Monday, July 18, 2011
Lavender Fields Forever
Let me apologize up front for the title of this post, which is a play on the song by the Beatles entitled Stawberry Fields Forever.
I recently became aware that the lavender plants at the Young Living Lavender Farms in Mona, Utah were in bloom and I wanted to take a trip down there to see what a photo shoot there would be like. And the more I thought about it, the more I got the words Lavender Fields Forever stuck in my mind.
But I'm really not a landscape photographer. I'm more of a people photographer. So I couldn't very well just show up and take pictures of the landscape. So what would contrast most with a field of lavender? What would stand out and really show up against a sea of purple? Well... a bride dressed in white, of course!
But I did not have a bride available right at the moment. So I put the call out for a model with a wedding dress. Charolett Ann Reynolds jumped in and volunteered. And I asked Pete Hansen to come and help with the lights.
We hit the road heading south for Mona, Utah a bit early. Too early, in fact, for the kind of lighting that I was hoping to get at the lavender farms. And so we decided that we would look for a place to stop along the way where we could do a little shooting ahead of time.
Driving down I-15 we could actually see the lavender farms from the freeway. I could already tell they were going to be beautiful. The purple really stood out as a different type of "scene" from what you normally expect to see driving down the road.
We took the Mona exit and as we were driving down the road I saw this beautiful wheat field off to the east. It almost begged for us to stop. So we pulled over at an open gate and walked in. We didn't have to walk far before we were surrounded by wheat. To the east of us stood the Rocky Mountains and we first shot some pictures there with the sun on the Charolett's face (not my usual style of lighting). The combination of wheat and mountains looked cool, but her squinting, not so much. Earlier I had talked about "beating the sun" (with the flash) and Pete piped up "Let's beat the sun!". And so we turned her around and put her back to the sun. The sun was directly in the shot to the west, so I tried to balance things in a couple of different ways. My van was off to the right which kind of forced my hand on composition. So I positioned myself and my angle so that the van was just outside the frame. This gave a nice opportunity for a sort of leaning triangle ... with the bride leaning in towards the center (her pose itself another triangle), the sun at the top of the triangle and the tree becoming the right side of the triangle.
We then lit her up with a Canon 580 EXII flash using a PocketWizard TT5 to fire it remotely. The light on her needed to be balanced against the sunlight so I had to shoot at high speed sync (1/2500 of a sec). The picture was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II at ISO 100 using a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L lens at f/3.2.
This was the earlier shot, with the mountains in the background (I am facing east with the sun behind me to the west):
We took a few shots there in the field, then ran across the street for a couple more shots. This first one has Charolett up against the tree that you saw in the background of the first picture:
Then we moved over to the hay stacks to get a couple of shots there. In this first one, the sun is directly behind her and Pete is lighting her up with the flash so that she doesn't turn into a silhouette:
Here you can see how the sun is lighting up her veil from the back side (west side) while Pete is lighting up her face with the flash:
Finally, we got in the van and headed for the main attraction ... the lavender farms. When we arrived, there was already another bride there getting her pictures taken as well as a family session that was going on out to the east.
The farm is big, but the two groups there sort of forced my hand as to where we would position ourselves. I didn't want to include the other bride in my pictures (she was to the west of us), nor did I want to get into the frame of the family pictures that were being taken to the east of us. So we really didn't go very far. We were just off the dirt road when I took this picture which shows the rows and rows of lavender plants:
In the above, the soon to be setting sun is to our right lighting up the veil and the tops of the plants, while Pete is to the left lighting up her face. Here is a similar shot with only small changes in what we're doing:
I kept complaining about how short I was and how I wished I had brought a ladder (note to self: bring a ladder next time!), but Pete suggested that I climb on top of my van. NO - I would never do that. What if my kids found out. Oh what the heck, they are all grown up anyway! So up I went. And here is another view of Charolett, this time looking down from above so that I can make the entire background purple from the lavender field:
With the sun soon to be setting, we decided to switch sides so that we could include the sunset without including in the picture the porta-potty that was on the road to our right. In this first shot, I'm shooting for an almost natural light exposure with the flash just adding a little extra touch. This brought up the light a bit and also changed the white balance a bit. But I thought Charolett looked so cute sitting in the field (she is in between rows sitting on the dirt, no plants were harmed in the making of these images):
Darkening the ambient exposure quite a bit, and lighting her up with the flash (this time with a Lastolite Ezybox Softbox on it) we get this (note that the sun is still bright enough that it is lighting up the back of her hair):
Another cute shot of Charolett, this time including the sky from the sun which has just set:
And a couple of final shots of Charolett, the lavender field, and the sunset with Pete's help on the lights (two lights are being used here, one on Charolett and a 2nd light to light up the field behind her so that the field doesn't go black - remember, we wanted purple!):
Thanks Pete and Charolett for your help. I had a great time, learned a lot, and we got some great pictures to show for our efforts.
Lavender Fields Forever!
Posted by dterryphotography at 9:07 PM
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Fantastic series Dave. The lighting and colors in these shots are wonderful.
The photos are stunning. I specially love how you posted them on Facebook, where you placed the lavender field pictures in between the wheat field pictures. It made me think that they would look good side by side printed. Absolutely gorgeous.
Next time you need a "model" for a lavender field shoot let me know! I don't have a wedding dress, but I do have white dresses plenty!
Thank you David for such a wonderful Tutorial and some amazing pictures! Lights are so tricky and it always wonderful to see another photographers perspective on them.
What beautiful images, thanks for sharing! I'm curious about weather or not anyone asked you any questions about shooting in the fields or gave you a bad time? I see this post was done back in 2011 and so I'm not sure if you've been back since but I've seen the fields before coming from California to Utah and have always wanted to stop and grab some casual shots of my little girl, but have been nervous that someone official would come scare me away... sounds ridiculous I know, but still that's what kept running thru my head. Also, do you know when the lavender started blooming? Thx for the help!
Ashleigh, I don't see a way to contact you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can answer your questions there.
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