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Tips and techniques

FIELD TECHNIQUES: Cherry Blossom Time by F.M. Kearney

By March 28, 2014No Comments

Cherry Blossom Time (CB-109a(D)

Story and photograph by F.M. Kearney

I had almost forgotten what it was like to see vibrant colors in my viewfinder. Despite that and a nasty fall on the ice that took me out of commission for several weeks, I still prefer winter over the insufferable dog days of summer. Yet, as this winter–one of the harshest on record–comes to a close, I’m rejoicing along with many others the long-awaited arrival of spring.

One of the first jewels of spring are colorful cherry blossoms. In New York City, the place to go is Cherry Esplanade in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Every April, two rows of Prunus “Kanzan” trees–a gift from the Japanese government after World War I–adorn this area of the garden in a sea of pink. The month-long cherry blossom season known as Hanami ends in a weekend celebration called Sakura Matsuri.

Cherry Blossom Time is a photo I captured when the esplanade was in full bloom early one morning. Daybreak is my favorite time to shoot delicate nature subjects, because the winds tend to be lighter. In this case, I chose the time not so much because of the light winds but to avoid the hoards of school kids and sun-worshipers who would be dominating this area later in the day.

Using a flash and a 28mm lens, I isolated a single wayward branch in the foreground with the long rows of the trees in the rear. The flash allowed me to use two different exposures in the same shot without having to resort to HDR software.  I was able to maintain the proper exposure on the branch, via the flash, while slightly underexposing everything else by adjusting the shutter speed. This subtle difference in exposure effectively separated the branch from the busy background.

Just like the warning, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” the branch was just a few inches away from my lens. To ensure even lighting, I reduced the output of the flash to -0.3, then hand-held it off-camera a few feet away from the branch.  Lastly, I used a polarizing filter to highlight the wispy white clouds.

After the brutal winter we’ve just experienced, it’s nice to finally be able to shoot in conditions that don’t require special arctic gear and techniques.

F. M. Kearney is an award-winning nature photographer whose work has been widely published. He is a long time contributor to NANPA publications.  To see more of Kearney’s work, visit

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