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Wild Rhododendrons Amongst the Giants

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 5 April 2010 in Landscape & Rural.

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One of California's best kept secrets is the wild rhododendron blooms amongst the old-growth redwood trees along the northern coast. I have been traveling each summer to capture the beauty of these majestic trees adorned by these colorful blooms. Add in a touch of afternoon fog and magical scenes await one's gaze.

I felt so strongly about the endless photographic possibilities of these enchanted forests, that I now offer a workshop to allow students the opportunity of photographing their own interpretations of these incredible trees and flowers Redwoods/Mendocino Coast Summer Workshop.

For this image to succeed, I wanted to visually communicate the juxtaposition of these incredibly large trees (they can grow to over 350 feet tall) and the fragility and freshness of these colorful flowers. I opted for a low perspective with a wide-angle lens which in turn created bit of a perspective issue with the trees (parallax distortion). I felt the tilting lines of the trees near the border of my frame served to work the eye back towards the center, so I opted not to correct it in Photoshop (a tilt/shift lens would have allowed me to correct at the time of capture but alas, I do not own one - yet).

Lastly, the soft light of the afternoon Pacific fog allowed for a low contrast tonal range, which was easily recorded by my sensor. Harsh sun creates splotchy forest light that can quickly become a distraction. My advice if the marine layer is not present is to wait for indirect light when the sun is very low on the horizon (or has set).

Technical Notes: Because I captured this image in evening light, the scene's illumination levels were quite low. I first opted for an ISO of 400 as I knew my camera would yield minimum noise at this setting. My second decision was shutter speed as a slight breeze was causing the leaves and flowers to move. I settled on a trade-off of depth of field and set an aperture of f/8 to allow me a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second. I also used a Singh-Ray Neutral Polarizer to eliminate any sheen from the foliage.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/20 second F/8.0 ISO 400 27 mm

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