Landscape photography will be even more fun when you master the various functions on the Nikon D500. In this article, we share some professional tips on how to turn a seemingly mundane scene into a work you will be proud of, by adding a soft, pastel feel to photos of blooming flowers in a meadow. (Report by Toshiya Hagihara)
Nikon D500 / AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II/ 122mm (equivalent to 183mm in FX/35mm format) / Aperture-priority auto (f/2.8､1/1,250sec)/ ISO 100 / WB: Direct sunlight
All-round sharp outlines would not quite suit the soft and gentle image I had in mind for this scene of dainty flowers blooming in the warm sunlight. I adjusted the Clarity value to “-2”, which toned down the shadows and dimensionality elements in the image and resulted in the soft, airy feel of this photograph.
For this landscape photo, I aimed to create an image that expressed the idea of warmth and softness that formed my first impressions of the subject matter. The Clarity setting in the Picture Control feature held the key to controlling how “hard” or soft” the image looks. The photo at the top is one shot of the flower field that I came across in a park. The scene made me think of the idea of “soft and light”, and so I adjusted the Clarity setting in Picture Control (Portrait) to “-2” to further adjust the image outcome.
The completed version of the photo at the top. The composition consists of:
A) Nemophilia flowers in the green field, defocused for a soft effect.
B) The primary interest in the photo: California poppies, kept in focus
C) Foreground bokeh
D) Background bokeh
The amount of C) and D) determines the final look and feel of the image. This can be adjusted with good lens technique and some trial and error.
The photo was shot in a field of nemophila flowers. The soft, airy feel came about as the result of bokeh effects created in the foreground and background of the flowers chosen as the central focus. If I were to shoot from a standing vantage point, the resulting angle would be as seen in this photo—quite difficult to create a foreground and background bokeh with. It is therefore important that you choose a low angle. The D500’s tilting LCD screen comes in handy in finding the perfect low angle.
Telephoto lenses have a shallow depth-of-field that are great for creating bokeh. Use one to close in on one part of the flower field. If you position something right in front of the lens, you will be able to turn it into a large foreground bokeh. For this photo, I moved left and right to find the perfect position for the foreground bokeh, and found that I got the best results when the bokeh was positioned not directly in front of the lens, but instead, on the flower just a little away from it.
When photographing flowers, choose the Portrait Picture Control, which allows you to achieve a soft, pastel look. To further enhance the soft effect, I set the Clarity value to “-2”. You don’t always have to increase the dimensionality just because it is a landscape photo. Instead, make good use of the Picture Control settings and create an image that suits what you are trying to express.
Let’s compare our image with the same photo taken with the Picture Control – Standard. By default, Clarity is set to “+1”. While this indeed results in a photo with dimensionality, it doesn’t have the soft, pastel effect.
When you include elements such as surrounding trees and rocks in your image in addition to just the flowers, the resulting image will become more like a typical landscape photograph. In this case, lowering the Clarity value results in a blurry photo that lacks appeal, and you will be better off leaving it in default setting (which is “+1”).
Born in Kofu City of the Yamanashi Prefecture in 1964. Joined an advertising agency and became involved in catalog production and event planning. Became a freelancer after leaving the company, and currently specializes in natural landscape photography, also actively writing for photography magazines. A member of the Japan Scenery Photographers Association (JSPA).