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Jungle Blooms, Akaka Falls State Park, Hawaii

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 11 August 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

I'm home from a wonderful week in Arizona, visiting my mom at her cabin in the mountains outside Payson. This was vacation for me, and though I brought my camera, it stayed in the bag in the back of the car for the entire trip--I didn't take a single picture. It wasn't as if there was nothing photo-worthy--my wife and I hiked mountain creeks, watched a spectacular sunset from atop the Mogollon Rim, and even detoured to see the red rocks of Sedona on the drive home.

But as much as I love taking pictures of these scenes (I do!), I also appreciate the opportunity to "merely" bask worry-free in nature's magnificence. These trips are an opportunity to recharge, to experience nature for what it is to me, rather than worrying about how to interpret it for others. After many years of frustration, I realized that trying to mix photography and vacation is a recipe for frustration that detracts from both.

So what does this have to do with a tropical flower in a Hawaiian jungle? Everything. Successful photography starts with the ability to recognize compelling elements and communicate their personal significance. It's the time I spend without my camera that best tunes me to nature's resonant rhythms and intimacies.

As with my previous image of Akaka Fall, I knew attempting to capture the entire scene would have shrunk everything into virtual insignificance. So I scanned my surroundings to identify the elements made the scene special: the verdant foliage, dense canopy, delicate blooms, and dangling vines that shout jungle! I decided to focus on this vine, isolating its gravity-defying white blooms (can anybody identify them?) against the canvas of the surrounding jungle.

The trick was making the flowers stand out against the busy surroundings without losing the jungle context. A telephoto enabled me to isolate the blooms and compress the scene; I dialed an aperture that blurred the background without completely eliminating it. For maximum contrast I exposed for the flowers, making the jungle a little dark. These choices made the flowers stand out against the confusion of growth, retaining just enough background detail to convey the scene's essence.

This might be a good place to suggest that images like this lack the "wow" appeal of a brilliant sunset or plummeting waterfall, but to me they're no less compelling, and in fact it may just be the missing jolt that gives them staying power. A few years ago I wrote an essay on the "ooooh" and "ahhhh" of nature photography, where I offered that it's the ooooh that pulls you toward an image, but it's the ahhhh that holds you. The two can be mutually exclusive: Much like the ultimate ooooh, a roller coaster, the thrill of a spectacular landscape is immediate and intense, but also fades fast; to sustain, a successful image needs to soothe as well as stimulate.

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

jamesy from christchurch, New Zealand

so beautiful

11 Aug 2010 5:38am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Wow, the composition of this photo is fantastic ! I love it. So well done. Have a nice day Gary :)

11 Aug 2010 8:42am

Cosmin from Bucharest, Romania

nice shot, beautiful flowers

11 Aug 2010 10:11am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Very well balanced detail!

11 Aug 2010 10:27am

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Exquisite! Right on commentary. When I am with my wife, it is crucial that I am truly present to her. A side benefit of this, but not the reason for being present, is that the more present I am to her, the less apt she is to resent my passion for photography. She always, always is a higher priority.

11 Aug 2010 3:33pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Hi Gary, I completely "second" Jack's comment in every way. Additionally, to me, a "focused" view of such beautiful flowers as you have conveyed here, compels me (and many others I am certain) to respond verbally and emotionally anyway. For me it was a "whoa" :-) Welcome back, Gary!

11 Aug 2010 7:57pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

beautifully picked out composition with perfect focus! really good vision here!

12 Aug 2010 3:54am

Michelle from Elverson, United States

This is lovely, very well done.

12 Aug 2010 7:11pm

Marianne Bush from Belmont, United States

Fabulous image, Gary. Love the composition and the exposure is spot on. Your take on Akaka Falls is correct, it is not an easy job. You did a fabulous job with these two images.

12 Aug 2010 10:03pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Glad you had a wonderful trip and some time to recharge and enjoy nature....Something I don't do often enough! And this is a wonderful image, so simple in composition, yet so interesting with all the textures and changes of flower sizes and directions!

13 Aug 2010 3:18pm

Julie from Easton, United States

Great capture of these really cool flowers! Beautiful!

18 Aug 2010 5:14am

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

You did capture the jungle feel you wanted to, I think the exotic nature of the flower helps as well. So reading above with all your planning and forethought, how long did it take you to compose this image from seeing the flower you wanted to shoot to actually shooting it? Are these decisions with your experience quick and near immediate or do you really spend time studying the area the same as anyone composing would?

26 Aug 2010 2:31pm

@Dutçh: Thanks, Kirsten. I look for bright subjects against a dark background, so these flowers drew me from a distance. Scenes like this I usually compose entirely through my viewfinder with my camera off the tripod, but it didn't take too long to find this composition as the scene was fairly straightforward. Had there been lots of elements on different planes I'd have had to work a lot harder. I was, however, very conscious of the background trunks and making sure they framed the flowers.

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

love the simplicity..... bravo!

28 Aug 2010 4:43pm

photo sur toile from France

This picture is both simple and beautiful, the flower is beautiful, the beautiful color.

27 Jul 2011 11:24am