Harvesting Sunshine

When I stepped into my neighbor’s garden last Saturday I saw that the sunflowers had passed their primes photographically, although their drooping heads continued to attract honey bees. Here and there a flower beckoned the photographer, too, with brighter-than-butter colored petals not completely worn down by the elements…and who can resist a close-up? Or nectar?

I wasn’t after anything visually profound, or exotic: I simply wanted to take a picture that was pleasing to me. Somewhere in the back of my unconscious professional’s mind I was likely thinking stock photo, but that notion hadn’t yet risen to the surface. I wanted unhurried time with the flowers, nothing more.

I was traveling light: just the camera, macro lens, a portable strobe, light stand, and Pocket Wizards to wirelessly fire the flash. I’ve been reading David Hobby’s Strobist, a photographer’s blog devoted to the use of small, off-camera flash, and I’d decided to try cross-lighting one or two of the sunflowers: one Big Light, positioned camera left…one small Nikon SB28 on a stand to the right.

So I stepped carefully between the lean, swaying stalks, trying not to disturb the chickens who were sharing their safe space while I moved around with my equipment in the Photographer’s Dance.

As I made exposures, on the other side of the garden fence 13-year-old Palmer was hacking at a thick patch of grass and weeds. He explained how they’d build a shed there, and then move a gate, and then…well, he was clearly enjoying himself. What kind of teenager willingly does work on a Saturday at the end of summer?

Not much later he traded the rake for his camera, happily telling me about the pictures he was taking for his school’s yearbook as he focused on flowers and bees. He knows people used to use film in their cameras, and now everyone has digital, and it doesn’t concern him a bit because it’s just about the pictures.

Later we went into his house and he showed me his entries in the state fair. They were nicely done, and the lack of Best Of Show ribbons didn’t tarnish his smile, or enthusiasm. Wait till next year.

When I returned home to edit my garden shots I discovered two that I liked…out of 150. Like Palmer, I was pleased, too.

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