On Bended Stems: Explore the Beauty of Post-Peak Tulips

Lily-flowered tulips beginning to “show their age”

Lily-flowered tulips beginning to “show their age”

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Timing is everything. As nature photographers, we’re constantly trying to schedule our shoots during times when our subjects will be seen at their best. For landscapes, this is generally during the “Magic Hours” of the day – the hour just before sunrise or after sunset. Flowers can benefit from the warm light at this time of day as well, but more important than that is catching them at the peak period in their blooming cycle. It’s an absolute obsession for some photographers. A field of tulips in pristine condition is truly breathtaking. The photo below is one such example.

Continue reading

Season of the Cherry Blossoms: Creative Ways to Photograph One of the Crown Jewels of Spring

 

Cherry Esplanade, "Kwanzan" Prunus Serrulata, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY

Cherry Esplanade, “Kwanzan” Prunus Serrulata, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

To celebrate the nations’ growing friendship, Japan gifted the United States with a little over 3,000 cherry blossom trees in 1912. Considered the national flower of Japan, these trees were planted in New York City and Washington, DC. Since then, thousands of other trees have been planted in several other cities – delighting millions of admirers in annual Cherry Blossom Festivals across the country.

Continue reading

Sinking to Their Level: Shoot Spring Flowers From a Different Perspective

Looking up through a tulip bed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. (Digitized from film.)

Looking up through a tulip bed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
(Digitized from film.)

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

If you’ve had your gear packed away since the final vestiges of colorful foliage faded from the landscape last fall, now is the time to dust off the cobwebs. Spring is finally here – bringing an abundance of subject matter. Fresh flowers are popping up everywhere and demanding attention. But, you don’t want to fall into a habit of taking the same types of pictures year after year. A change in perspective is a good way to view an old subject in a new light.

Continue reading

The Pathway to Leading Lines: Compositional Techniques to Improve Your Photography

Autumn Trail Creates a Path Into the Forest. (HDR Compilation of 5 images.)

Autumn Trail Creates a Path Into the Forest. (HDR Compilation of 5 images.)

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Many methods can be employed in the quest to make photographs more engaging, or to draw more attention to the subjects within. One of the most common techniques is the use of leading lines. In the photo above, I used the lines of the log fence to draw the viewer deeper into this autumn scene in The New York Botanical Garden. It makes you feel as though you’re actually walking along the trail and heading deeper into the woods. However, technically, these aren’t really “leading lines.” They form what is more accurately referred to as a “path.” Often used interchangeably, the distinction between leading lines and paths is quite small. Generally, leading lines are like roadmaps that literally lead your eye to a specific point of interest, whereas, paths usually take you to a faraway vanishing point.

Continue reading

In the Frame of Things: Using Natural Frames to Emphasize Your Subject

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Making a subject stand out is the primary goal of all photographers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and your subject matter will usually dictate the best method. Common techniques may include special lighting, subject placement, extreme angles or contrasting colors. If you delve into the world of digital imaging, your choices will be virtually unlimited. But, if you prefer to keep your images looking as natural as possible, you may want to stick with the in-camera methods.

One of my favorite ways to highlight a subject is to place it within a natural frame. This might consist of leaves, flowers, bushes … just about anything nearby that you can find to encircle your subject. In the opening photo above, I used the snow-covered branches to frame the distant buildings in this Central Park winter scene. Besides serving as decorative foreground elements, they were a great way to cover up the dead space of a white, featureless sky.

Continue reading

Sweet Serendipity: Being Ready to Capture Life’s Unexpected Moments

Sunrise behind "The Wheel" on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ

Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.

I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.

One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.

Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.

Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.

Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.

Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.

Do Sweat the Small Stuff: How Attention to Small Details Can Bring Big Rewards

“S-shaped” pattern of pinecones

“S-shaped” pattern of pinecones

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

They had all gathered in the same spot – practically standing shoulder-to-shoulder. When new members joined the group, they were careful in setting up so as not to bang into the legs of the other tripods already planted in their perfectly chosen spots. All the cameras were pointed in the same direction waiting for that special moment.

Continue reading

The Color of Winter: Techniques to Enhance Winter Photos

The Pool frozen over at sunrise Central Park New York, NY

The Pool frozen over at sunrise, Central Park, New York, NY (HDR compilation of 5 images).

Story & photography by F.M. Kearney

That time is quickly approaching. That time of year when many photographers will pack away their gear and patiently wait for the first colorful blooms next spring. Yet, winter isn’t completely devoid of color, as some might assume. In fact, if you carefully plan what you shoot and when you shoot, you may be surprised at the amount of color you can coax out of this often-overlooked season.

Continue reading

What Not to Bring through Airport Security

Home-made bounce card on flash.

Home-made bounce card on flash.

From the Editor:  We recently started posting a series of travel tips about making the life of the traveling photographer smoother and easier.  In this installment, F. M. Kearney’s inner MacGyver inventiveness comes back to bite him. If you have a favorite tip, share it with us! Send it to publications@nanpa.org and we’ll post it in a future article.

Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

Life can sometimes be a challenge. Much of it is beyond our control, but every now and then, you can do things to make the journey a little easier. Whenever possible, I try to streamline repetitive tasks. For instance, I always keep a self-addressed, stick-on label in my wallet in the event I need to fill out a form or have something delivered. Each time I hand one over, people marvel at my ingenuity in quickly getting through what could otherwise be a time-consuming process. I see it more as common sense. If I know there’s a high likelihood that I might need something shipped or delivered, why would I want to waste time by repeatedly writing out my name and address on one of their blank labels?

Continue reading

The Autumn Show: Beyond “Trees & Leaves”

Fall foliage reflecting in lake, Twin Lakes area, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. f/9.5 @ 70mm, 5-image HDR compilation.

Fall foliage reflecting in lake, Twin Lakes area, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. f/9.5 @ 70mm, 5-image HDR compilation.

Story & Photography by F.M. Kearney

The final curtain is about to rise. A cast of billions is in place. Throughout their entire performance, they’ve all been restricted to the same regulation green outfits. For their finale, they now have a chance to break free – a chance to dazzle onlookers with stunning new yellow, red and orange wardrobes. A few glory-hounds will attempt to upstage the others with magnificent, multi-colored garb. Sit back and relax… The Autumn Show is about to begin.

I’m sure most nature photographers look forward to this show every year. But, it can be a challenge to come up with something different than the usual “trees and leaves” photo. Try looking for compositions beyond the obvious – compositions where the subject isn’t immediately evident.

Continue reading