May 2015 – Lily White in Morning Light
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
On a family vacation in the Blue Ridge mountains in spring, I was looking for the “perfect flower”. Not every flower is pretty, and I was on the lookout for the best flower out there. One day, we stopped along the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike down to Crabtree Falls. There were quite a few flowers along the way, so let me explain the reasons why I liked some more than others.
I saw these small lavender ones first. They were very small and waving in the wind quite energetically, so I gave up on them after a few tries. Wind shouldn’t deter you, but I just didn’t feel it was worth the effort to try to get a better picture. The background was very cluttered too, so I moved on to find another patch. Plus, I had to keep up with the family who weren’t exactly as interested in the trail-side flowers as I was.
There were plenty of this variety of trillium along the trail, but this one was particularly vibrant and flawless. So I squatted down to shot it, paying very close attention to focus on the tips of the stamen; even when the rest of the flower is out of focus, if the stamen are in focus, then the flower looks properly focused. Just a general rule I usually follow. Yes, this flower was pretty but it was in direct sunlight and I didn’t have an off-camera flash to even out the light, so I moved on.
These purple flowers caught my eye later on so my sister and I tarried behind the rest of the family to enjoy and shoot them for a few minutes. I absolutely loved the soft, ambient light provided by the thick foliage overhead and how the purple color was surrounded by and contrasted so well with the vibrant green leaves. I singled out one of the flowers and tried to get a pleasing composition. I tried a few angles but nothing seemed to work. As much as the canopy was a blessing, it made the forest floor dark so I would have had to set up my tripod to get the depth of field I wanted. I didn’t have time to do this, plus I didn’t feel there was something particularly striking about these flowers, so we left them behind and hurried back up to the main group. (Do you ever find yourself doing this . . . all the time!?)
Finally, while heading back to the parking lot and thinking that my search for flowers was over, my brother Michael called me over to a patch of perfectly-shaped trilliums he had found off the trail a bit. I knew there was a shot here! I just felt it in my bones this time. It was just a matter of finding it! There were a dozen or so trilliums scattered about so I went to find the one with the least amount of flaws on the petals, being careful not to disturb the area too much. I also considered size, placement in relationship to other plants or trilliums, and what type of light was falling on it. At this particular location, the forest was not thick, and the light was dappled on the forest floor. All the elements seemed right on this particular one, especially since this trillium bloom was highlighted in light . . . albeit not perfectly direct. This was my first shot, unedited:
It didn’t look right. Why? I had to think more about my about my composition. Notice how the flower is leaning to the left and facing the left? This left almost the entire right half of the picture “unengaged” creating dead weight and distracting from the “weight”, or visual mass, of the flower. It was truly a snapshot. I also felt there was too much stalk and not enough flower in the picture, so when I recomposed, I placed the flower down a bit and to the right a bit. Better, but way too far down this time; I wasn’t using my tripod so “a bit” was a bit relative:
And I think that’s when I noticed the tree in the background and what looked like a glade out there. This was perfect, yet totally unplanned. Those out-of-focus elements provided just enough interest in the background to make it feel like the frame was full while also providing a fitting relationship between the subject and it’s surroundings, giving it a sense of placement or rest. I lowered myself a bit more to include more of the tree trunk:
I felt I wasn’t close enough to the flower yet, so I zoomed in a bit more. Two shots more and I had the picture I was looking for (this one was edited):
The family was out of sight now, but I felt I had captured what I was looking for so needed to stay no longer. And my feelings about the shot didn’t change much over the months that elapsed between shooting it and choosing it for the calendar. It stood the scrutiny test I put every calendar candidate through, and now its gracing the walls in hundreds of homes all over the place! Buy one, two or just a few of the Lenspiration calendars on the Staddonfamily Store for $10 each; or you can get free shipping plus quantity discounts as low as $5 each on the Lenspiration Store. Thank you for promoting a Creationist worldview in the realm of photography!
And here are the post-processing before and after shots. I had exposed for the highlights in taking the shot, so I made sure to brighten it up a bit in Lightroom. I was able keep the detail in the petals by decreasing the Highlights slider in Lightroom after increasing the Exposure slider. It’s very important that you don’t loose the detail in those delicate parts of a flower. The perfect flower, I’d say! That is, until I find a better one.