Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Planning is Key

I've ranted a couple of times about driving hundreds of miles "looking" for some great shot. We must have done it a hundred times. It's far more productive to know where you're going and that, at least the opportunity for, shots are at the end of the road. In July, in the southeastern portion of Connecticut a farm does a very nice thing. They sell sunflower bouquets. This might not sound too unusual when you consider that it's a sunflower farm, but why they do it is the key. They do a thing they call "Sunflowers for Wishes" (link) and donate the proceeds of the sale of the bouquets to the "Make a Wish" Foundation of Connecticut. It's a nice thing they do. A side benefit to photographers is that the dates are published in newspapers in the form of a human interest article. Knowing the dates the sunflowers will be in bloom is sort of handy if you are interested in shots among acres and acres of sunflowers. You might have noticed, today's image is not of the wide angle, broad scope variety. It's focused, quite literally, on a single flower. We've made the pilgrimage to Buttonwood Farm for the past couple of years. If you think you might go in July 2010, here's a couple things to keep in mind. They plant fields on a rotating basis. The peak time for the blooms varies a little. Photographers are very welcome, but as with anywhere you go, remember that you're a guest. Don't litter or be obnoxious, don't "pick your own", don't trample the flowers (they have trails), and buy a bouquet. They're about $5.00 each. A small price to pay for such a surefire photo op. What's the deal with today's shot? Hit the "read more" and we'll discuss it.

Today's image is probably one of the simplest I've done in a while. Every couple of posts I talk about how I've gone beyond my "normal" workflow, adding multiple Adjustment Layers per color to bring out certain aspects of the shot. Today it's just the opposite. The color in the flower was pretty well saturated to start with and after a quick check of the individual colors I saw that there wasn't a whole lot to change. So, I skipped it. That's a major departure for me. The total "adjustments" to this shot were blurring the background, dropping it's exposure, sharpening the flower and pulling the leaf on the left out of the vignetting to provide a lead in line.
One of the aspects of the image that attracted me was the out of focus sunflower in the background. It gives a certain sense of tension to the shot. In focus versus out of focus, face front versus face backward, size versus (similar) size. Even with the similar sizes there is no doubt which flower is dominate and which is subordinate. It's negative space, but not an empty negative space. There's "something" there, but the eye slides right by to get to the "focus" of the image.
Knowing where you're going before you walk out the door makes the odds of getting good shots much higher than rolling the tires in some random direction. Check the newspaper, the evening news, the internet and friends past experiences. Have a target in mind and you'll be much more productive.