Pictures With Impact
by Richard Massey
Folks often ask why I take so many pictures of the same subject. Even with wildflowers, I try to tell a story with the images. While not always practical, giving a subject a sense of place can be far more interesting than just a single image. The attached images of the beautiful Palmer’s Penstemon illustrate this.
A few years ago, I had the honor of joining one of Nevada’s top photographers on a photo adventure to central Nevada. It was such a pleasure spending time with Robin Travis as we explored the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, thirty miles south of Ely. Although our main interest was to photograph the charcoal ovens at night with the Milky Way towering overhead, we discovered the area was rich with a variety of fascinating and beautiful subjects to photograph.
Tucked between two of the massive stone structures we found delicate wildflowers. Because of the photojournalist in me, my natural instinct was to capture a wide shot (Robin taking a picture of the wildflowers), a medium shot (the picture of the plant and the background), and a final close-up (showing the details of the blossoms).
Achieving quality images of wildflowers is one of the most challenging types of photography one can pursue. This is due to many factors; wildflowers are usually quite small and close to the ground, often they are on delicate stems that make them subject to movement by the slightest breeze, often their blossoms are glossy and direct sunlight causes a sheen on their surface that masks the colors and details, their life expectancy can be quite short making them difficult to find when conditions are ideal for photography.
Fortunately, on the days we visited the park, conditions were perfect…no wind, soft overcast lighting, and the flowers were in an accessible location. On our outings, Robin and I frequently work as a team. She has an exceptional eye for finding the best subjects and compositions. While I had my eye on the big picture, she found these beautiful delicate flowers tucked between two of the charcoal ovens.
As we started photographing the flowers, we found it difficult to capture close ups without including too much background. What we needed was a way to isolate the blossoms and place emphasis on the details. No problem! We simply positioned the black part of her backpack behind the flowers (see picture of her). We had it far enough behind the flowers to throw any possible texture out of focus. Additionally, we considerably underexposed the image to retain the delicate pastel colors and details.
Although photographing wildflowers can be difficult, the rewards can be tremendous. Our hope is that this article will inspire you to capture exceptional wildflower images. When you do, we would love to share them with our reader.