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My story begins with a walk in a nearby forest in early spring. It’s a special, short-lived time. The budding trees have just begun to show their new leaves of the season and they transform the forest from its bleak winter clothes by adding a fresh new colour, softening the look of the season left behind. It’s like a watercolour painter was busy, adding new life to the forest as it emerges from a deep sleep.

During this period, only a few weeks long, flowers pop up and decorate the pathways, basking in the light and warmth that filters through the trees. Soon, the leaves fill in the gaps and block the light. Without the touch from the sun, the flowers disappear until next year.

The Softness of Spring is a very brief window in a wonderful season. I hope you’ll join me on this journey through a nearby forest, my backyard and a local park.

High Knoll Park near our home is where to find these little beauties. Fawn Lilies are rare and this is one of the few places in BC they are found, although common on southern Vancouver Island. Notice how open the forest canopy is.
Pink Fawn Lilies are a favourite. We feel so lucky to see these every spring.
The more common variety, although still rare, is the white version. A perennial gift.
Before the forest closes in, Trilliums pop up in groves, decorating the forest floor. Reaching for the light, this one seems to be sunbathing!
Many of these photos require the photographer to lay on the ground to get to their level. Here is a Trillium eye view of its cocoon like home.
Soft and tiny, this little capsule spreads spores to grow new mosses on the forest floor.
Mosses and spores share their space, and the light, with the unfurling leaves of ferns.
The forest floor is covered at this time of spring with the undulating rhythm of False Lily of the Valley.
This light-loving lily is only about 4 inches high so needs every ray of light that makes it through to the forest floor.
The lowly dandelion, when you take a closer look, is a remarkable thing of beauty.
A Maidenhair fern, in its infancy, will unfurl and dance in the breezes.
A large clump of Trilliums, which thrives under the trees in our yard, showing their magenta which appears before the blossoms fade away.
Spent blossoms litter the garden soil.
Soft, delicate and spectacular.
Tulip time in our backyard. It’s time to dance but you need your red dress.
The dancers in our yard party on.

Mystery in the shadows of the garden.

In a nearby park (Sendall Gardens, Langley), the dance of light and colour continues to soften.
Fuzzy and soft, this little triangle of life will double in size many times to capture more light.
A pink dogwood, soft and beautiful.
Softness of Spring.
The forest where the Fawn Lilies grow is now filled in with new leaves. The early spring flowers have faded away and the window of spring softness is closed … until next year.

For Photographers

During the early phase of spring each year, I’m always struck by the softness and the ability to ‘see through’ the trees at its inner structure. This year, when assigning a project to my Intermediate Photography students, I decided to make this my project. I’ve made about 1000 pictures in a couple of weeks on this topic and it feels like the time it took to narrow the selection down to 30 was about as much as it took to make the photos!

There are a few techniques in these images that help to emphasize the softness. The most basic one, and most common, is shallow depth of field. Many of the images were taken with my 105 mm f/2.8 macro lens, sometimes with extension tubes, resulting in soft images like this purple and yellow flower.

Intentional camera movement was used often in my explorations. Whether you want it or not, ICM is a great way to remove textures and details, softening the scene. With the red tulips, the leaves and stems around them became a pattern of line that contributed to the sense of motion.

‘In the Round’ is an effect that creates a very painterly image. In this image, I took 8 exposures. Each time I took a giant step in a circular path around the tree and focused on the same spot. It’s not necessary to go all the way around the tree. Then, the images can be combined in camera with the multiple exposure function or they can be combined with Photoshop. I actually do both and then have the choice. With photoshop, it’s possible to align them better than you might have done while shooting the series. But the results are very similar.

The well known Orton effect is a go to method to soften the scene. Using this method, I use the double exposure feature in my camera. First, I create a sharp image and then, an out of focus image of the identical scene. It’s important to hold the camera so the two images are aligned (tripod is best) and the resulting image can resemble a water colour image. For more about this method, you can learn from the master himself, Michael Orton.

Sad Story: This beautiful Maple tree has been photographed dozens of times by myself and many others. Yesterday, when walking by, I saw the large branch on the left side had broken off and was on the ground. Only two weeks prior, my granddaughter was sitting on it! I guess we all fall apart eventually!

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