Music for the Eyes
Woodland wildflowers play our heartstrings.
May 17, 2022 :: Wildflowers / Landscapes
If spring is a symphony, trilliums are the crescendo.
Wave on wave of the white flowers echo through the forest’s hall of old-growth beech, maple and tulip-poplar trees. Their exuberance was preceded by a prelude of smaller ephemeral flowers. It will be followed by a quiet conclusion of subtler blooms in the woodland’s summer shade. This is how a healthy eastern deciduous forest celebrates the season.
The annual concerto has been performed since the glaciers receded from here 10,000 years ago. As stewards of this place and others like it, it’s up to us to keep the music playing.
Sometimes stewardship means rolling up our sleeves and taking on tasks that preserve wildness. Other times it means lacing up our boots and taking to the trails that reveal the treasures we hold dear.
MAKING THE PHOTOGRAPH
SUBJECT: Great white trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum); Bendix Woods County Park, Indiana
CONDITIONS: Light overcast, calm, 65 degrees F; early afternoon
EQUIPMENT: Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone
What's a smartphone photo doing in my journal about improving your nature photography skills? No self-respecting nature photographer would choose a phone photo over one that's produced by a state-of-the-art professional digital camera. Yet here it is without disguise or apology. Here is why.
Sometimes I use my camera phone the way an artist uses a sketch book. I will make a quick character study of a thing or some light that catches my eye. Or I'll make a record image of a scene or subject for a later visit. I'll photograph from higher or lower, closer or farther, vertically or horizontally to compare perspectives. Or I'll make a photo to send to my wife and friends.
This time I used my camera phone to find the best position for my DSLR camera before I moved it and the tripod into a tight and delicate place. I only wanted to step off of the trail once to make my photograph. So with phone in hand, I stretched my arm to a position where I would see a preferred composition. Once it was in place, my voice command tripped the shutter. That's like having a vocal cable release.
I examined several verticals from low positions near trilliums that would make the best foreground subjects. I chose the wide-angle lens that would give me the same view (a 16-35mm f/4 lens set at about 20mm), attached it to the camera body and the body to the ball head. Then I adjusted the tripod's legs to the height I made note of when I took the phone photos.
Using Live View let me see the composition without looking through the viewfinder. I fine-tuned the camera's position so the select foreground trilliums were where I liked. Then I scanned the corners and edges for distractions. Finally I made a trial image, so I could manually choose the appropriate shutter speed for a correct exposure at the aperture of f/8.
I auto-focused on the nearest element in the scene -- a trillium leaf. Then I engaged Focus Shift so I could focus stack the resulting series of 30 images later. Combining them in software programs like Photoshop or Helicon Focus would give me sharpness near to far in the final image. These days I prefer using Helicon Focus.
For now, I will take daily walks in the woods and enjoy the music. I'll focus stack and process the photos later when spring slows down. When the trillium echoes fade.