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Dawn at Mendocino Headlands

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 25 June 2009 in Landscape & Rural.

Summer wildflowers make their annual June appearance along the Mendocino headlands with a mix of colorful lupine.

When our group arrived at the headlands shortly after 6 am, I told the participants to just wander around and see what potential images they could find. I feel part of being an effective workshop leader is knowing when to allow students to apply what they have learned without constant mentoring - give them some time to explore and just be photographers.

Thus my assistant Gary Hart and I each went separate directions making sure we were within earshot should we be called upon for some assistance. The morning sky was overcast and the air was perfectly still - a green light opportunity to capture these beautiful wildflowers. With essentially no limiting factors (no wind and the overcast sky allowing for even exposure) I just wandered the bluffs looking for something that caught my attention.

It was simply a matter of playing with compositions and perspective. When shooting a carpet of wildflowers, I personally like to get very low and allow for the flowers to fill the bottom 1/3 - 2/3 of my frame. I used my 16-35mmL lens at f/22 for maximum depth-of-field, but realized I could not hold focus all the way from foreground to background as I was but mere inches from the foreground flowers. There was really nothing in the background that needed to be in sharp focus, so I was content on making the foreground flowers as sharp as possible.

I used a Singh-Ray 2-stop split neutral density filter to hold down the sky, and then took it down another stop in Adobe Camera Raw with the grad filter which was added in the CS4 version. I did a slight curves adjustment to bump contrast as the soft light rendered the image a touch flat.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 13/10 second F/22.0 ISO 200 32 mm

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