Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A cloud show .. at the Sunken Garden

Since 2004, one of my annual pursuits is photo documenting the annual summer floral display in the Sunken Garden of Garfield Park in Indianapolis.

I took a few years hiatus (2012-14) from the project because the park's rangers during that period gave photographers like me a difficult time while enforcing a conservatory rule requiring professional portrait photographers to obtain a license if they wanted to use the Sunken Garden as a backdrop for their portrait photography.

I may have expounded on this experience with the rangers previously, so I'll skip the details. Suffice it to say I had no trouble shooting the display last year, so I ventured to the garden last week to shoot the 2016 display. It was an extremely humid day, and I knew of weather reports that a storm system would be heading through Central Indiana in the afternoon. It was mostly cloudy around 2:30 or so when I got to the park, and I tried to get it done quickly to avoid getting caught in the downpour.

I succeeded ... but barely. I started feeling huge but sporadic raindrops as I walked home, and the full deluge came about five minutes or so after I'd made it into the house. But I knew the storm was coming when I was in the park. I could see crazy cloud formations, which I integrated into some of my photos. Those clouds will be the distinguishing aspect of the 2016 shoot.

The photo leading off the post is one of three images I made that involve some interesting textured sky. It also is notable because at the last minute, I applied a crop on the stair rail at the bottom of the image. I included the full rail in the composition because I thought it would make an interesting framing element ... and a leading line into the garden. But the more I gazed at it, the more I felt it distracted the viewer from what I considered to be the focus -- the garden and sky. I include a copy of the pre-cropped version at right. What do you think? Did I make the right call?

A full gallery of the shoot can be found at my site at SmugMug.com.

Photo geek stuff: This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but here goes anyway ... All photos were taken with a Canon 6D and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. As I do for all my landscape images anymore, I bracketed exposures for treatment in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. I took three images for each scene, one at normal exposure, one at plus 3/4 stop, and one at minute 3/4 stop. The bracketing and melding in HDR proved particularly beneficial for the images with the detailed cloud formations, scenes that contain a high degree of contrasty lighting. I used an ISO of 250 and aperture of f/8, rendering the shutter as the variable. The average exposure shutter was 1/160, so the two other frames were taken at speeds slightly above and below that. usually 1/333 and 1/80.

Above and below are the two other images in which the sky was a key element of the composition. The image above looks northeast, the one below looks due east. I had to shoot both images twice because first attempts were too overexposed. 

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