Close Enough? Get Closer

When photographing in a “busy” landscape it’s hard to figure out exactly how to make the scene work, especially if you are trying to create a landscape photo that still captures a sense of place but gives you an intimacy that let’s the scene feel personal. A technique I often employ is the art of getting closer and closer and when I think I’m close enough? I get get even closer! I once heard someone say that photography is the opposite of painting – that a painter adds to the canvas constantly until the scene is complete, whereas a photographer should constantly work the corners of their frame until you’ve removed every last bit of information that isn’t necessary to telling the story of a place. I believe this to be true.

While photographing in Great Cypress National Preserve in Florida, I found the quill-leaf air plant in abundance. With little water, if any, in the preserve at this time of year, it was the most obvious subject in an incredibly busy landscape. Everywhere I looked branches were sticking into my frame and the environment was incredibly dull colored. Finally, at the last bit of light of the day, I saw this one air plant that had the sun almost magically wrapping around the trunk of the tree giving a little light onto the brightly-colored quills. With the sun moving fast between tree trunks and branches, I knew I didn’t have time to set up a tripod. I boosted my ISO to 320 and pumped up my f-stop to F22 to give the sun a star-like effect and underexposing to accentuate the highlights. I got in deep, branches sticking over the lens and into my hair, poking my face but setting me up for an intimate view in the back country of Great Cypress National Preserve.