middle ground f-stop, say f11, shooting several images as you move the shallow depth of field marching towards the back of the composition, knowing later you will combine them into one image with a sharp focus throughout.
What about wind and movement? Use it! Sure you can purchase a “Plant Clamp” to hold the flower steady in a light breeze but why not use the movement to your advantage just as you would with flowing water in a stream. Try longer shutter speeds to abstract the flowers to a wash of color. Even introduce your own movement by intentionally panning with the camera up, down or sideways during the exposure. You may be surprised by the results, perhaps pleased even.
Working the subject I will be changing my location, moving in closer, shooting from the side as well as directly overhead – ultimately I may even spread the legs of my tripod to where it is less than 12 inches off the ground and be lying on my side in the dirt – why? Because it’s about unique perspectives. Flowers aren’t usually photographed from directly overhead nor do most people bother to look at them from the ‘flowers’ perspective. Great images are generally not made at a comfortable standing height having just walked up to your subject.
Don’t wait for the sunny day to go out and look for wildflowers. For images of the flowers themselves your best bet is an overcast day with even lighting. While a sunny day is great for a picnic, and the flowers are beautiful to look at, the shadows caused by the direct sun put too much contrast in the image and where flowers are the only subject the results will be disappointing. Overcast days, even rainy days are some of my favorite for flower photography, good thing I live in Seattle.
On this darkest day of the year, here is some very bright news!
Happy Winter Solstice!
Join Art Wolfe at the Main Library in the Olympic Room at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 3, 2011.
Art will be giving a talk, slide presentation and book signing about his latest book “Dogs Make Us Human”. He teamed up with bestselling animal writer Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson to create a remarkable book that will be treasured by dog lovers far and wide.
If you have followed Art on the blog about this new title, here is a great opportunity to actually hear him talk about the project.
Books will be available for purchase and Art will be signing them following his presentation.
If you aren’t in the Tacoma area, make sure your library (or yourselves) orders copies of his book. It is a great book for all ages.
>>CLICK HERE for more info about the Tacoma Library events
>>CLICK HERE for Directions to the Tacoma Main Library
The workshops I lead in the Olympic National Park always seem to bring out the best in everyone at all skill levels. The late summer fires in Washington make for breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. But it’s always the details that are the most interesting: backlit seaweed clinging to rocks battered by the surf.
We’ll be posting a gallery of workshop participants’ photos soon so watch for it!
This Saturday is the grand re-opening of the beautiful Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
This is the world’s biggest dam removal, and one of biggest and most significant river restoration efforts. We will see a river coming back to life, with great benefits for salmon runs, the tribe and community. The lessons we learn on the Elwha can inspire other river restoration efforts around the country.
>>CLICK HERE for more info on the Elwha Dam removal project
>>CLICK HERE for an interesting back story on Senator Bill Bradley and the Elwha
I just finished a workshop with PODAS (PhaseOne Digital Artists Series). Washington’s wheat growing belt, the Palouse, is a dynamic landscape shaped by both nature and man. Up early and late to bed make for a tired but satisfied photographer. This landscape holds so much drama as the light changes. Fun to meet everyone and hang out with friends Michael, Jeff, Mark, Kevin and Murray. What a great program.
>>CLICK HERE to learn more
In conjunction with Phase One Digital Artists Series (PODAS), Michael Reichmann and I will be leading a much-anticipated workshop to Washington’s Palouse region this summer. The Palouse is a remarkable agricultural area in eastern Washington, and one of my favorites places to photograph in my home state. The landscapes are varied, full of sagelands, wheatfields, empty roads, and deep horizons.
This is a rare opportunity as this is the only field workshop that Michael will be doing this year. And since it is a PODAS workshop, each participant will be provided with a IQ160 60 Megapixel back, a Phase One DF camera body, and a 75– 150mm lens. Other lenses from 28mm – 300mm will be available to participants as well.
You can learn more about the workshop and PODAS here:
Yesterday I arrived on the Olympic Peninsula to prepare for my workshop this weekend. Jay Goodrich, Gavriel Jecan, and I headed up to the top of Hurricane Ridge on a scouting mission to see if this would be a good location to bring students to in the coming days. I did find some remarkable subjects, but also found the deepest snowpack that I have ever seen in my 40 years of photographing in this region. There was a ton of rockfall, huge avalanche run-outs, and below freezing temperatures as we approached closer and closer to the summit. I decided that this wouldn’t be the greatest location to bring a group of 25, but was rewarded with a great photo session of a raven.
Today we will be heading to the Sol Duc and then tomorrow to the Hoh Rain Forest and the coast for sunset. More coming soon.
What a great way to celebrate Earth Day 2011!
You are cordially invited to attend Aljoya’s art opening for a rare opportunity to view prints from “Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge” exhibition. Explore some of the world’s most intriguing and stunning places captured by this world-renowned photographer.
Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Enjoy music from guitarist, Julian Catford.