Bear Grass

by Jolene Doering
(Elko, British Columbia, Canada)

This native to British Columbia bear grass plant grows on the mountains just up my road.

I live really far out in the country and have the wonderful opportunity to go on many walks and see many native plants and animals.

The bear grass happens to be one of my favorites. Not only is it the most beautiful white flower I've ever found in the forest, the sunlight plays on the flowers in such a way that they sometimes seem so white that they almost look like they are glowing.

In order to get this picture I took a quad-ride up the trail by my house. Once I found an area of bear grass I started to take pictures.

This one happens to be my favorite composition. It is taken with the bright afternoon to my back left side.

I am standing on the lower part of a hill, looking upwards when I shot this picture.

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My wife is into flowers. I would be sitting there of an evening, polishing my lenses, and she'd be there flower arranging.

Occasionally she would look up from what she was doing to inform me that the bear grass wasn't playing ball. It wasn't bending quite right and was ruining the geraniums. Or something like that.

And then a tumbleweed blew past...

Only kidding! We don't get tumbleweeds here!

Back to British Columbia and Jolene's photo. It's one of those photo moments when the photographer sees something they like, and starts snapping away.

In the photographer's mind they are looking at a favourite subject (in this case the bear grass) and everything is good.

In that little world there is nothing that can cloud the beautiful scene. I've done it myself. And if we're truthful, I bet we've all been there.

I remember years ago when I started getting into photography (and I'm talking over 20 years ago here) I set myself a project to photograph leaves.

Leaves! And it wasn't even autumn! When I had my roll of film developed I proudly showed off my "collection". Most people were positive, and then I got to my Mum.

Before I continue, you need to know that my Mum has bull-in-a-china-shop diplomacy. She pulls no punches and tells it how it is. If she were in charge of the Middle East peace process she would gather all the important people in a room and simply bang their heads together.

So what did she say when faced with my "collection"? "Well" she started, "it's not very good, is it?"

But she was right. After the back-patting that I had received from everyone else this came as a shock. But it made me think about my photography with a more critical eye.

And I started to see my photos for what they were – a bunch of leaves. All green, often out of focus, and with nothing interesting to capture anyone's attention.

Once I'd stepped out of my world and looked at my photos through fresh eyes I realised that they really weren't very good. And I'd wasted a roll of film. It's this feeling that I get with Jolene's photo.

The bear grass is very nice indeed. And I'm sure they looked lovely. But from a photographic perspective, there's nothing much here that grabs attention.

So, what tips might help out here? Well, one would be the time of day. The evening light is much kinder on this sort of photograph. It creates a nice soft glow. There is a time called the golden hour, about an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise, when the light is at its best. Taking a photo at this time of day would have helped Jolene.

But I think the best tip here is to change the composition. A really close up shot (use the macro setting on your camera) would help as it would make the flowers a real focal point of the scene.

And as a final tip, maybe get right into the grass and take a photo of one flower head set against the sky. And if it were against a sunset this would look really special.

Thanks for the submission Jolene, and I hope there are some useful tips in here for you,


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