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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Looking Beyond The Bloom

Consider the cycles of life to find beautiful images year-round

This Article Features Photo Zoom


In many parts of the world, photography becomes much more of a struggle during certain seasons. Weather can be a photographer's best friend or worst enemy, depending on where you live and what you're after, photographically speaking.

Despite the challenges, when you've got to shoot (for work or play), you'll find a way. Some photographers not only brave the elements, but also embrace them. Whether it's climate-appropriate gear, experience in the field or a limitless creative vision, it's obvious that therein lies a true passion to get the shot.

As each season comes and goes, we're reminded that life is ever-changing. The waxing and waning of the moon. The ebb and flow of the tide. Life and death. It's all part of the process. What better way to use our cameras than to document that process? Although much of what we celebrate in our photographic images can be a celebration of our subjects in their prime, life is a journey.

For me, the circle of life is so clearly and beautifully evident in plant life. I love a garden in full bloom as much as the next photographer, yet I find myself equally compelled to capture the phases of flora that are less about the obvious grandeur and more about the subtleties of growth and change—the various stages that celebrate the entire journey of life.

10 SHOTS THAT CAN CAPTURE THE PROCESS

•  A tiny nub of a blossom on a tree branch
•  The very first opening of a bloom or unfurling of a sprig
•  A small shoot growing out from its origin
•  A comparison in scale or shape between two or more blossoms
•  The backside or underneath of a plant in process
•  Flora, once the deterioration has started
•  The last remaining petal or leaf still hanging on
•  Dried and withered parts of plants
•  Near-barren stick trees
•  Petals or leaves after they fall

Visually, when flowers, plants and trees reach their own unique full bloom, they boast and brag through vibrant color and robust, full-bodied shapes; but as they begin, they often look unrecognizable in their humble beginnings—tiny nubs on tree branches, pods clenched closed and barren bulbs with never a hint of what's inside.

Later, as they slowly shift from their prime and begin to wane, they often leave behind curious forms and textures. Petals soften, and leaves wither as they slowly let go. Colors change and fade as mysterious curves, curls and creases begin to appear, altering the plant into something that can be even more captivating, more poetic than before. Both the earliest buds and the shrinking blooms speak in a whisper, only to those who will listen, revealing their secret—that the muted and understated offer an unmatched and inimitable beauty that deserves to be recognized and held in reverie.

SHOOTING TIPS

•  Pay extra attention to textures, as they're important to the story
•  Simplify your background so your subject pops
•  Process in black-and-white to remove all distractions of color
•  Include the context of your subject within your frame (like the flowers in different parts of the cycle)
•  Use a macro lens to offer an up-close study
•  Try a shallow depth of field with the sweet spot focused on a small detail
•  Shoot from an angle that might accentuate your subject (like shooting up at it)

These moments of pure process might easily be overlooked if not seen through the lenses of those willing to document them. When the less-than-perfect parts of life murmur softly of the unseen, it proves that the delight of life can indeed be found in the journey.

SHUTTER SISTERS is a collaborative photo blog (www.shuttersisters.com) and a thriving community of women, passionate about photography. Beyond the blog, you can find Shutter Sisters on the printed page in their book, Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart. Founder Tracey Clark is a photographer, author, teacher and collaborator.


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