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Champagne Glass Poppies, Merced River Canyon

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 2 April 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

One of the most important skills of a nature photographer is the ability to manage depth of field. Getting an entire scene from front to back in sharp focus is a true art (and discussion for a different day), but so is the ability to effectively limit focus to guide your viewers' eyes, or to create a compelling background. This ability visualize and manage the front-to-back plane is often what separates artistic photography from snapshots.

I use today's poppy image in lectures to demonstrate how the camera's vision differs from the human eye. When I was there in the Merced River Canyon (just west of Yosemite), I could see each poppy on this secluded hillside, but sometimes that much detail can be a distraction. Simply blurring the background wasn't enough; I also wanted a background that complemented the foreground poppies. I circled the poppy and ended up positioning myself on the ground to shoot uphill, toward to the poppy covered hillside. My plan was to severely limit my depth of field so the background poppies would turn into a fog of color. To focus closer I added an extension tube to my macro lens. Then I dialed my aperture to f2.8 (as wide as it would go) to further blur the background.

Finding the correct focus point, always essential, is even more important in macro photography where even the slightest error can mean the difference between success and failure. Sometimes the focus point is a difficult choice, but in this case it was pretty clear that the leading edge of the front poppy was where focus needed to be. With my camera flat on the ground and the lens resting on a beanbag (homemade with a Ziploc and dried lentils), focus was easier said than done. Had I been doing this with my current camera, using live view I could have focused from a couple of feet away by zooming the LCD display to 10x. But with my 10D I had to do it the "old fashioned" way, sprawling on the ground and contorting to get my eye to the viewfinder. Fortunately the wind was calm and I was able to take the time necessary to get the focus right.

One more interesting thing about this image: This was just one of many I took on this trip, and in fact I overlooked it on my first pass through my images after returning home. It wasn't until I revisited these images during a slow time several weeks later that I found it and recognized its potential. Not only has this become one of my most successful images, it has also turned out to be one of my personal favorites. This makes me wonder how many other overlooked "gems" I have on my (many) hard drives, and serves as a reminder to never make any final decisions about images when I'm rushed.

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

Dulcie from Danville, CA, United States

Perfect title ... congratulations on creating a very lovely distinctive rendition of these golden flowers !!!

2 Apr 2010 5:49am

Julie from United States

Awesome macro, colors and focus!

2 Apr 2010 6:43am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

5***** Gary... and it's not enough in my eyes ! This is so beautiful !!! Congratulations :)

2 Apr 2010 9:09am

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Very mystical!

2 Apr 2010 2:10pm

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Fantastic Gary!!!

2 Apr 2010 3:00pm

Florence from Paris, France

Glittering and glowing on my screen, like sun at dawn. A winner shot. 5 *****.
Of course.

2 Apr 2010 6:58pm

Kelly from United States

Beautiful! Wonderful light!

3 Apr 2010 1:57am

steve loos from hollister, United States

A toast to your beautiful image Gary, masterful.

3 Apr 2010 8:32am

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

This glowing, golden image is such an expression of your art, Gary.
Thanks for adding your YouTube video; it's great to see your face and hear your voice. That's a pretty special license plate you have!
Happy Easter!

3 Apr 2010 1:44pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

excellent composition and light! good DOF as well - the out of focus send flower adds to the nice dreamy mood!

3 Apr 2010 3:33pm

Scott F. Schilling from San Martin, United States

This image has so much warmth and your background turned out perfectly with you choice of location!

4 Apr 2010 3:52am

siamak from isfahan, Iran

bravo , very nice shot
great composition
good luck

4 Apr 2010 8:35pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

This is a beautiful breath of Spring air! Lovely Gary!

4 Apr 2010 10:43pm

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Now, I understand... Really beautiful flowers

6 Apr 2010 8:41am

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Very beautiful shot

7 Apr 2010 5:15am

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

Love it! To be framed!!! Gorgeous

10 Apr 2010 3:44am

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

Very pretty, like a flame on a stalk.

14 Apr 2010 3:47am

Marie from FRESNES, France

magnifique !

14 Apr 2010 8:07pm

Shelle from Washington State, United States

It looks like the sun is emanating form the center of the flower. Beautiful.

24 Apr 2010 2:55am

carla from Netherlands

Great macro.

19 Aug 2010 4:29pm

carla from leeuwarden, Netherlands

Really beautiful!

23 Aug 2012 5:05pm