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.