Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Northern Gentian - Floral Staircase

Availability: Limited Edition Print; RM Stock (??)

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In the Field

Northern Gentian - Floral Staircase. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 19, 2005.

When I first glanced at this Northern Gentian flower I was struck by how much it looked like a little staircase. As a nature photographer my eye natural seeks pattern, and this pattern literally jumped out at me!

The biggest photographic challenge presented by this image was finding a way to keep both the flowers and the leaves in sharp focus (both are important to the image's success) while creatively blurring the background. I did three things to overcome this challenge: 1) I chose my best "isolating" macro lens (its focal length of 200 mm reduces the depth of field better than shorter macro lenses); 2) I used a relatively small aperture to ensure that enough of the flower and leaves were in focus; and 3) I anticipated the need to create a focal plane composite to create the image I wanted, so I shot multiple images, each on a slightly different focal plane (to be combined later in Photoshop).

Alert - Digitally Manipulated Image: This image clearly crosses the line from simple digital correction to digital manipulation. This image is both a focal plane composite AND has had the "Wildflower" effect applied to it. See Bio: Techniques for details on how these effects are produced.

It is my policy to clearly identify ANY images on this website that overstep the bounds of digital correction and enter the territory of digital manipulation (see Voice: Commentary: Digital Correction vs. Digital Manipulation).

Behind the Camera

Northern Gentian - Floral Staircase. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 19, 2005.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 100.

Nikon D2X with Nikon AF Micro 200 mm f/4 ED lens (300 mm equivalent with digital conversion factor) supported on Gitzo G2220 Explorer tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. Sigma EM-140DG Macro flash. Nikon MC-20 cable release.

3 exposures, each at 1/125s @ f11 and each with different focal plane; -0.33 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; balanced TTL flash exposure with -0.67 stop compensation on EM-140DG. Shutter triggered with mirror-up.

At the Computer

Northern Gentian - Floral Staircase. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 19, 2005.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass sharpening, exposure compensation, and tone curve adjustment, using Phase One's C1 Pro.

All further digital correction on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS2 including compositing of the 3 versions of the image with different focal planes (for "focal plane composite"); selective Gaussian blur, compositing and blending of blurred and sharp layers (for the "Wildflower Effect"), and selective and selective sharpening for web output.


Northern Gentian - Floral Staircase. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 19, 2005.

Ten percent of the selling price of this image (Limited Edition Print or Stock) will be donated to Wildsight.

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk.

Northern Gentian (Gentianella amarella) is one of the most beautiful wildflowers of the western North America and is found from the Yukon and NWT in Canada south to New Mexico. It blooms from June through September and wherever it is found (normally in moist environments like along stream banks) it grows in abundance.

This Northern Gentian was photographed in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenays. While this species is not currently not considered at any risk itself, many ecosystems within the Columbia Valley face development pressure, including pressure from logging operations. Wildsight is an effective conservation organization that protects biodiversity and promotes sustainable communities in Canada's Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Support for Wildsight, through donation or becoming a member, will help ensure that they remain effective in their efforts to conserve threatened or endangered species and ecosystems.

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada