The Fleeting Spring

posted on: April 29, 2010

Spring; so beautiful, yet so fleeting. Trees blossom with dainty soft flowers, only to shed their petals and quickly make way for leaves and berries that house and feed the birds of summer. I wanted to capture this fleeting moment, specifically, the moment in which the petals take flight from the trees. It's really a moment better communicated by video, since the motion of the petals is what's most beautiful, but as a still photographer, I wanted to push myself to explore communicating that sense of flight through still imagery. What follows is my process of exploration and discovery, which is how I approach almost anything I photograph...

I started with a basic observation of the petals leaving the trees, and I observed that the petals in the air are very difficult to see when set against the background of the tree.

Then I turned my attention to documenting the aftermath, the destination point of the petals and how the wind seems to gather them into clusters near curbs and walls, yet this still did not demonstrate the motion and the fleeting moment.

Still unsatisfied, I thought, perhaps using a shallow depth of field would sufficiently separate the tree and its fleeting petals from the background, but was unsatisfied with the minimal petals that I was able to capture. In person, I felt surrounded by petals floating in the air.

Perhaps a darker background, to offset the light color of the petals, set against the texture of the rippling canal, could do this petal shower justice?

Or maybe the sidewalks, all lined with gathered petals, would be better?

Ultimately, I settled on capturing only the petals in manual focus, with a telephoto lens, with an aperture just large enough to capture several petals while still keeping the background out of focus, and framed to create a feeling that they were free floating with seemingly no attachment to their former host.

After feeling as though I did my best to capture a still photograph of a fleeting moment, I passed a spider, troubled that all of the petals were revealing its invisible trap. Not everyone appreciates this beautiful wonder of spring.

Even after I left the scene, I continued to think about how I could capture that moment, that feeling, in a still photograph, and one more idea came to mind... I could have tried to move with the petals, at a tight aperture and a slow shutter, with a background with just enough contrast and shape to show the background in motion while keeping the petals in focus.

I'd love to hear from you! How would you approach a moment like this?

5 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Oh! We did this just this past Saturday too! I took a 50mm 1.4 wide open set against the dark door of the church:!/photo.php?pid=5948863&id=94516960029

    and tried the same thing with the 16-35 2.8 here:!/photo.php?pid=5948873&id=94516960029&fbid=429533510029

    The 16-35 shot had a bit of a longer shutter speed, so you do get the motion!/photo.php?pid=5948873&id=94516960029&fbid=429533510029
    ... PLUS the edge distortion/stretch of the 16mm lens really puts a bit of motion into it that the 50mm doesn't have. ;)

  2. What a wonderful post. I enjoyed your 'lesson of self challenge' and I think that the second to the last image, where the petals are free floating and manual capture, is gorgeous. But I like the spider image too. unique.

  3. I have NO advice for you........your photos are amazing however you choose to capture them.

    I think you did the SPIDER moment perfectly. He is in perfect focus & that is exactly what I would have wanted to see clear. :)

  4. I have never tried this before... but while thinking about your different attempts, I wonder how it might have looked laying on the ground shooting up into the sky.
    Depending on the sky itself you may have to try at different times of the day.
    I'm seeing part of a tree on the bottom left hand side of the image and maybe this is shot with a short zoom. Possibly wide angle.
    Sonja :-)

  5. Good idea Sonja!


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