Blossoms, Almond orchard

Wasn’t quite sure where to post this; for a couple of reasons. I think this technically qualifies for Flora, but also could be non-nature (orchard) or this could go in a discussion, Post Processing or even Photo Art. You’ll see why in a sec.

I’m also always shy in posting in Flora because of all the beautiful, outstanding work posted here!

First I’ll post the image and it’s RAW (well 1 of the 3 RAW images) with more detail below.

This was captured just this past Sunday. We finally got a break between rain storms and so I decided to take a tour of California’s central valley and the blooming orchards. Almonds I believe are the predominant tree, but there’s apple, peach, nectarine, plum, etc. Most all in bloom now!

Orchards and their blossoming fruit are difficult to shoot and often quite cliche. After miles and miles of orchards, they all look the same. And it’s not polite to simply walk in and wonder around an orchard without permission, so one is relegated to roadside images.

It was getting later in the day and I hadn’t really found anything compelling or different and was drawing blanks on being creative (been there, done that on the pan/zoom abstracts…) The sun was peeking in and out behind more high clouds and while passing an orchard I noticed some low hanging branches that were blossoming. Then came the thought of isolating a few blossoms against the backdrop of the orchard - only shooting with a long lens wide open to throw the orchard oof. This gave me a chance to test out my new lens at a wide aperture and see what kind of bokeh the lens produced.

And because these blossoms were not all on the same plane, I captured 3 images, each one focusing on a single blossom, shooting at f/3.2 and then blended them. Kinda the opposite of what one normally does with focus stacking, to get great deal and depth of field. Here I didn’t want depth of field at all, but wanted just the main blossoms in focus. I think it worked pretty well.

Ok, so here’s the rub and my full disclosure. And would like your honest opinions. I’m going to include the unprocessed RAW image (except for TK’s resizing). I initially processed this that included the OOF vertical branch coming in from the top and it wasn’t really noticeable unless you took more time viewing the image. The stuff on the right edge easily cloned. But next is where I hope I didn’t go to far off track. I decided to eliminate that OOF branch. And in doing so, I pretty much “reconstructed” the UR portion of the image; including painting in a portion of the trunk from another image where the OOF branch wasn’t there. And painted in another branch to fill in the right of the main trunk.

To me, this is grossly manipulated; probably the most I’ve ever done with an image. Do you care?

I altered and added pixels and I feel I’ve clearly crossed over the line from recording what I saw versus creating what I had envisioned. In my view, what is presented is just what I had envisioned when standing there; a detailed image of almond blossoms, juxtaposed against the repeating rows and patters of the orchard where these blossoms reside. So it’s less about the blossoms, but rather more about the story of an orchard.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Agree or disagree, how is the processing of the final image?

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

How do you think the orchard is represented here, vs. simply the blossoms? Does this work?

Any pertinent technical details:

Nikon d800E, Tamron 70-200mm/2.8 at 190mm f/3.2 1/100 iso 200, 3 image focus stack for blossom detail.

Thank you!

PS. Maybe I’ll post a suggestion in the Site feedback forum. But only 3 tags? Garden, wild or studio? what about “Cultivated” or “Agriculture” etc. I had to pick at least one and it’s not really any of these.

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Lon : thanks for taking so much trouble to set the scene for discussing this image. I’ll just plunge in with two lines of thought. First, I very much like your modification of the R side - the bg tree with its extra branch now balances things much better than in the original; also I like the warmer effect in the orchard area. Second, I am less sure about the overall balance. To me this is a beautifully realised shot of the branch - the orchard is more of a distraction than a scene setter ; I guess my personal preference would be to soften it rather more. Whatever, this is a lovely capture.

Lon: Works for me and you need to post here more. I like your changes and how you isolated the branch and blossoms. I like the progression of the trees in the BG and think its unobtrusive enough. The bokeh is pretty good too. All in all :+1::+1:>=))>

Lon, for me the photo is beautiful in both versions. I love the deep and dreamy background. I prefer the first version that is warmer and softer for my eyes. A beautiful image.

I think you did a fine job on processing this image, Lon. The removal of the “offending limbs” is certainly ok by me. I make no statements that my images are exact replicas of what I saw because it’s impossible for them to be so. Adding the limb might put it over into photo art but the line is very, very gray and diffuse.

I like your final composition. The line of trunks leads me into the image and the blooms keep drawing me back. Very well crafted.

I can’t think of anything to fuss about here. I like the focus on the blossoms and the progression of trees connoting “orchard trees”. The warm colors in #1 are easy on the eyes and a welcoming note to the viewer. It’s not a strong and simple photo, but it is easy to look at and discover several levels of understanding. As far as the processing goes, I’m glad you covered that in some detail. This is the place where we all try to learn things, and I appreciate the effort you made to disclose your thoughts and processes.