Lose yourself in working your subject, until there's nothing left to discover.
I'm a believer in listening as I shoot.
What is your subject, its surroundings, its spirit and yours trying to communicate? What do you hear, as you focus all that you are on capturing the very essence of something or someone else?
As I've mentioned, I'm not a walk up, take in the surroundings and decide, fire the shutter a couple of times and move on kind of photographer. I work my way into a setting and learn as I do, deciding what I want most of the time only after I've shot it (and have shot a lot more of what wasn't quite right, before that ah-ha!, THAT'S it capture that satisfies me).
I'd never seen Pink Lady Slippers before this spring day at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
And I'm still finding my way, leaning how I like to shoot wildflowers.
These were all taken with a Lensbaby Velvet 85 art lens, so there will be lovely highlights and softness in all of them. But what would be the best way to capture the beauty of both the flower and its surroundings.
This was my first, "test" image. There's some detail in the foreground at the bottom of the image, bokeh in the middle and background, some highlights drawing the eye to the upper left corner of the image and the bloom. But it's very busy and looks morel ike a snapshot that something I'd offer a client.
I wasn't yet "seeing" what made this magnificent bloom special. It was a new creature to me. So, how could I reveal its very essence to a viewer?
What about saturating the color a bit (closing down my aperture so there was less light natural and less of a halo where on the bloom)?
And there were also other blooms in the near background. Maybe adding them would be interesting.
Except I didn't like the distraction of the bloom behind my focus point. And I couldn't do anything (in camera) about it being the brightest part of the image.
I did like the way the green leaves were cupping and caressing the foreground bloom.
Except at this there's no separation between the bloom and the leaf to the right.
So, I worked a little more.
I stepped closer and shifted positions. There are still leaves in this image, but there's more texture and softer lines.
Plus at this angle, the light's kissing the bloom just right, giving us golden highlights but also enough delicate illumination to see the "veins" in the slipper and the almost hairlike edges of the stem.
I also like the texture of the bokeh to the lower left of the capture, as well as how the frame is filled in an interesting yet softly pleasing way. Nothing too distracting from the central focus, but there's a lot to explore.
Still, what about a different/more interesting and unexpected angle?
Here, I'm positioned behind and above the flower, shooting down.
I'm on the ground of course, lying there or rolling around like a lunatic. This was on a well used path through the woods, and someone actually stopped and asked if I was okay. Did I need them to go fetch someone to help me? LOL!
With this image, I like the curve of the stem, those glowing highlights again, the soft pink of the bloom and that lovely, subtly textured background. It fills the frame, the eye is given a line to follow. The entire image isn't in focus, but when using the Lensbaby that clearly isn't what I'm going for.
Instead, I want you to feel my wonder as I worked. I want the viewer to keep delving deeper into the images, celebrating nature's perfection.
The next time you stumble across something surprising in the woods, I want you to stop and look closer and circle it as I did, soaking in every detail you can find.
With this shot, I'm close to having what I want.
But that stem. What could I do with that stem that I hadn't already?
Moving again until I found yet another angle, I discovered this image and knew I had my final shot.
I'm working intentionally these days to notice S-curves in nature. And the stem in this shot is magical to me. As is the leaf below.
We're still looking from a slightly "above" vantage point, but there's so much more to discover in this longer shot.
The bokeh's texture is there, but the brighter colors of the plant rule the day.
Even the softness of the bloom seems right to me. We're seeing the whole here, all the magic, the full story.
I travel back to that beautiful moment of discovery each time I look at this image.
I hope you do, too.
So, that's how I explore and listen and "work it" when I shoot.
These are all images of the same flower. I took many more. I spent likely half an hour in that small, shadowy yet brightly lit space, rolling around and on my knees and crouched above and basically sucking all the goodness I could out of a beautiful creation that I would watch fade over the rest of the week.
Yes, I had good equipment and an intermediate dose of experience. I'm getting better at post processing, too. But I can tell you I didn't do too much with these. The lens and the camera and how I applied them took care of most of what the images needed.
As did my determination to stay (and be late for my next whatever I was on my way to do).
I wasn't leaving until I saw and heard and listened to everything that pink lady slipper had to say.
Give yourself that chance to explore, the next time you pick up your camera, wonder, and lose yourself in the work!