Figueroa Mountain Oaks – Subtle in HDR

Figueroa Mountain Oaks

I’ve heard that the best way to learn is to do, but I think the best way to learn is to teach. This weekend I was working on an overview of HDR photography for the Thousand Oaks Photo Group. My teaching philosophy is around motivation more then instruction. If you can motivate the learner into wanting to use a technique, the instruction takes care of itself.

I needed a set of images to explain why to use HDR and I remembered some images I took at Figueroa Mountain last spring. Figueroa Mountain is a beautiful place spread with old oaks and fields. We went for the wildflowers, but they were a bust this year. We had to satisfy ourselves with the groves of trees and mountain air. The oaks were just sprouting their light-green tender leaves and the sky was beautiful but bright. These were the conditions for neutral-density graduated filters or… HDR. I bracketed many scenes but never got back to fully process the shoot. This weekend was my opportunity to do some experimentation with the goal of creating a concrete set of guidance for approaching HDR.

My use of HDR is subtle and I typically shoot in 1-stop exposures. I use Photomatix Pro on my RAW images for the tone-mapping and then Lightroom and Photoshop for additional adjustments.

Figueroa Mountain Oaks

A Little Dragon

A Little Dragon
A Little Dragon by I Nancy, on Flickr

Last weekend, Hutch and I went exploring to Figueroa Mountian in the local Los Padres National Forrest. Last year the wildflowers were tremendous and we hoped to find more of the same this year. We had a beautiful 70-degree day with a few light clouds. Even with all kinds of rain this year, the flowers were disappointing as it seems that this springs dramatic cycles of hot and cold weather has stunted their growth.

We did find a nice field of goldfields with some beautiful, if hard to get to, chocolate lilies (more later). While wandering, looking for the perfect set of flowers, I found little horned-toad crawling in the grasses. To give you a little perspective, the yellow flowers are just tiny goldfields just couple inches high. Mr. Horned was probably no more than three inches long. Here he is stalking through his jungle. Check out the reflection of the wildflower landscape in this little guy’s eye.

Back to the chocolate lilies. This is the first I’ve every really seen of the chocolate lily and they are a challenge to photography due both to their small size and the fact that they bloom facing down toward the ground. They are only about an inch or so in diameter. This is definitley a get on your belly and crane upward sort of shot. Here I was lucky to be able to underneath this cluster with some nice back-lighting, They are quite beautiful and were pristine the day were were there.

My Chocolate Lily Sweet
My Chocolate Lily Sweet by I Nancy, on Flickr