FIELD TECHNIQUES: Cherry Blossom Time by F.M. Kearney

Cherry Blossom Time (CB-109a(D)

Story and photograph by F.M. Kearney

I had almost forgotten what it was like to see vibrant colors in my viewfinder. Despite that and a nasty fall on the ice that took me out of commission for several weeks, I still prefer winter over the insufferable dog days of summer. Yet, as this winter–one of the harshest on record–comes to a close, I’m rejoicing along with many others the long-awaited arrival of spring.

One of the first jewels of spring are colorful cherry blossoms. In New York City, the place to go is Cherry Esplanade in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Every April, two rows of Prunus “Kanzan” trees–a gift from the Japanese government after World War I–adorn this area of the garden in a sea of pink. The month-long cherry blossom season known as Hanami ends in a weekend celebration called Sakura Matsuri. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUES: Show the Snow by F.M. Kearney

W-300 Story and photograph by F.M. Kearney

This winter has certainly been one for the record books. While most people probably long for the warm days of summer, I personally can never get enough of the cold and everything that comes with it.

There’s nothing better than photographing a freshly snow-covered landscape glistening in bright sunlight. For an added dynamic effect, I sometimes include the sun and position it partially behind a tree branch, to create an eye-catching starburst. Although stunning images like these “after the snow” photos are well-worth capturing, I recently began experimenting with taking pictures during the actual snowfall. Continue reading

Into the Fog by F.M. Kearney

Story and photograph by F.M. Kearney

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New York Botanical Gardens, © F.M. Kearney

Fog is a collection of liquid water droplets suspended in the air at or near the earth’s surface. It forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is less than four degrees Fahrenheit. At least, that’s what it says on the internet. I’m not sure I know what all of that means, but what I do know is that fog can create some pretty compelling—and, sometimes, creepy-looking—images. Continue reading

IN THE FIELD: Christmas Presence

Story and Photographs by F.M. Kearneykearney-PN_21a

A light to moderate snow had fallen the night before, coating the ground with a few inches of powdery goodness. The snow muffled my footsteps as I forged a new trail in the New York Botanical Garden. As an Early Morning Pass holder, I was able to enter the garden several hours before its official opening to the general public—allowing me one of the first unspoiled looks at what nature had delivered overnight. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUES: After the Fall

Story and Photo by F.M. Kearney

The brilliant colors of autumn have faded. Most of the leaves have already fallen; only a handful of stubborn diehards remain clinging to the trees. I used to think that come the end of October, the “show” is over until I started noticing all the little holes in these weather-beaten leaves. If the sun is placed directly behind them, a multitude of interesting sunbursts can be created.

I specifically look for low-hanging leaves with an unobstructed line of sight of the sun in the background. Exposure is best determined manually. Auto exposure will only drive you nuts as the meter bounces from one extreme to another with each subtle movement of the leavesresulting in a series of inconsistent exposures. I simply spot-meter the area of the sky next to the sun and lock it in. Now, no matter how much the leaves want to dance around, the overall exposure will remain the same. For a more dramatic image and to better emphasize the sunbursts, I’ll sometimes slightly underexpose the sky. So as not to underexpose the leaves as well, a flash is a must. Fill-flash isn’t always strong enough in these situations, so I usually turn it off and use the flash at normal power. If necessary, I increase its output by a stop, which restores detail in the leaves as well as any lingering traces of color. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUES: When Autumn Falls

by F.M. Kearney

FF-434I often look at autumn as nature’s version of information overload. With fall colors exploding all over the place, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where to point the camera. Trying to capture everything in one frame often results in not capturing anything at its best advantage.

I’ve learned to use a variety of simple techniques to help make sense out of this visual potpourri. One way is to extract a subject out of its environment in order to help it stand out. A zoom lens is usually the best lens of choice to perform a “visual extraction.” Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUES: A Tulip in the Sun


by F.M. Kearney

The weather forecast called for clouds in the morning, followed by sunny skies in the afternoon. I had spent the morning shooting a series of tulip photos in the New York Botanical Garden. I was using a double exposure, soft-focus technique giving them a certain romantic quality that was further enhanced by the subdued light. But I had to work fast. The cloud cover was getting thinner by the minute—soon to let forth the full, harsh light of the sun.

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Of all the days for the weather report to be completely accurate! Continue reading