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Rax Bolay means “Green Viper” in the indigenous language Q’eqchi. The common name for the snake is Yellow-Blotched Palm Pit Viper. It is a highly endemic species to the area. © Riley Swartzendruber.

One of the highlights of NANPA’s 2019 Nature Photography Summit & Trade Show was seeing the work of NANPA’s College Scholarship Program participants.  Now that the event is over, it’s a good time to learn a little more about them and their experiences at Summit.  Today, we meet Riley Swartzendruber.

Riley was an undergraduate student majoring in digital media and photography at Eastern Mennonite University when he applied for the 2019 NANPA College Scholarship Program.  “I had an interest in creating videos all through elementary, middle, and high school and knew quickly that I wanted to pursue a career that involved using a camera,” he says.  But the first time he picked up a DSLR camera wasn’t until college, during which he went to Guatemala and Colombia.  “This challenged me in what I could do with my photography.  I found an immense amount of enjoyment experimenting and finding creative ways of telling the story I wanted to tell.”

“I see myself pursuing stories that involve our environment and how people interact with it” Riley says. “What’s important are the efforts people are putting into benefit the planet because, if we only look at the problems, a solution will never feel in reach.”  He felt that the NANPA Summit would be “a great opportunity to connect with storytellers who also want to show the interconnectivity of both nature and humans.” Swartzendruber is the third NANPA College Scholarship Program recipient from Eastern Mennonite University.

Discovery: Young girls learning about and seeing the beautiful, unique birds that share a home with them. © Riley Swartzendruber.

What was the highlight of the program for you?

One of the highlights of the program for me was the people I got to meet and work with, especially the other students. There is so much talent out there and it was refreshing to get to know people outside of my community willing to collaborate and learn from one another.

What was your biggest takeaway or “ah ha” moment?

It (the Clark County Wetlands Park video) felt like a huge project and we had such a short amount of time! I have never had to edit something that quickly before and with the vast amount of content there was to filter through, I was not sure how it would be possible. My biggest take away was increased confidence in my abilities. Of course I still have plenty to learn, but I know I can do it.

Manipulated: A photo tryptic for a class exhibition. Each photo was taken separately with different colored water. Each image was processed in Lightroom. © Riley Swartzendruber.

Has participating in the program changed you, your photography, or the way you look at the natural world and, if so, how?

The NANPA College Scholarship Program helped me realize how much of the creative process is collaborative. Everyone comes with different skillsets and you quickly learn to rely on one another.

Harrisonburg Women’s March: Documenting a rally of women and supporters of women with a 24-70mm lens. © Riley Swartzendruber.

What would you say to someone considering applying for the program?

I would tell them to just do it!  There is no harm in trying.  If you have passion for your work, it will show.

Learn more about NANPA’s College Scholarship Program and see the video created this year by the students.  The biennial program takes place during NANPA Summits, so there’s plenty of time to build a strong portfolio for the next application period in 2020!  Scholarships are funded by the NANPA Foundation.

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Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Arch, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California © Cathy DesRochers.

There is no shortage of people willing to tell you what you should be doing.  One of the great joys of nature photography is being out in the field, away from all those people who are trying to run our lives.  So, how great is it when someone actually asks you what they should be doing?

Well, that’s just what NANPA is doing.  The 2019 NANPA Members’ Survey is in the field.  If you’re a member, you should have gotten your emailed invitation to take the survey and tell NANPA what we can do to better serve you and the nature photography community.  It only takes about 10 minutes of your time but helps chart the future of NANPA.  As an incentive, once you’ve completed the survey, your name will be entered into a drawing for a one-year general membership renewal.

Why bother with surveys?  Well, your input does make a difference!  Here are just three examples:

  • NANPA has improved and expanded our series of webinars.  Past survey responses consistently said members valued the photography education they get from the webinars.
  • The recent publication of NANPA’s Conservation Photography Handbook is due, in part, to member comments in past surveys.  And there are more publications in the pipeline based on topics members told us were important.
  • Past survey responses said members wanted more about fine art photography.  Plans are afoot to address that.  If you want to be part of the task force that will explore what NANPA can do with and for fine art photographers, contact membership director Teresa Ransdell.

So, what’s important to you and how can NANPA help?  Is there a topic you want to learn more about?  Have an idea for something NANPA could be doing?  Have thoughts on how NANPA could be doing something better?  Don’t keep it to yourself.  Spend a few minutes on the survey and it might be your idea we’re writing about next year!

Follow the link in the NANPA survey email or click on the members’ survey link on the NANPA home page.

And, if you’re not yet a member, join now and tell us what you think!  There’s no better time to be part of the conversation charting NANPA’s way forward.

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Showcase 2019 Scapes, Judges’ Choice: Bald Cypress Trees in Autumn © Cynthia Lockwood.

Bio:

Cynthia is a passionate photographer with a deep love and appreciation for all things nature.  She enjoys the solitude that nature photography requires but delights in sharing her photos and encouraging others to recognize the beauty that surrounds them and the peace that it brings.  She frequently visits national wildlife refuges, state parks in Texas and surrounding states and the gulf coast to capture unique images of nature.  Some of these photos have been published in Birds & Blooms and Country magazines and a pocket field guide by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Your Name:  Cynthia Lockwood

Title of Your Winning Image:  Bald Cypress Trees in Autumn

About your winning Showcase image:

1)  How I Got the Shot

It was a gray, misty November day when I was visiting Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, Texas.  The towering, centuries-old bald cypress trees had changed to a deep rust color, and the Spanish moss cascading from them created an atmosphere of mystery and beauty.  My goal was to capture an image of the old cypress that conveyed the uniqueness of this magical place.

2)  What I Used

I used a Canon EOS 70D with a Canon 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, handheld, to take this photo.  The camera settings were aperture priority, 1/100 @ f/13, ISO 400.  Minimal processing was required because of the natural beauty that was already present.

3)  About Me

I live in The Woodlands, Texas, and am an enthusiastic hobbyist who has been photographing nature for thirty years.  During the last five years, I have been actively working to fulfill my life-long dream of becoming a professional nature photographer.  My favorite subjects are birds, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, alligators and landscapes.  I also enjoy taking photos of nature’s small plants and animals and making them larger than life with macro photography.  My favorite sites to photograph nature are national wildlife refuges, state parks in Texas and surrounding states, the gulf coast and my own bird-filled backyard.  In the future I would like to expand my explorations.

4)  My Photographic Journey

My longstanding love of nature developed from my mom and dad who taught me to enjoy and capture its beauty via photography.  Kathy Adams Clark has played an integral role in my growth as a nature photographer.  Over the past few years, I have cultivated my photography skills by taking several of her classes.  The inspiration from these individuals has taught me the excitement of discovering and understanding my subjects as I capture them.  I am thrilled about the never-ending possibilities and challenges of nature photography and the opportunities presented.

5)  NANPA and Me

I have been a NANPA member for five years and spread the word to as many people as possible about its mission.

6)  Where Can People Learn More About You? 

More of my work can be viewed at:  https://cynthialockwood.zenfolio.com.

My NANPA Portfolio is:  http://www.nanpa.org/portfolio/cynthia-lockwood-2019/.

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All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

Showcase 2019 Top 100 winner: “Undertow,” Kona Coast, Hawaii © Geoffrey Schmid.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, May 20, 2019.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.  Nature Photography Day is coming up on June 15 so let’s get shooting!  And, the period for entering your best shots in this year’s Showcase starts in August.  What are you waiting for?  Your best shot might be your next one.

Ian S. Frazier, Colorful Fall Leaves Along Bishop Creek, Bishop Creek, Inyo County, California, Scapes

Geoffrey Schmid, Undertow, Kona Coast, Hawaii, Scapes

Scott Dere, Fully Winter-coated Wolf Pups Playing in the Snow, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Mammals

Ben Knoot, Northern Pygmy Owl, Green Valley, Arizona, Birds

Dave Hattori, Roseate Spoonbill, Alligator Farm, Saint Augustine, Florida, Altered Reality

Charles Gangas, Mobula Ray, Potrero Bay, Costa Rica, Macro/Micro/All Other

Steven Barger, Cubs Underfoot as They Walk With Their Mother, Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada, Mammals

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Shirley Nuhn, the Godmother of Nature Photography Day.

On June 15th, photographers the world over will mark Nature Photography Day with photo walks, camera club outings, photography exhibitions, competitions and a host of other activities. This will bring attention to the enjoyment of nature photography and its role in conservation and protecting our natural world.

But how did that occasion start?  Whose idea was it?  And what’s this about a godmother?

Shirley Nuhn has been around NANPA from the beginning. She and her husband, John, had attended a conference at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in fall 1993, where the idea for NANPA was born, and she’s been to just about all the summits, as well as served on NANPA committees.

Shirley had been chairing NANPA’s History Committee since 1996. She had previously worked in promotions for a variety of nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin and knew that many of them had their own commemorative month or week. There was American Heart Month (February) and National Arthritis Awareness Month (May). She learned, too, of Chase’s Calendar of Events, a compendium of historical milestones, famous birthdays, commemorative days, festivals and more.

“Couldn’t we have a day designated for nature photography? I brought up the idea with Jerry Bowman and Francine Butler, NANPA’s executive directors at the time,” she said. “With NANPA’s backing, I started the process of making Nature Photography Day a reality. Also, I thought about timing—for it to be during a month with lots of opportunities for taking photos, like June. Because I didn’t want the special day to be at the beginning or end of the month, I picked the middle.”

In 2005, she sent in the paperwork, and June 15 as Nature Photography Day was authenticated, beginning with Chase’s 2006 edition.  Shirley and her History Committee co-chair, Lynda Richardson, promoted this new event to NANPA members and to the nature photography community.

Ever since then, as each year begins, Shirley spearheads promotions for Nature Photography Day. Through her efforts, she’s become the godmother of Nature Photography Day. Plus, it’s her voice that you hear in the 30- and 60-second public service spots on the web page within NANPA’s website annually.

Shirley envisioned Nature Photography Day as the opportunity to enhance awareness of the power of photography in telling important stories.

“June 15 would be a time to invite family and friends outside and to learn about the natural sights and places in their neighborhoods,” she said. “Why not look to local scenes, where you can see and appreciate nature even in your own backyard?”

Nature Photography Day has appeared in articles on a lot of websites. In 2006, Washington Post columnist John Kelly interviewed Shirley, as did a writer and photographer of the weekly Sun Gazette in Northern Virginia. Later, on his website, broadcaster and musician John Tesh mentioned Nature Photography Day.

Check NANPA’s website for ideas on how you can participate in Nature Photography Day.

As the observance continued, the association offered a NANPA members’ event to share photos taken on June 15. But activities soon expanded to include a much broader audience and more activities.

Today, Nature Photography Day has grown into a popular worldwide event.  A Google search of the phrase Nature Photography Day last week returned 229,000 results!  NANPA has some suggestions for what you can do to participate, but the only limit is your imagination.

“Mark Lukes, NANPA’s first president and our friend, offered many of the ideas for celebrating on June 15,” Shirley said.

Shirley grew up in the city of Chicago and lived across from parks during the time she and John lived in Milwaukee after college (they met at Marquette University). But it was after they moved to northern Virginia that they have witnessed wildlife on a more regular basis, from birds to deer to foxes and more, in her yard.  She said she enjoys these creatures, even if they eat some of her plants.

Within her day jobs, Shirley is a writer, editor, professor, podcaster, and researcher. For more than two decades, she has served as faculty in English as a Second Language—mostly oral communications and reading—and composition at Northern Virginia Community College. The experience of teaching has further affirmed the potential impact of Nature Photography Day.

“That first year, in June 2006, my students and I went to the Annandale campus’s Memorial Butterfly Garden. The assignment was to bring our cameras and shoot images of flowers and shrubs. We considered which plants we knew about and which were unfamiliar. Then the task for the next class meeting, the following Monday, was to research those plants. We would talk about our experiences, too.”

Indeed, photographs open doors to rich, deep conversations, no matter which course she has taught.

These days, around the middle of June, you might see a TV meteorologist showing nature photos during a weather forecast, parks and botanical gardens hosting Nature Photography Day events, or talks and photo exhibits in libraries.

Nature Photography Day is a way to connect modern-day nature photographers and everyday folks with cameras to conservationist John Muir, and to photographers like Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson (whose images of Yosemite and Yellowstone, respectively, helped save both places as national parks).  People inspired by Nature Photography Day might just use their photos as a way to contact elected representatives about conservation issues, to reach and educate others about conservation.  It might be their photos that change the world.

That would be just fine with Shirley Nuhn.  She’s aspired to make the world a better place for the students she teaches and for everyone on this planet.

What are your ideas for celebrating Nature Photography Day?

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NANPA’s year-long 25th birthday celebrations kicked off at the Nature Photography Summit.

The world has changed a lot in the twenty-five years since NANPA was formed.  Back in 1994, the first commercially-successful web browser, Netscape Navigator, was released.  “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” was renamed Yahoo.  Google was four years away and Facebook wouldn’t launch until 2004.  If you had internet access, it was probably dial-up at 56kbps through Compuserv or AOL. Photoshop 3.0 had just come out and introduced layers.  Microsoft Windows was new but your Pentium computer probably ran MS-DOS and had 4 MB RAM. Mobile phones didn’t have cameras and certainly weren’t smart.

If you were a photographer, you were probably shooting film or slides.  You might have been interested in Apple’s Quick Take 100, the first color digital camera available to consumers at less than $1,000.  It got you a 640 x 480 pixel image and was actually designed and manufactured by Kodak.  Kodak also offered a more robust Digital Camera System for pros with a modified Nikon F3 camera tethered to a bulky hard drive you carried over your shoulder.  It shot 1.3 MP images and cost around $20,000. (Kodak was afraid of competing with its film sales and didn’t fully develop or market a digital camera until much later.)

Just like the world around us, NANPA has grown, changed, adapted and thrived over the past quarter century.  Whether moving from a paper newsletter sent through snail mail to electronic communications and social media; promoting the art of nature photography and the rights of nature photographers; or providing valuable educational opportunities and keeping up with the ever-changing issues in nature photography ethics and intellectual property concerns, NANPA looks very different now than in 1994.  Yet the mission has remained essentially the same.

We kicked off our 25th birthday celebration at the 2019 Nature Photography Summit in February in Las Vegas.  If you missed getting a piece of birthday cake then, not to worry, the party continues.  Only now, the gifts go to you!

Help NANPA celebrate our birthday by telling us your favorite NANPA story.  Was it something you learned at a NANPA event?  A great friend you first met in NANPA?  Some fabulous location you visited at a NANPA conference or regional event? What has NANPA meant to you?  What will it mean in the future?  Share your NANPA story on Facebook Twitter or Instagram with #HappyBirthdayNANPA and you could win a present from us!

If the next twenty-five years of nature photography are anything like the past quarter century, we’re in for an exciting ride.  And NANPA will be there with you every step of the way.

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Showcase 2019 Mammals, Best in Show: Red Fox – Mouth Full of Voles © Robert Schamerhorn.

Bio:

Bob Schamerhorn was propelled into nature photography as a result of the digital age. In 2006, a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a Peregrine Falcon on a beach in Cabo San Lucas sparked the transition from a point-and-shoot to a semi-pro camera. Within two years he began presenting programs at bird clubs, wildlife festivals and Audubon groups. He now keeps a full speaker schedule and displays at thirty art shows a year. Occasional publishing opportunities for book and magazine covers, plus photography contests have provided recognition and, in  2015, nature photography became a full time vocation.

Your Name:Robert Schamerhorn

Title of Your Winning Image:  Red Fox – Mouth Full of Voles

About your winning Showcase image:

1)  How I Got the Shot

We watched this Red Fox trot down the beach, cross a creek, then run out into the adjacent field where it hunted voles. It followed a similar path each time it came back. “Nature repeats itself,” I thought. I imagined this straight-on image as it came back up the beach with its catch. So, I lowered my tripod, changed my focus mode, got belly-down in the sand and waited next to its preferred trail. On its very next trip my vision and efforts were rewarded with this dynamic image.

2)  What I Used

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III • Canon 600mm f-4 Prime USM L Series Lens • Gitzo Series 3 Tripod • Wimberly Head WH-101 • Exposure: Shutter Speed = 1/1250 second • +1 Compensation • Aperture = f-4 • Exposure Mode = Aperture Priority • Focus Mode: AiServo • Lens (Focal) Length = 600 mm • ISO = 400 • Aprox. Camera Distance = ~20 Feet (and closing).

3)  About Me

I have been a lifelong nature lover, artist and photographer. As of 2015, I’m also an enthusiastic professional nature photographer. I am primarily a “bird guy”, but also have an admiration for all flora and fauna. I consider myself an enthusiast, not an expert!

My favorite photographic setting has been birds at a backyard birdbath, lovingly know as “The Bird Spa” water-feature. Favorite places: Richmond, VA backyard; Chincoteague NWR in VA; Fort De Soto Park in FL; Makapu’u coastline on Oahu, HI and just about anywhere in Alaska.

4)  My Photographic Journey

I’ve had a passion for nature and art since childhood. In my youth, my enthusiasm was nurtured by several local Ornithological organizations. My first photography endeavor was with a vintage Imperial Mark 27 dentist camera, macro style, around the age of twelve. In high school I developed film in a basement darkroom. Later, I studied art at Virginia Tech and have worked in related fields ever since. More recently, opportunities to share my photography began to appear: publishings, art shows, seminars and speaker engagements ensued. My hope is to inspire the conservation of nature, by capturing and sharing its beauty.

5)  NANPA and Me

I am deeply honored by this, my first, NANPA recognition. I’ve been a NANPA member since 2016.

6)  Where Can People Learn More About You? 

Visit http://www.iPhotoBirds.com to see more of my work, the “Pic of the Week” photoblog and appearance schedule.

I’m on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/iPhotoBirds.

Birdbath photos and info at http://TheBirdSpa.com.

My NANPA Portfolio is:  http://www.nanpa.org/portfolio/robert-schamerhorn-2019/.

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All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

Showcase 2019 Top 100 winner: “Twilight Zone Garden Spider, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica” © William MacFarland.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, May 13, 2019.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.  Nature Photography Day is coming up on June 15 so let’s get shooting!  And, the period for entering your best shots in this year’s Showcase starts in August.  What are you waiting for?  Your best shot might be your next one.

Deborah Farley, The Intruder—Jackal Among Flamingos, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, Birds

William MacFarland, Twilight Zone Garden Spider, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Macro/Micro/All Other

Thanh Tran, Peregrine Falcon Food Exchange, California, Birds

William Pohley, Rufous-crested Coquette Defending Its Perch, Moyobamba, Peru, Birds

Tony Frank, Salt Water Catfish, Alor, Indonesia, Macro/Micro/All Other

David ReinIbex, Tree Climbing,  Les Aiguilles de Chamonix, France, Mammals

James Heupel, Jaguar Attacking Yacare Caiman in River, Rio São Lourenço, Patanal, Brazil, Mammals

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There were many bees buzzing around these purple coneflowers on the sunny summer day that I took this photo. After chasing them around for a while, I opted to take a stationary position, frame my shot, and wait for them to come to me. The results were worthwhile and I particularly like how the tight framing brings you into the world of the bee. © Nicole Landry.

One of the highlights of NANPA’s 2019 Nature Photography Summit & Trade Show was seeing the work of NANPA’s College Scholarship Program participants.  Now that the event is over, it’s a good time to learn a little more about them and their experience at Summit.  Today, we meet Nicole Landry.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a fourth-year undergraduate at Ryerson University in Toronto, majoring in media production.  Since getting my first camera at about age nine, I’ve seldom been without one. I spent much of my early years chasing everything from butterflies to squirrels; determined to capture the perfect shot.  In high school my life changed forever when I watched the documentary, Sharkwater. It opened my eyes to the plethora of environmental issues facing our planet and I was terrified – but also inspired. In that moment, I realized that media could be used as a catalyst for positive change and I knew that there was nothing else I wanted to dedicate my life to doing

This past year I directed, shot, and am now in the process of editing my first documentary, Saving Barrie’s Lake, about the loss of wetland ecosystems in southern Ontario.  These experiences shaped me into who I am today – an artist, environmentalist, and self-proclaimed adventurer – and I can genuinely not wait to see what opportunities the future has in store.

Sleeping Giant. This is probably my favorite landscape photograph, taken in the northern wilderness of Thunder Bay, Ontario. I like the sharp distinction between foreground, middle ground, and background as well as the contrast that the complementary orange and blue hues create. © Nicole Landry.

What was the highlight of the program for you?

The highlight of the program for me was definitely the three days we spent filming at Clark County Wetlands Park. I can’t overstate how incredible it was to have access to a wide selection of Canon gear in such a diverse area with so many photo opportunities. We also were able to work in different sub-groups over the three days, which gave us time to get to know and learn from each other.

What was your biggest takeaway or “ah ha” moment?

I learned so much throughout the duration of the program that it’s very hard to narrow down to one takeaway moment. I owe a lot of what I learned to the college program mentors – from working with them in the field to them generously offering to review my portfolio – and ultimately, they all helped me view my work in a way I hadn’t previously done and sparked many ideas for future projects.

Ferns. This shot has a lot of drama in its simplicity. The framing of the fern leaves create a strong sense of balance and the vibrance of the plant is enhanced against the underexposed background. I also lowered the shadows and lifted the highlights in the shot while editing, enhancing both of these elements. © Nicole Landry.

Has participating in the program changed you, your photography, or the way you look at the natural world and, if so, how?

As a media student, the program really encouraged me to explore more of the scientific communication side of nature photography. I learned a lot about conservation photography projects like Meet Your Neighbors and it’s really inspired me to continue to familiarize myself with that side of the medium.

What would you say to someone considering applying for the program?

I’d want future potential applicants to know what an invaluable experience the college program is and how welcomed they will feel into a community of likeminded individuals. The week will fly by but will leave you with many new friends, industry connections, and a project you can really feel proud to have worked on.

Learn more about NANPA’s College Scholarship Program and see the video created this year by the students.  The biennial program takes place during NANPA Summits, so there’s plenty of time to build a strong portfolio for the next application period in 2020!  Scholarships are funded by the NANPA Foundation.

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Cherry Esplanade, “Kwanzan” Prunus Serrulata, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

To celebrate the nations’ growing friendship, Japan gifted the United States with a little over 3,000 cherry blossom trees in 1912. Considered the national flower of Japan, these trees were planted in New York City and Washington, DC. Since then, thousands of other trees have been planted in several other cities – delighting millions of admirers in annual Cherry Blossom Festivals across the country.

Of course, a subject this popular has been photographed a countless number of times, and it’s easy to see why. These trees are often planted in tight, regimented formations. With the addition of their bright, vivid colors, they are an irresistible lore to anyone in possession of a camera. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York hosts one of the foremost cherry-viewing locations outside of Japan. Cherry Esplanade is home to seventy-six double-flowered Prunus “Kazan” trees. I shot the opening photo on film in 2006. It’s one of my favorite images of this site, mainly because it hasn’t looked that way since. Nowadays, the field between the two rows of trees is filled with large white tents where plant sales are conducted – great for people who want to buy plants… not so good for photographers. I consider this photo a testament to the importance of never assuming that you can shoot something “later.”

At peak bloom, cherry blossoms provide such a dazzling display that they may seem a bit overwhelming. A photographer might feel like a kid in a candy store, because there are so many potential compositions. I find the physical location of cherry blossoms particularly appealing. Since they grow on trees, it’s very easy to include the sun in the shot.

Sun behind cherry blossom tree.

Like adding salt to a bland meal, the sun can spice up just about any outdoor nature photo. I shot the image just above at 70mm. It’s a somewhat pedestrian view of the sun shining through the tree. If you want to try something a little more daring and dramatic, use a longer lens and single out an individual bloom. At 200mm, the image just below is definitely more daring. Each time the wind blew and shifted the bloom slightly to the left or right, I would get blasted with the blinding light of the sun. Thankfully, since most of it was blocked by the bloom, I never received its full intensity. Although a bit dangerous to shoot, these types of backlit shots can provide a beautiful rim light around the blooms.

Sun behind individual cherry blossom.

If you want to include the entire sun in the photo, it’s easier and safer to do it very early or very late in the day. The sun is lower on the horizon and not quite as intense. I shot the sun rising above a cluster of Yoshino cherry blossoms at 200mm in the image below.

Sun rising above Yoshino cherry blossoms.

Unless your aim is to create a silhouette, additional light sources are needed whenever you use the sun to backlight your subject. Reflectors are simple to use, but you may need an assistant to hold it if you’re hand-holding the camera. Since most of my work is done on a tripod, I use reflectors quite often, but I prefer the versatility of a flash in most situations. A flash can modify the light in ways a reflector cannot. I’m able to adjust the intensity of its output as well as its area of coverage by manually adjusting the zoom head. I used a flash for all three of these photos, but I especially needed it for the Yoshino cherries. My challenge was to select an aperture that gave me enough depth of field to maintain sharpness on most of the bloom, but not so much as to alter the shape of the sun. The wider the aperture, the more round the sun will appear. I settled on f/8. After checking my depth of field preview, I was delighted to see that the sun remained relatively round. However, the resulting shutter speed was 1/4000 sec. With the sun quickly rising, I didn’t want to waste time fiddling with ND filters to knock the speed down to a more “flash-friendly” setting. Fortunately, most pro flashes today are equipped with another great feature – making them even more versatile. “Hi-Speed Flash Sync” enables you to shoot flash photos at the highest speed your camera offers. Gone are the days when one would be limited to shutter speeds of 1/250 sec. or slower. Even at a blistering 1/4000 sec., I was still able to maintain a proper flash exposure.

Japanese cherry blossoms.

There’s something indescribably beautiful about delicate pink and white blooms against a clear blue sky (see photo above). But the show isn’t over if the sun hides behind the clouds. Cherry blossoms are one of the few subjects in nature that can be photographed equally well on both sunny and cloudy days. A friend of mine recently posted an image on Facebook of a large cluster of white blossoms against an overcast sky. The predominant white tone gave the photo a romantic, elegant quality – something you might expect to see adorning the walls of a wedding reception hall.

Blossoms covered with large raindrops.

If you don’t want to include any traces of white sky in your photo, just shoot tight, intimate compositions. The soft, even lighting is perfect for images of this type. I shot the Japanese Flowering Cherry Blossoms above under such conditions. I normally carry a small water bottle to spray plants and flowers in order to simulate dew drops. But it wasn’t necessary in this case because it had rained the night before. I captured an interesting arrangement of water droplets in the photo just above. If you have a macro lens, you would be able to get even more interesting photos by coming in for an extreme close-up of the tiny images reflected in the drops. Also, look for combinations of “young vs. old” (photo below). Depending on the point in the season when you plan your shoot, you may see many young buds surrounded by fully opened blooms. A shallow depth of field may be necessary to isolate intimate these details from busy backgrounds.

Young buds and full blooms.

As you can see, there’s much more to cherry blossoms than meets the eye. Once you get over the initial “shock and awe” of the grand view, move in for tighter shots and more compelling compositions. No matter what type of lighting conditions you’re working under, there’s a myriad of possibilities available.

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