Several weeks ago my friend Julie issued a friendly challenge to me on Facebook: post one nature picture each day for a week. I normally don’t participate in activities like that because most of the time I end up forgetting to take photos or the challenge goes on far too long and I lose interest, but this one intrigued me. “One photo a day…I can do that,” I thought to myself. “And just a week? That’s not too much commitment.” I gladly accepted her challenge (Thanks Julie! If you’re reading this, thanks for putting me up to it. I sure had fun!) and spent the next several days deliberately trying to take photos of nature. This picture is from the fifth or sixth day if my memory serves me properly, and I should probably admit one thing right upfront: it was slightly staged, so while it might not conform to the letter of the law it certainly hits the spirit of the challenge.
I took this picture the day after a rainstorm, and it was one of those times where I knew exactly what sort of image I was going for but didn’t quite know if I would find it. With an overcast sky and everything either drenched or starting to dry I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a puddle with something floating in it. I really wanted to get a picture of a leaf, stick, flower, or something else floating on the water but I also had to find a puddle that wasn’t full of other distracting elements like grass, sticks, or random flotsam and jetsam. I came across a puddle that fit most of the criteria but had nothing floating in it, so I took an oak leaf and set it on the water only to have it immediately sink to the bottom. It was probably a good thing because a brown leaf in a brown puddle on an overcast day would have been fairly depressing.
A little while later I found the puddle you see in the picture but it had nothing floating in it, but I really liked the lighting and overall compositional elements of the shot so I walked around a bit to see if I could find something to add. Soon I came across a small patch of flowers and decided to pick one and set it in the puddle, which is what you see here. I soon realized that getting the shot I wanted required me to get very low to the very wet ground–something I was not keen on doing at that particular moment. Thankfully my D750 has a flip-out screen that can be used to compose photos in Live View, and it’s one of those things I hardly ever use but really comes in handy when I do need it. Longtime readers of this blog know that I used to shoot every photo with a super old Nikon D200, but this picture would have been impossible since that camera has no flip-out screen and doesn’t even have a Live View function either. To get this shot on that camera would have required me to not only get all wet and muddy from kneeling down super low on the ground, but it would have created all sorts of ripples in the water that would have resulted in an unusable shot. So…sometimes I guess it does pay to have better gear :)
The other consideration here was, as it so often is, depth of field. I needed a sense of context, so shooting at f/1.8 wasn’t an option since the entire foreground and background would be too blurry. f/5.6 resulted in a DOF that was simply too wide, and I finally settled on the sweet spot of f/3.3 which left the flower in focus and just enough context to see that it was floating in a little puddle. I really like the smooth, slightly blurry surface of the water and was overall quite pleased to get this picture. And it was all possible because of Julie’s challenge. Thanks Julie!