Still charged with energy from the Grand Canyon lightning/rainbow Three Strikes morning, I decided to change things up and visit some of the trip’s more intimate, albeit less spectacular, images, scenes that portray the underrated diversity of the Grand Canyon’s beauty. Despite a wealth of options, I knew immediately that I wanted to start with a wildflower discovery the second group made at East Rim View. (Actually, credit for the discovery goes to workshop co-leader Don Smith.) Don and I had been at this spot on a scouting trip a few days before the workshops began, immediately recognizing it as the best location to combine the North Rim’s beautiful wildflower display with a more expansive view of the Grand Canyon and (especially) the Vermillion Cliffs. While we liked the view enough to stage both workshop group-photos here, we nevertheless tried to time our visits for the overcast skies and calm winds that make for the best wildflower photography.
As the group slowly trickled back to the the cars around the prescribed departure time, Don and a couple of participants returned with word of a wildflower discovery in the woods just a few hundred yards up the trail. The description sounded too good to be true, but when Don shared a few LCD previews of what he’d found, I was sold. So, after a quick consultation, Don and I jettisoned Plan A and added another hour to our East Rim View stay. Good call.
What we found was everything promised: a mature, sprawling aspen grove, carpeted with a dense array of yellow, daisy-like wildflowers (I don’t know what these flowers are, but I’m sure some reader will illuminate me). Virtually untouched by wind and evenly illuminated beneath a heavy, gray sky, this was macro photography heaven. But rather than do the obvious and pull out my macro lens and extension tubes, I decided to do the entire shoot with my 70-200 and 16-35 lenses, playing with compression, perspective, and depth. Using my 70-200, I compressed the background (made it appear closer to my subject than it really was); getting up-close with my 16-35, I emphasized the foreground and expanded the background. I also had tons of fun playing with depth of field—when I found a composition I liked, I ran entire range of f-stops, from f2.8 to f22, in one-stop increments. After reviewing these images on a big screen, I decided I prefer the narrow DOF frames for the way they guide the eye where I want it to go, rather than distract with the extraneous background detail the small aperture frames displayed.
I find it a bit ironic that, while intimate images like those in here are usually far more reflective of a photographer’s skill and creativity than the spectacular moments captured in scenes like the Three Strikes image, it’s the spectacular that commands the most attention (just count the number of Facebook “Likes”). In most of my lightning images, the most challenging aspect was being there; on the other hand, these wildflower scenes not only required discovery, most involved contorting while flat on the ground, and each required careful management of every aspect of the scene, from relationships, depth, light, and motion.
The entire group got similar stuff on our lightning morning (while so far I haven’t seen any others who were fortunate enough to get three parallel strikes, that’s exactly what my image was: the good fortune to click at just the right instant). On the other hand, I’m pretty sure nobody else got anything like these wildflower images (nor did I get wildflower images like the others got). So does that mean I like these wildflower images more my “Three Strikes” image? Uh…, no. That was a once-in-a-lifetime capture that every landscape photographer dreams of. But I think ultimately I take more pride in the skill and effort required to craft something like these.