Story Behind Image

Down in the Valley by Todd Henson

Down in the Valley, a view of a farm amongst the foliage.

Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful place, bounding parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and crossed its entire length from north to south by Skyline Drive. Within the park you’ll find wildlife of all sorts, lovely streams and waterfalls, and many mountains to climb whose peaks provide fantastic views of the surrounding landscape.

But another pull of the park is the perspective it gives on the communities below. With a telephoto lens you can zoom in on smaller details in the larger landscape, perhaps finding a red barn at the end of an open field surrounded by trees awash in the colors of autumn. What sort of farm is this? The field is full of large rocks, not likely suitable for planting crops. There’s a stone wall around the property. Perhaps they raise animals. Cows, goats or sheep.

And what of the buildings on either side? Are they part of the same property or nearby neighbors? What else might be there, hidden by the trees? Surely a road. Perhaps other smaller buildings.

It’s fun to speculate sometimes, building stories from the scenes we find. And that’s also what we hope some photographs might do, tell stories. Though what those stories might be may vary from one viewer to the next.

Focus by Todd Henson

Focus: A Green Heron walking along a downed tree looking for its next meal.

Green Herons are very sleek birds, and along with other herons have an amazing ability to focus on finding their next meal. Perhaps I’m anthopomorphizing too much, but just looking at them you can see the concentration, the determination, the focus, as they slowly and quietly move forward.

We found this particular Green Heron while walking along a boardwalk at a local wetlands park. It had landed on a fallen tree and was slowly walking down its length, watching the edge of the water. They can move through water seemingly without causing any noticeable disturbance. But when walking outside the water their prey below has little chance of escape.

I don’t recall now whether this heron caught anything. I certainly didn’t capture a photograph if it did. But I was pleased with this photograph, showing that amazing focus. And a bonus feature for observant viewers is a white feather out of place along its back. It had attempted to fix this, but being unsuccessful left it alone and went back to looking for food.

Under the Mum by Todd Henson

Sometimes if you spend enough time working a scene you’ll end up with a very different outcome than you’d first envisioned. When I first saw the grasshopper atop a chrysanthemum I pictured creating a really nice photograph showing off the grasshopper’s olive green against the bright warm pinks of the mums. And that is exactly what I did, initially.

Amongst the Mums, a green grasshopper standing atop a pink chrysanthemum.

But I kept shooting, changing my angle, looking for different perspectives. I wonder if, perhaps, the grasshopper was getting tired of my moving around just above it, because it slowly started moving from the top of a mum to the side of the flower. I thought that was also a great photograph, so I kept shooting.

The Grasshopper and the Mums, it’s now shifted to the side of the flower.

And the grasshopper kept shifting, moving away from me, this time hanging upside down underneath the flower. That’s when I began to realize there was another interesting shot I could create.

When the grasshopper went under the flower it shifted into shadow. When I exposed for the grasshopper it ended up raising the exposure of all the flowers, creating this nice high-key image, something I really liked. It gave the flowers a softer feel, while still keeping the grasshopper sharply in focus and the center of attention. This situation is very similar to the Cabbage White butterfly on lace I shared a couple weeks back, where exposing the butterfly properly helped create a soft high-key look to the white lace.

Under the Mum, the grasshopper hangs upside down under the chrysanthemum.

The lesson of the day is one I’ve mentioned a number of times. Don’t stop shooting too soon, even if you think you’ve created a nice image. You never know what else you might create if you keep working the subject, keep exploring, keep experimenting.

So go out there and work your subject, and let me know if you end up with something beautifully unexpected.

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