February 19, 2010 – Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

Friday, February 19, 2010

See? We’re back on schedule, just like I promised. This is a purple coneflower, I saw it when I was walking around my neighborhood late last summer. It was just before sunset, so the light was doing some really cool stuff, both giving a nice warm glow to the petals, as well as lighting up those little spiky things in the middle, making them seem like they were lit up from within. I thought it was a pretty cool effect. The difficulty comes in because of the short depth of field I was using. Depending on if you focused on the very tip of the spiky things, somewhere in the middle, or back on the petals themselves, you’d end up with wildly different shots, some of which just.. didn’t look right. In this one you can see that I went right in the middle, but I have examples of the others that I may post here someday so you can see the difference.

Back to the illumination for a minute… having that warm light come in from the side and a little bit behind can make for some really cool effects. The most dramatic use I’ve seen for it is with fall colors. If you can get the light just right, the colored leaves (or flowers, or whatever) really shine out with color, it can be really spectacular. On the other hand, if you just have the light shining directly on the subject (ie if the sun is behind you), they just look flat and kind of dirty. You can get a similar illumination effect by having the sun directly in front of you (as in, behind the subject), but that has other issues; you lose your shadows, and it can be so bright that it can wash out the colors you want, or you’ll lose your blue sky, stuff like that. Of course, like any supposed “rule” in photography, even if something in general is undesirable, there are absolutely cases where you can use it to great effect. So, whatever, ignore everything I just said. If you see something nice, take a shot from every angle you can think of, in front, from behind, off to the side, whatever. We’re all shooting digital, right? (Right???) so who cares if you waste a few frames? Take them home, and see what you like best. Here’s a dirty little secret: a lot of the time when I’m taking a picture, I don’t actually have the exact picture I’m going for in mind. I just see that there are a lot of interesting elements, and I know that they can fit together somehow to make a great picture, so I take a whole bunch, trying out different sets of parameters in each one, hoping that I’m able to find the magic mix. Sometimes things look a lot different once you look at them on the big screen, you’ll see some detail that you missed before, that can really pop and make the whole picture. I’m rambling. I’m going to stop now. Have a great weekend!

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Quantaray 70-300 mm lens. 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 800. Focal length: 300mm.

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