24/02/2007

Grasses - Lens Flare



When out photographing in the fields or on a hillside, grass is usually something most of us trample over to get to whatever it might be that we want to shoot. So most of its photographic qualities go totally unnoticed. With an exception of course, to those who generally take the time to slow down and appreciate all the wonderful creations at their disposal, that means taking into consideration things that don't always provide us with instant inspiration, or those objects which are blessed with far less prominence than those we are always fully aware of, in the overall scheme of things. But once you take an interest in grasses, you will soon learn of its magical properties.


No, it is not your everyday run o' the mill subject, but nevertheless, grasses can provide for some very interesting image making indeed - in the way of patterns and playing with light. Particularly when photographed at the right time of day, year and at the right angle to the sun.
The right time of the year is generally when the various species start to flower and/or go to seed. Yes, believe me grasses do flower, if you've ever taken the trouble to notice and when viewed at the right angle, in the late afternoon or early morning, they can tend to take on an almost efflorescent appearance. I have included one of my own examples below.
There is a particular variety in the area where I live and generally, its appearance is just like any other grass and it also grows like any other grass, in the form of a tussock to about 30 or 35 cm high (around 12 inches). When it's ready to flower, it sends up a long, straight stem to about 45 or 46 cm (about 18 inches), or higher, depending the size of the tussock and each individual plants struggle to gain height and clearance from its surroundings.
When the flower forms at the top of the stem, it is usually cone shaped, tapering off at the peak to a length of 10 to 15 cm (4 to 5 inches).
The flower head is made up of many individual flower segments, each with its own separate stem and each with the capability of developing one seed.
At this stage, the entire head is the colour of straw, until that magic moment when it turns to almost terracotta, or orange/tan - this is the best time to photograph them.
A long lens or telephoto is best for this kind of subject, as it can be used to isolate each tussock and blur the foreground and background elements.
The best light is definitely either in the early morning or late afternoon.
For the right shooting angle, you may have to assume a low position and have your subject almost in a line between you and the sun, but you will need to be aware of the possibilities of lens flare, so have your lens visor fitted.


Lens Flare:For those who are not aware of what lens flare is, it is a phenomenon brought about when shooting against or toward the light source and the light's reflection hits the front element of your lens and is then further reflected off other lens elements within the lens itself. And thus, the flare then becomes a feature in the resulting image - and a major distraction. You can't always know when your shot is going to be affected, so if in doubt, fit your lens hood. There is a good chance this will help to avoid this problem. Having filters fitted to your front lens element will also accentuate the problems that can occur when shooting against the light. Lens flare is generally looked on as a major fault in a photograph, particularly when seen by photography judges. Some may deliberately use it for artistic reasons in photos, but it is sometimes difficult to tell when simply looking at an image with flare, to ascertain whether or not it was intended.
I have included below an example of this. However, in this example it was intentionally done. Lens flare can be used to produce a very creative image - in this case, as a leading line to the small boat engulfed by tall buildings. Note how that leading line draws the eye down to the boat. You can read more about leading lines in my chapters about

Meanwhile, back on the prairie - ah yes, we are looking into the light.
What you need to do is find the best position that allows you to see the grass flowers being picked out by the sun, in the manner which appeals to you best and try to include a darkish, but not black background, as this will enhance your flowers even more.
As I suggested earlier, use a large aperture, Portrait Mode, or your zoom to isolate the background and foreground and this will provide you with the main subject matter and a clear centre of interest.
If you can manually operate your camera, use aperture priority and set the camera at f2.8 or f5.6, or change your ISO rating to a higher setting. You may also need a tripod if the shutter speed is less than 1/125 sec.
As with all my setting suggestions, treat them mainly as a starting point and play around with other settings till you get it right.
I do hope this provides you with a bit more insight and something else to work on. At least it keeps the old grey matter active and healthy. Good luck!






Images such as these can evoke emotions of peace and calmness.
Intentional lens flare used to provide a leading line to the tiny boat surrounded by towering buildings. And yes, sometimes it's okay to break the rules too!


"Here's another bright idea!" . . .

When changing lenses on your digital or film SLR , always find somewhere out of the breeze and do it quickly to help alleviate potential dust problems that could occur within your camera body. And be sure to turn your digital camera off first. If you need to clean your camera's interior, it is imperative that you follow the instructions set out in your camera's manual.