I arrived early for a workshop I was leading in Bear Valley, the park headquarters for Point Reyes National Seashore. As soon as I parked my car I noticed a patch of grass covered with heavy dew. The sun had risen over the hills to the east, and even from where I was standing I could see gem-like patterns of light and reflections of the sun refracted through waterdrops thick in the grass.
There was no point in using a tripod because there was a breeze and the grass was in motion. In any case, it would have been difficult to position a standard tripod as low to the ground as I needed to be to get really in-and-among the dew-bedecked grass.
Without hesitation, I pulled out my camera and macro lens and got down on my belly in the grass. The sunlight and waterdrops seemed to create vast, radiant structures—ephemeral architecture made up of minute blades and moisture. I trolled forward on my belly.
It was a gift just to get to witness this Lilliputian scenery. But my time was limited as I knew my students would be arriving soon—and the morning dew was quickly evaporating with the rising sun.
I switched gears from observer to photographer. The photography trick was to expose for the sunlight, allowing the grass and background to fall into shadows. I knew I could “rescue” dark areas when I multi-RAW processed my files.
Also, I had to be very aware of focus and depth-of-field issues since these are critical in macro photography. The idea was to take control of focus by being as parallel as possible to my compositions.
I was shooting in the direction of the sun, meaning the grass was backlit. This lighting direction caused the most striking effects in the grass.
I needed to understand focus and depth-of-field issues intuitively because with the sun directly ahead I could neither see very well through my viewfinder nor review the images on my LCD.
As workshop participants started to arrive I switched gears again, and got up to setup for my workshop. I was dripping and cold from being down in the wet grass. Fortunately, I always carry a dry set of clothing with me—it wouldn’t have been fun to be soggy all day while I presented the workshop!
By the way, if you are interested in my workshops you can keep track of them on the Photography with Harold Davis meetup group.
Exposure data: All three images 105mm macro, ISO 200, hand held; Morning Dew (top) 1/1000 of a second and f/11; Splendour in the Grass (middle) 1/250 of a second and f/40; Dew in the Grass (bottom) 1/800 of a second and f/14.