Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Glacier Park Wildflower Photography

Glacier Park Orchids

Glacier Park Orchids

©Bert Gildart: Today, it is overcast and is coupled at times with a slight drizzle. And though we are in Glacier National Park, looking for photographs that will show the grandeur of its mountains, we’re not disheartened, for this is a perfect time to focus on some of the gorgeous flowers now blooming in the park’s meadows, and in its deep woods. In other words, it is a perfect May-day for close-up flower photography. Awaiting us are a variety of species to include orchids, glacier lilies and a number of others species that grow as large shrublike plants, such as the dogwood and the choke cherry (once used by Native Americans to mix with buffalo meat to create pemmican.)

Part of the fun of flower photography is finding your subject, and generally that means locating the best specimen that you possibly can. Some flowers, you’ll find, have petals rendered unsymmetrical by fallen branches, hooves of a deer, or the puff of a breeze. Also, some are just naturally arranged better than others, by virtue of luck. Once you find that perfect specimen, set up your tripod on plane with your subject; which generally means at a ground-level position. To help, we often carry in our camera packs a small tarp to keep our equipment—and sometimes ourselves—dry. Then we set about positioning our camera for composition.

Like all other forms of photography, flower photography requires patience. Because good depth of field requires small apertures, your tripod will serve to offset the correspondingly slow shutter speeds. Then, you’ll need the patience to refrain from clicking the shutter until the petals are perfectly still. Often you will be shooting at shutter speeds of ½ to one full second.

Pictures in such subdued natural light make exquisite images—and are perfect subjects for overcast days because the light is flat and has no harsh shadows. Such pictures have a quality hard to duplicate. Nevertheless, you can come close using strobes. In fact, if the breezes are strong you’ll have no other choice other than to use strobes, and if you want natural-looking photographs, you’ll need two strobes, one as a main light, the other as fill. The main light is held off camera (by your spouse, perhaps) and high, while the fill-light is mounted on your camera’s hot shoe. The two lights are connected with a dedicated TTL cable. You can also use this technique on harsh sunny days. Under such conditions, strobes can be set to override existing sunlight, rendering a dramatic black background, as in above photo of orchids.

We use strobes often, ones that have TTL capabilities. With such flash units, everything is automatic and it is difficult to make a mistake. But there are some lighting suggestions. One technique I practice often is to back off on the fill strobe by 1/3 of a stop. That technique creates shadows, but shadows into which you can still see. Of course, you may not have electronic flash units, in which case, simply wait for overcast days with slight drizzles, for then the light can be near perfect.

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