Bearded iris, Arkansas

Bearded iris, Arkansas

A few weeks ago, before we hit our rainy season with rain occurring every day, I took another trip to the Old Mill.  My plan was to again photograph the mill with the flowers and trees in full bloom just as I had last year.  I knew the gates would be locked, but I arrived shortly before sunrise so I could go in as soon as the mill was opened.  I waited. . .and waited. . .and waited.  After 45 minutes, and the sun now high enough in the sky to create a terribly contrasty photographic situation, I decided I would come back the following week to try again.  I went home.

The next Friday, the sky was overcast, and the weather was perfect for photography, so I went back to the Old Mill for my second attempt.  Again, my efforts were foiled.  I was about half way to the mill when the clouds had parted, and the sun was shining brightly.  But, I continued onward.  When I reached the mill, I found the flowers had exploded in color.  It was exactly what I had been waiting for.  But, it was apparently what a lot of other people were waiting for, as well, because there were people everywhere, including at least three busloads of schoolchildren!  The lighting I could deal with.  But 40 or 50 kids (or more!) running around all over the place getting in the way of my shots?  No way!  I decided to keep going and come back the next week.

I went back the following week for what was now my third attempt.  Again, Mother Nature cooperated by providing a nice overcast sky.  Of course, the clouds were precursor to an impending storm that would reach my location within about an hour, so I knew my time was pretty limited.  When I reached the mill, there was only one other person there sitting on a bench.  Easy enough!  Unfortunately, the color that I had been so excited to see the previous week was now gone.  I was quite disappointed.  But, since I was here, the weather was working to my advantage, and there was essentially no one else around, I could at least try to find some images.  So, I stopped.

I stayed at the mill for about an hour.  Most of the blooms had turned brown or fallen to the ground, so I experimented with a number of other ideas and ended up getting several nice images.  But it wasn’t until I was leaving that I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the irises that were still blooming.

I quickly began photographing the flowers, but I just wasn’t getting what I wanted.  So, I began focusing on the details of the flower, and that’s when I took this picture.

A lot of people, myself included, often think professional photographers can come upon a scene and immediately know, every time, exactly what equipment they need to take the perfect photograph in just one take, so to speak.  But, what I have discovered over the last few years, as I have become (at least in my own mind) more proficient with my photography, is that many of the incredible images the pros show to the world are the end product of a long experimentation process.  Yes, they can, in many situations, size up a scene and know instantly what to do.  But, in many other scenarios, they have to make an educated guess as a starting point and then experiment from there to achieve their final image.  For that one amazing photograph they publish in their books or upload to their websites, there are numerous other shots they took of that scene that will never see the light of day as they figured out how to best capture the image.

And that is exactly what I had to do to capture this image.  I made an educated guess about the equipment I needed and then began experimenting from there.  First, I would attach one extension tube to my lens, take a picture, look at the camera screen, and decide if I liked it.  Then, I would attach a second tube and go through the process again.  I spent several minutes going through these steps trying different combinations of lenses and extension tubes before I found just the right setup to get the shot I wanted.  To get this one picture, I probably shot 20 or 25 different frames.  But, in the end, I got the photograph I was looking for, and that is all that matters.

Settings:  Canon 5D Mk II, 140mm + 36mm extension tube, 1/13 sec, f/16