I took this last weekend in the Merced River Canyon, just outside Yosemite. I swear I wasn't thinking about Monet when I took it, but that's the first thing that popped into my mind when I got home and put the image up on my monitor. And for the record, there was absolutely zero Photoshop manipulation for this image--in other words, the background is entirely in-camera, and something any photographer with a DSLR, extension tube or macro lens, and a little understanding of depth of field can accomplish.
I was guiding a group of photographers on a day-trip to Yosemite, but with nothing but blue skies in the park, and a profusion of wildflowers in the Merced River Canyon, I decided to take a mid-afternoon detour to the canyon. We all found something to shoot--some opting for wider compositions that included the river and poppy covered hillsides, others opting for more intimate scenes like this. I put an extension tube on my 70-200 and went in search of flowers that I could isolate in my foreground.
Working with an extension tube severely limits your depth of field, so my general approach is to focus on the most important foreground element and find a background that blurs to appealing color and shape. Macro photographers often get so caught up in their foreground that they forget the background, but I think this image illustrates perfectly how even a completely out-of-focus background can be at least as important as the sharp foreground.
I've been thinking a lot lately about photography's future (and when I say photography, I'm only thinking of landscape photography because that's all I shoot), and the predictions that the proliferation of high resolution video means the imminent demise of still photography. The rationale is that when the inevitable day arrives when anyone with a video camera can pan a scene and simply extract the best frame, still photography will be rendered obsolete.
To that I say (in polite circles), not so fast. Similar predictions were made about painting with the advent of photography, books with the advent of radio, radio with the advent of television, and so on. What I think will happen is a shift away from photography as two-dimensional medium. Of course photographs will still be two dimensions (for awhile at least), but photographers will need to be more aware of our three-dimensional world.
A panning video camera can capture an infinite number of points at a single focus point on the horizontal (left-right) plane, but it can't simultaneously capture an infinite number of focal points on the front-to-back plane. That means we still photographers who master the front-to-back world by managing depth of field and selective focus will still be able to create something unique. (I'm not saying video cameras aren't capable of this, it's just that attempting this with a video camera will neutralize its volume advantage.) So don't despair--just grab your camera and go play.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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