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Autumn Bouquet, Zion National Park, Utah

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 15 November 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

More thoughts from "the zone." In my previous post I wrote about the joy I feel simply wandering in nature with no distractions, and I shared an image from the afternoon Don Smith and I arrived in Zion. Today's image was captured the following morning, when the previous afternoon's experience compelled us to make one more trip up the canyon before our 12 hour drive home to California.

Though our time was limited, a couple of things made this morning shoot even more productive (and enjoyable!) than the first visit. First was the familiarity I had gathered from the prior afternoon. And second was the utter stillness of the morning. I was the first person to enter the canyon, and without wind or human interference the air was so still that it seemed even the river was whispering. In these conditions it's easy to forget time, ignore the morning chill, and immerse myself in world devoid of human obligation and discomfort.

What struck me most on first impression of Zion was the vivid crimson maples, something we just don't get in California. While the yellow was ubiquitous, red leaves were quite plentiful, and I tuned my vision to identify red I could highlight against the predominant yellow foliage. Isolating a subject requires more than positioning it in the frame's two-diminsional up-down/left-right planes; it also requires controlling the virtual third dimension, depth, by careful management of the background and depth-of-field. Identifying this bunch of red leaves was just the beginning of my composition. Next I refined my find by moving left/right and up/down until I had a complementary background.

The next task was finding the appropriate depth of field--too little DOF would mean not enough of foreground the maple leaves would be sharp; too much DOF much would have resolved so much background that it would compete with the leaves. I decided to use my 70-200 lens, moving back far enough that I could include my primary subject, the red maple leaves, at 200mm, a focal length that would compress the foreground leaves and background trees (make the trees seem closer to the leaves). Because depth of field decreases with focal length, I was confident I could achieve enough background softness at f16 if I used my lens's maximum focal length.

A few other subtle but significant considerations went into this image. First, note the long shutter speed: the air was so still that I had no qualms about using ISO 200, f16, and a polarizer, even though it dropped my shutter speed to four seconds. Second, don't underestimate the importance of a polarizer in shady or overcast scenes: color-robbing glare from leaves' waxy sheen is reduced significantly by a properly oriented polarizer. And finally, in front of these leaves were a few fluffy white seed pods--I knew they were close enough that at 200mm they would be blurred to little puffs of white, and simply decided to shoot through them.

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

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Very beautiful autumn capture ! I like the composition and the great bokeh. Well done Gary ! Have a lovely day :)

15 Nov 2010 1:39pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Beautiful,Gary! Thanks again for the instructional text...I really like those little star blossoms there on the long wispy green stems...they really add a nice compliment to the lovely maple leaves. While my wife and I were in Seattle last month, I grabbed a similar shot but light years less than this one in terms of beauty, clarity and quality....The background, here, is wonderfully "set", just as you mention... and the leaves are the star of the show...I am so glad that you were able to get some times for yourself...we ALL benefit from it as shown here! All the best! Denny

15 Nov 2010 5:05pm

Sheila Floyd from Knoxville, United States

Gary, I love your images! I want to tell you that I really appreciate that you put the camera metadata next to all of your photos on your website. I enjoy seeing this info. It's helpful and educational and for me, just interesting to see how you made these beautiful images after your creative eye first saw them.

15 Nov 2010 6:15pm

Jerilyn from Deadwood, United States

Beautiful. I also appreciate your comments on how you shot the photo. Helps me a lot as a new photographer.

15 Nov 2010 7:09pm

James Guillory Photography from Garner, United States

Nice images. Sounds like your and Don, had a great trip.

16 Nov 2010 12:13am

¨‘°ºO Dutçh Oº°‘¨ from Neverwhere, United States

Really pretty leaves!

16 Nov 2010 12:31am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

another lovely composition with fantastic colours! and another great example of how to focus on the smaller scale and how to see the intricate details around you - wonderful photo!

16 Nov 2010 2:16am

✿ Anina ✿ from Auckland, New Zealand

WOW!! This is simply outstanding. I love the colours and DOF. The detail is fantastic. Thanks for the informative text.

16 Nov 2010 8:43am

Philippe from Pertuis, France

Very nice autumn composition and colors, i like !!!

16 Nov 2010 1:43pm

Mike from California, United States

Looks like you and Don got some great shooting conditions...great colors here !

17 Nov 2010 2:24am

Marie from FRESNES, France

superbes couleurs de saison.

19 Nov 2010 11:17pm

Sarah from United States

This, like most of your work I've seen, is positively captivating. In a recent photo you posted you spoke about photographers beefing up their photos in order to further their popularity. I am the very definition of a novice, but I wondered what your opinion is on photo editing with programs such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop? I do not own nor have ever used these programs, but I have seen the before and after work of a friend of mine who touches up his photos simply to enhance clarity of remove defects (red-eye and the like). Do you believe photos should stand just as they are taken?

23 Nov 2010 12:33am

@Sarah: Thanks, Sarah. Unless you shoot exclusively jpeg, it's impossible to avoid using processing software. The argument isn't between processing and not processing (even "unprocessed" jpeg files are processed by the camera before you even see them), and Ansel Adams was a notorious darkroom "manipulator." The real question is what's appropriate processing, a real gray area. I prefer to apply my creativity in the camera and not the computer, but the ability to refine images before printing is a key benefit to digital capture. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop primarily for color management (white balance), contrast adjustment, minor cropping, defect correction (e.g., sensor dust removal), and dodging and burning (selective lightening and darkening areas of the frame). These things were done in the darkroom long before digital photography was even a dream.