Mustard is blooming

One of the things I like most about living here in Northern California is that we have colorful seasons all year long and if you shoot outdoors, that's a bonus. February is the month when mustard blooms and if the sun is out it's an extremely vibrant yellow. The vineyards are laced with mustard creating a vivid counterpoint to the dormant vines. When I shoot landscapes, I often try to frame a variety of shots by using selective focus.

Dormant GrapevinesDormant Grapevines

In the shot on the left I focused on the background. For an alternate view I shifted the focus to the foreground and pulled in tighter for the image on the right. I never know until I'm editing on my desktop which version I'll prefer.


I'm passionate about horses, especially my own. "Armani" Amani.Mustard.webis a beautiful 17 hand Oldenburg gelding that my daughter and I share riding. When I saw the farmer next door's field covered in mustard, I had to take him out there for a portrait. Again I used selective focus to frame him with the blurry mustard in the foreground. He's a natural ham and stood perfectly for a few minutes while I clicked away. I photo-shopped the lead rope out for a cleaner look. Remember when you are outdoors shooting, use a polarizing lens to saturate your colors and deepen the blue in the sky. You'll get the best effect by having the sun slightly in front of you to one side.


wilsons A field of mustard also makes a great background for environmental portraits. I'm big on back lighting people, which means I have the sun somewhere in front of the camera. You have to be careful of lens flare, so a higher perspective was needed. I often use a piece of black ciné foil suspended above my lens to cut the light. Usually I add one or two third's stop to the exposure and dodge the faces a bit in Adobe Bridge. I knew I only had a short time to get these vintners, so we drove down the road in Dry Creek Valley and found a neighboring vineyard to get the shot. I like a casual friendly look for these outdoor portraits.

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