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Tips and techniques

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Capturing early morning dew . . . all day long

By April 10, 2017No Comments

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Triumph tulip "Inistress Mystic" Tulipa Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Triumph tulips © F.M. Kearney

If you like shooting flowers, now is the time of year to be out in the field. Whether you live in a rural setting or in the middle of a large metropolitan area, these colorful little jewels of nature should not be too hard to find.

One of the most appealing aspects of flower photography are dew drops. As exposed surface temperatures cool, atmospheric moisture condenses in the form of water droplets. These droplets, commonly referred to as dew, can form on grass, leaves and even inanimate objects like railings and vehicles in the early morning hours. The formation of dew on flowers can turn a generic image into one that is stunning.

Unless you plan on getting up at the crack of dawn, however, you may never get a chance to photograph dew-covered flowers. Even if you are an early riser, there’s still no guarantee you will capture the perfect image. Dew quickly evaporates as the ambient temperature rises. That does not leave you with much time to shoot before your subjects begin to dry their early morning “tears.” Also, I can only remember a handful of times when the dew appeared exactly where I wanted it and with droplets large enough to be clearly seen in the photo.

As nature photographers, we’re always at the mercy of, well, nature. Waiting for the right type of light, specific wind conditions or a certain time of year are circumstances we live with. Fortunately, capturing dew-covered flowers doesn’t have to require the patience of Job.

I carry my own dew. I put water in a small atomizer that is just under seven inches tall, and weighs only six ounces when full. I can easily fit the spray bottle in my bag whenever I plan on shooting flowers. Although my bottle doesn’t hold much, a little water can go a long way. Just a couple of squirts is all it takes to add a few eye-catching droplets on the petal of a flower.

The opening photo of triumph tulips is an example of this. The day was partly cloudy, and filtered sunlight was beginning to highlight a solitary bloom nestled within the pack. I gave the visible area of the flower a quick squirt, and a few droplets rolled down the side fortuitously creating one large drop clinging to the bottom. One more spritz might have dislodged the big drop, so I stopped spraying. Trying to recreate it would have required more and more squirts, inevitably bursting the droplets and resulting in a wet tulip rather than a dewy one.

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) Antigua, West Indies

Desert Rose © F.M. Kearney


I added a few water drops to the desert rose above, but only the drop at the bottom has the glistening quality displayed in the tulip photo. What made the difference? I captured this image on an overcast day while I shot the tulips on a partly cloudy day. Regardless, adding the water drops to either image provided an element of interest to what would otherwise have been an ordinary photo.

An atomizer isn’t only useful for creating your own dew drops. On sunny days, it can be a great way to add beautiful bokeh around your floral portraits. If you’re shooting closeups with a long lens and a limited depth of field, simply give everything in your sunlit background a good soaking. Depending on the strength of the lighting, the droplets may glisten like an assemblage of twinkling stars.

There’s another interesting application that can open up an entirely new (and often unseen) world for you. If you have a macro lens, try focusing on the droplets themselves. I’ve seen amazing photos of discernible images captured within extreme closeups of water droplets.

An atomizer is probably one of the smallest and least expensive, yet most versatile pieces of equipment you can carry to enhance your flower photos. If you like that early morning, dew-covered look, it’s nice to know that you can capture it at any time of day.

F.M. Kearney began his career as a photojournalist for a variety of local New York City newspapers. It was an exciting profession, which allowed him to cover everything from famous celebrities to ride-alongs with the NYPD and the FDNY. He now specializes in nature and urban landscapes. As an award-winning photographer, his images have been licensed on many products and published in numerous publications, as well as exhibited in galleries in the United States and abroad. To view more of his work, visit Kearney can be contacted at, or via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.