Yosemite Dogwood

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I have a love/hate relationship with the dogwood in Yosemite. I love the delicate flowers and how the light plays off of them. When back-lit, they light up. Caught in side-light, they have amazing texture. That is the love part of the relationship. The hate component is a little more complicated.

Every year I go to Yosemite, during spring, to shoot dogwood. Generally speaking, the first week in May is usually when the bloom peaks. All that it takes to change that date is an extra week of cold or unseasonably warm weather. Since I rely on a “day gig” it is difficult for me to adjust my schedule once I plan a visit. More often than not I just miss the peak of the bloom.

This image was taken during a trip that I mentioned in last week’s article. We were in the park at the right time for the bloom but it was a very breezy day.It wasn’t hard to find dogwood to shoot; it was hard to get them to stop moving. Managing the available light is another concern. The delicate textures are very difficult to preserve in bright light; overexpose but as little as 1/2 stop and they disappear. This one was getting a small, filtered, shaft of side light; exactly what I was looking for.

I found this lone flower on the Eastern side of the Pohono Bridge down by the edge of the Merced River. Taking advantage of the fact that my position was above the flower I used my longest lens to isolate the bloom. Telephoto lenses compress depth in a scene and exaggerate an out of focus background. I set my Canon 100-400 to 400mm and f/5.6. I wanted the shallowest depth of field possible and also was trying to boost my shutter speed to freeze the motion from the wind. In this case, it ended up being 1/125th of a second at ISO 100. I composed, watched it, and as soon as there was a break in the wind I snapped the shot. How many times I did that to get one sharp image will be my little secret.