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Poppies and Oak, Big Sur

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 25 February 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Driving California country roads in March and April, it soon becomes abundantly clear why the golden poppy is California's state flower. Each spring gold and yellow gems saturate sunny slopes from the Sierra foothills to the rugged coast, sometimes reigning over a kaleidoscope of other wildflowers, other times standing on their own.

I found these poppies in Big Sur, halfway up a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rather than simply compose them in isolation, I looked around for a suitable background and decided this solitary oak would do the trick. To properly juxtapose the poppies and oak I dropped to the ground and shot up the hill; I chose a telephoto to compress their relative distance. An extension tube allowed me to focus close enough to more completely fill the frame with the poppies. The close focus point also gave me the limited depth of field I need to blur the oak close-to but not beyond the threshold of recognition. I was very careful to frame the poppies beneath the oak's arching branch without merging them.

Images like this illustrate why I think the predicted demise of still photography isn't as imminent as video proponents (or paranoid photographers) think. While I do believe it won't be long before we'll be able to make large prints from individual HD video frames, I think there will always be a place for the still photographer who can manage the front-to-back world.

Anybody with a video camera can plant themselves in one location and pan to capture a two dimensional (left/right, up/down) scene where each subject is at infinity. But when you have multiple subjects along the front-to-back plane, you've added a third dimension and a two-dimensional pan no longer renders every possible composition. In a three dimensional scene, even a slight move up, down, left, or right completely alters the image by changing the relationship of the elements. Add in the infinite focus options for your front-to-back plane (where to place the point of focus, and the depth of focus on either side) and the possibilities become infinite.

In other words, even though your output medium (monitor, printer, etc.) is two dimensions, the more you include the third (front-to-back) dimension in your input (capture), the greater the likelihood you'll create something uniquely yours.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Julie from Easton, United States

Beautifully done, the tree in background goes very well!

25 Feb 2010 6:54am

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Poppies of California... I think that at home they grow as "mala hierba"... I tried of it sowed so often in my garden and I have never succeeded... My bigest gardener frustration......

Your image is marvelous and your explanation is great...Love your framing so much...

Have you visited (Video hosting) Some real pearls there. Some are abble to catch landscape with the same powerful energy as photographs...They manage an addition of a supplementary dimension...:The time...Once again, just differents medias and means of expression...

25 Feb 2010 7:39am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Absolutely is always so exciting to see these first signs of spring! Your framing here is just wonderful, and yes I don't think still photography will disappear -it is an art that cannot be substituted with another...

25 Feb 2010 9:11am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Gorgeous ! I love that color... and the DOF and composition... just great :)

25 Feb 2010 1:17pm

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

I know with more and more people able to take good photos with the newer technology it might seem like at some point there would be saturation but I don't see ever how that could be, even for photographers. There are snapshots and there is art and a broad spectrum sometimes between. This is fantastic. The color of course is what draws the eye but your choice to get in a more pithy background rather than just focus on the flowers was wonderful.

25 Feb 2010 6:05pm

Olivier from Hainaut, Belgium

top colors!

25 Feb 2010 6:29pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Gorgeous. Marvelous light. Very nice selective focus.

25 Feb 2010 8:26pm

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

How beautiful this is and I enjoyed your description of choosing an appropriate background.

25 Feb 2010 9:12pm

Sandy Weston from Madison, Maine, United States

Beautiful color.....I like that they are partially brings a richness to the color.

26 Feb 2010 12:51am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb composition! love the use of DOF and space here - two clear layers emerge - the out of focus oak and the wonderful poppies - i really like this one!

26 Feb 2010 2:17am

Steve from Camdenton, United States

Nice crisp shot of the poppies and I like the choice of f-stops to just bring in the tree in the background. I always enjoy your work and helpful hints in the commentary.

26 Feb 2010 3:43am

steve loos from hollister, United States

Gary; this is a beautiful image. I really like the way your poppies pop (sorry) and the background information is clear enough to be interesting but not intrusive. Sometimes the bokeh is so blurry outdoor shots look like studio settings.

27 Feb 2010 2:37am

alex centrella from California, United States

beautiful light and colors ......

27 Feb 2010 7:18pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Your images about poppies are great. This is very beautifuul with a fantastic DOF.

28 Feb 2010 10:27pm