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Rhododendrons, Redwoods, and Fog

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 7 December 2009 in Landscape & Rural.


Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (1 spot remaining)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (3 spots available)
Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
Kauai, Hawaii Photo Workshop - July 12-16, 2010 (8 spots available)
Big Sur Photo Workshop Summer August, 2010 (Exciting details TBA soon)!
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 2010 (Details to be released soon)
New Article on my Website: Night Photography

Books Available for Purchase on my Website:
Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)
I have been busy this past month writing a new book which will primarily deal with photographic vision (details to be released after the first of the year), and in the process, have been culling my archives for images that will serve to illustrate the lessons.

Today's image has been a personal favorite of mine and was captured a few years back in northern California's Prairie Creek State Park in mid-June when the rhododendrons are usually in full bloom. In fact, I loved this area so much, I decided last year to offer a workshop (combined with a visit to Mendocino), and will offer it again this June 15 -18. Click here for more information: Redwoods/Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop.

What makes this area unique is not just these gorgeous blooming flowers, but also the towering, majestic redwoods; add to the mix the typical summer fog, and all the elements are there for a beautiful image. What is somewhat more difficult is simplifying the scene. Fog can serve as a great reducer, in that it not only adds a touch of mystery to the scene, but also the fact that it eliminates busy backgrounds.

I can remember the day I made this image, I was struggling visually to find some order in my scene. My previous captures were nice, but were chaotic in nature; I did not believe I was presenting a clear message. I finally put the camera down and had a little talk with myself (if you could only hear the conversations going on in my head...). I was struggling because I did not have a clear concept of what I was trying to capture. My images were not succeeding because I was after individual elements: the towering redwoods, the blooming rhododendrons, and the fog. Once I realized I needed to tie all three elements together, I had a more concise goal in mind, then it was simply a matter of finding a scene where I could present all three in a manner where the eye could move freely, and they appeared natural, yet connected.

I felt this image accomplished my goal. Because I wanted to present the grandeur of the trees, I opted for a low perspective with a wide-angle lens. I had to be careful to not allow the trees to bend in too much (parallax distortion), but by taking this low angle of view, I was able to also place more attention on the rhododendrons, and also show the misty fog drifting through the trees.

A successful image is so much about simplification of a scene. Part of the fun of landscape photography is finding the order that is inherent in nature. The order is there, we just need to look deep and find it. Elliot Porter was a master at weeding-out the chaos and finding this order. If you find your images are not succeeding, look at how much you are trying to place in your scene, are you overdoing it and in turn diminishing your message? If so, recompose and simplify - I guarantee it will serve to strengthen your image.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 13/10 second F/16.0 ISO 200 24 mm

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