The Writing Life

I haven’t been writing for Focal Plane because I’ve just been so busy. Writing. Yes, seriously; as in writing articles that actually make some money. Poor Focal Plane has been neglected, so I’m giving it a new theme. You might say that it’s a fresh look for a fresh start.

Flowering grasses make excellent photographic subjects, but it can be difficult to capture details.

These flowering grasses grow to about six feet high and a single plant has spread so much that we’ve divided it up into eight separate plants, all of which are now about the same size as the parent plant, in about two to three years’ worth of growth. Planted between our driveway and our neighbor’s driveway, the grasses make a nice natural hedge that doesn’t need to be pruned or mowed. On the plus side, the flowering plumes can be cut and allowed to dry and make wonderful dried flower arrangements.

Photographing the plumes is a bit difficult because they move at the slightest hint of a breeze and can tax a photographer’s patience unless you use a wide-open aperture or very high speed setting on your camera. The problem with a wide aperture is the shallow depth of field, which means not all of the plumes will be in sharp focus. There are several ways around this problem. First, use a high speed setting of at least 1/500th of a second, with a medium aperture of around f/11. Also, wait until the air is still. Hot, humid afternoons or early morning hours are a good time to find these kind of weather conditions, at least in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Another trick is to set your camera on a tripod some distance away from the grasses and use a long lens. This tends to minimize problems with shallow depth of field and will allow you more leeway with your aperture settings. Be sure to bracket your settings.