14 September 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

A few weeks ago, I was mourning the loss of the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival shortly after learning one of my favorite fields of wild sunflowers had been mowed. Tears nearly ensued.

"Patience is a remedy for every sorrow." — Publius Syrus, 42 B.C. (42 B.C.!!!)

We decided to take a sunrise bike ride on Labor Day because there isn't enough daylight for me to commute to work and back via bicycle these days. We thought the sunrise would be the best photos of the day. We were wrong.

We found a small patch of wild sunflowers, so of course I had to lay down my bike and shoot away. Then the most amazing thing happened. First one balloon went up, and then a second.

I got my sunflowers and my balloons, both via bicycle!

I was going to use these for Wordless Wednesday, but I thought it might be more fun to share the story behind the photos, demonstrate an exercise in depth of field and hope my lucky stars might provide something equally as photogenic for Wednesday. (fingers and toes crossed, stay tuned)

Depth of field, or the amount of focus between the main subject and the background, is controlled by the aperture, the adjustable leaf opening inside the lens. Big openings (small numbers) will cause the background to be less focused, drawing attention to your subject and minimizing distractions. (This also relates to bokeh, which is a term describing the appearance of out-of-focus background highlights. Good bokeh means soothing or interesting shapes enhance or dramatize the main subject; bad bokeh means the eye is confused and doesn't know where to look because way too much is going on inside the picture. But bokeh is a topic of a different lesson on another day.) Small aperture openings (big numbers) allow detail to remain more recognizable in the background.

The blurrier balloons and Lizard are shot with a fast shutter speed and wide open aperture, such as 500th of a second at F11 (which actually isn't that wide, but we were in bright sunlight, and I was using a medium telephoto on a macro setting, both of which affect depth of field as well). The better-defined balloons and Lizard are shot with a slower shutter speed and the aperture as small as I could get it, in this case 60th of a second at F32. Can you see why camera settings can help or hurt what you're trying to achieve? And why I'm such a huge fan of manually setting my controls?

Balloon Rise
Ants don't eat sunflowers; they eat the pests that eat sunflowers.
shot with aperture wide open
shot with smallest available aperture
my favorite cyclist, shot with wide aperture
my favorite cyclist, shot with small aperture


  1. gorgeous captures! That balloon in the background is spectacular!

  2. These pictures are breathtaking. And the balloons "showing up" ... hmmm, what a wonderful day.

  3. Gorgeous and very educations photos. My point-and-shoot actually allows some manual control over aperture etc. I've been playing with it but haven't yet achieved the effects as well as you have. Wow!

    Your quote about patience is a good one for me these days. Thanks!

  4. Wow ... just wow! How cool that you got your sunflowers and balloons and a nice ride in on Labor Day!

  5. I can see that you love the sunflowes. :)

    Most of the time I have my camera set on manual. Or AV setting. But I learned to photograph that way. And I want to be in control. Still, the cameras fight me every now and then. :(

    I will open up Bildverkstaden and a new Macro challenge this thirsday evening. This is the link to the Macro site.

    see u :)

  6. Love how the balloons showed up right on cue! Perfect shots for perfect moments... 98% of it is just BEING THERE. Showing up for life, as it were.

    You and The Lizard have that TOTALLY dialed in.


  7. You are an incredible photographer! They all take my breath away.
    All I can say is WOW!

  8. Love these. And thanks for the tutorial/review. Always a help!


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