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Lazy Day - Sunflowers

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 28 September 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - November 3-7, 2010 (Workshop Sold Out)
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Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011 (space available)
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I am off to the high country and the eastern-Sierra today for some early fall stock shooting and to help Gary Hart in his eastern-Sierra workshop. Weird to think summer is gone and fall is here but ebb-and-flow of the seasons is part of what I enjoy about getting out in nature with my camera.

Today's post is from a field of sunflowers near my home in Hollister, California. I had seen the potential for some images the previous day as the light skimmed the field near sunset. My initial thought was that this scene would provide me an opportunity to put my Canon 24 mm Series II Tilt/Shift to work and in the process produce an image that would be a bit different from the norm.

Earlier that day I tried to think through the technical challenges that I would encounter, namely, the height of the sunflowers relative to the height of my tripod fully extended. The flowers ranged from 5 - 7 feet tall. I thought about connecting a Bogen Magic Arm onto a 6-foot ladder and shooting down on the flowers, but the weight of the entire setup relative to how flimsy my ladder supports were made this impractical. So I went to Plan B and decided to see if I could simply find some shorter stems and juxtapose them against the taller ones. Fortunately I did find some and was even lucky in that they were positioned about 80-degrees off-axis to the rapidly sinking sun. This allowed the light to skim across the flowers revealing more of their texture. If I would have shot with the sun behind my back I would have lost this subtle detail.

My other plan was to shoot foreground to background using my tilt function to get all the flowers razor sharp but once I composed this scene I felt the reverse was needed in order to draw the eye to the foreground flowers. Thus, I employed an upwards tilt allowing just the foreground flowers to register sharp focus and in-turn threw the background flowers out of focus. There was some wind to deal with but the beauty of a Tilt/Shift is that depth-of-field can be altered at wide open apertures (in this case f/3.5), which allowed for a flower-stopping 1/500th second shutter. Even the frames where I reversed the tilt, the entire field mimicked f/22 (even though I was only at f/3.5). One of the benefits of using a T/S is one can change the plane of focus relative the the sensor's plane.

To fine-tune this scene, I used the shift control on the lens until I had the tall stems perfectly positioned, then just waited for a bit of a lull in the wind and captured my frame. With extreme tilts or shifts, the circle of confusion is at its far edge relative to the sensor, which means the in-camera meter will be fooled - in this case by up to two stops of light. No problem using digital as I made sure all three channels histograms were displaying and I based my exposure off the histogram and forgot about what the meter was telling me.

Lastly, I tried varying amounts of polarization using my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer that in turn helped warm the scene just a touch and resulted in a nice juxtaposition between the warm flowers and the blue sky.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/500 second F/3.5 ISO 200 24 mm

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