Category Archives: Wildflower Photography

May Workshop in Hocking Hills | Back to the Basics

I am happy to announce that I will be leading and presenting a one-day nature photography workshop at The Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio. This program will be limited to the first 20 people who register (by emailing me @ jim@jimcrotty.com) and will be a nice balance between classroom instruction on digital editing and field shooting locations to include the beautiful waterfalls and woodlands of what I consider the most scenic location in Ohio. The cost is $89 per person which includes lunch at The Inn. Transportation and accommodations are not included but I am happy to provide some excellent suggestions as to where to stay in the area. Of course The Inn at Cedar Falls is always my first recommendation.

May in Hocking Hills is spectacular and I look forward to leading the group to my favorite locations and providing instruction on composition, lighting, equipment, settings for best results using the DSLR camera and even offering my best tips for nature photography with the iPhone and other camera phones. My workshops are open to all levels of experience. One thing I don’t do is my own shooting while teaching my workshops. I am there for my students! For more details please see http://jimcrotty.zenfolio.com/photography-workshops

Promo flyer for spring nature photography workshop in Hocking Hills Ohio by Jim Crotty
Promo flyer for spring nature photography workshop in Hocking Hills Ohio by Jim Crotty

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Betwixt and Between | Coming Full Circle, again

It’s always the unexpected that makes for the best experiences and images with landscape photography. One such experience occurred this past Friday evening. Good friends of mine here in the North Dallas area of Frisco, Joel and Julie, invited me to come photograph a hidden away patch of Texas prairie that had not yet been developed into a subdivision. It was land that bordered the farm property they both were renting for raising Arabians, chickens and just having a welcome retreat for me to escape to. But even here they were already making plans to buy farm/ranch acres of their own, several miles to the north near the Oklahoma border. Sprawl was coming.

We hopped on the ATV’s and headed over to where Julie wanted to show me an incredible display of spring wildflowers. Through a face-load of pollen we came upon on a scene that I had always imagined how a North Texas prairie should be – an unbroken field of wildflowers (in this case Indian Blanket) with a horizon line not ruined by power lines and roofs. It was there and just as the setting sun was breaking through rain clouds I jumped off the ATV and began composing my captures.TexasAwesometicitybyJimCrottyFW

The bad news is that just on the other side of this field trees were already being taken out and the land surveyed for a new road, and subsequently new subdivisions. I live in one of those subdivisions just a few miles away.

The building-out and growth north of Dallas has not let-up since the 1980’s. Frisco is in the top five of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. Thousands of new residents are pouring in as more and more employers realize the benefits of favorable tax incentives in Texas. It’s all very good for the local economy but the nature photographer in me sees the downfall. There is very little in the way of set aside green space. There is nothing that even comes close to the Five Rivers MetroParks I had access to back in Dayton, Ohio. The situation presents a bit of a paradox for me. One the hand I can’t complain about the quality of the Frisco public school system. I have daughters in 6th and 8th grade here in Frisco and I have to admit, the quality is at par or even surpasses what I’ve experienced in the past with private schools.

But I can’t help but miss all those beautiful hills and woodlands back home in Ohio. It’s where I built my reputation as one of the top pro nature and landscape shooters for that area. It’s a big reason why I am returning to Ohio next month. The decision did not come easy. I don’t exactly enjoy being torn in several different directions. There was some tempting reasons for returning to South Carolina as well. Ultimately I have to be true to myself and my art. That truth is back in Ohio.

Rapid economic development and growth can be mostly good, however, I won’t be so quick to be as harsh on Ohio in the future. There is a quality of life issue, an ease of living, where closeness with nature plays a bigger role. There’s the essence of home that’s rooted in a familiar landscape and a rhythm and balance to distinct seasons. Texas is Texas. Ohio is Ohio and Ohio is home. I need to be there and my daughters need for me to be that touchstone to their Ohio roots. I need for me to be doing what I do best in the place I know best.

The Dayton Ohio area is also where I worked hard to establish myself as both a commercial and portrait photographer. Corporate clients, editorial clients, high school seniors, workshops. It was all just starting to hit stride when I picked-up and moved in early 2011. I will regain that momentum. I have to. What’s also interesting to note is that most of my portrait customers on Hilton Head were Ohio referrals ! I had a good thing going and now I fully appreciate it. And I very, very much appreciate all those beautiful metro and state parks and nature preserves.

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Making the Camera Sing | Coming Home

I wanted to share some of the incredible experiences I had upon returning to the Hocking Hills of Ohio, from April 17 – 23. I love returning to this region because it is where my love for nature photography first got started, many years ago. It’s also where I teach best because I am so familiar with the landscape and subject matter. For me Hocking has become more of an old, best friend versus just another location to visit and photograph. The added plus last week was the opportunity to once again serve on the judging panel for Shoot the Hills and have the opportunity to speak and present my work to the public in attendance at the weekend event. This was the 10th year for Shoot the Hills. It’s growing in popularity every year, drawing photographers from all over Ohio and the surrounding states. Funds raised go to support educational and preservation efforts within Hocking Hills State Park through Friends of Hocking Hills. Friends and fellow Photographers Barb and Jerry Jividen play a big role in both Friends of Hocking Hills and Shoot the Hills along with a dedicated group of hardworking volunteers, many of whom are also long time friends.

The biggest project spearheaded by Friends of Hocking Hills was in working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in rerouting the section of State Highway 664 to the far side of the parking area for Old Man’s Cave. This was a HUGE improvement and highly beneficial, not only in terms of pedestrian safety but in eliminating the road noise issue down in the gorge and the run-off/deterioration from the almost constant traffic.

This year’s entries during Shoot the Hills were just as impressive as those of years past. The winning images have been posted on the Friends of Hocking Hills Facebook page for Shoot the Hills. It was also a blast to be included in the list of guest speakers on Sunday morning. I’ve uploaded the PDF version of my slide show presentation – “Photography as Personal Journey” – for online viewing. The images I showed and talked about were mostly captured during the last two years with landscape imagery of coastal South Carolina and Hilton Head Island well represented. It was interesting to note the number of email messages I received following my presentation from Ohioans planning summer trips to Hilton Head and wanting tips on where to photograph nature and landscape subjects on and near the Island. I partially joke that I should be on some sort of commission/recognition program with the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce based on how often I answer such emails and how my images of Hilton Head are encouraging visitors to look beyond golf and restaurants as a reason to visit and vacation. I am happy to play some small roll in perhaps preserving the natural beauty of the area and to help others see that is well worth protecting.

The other very rewarding experience of my recent trip back to Hocking Hills was in presenting another fun-filled workshop on nature photography, based at my home in Hocking, The Inn at Cedar Falls. I hosted a great group of energetic and talented photographers, many of whom were new to Hocking Hills. We had the opportunity to explore perfect spring conditions with wildflowers and waterfalls. This time around it was just a one-day workshop but still a ton of material and time teaching in the field resulted in more than a full day of nature photography. I am happy to announce that I have already reserved the meeting space at The Inn for two weekend workshops, one in August and the other in October. The dates are August 16 – 18 and October 25 – 27, at The Inn in Hocking Hills. I’m also working on arranging for a one-day workshop in Dayton – most likely Cox Arboretum – prior to the August program in Hocking Hills. Please email me if you would like to be added to my early reservation list. The cost of the weekend programs is $325 per person which includes guided instruction in the field and on the trails, classroom instruction on my favorite techniques for digital editing workflow, most meals and a complete workshop handbook. I anticipate both weekend programs in Hocking Hills to fill-up fast. Usually about half of my attendees are repeat workshop participants (and great friends too!).

Following my recent April workshop and Shoot the Hills last week I made time for a full day on my own out on the trails, capturing and composing the landscape that I’ve come to know so well. I do this because I make a point not to shoot on my own when teaching workshops. When I teach, I teach. When I shoot on my own, I shoot on my own. Just to have one day alone on the trails does amazing things in revitalizing my spirit and energizing my creative soul. It’s what I love to do best and I am always, always thankful for the opportunity. Below are just a few of the images I captured during my spring visit back “home” in Hocking Hills, Ohio. Enjoy !

Grace Be This Day | Lanscape Photography by Jim Crotty First Light by Jim Crotty Trillium in Conkles Hollow by Jim Crotty Spring Vine on Fallen Tree Trunk in Conkles Hollow by Jim Crotty Sunset sky over Hocking Hills Ohio in April by Jim Crotty SpringinConklesHollowbyJimCrottyFW April in Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve by Jim Crotty April in Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve by Jim Crotty DeepinthePeaceofthisPlaceFW CedarFallsBlackandWhitebyJimCrottyFW MorningatCedarFallsbyJimCrottyFW  RomanceRue Anemone wildflower in Conkles Hollow in Hocking Hills Ohio by Jim Crotty Spring Beauty wildflowers near Ash Cave in Hocking Hills Ohio by Jim Crotty

Tips on Wildflower Photography | Composing the Spring Landscape

Conditions are now coming together for another season of spring wildflower photography. It’s that time of year when nature photographers everywhere awake from their winter doldrums and blow the dust off their camera gear. In Texas it’s all about the Bluebonnets. People down here go crazy for them with cars pulled over along every field where they pop-up. Back in Ohio it’s more a combination of Virginia Bluebells and Trillium. Last week I had the opportunity to visit scenic areas in the Texas Hill Country where I came across some good stretches of Bluebonnets. It will be another week or so before they’re appearing in the Dallas metro area. I’m also traveling back up home to the Hocking Hills of Southeastern Ohio to both teach a one-day workshop on spring nature photography (still some openings available – hint, hint) and serve as a judge and guest presenter at the annual Shoot the Hills weekend, April 19-21.

As a lead-up to the topics I will be discussing in Ohio I put together a list of my top tips for spring wildflower photography as well as a short video.

First my list:

* Be willing to get low and get dirty, photographically speaking. Unlike late summer and autumn, wildflowers in spring are most often just inches from the ground. The most unflattering angle is the easiest – just straight down. Don’t do it. Engage your subject at eye level, which sometimes can entail getting on your stomach. It might be muddy and uncomfortable but the results will be a huge improvement from standing and shoot downward. The lower angle will add needed depth, texture and a much more pleasing background.

* A dedicated macro lens is ideal but a medium length zoom or telephoto lens can work to. Focus on the essence of the subject. Even plants have a “personality” and focal point. Find it and work with it.

* Blur your background with a wide aperture and narrow depth of field BUT be aware how those wide apertures (2.8 to 5.6) can dramatically decrease the area that’s in focus, especially with macro lenses. You can stack multiple exposures, each with a different focal point, but your subject has to be absolutely still to gain the proper frames to work with in post-processing. It’s almost a sure thing you will be dealing with wind.

* Maintaining tack-sharp focus. Speaking of wind. The closer you zoom or get close with macro, the more you magnify movement of your subject. Watch your shutter speed and keep it fast enough to maintain sharpness. With DSLR cameras today the best method is to simply shoot your ISO high enough to gain a fast enough shutter speed. It’s not uncommon to hear a few choice words from docile nature photographers when they are trying to photography wildflowers with just the slightest breeze. It’s also a good idea to go with manual focus on macro lenses because at that range lens focusing systems will jump around constantly with just the slightest movement of the subject.

* Look for soft, even lighting conditions such as early morning. Diffuse bright sunlight but also “throw” a touch of light when the flower is too much in shadow, such as with a handheld reflector or detached speedlite. With flowers it is always best to expose for your focal point.

* Fill the frame with repeating patterns. Keep the edges clean.

I mention a few of these tips in the following video as well –

Spring in Texas Hill Country | Photography by Jim Crotty 3 Spring in Texas Hill Country | Photography by Jim Crotty 4 Spring in Texas Hill Country | Photography by Jim Crotty 5 Spring in Texas Hill Country | Photography by Jim Crotty 6