I have been following Mark Price for quite awhile now. He’s images are nothing less than extraordinary and an inspiration to many.
Recently, Mark released his Fields of Isolation series and as soon as I saw this gallery I was astounded. He captured these images of flowers so delicately and beautifully. The lighting in this collection is used to perfection and plays a huge role in the overall light and airy feel to these series. Mark uses a strong sense of detail for the finer aspects of these images. He perfectly balances all elements of subject, background and lighting to create beautiful imagery.
In this exclusive interview, Mark shares more about the process behind capturing this beautiful collection of images.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to create your Spring 2020 Collection.
I’m a semi-professional landscape/nature photographer based near Brighton on the South Coast of England. I’ve been making images for around 7 years, and almost exclusively natural planet type work for 4-5 years. I’m fascinated by the Earth and really enjoy creating artwork that portrays my interpretation of the incredible landscapes around the globe.
As well as the ‘grand’ landscape, I’ve had an interest in more intimate/detailed aspects of our landscapes for quite some time. In particular, spring is a wonderful time of year in England for all sorts of wildflowers and fauna to appear. I’m always struck by the beauty of the small flowers and plants as the spring season commences here at home. It feels like the re-introduction of colour and life back into the landscape after the dormancy of winter.
This year, with the current situation we are all faced with in the world, I was looking for a photography project to work on within the genre of landscape/nature photography but without needing to travel anywhere. With that in mind, I considered it would be a good time to expand my collection of close-up/macro/flower images – my vision for the collection was to capture the essence of the finer details of spring emerging.
You have beautifully used a shallow depth of field to isolate your subjects in this collection. In order to achieve this look what was your choice of lens and why?
I used 2 lenses to create the whole collection: a Tamron 90mm macro lens, and a Sigma 100-400 telephoto lens. For a single flower, or very close-up frames, the macro lens can be a great choice due to the short focusing distance, but for a lot of the images, the 100-400 was used.
For shooting multiple flowers/plants while still maintaining a very intimate feel, and the desirable shallow depth of field, a telephoto with a wide-open aperture is a perfect choice. I can zoom in to a more complex scene of small flowers from a distance with a long focal length. I also really like the way that my telephoto renders the out of focus areas of light – there’s a nice bokeh to it.
Light plays a key element in this series, what were you looking for in terms of lighting?
It does, I think as I’ve developed my taste and sense about what a good photograph should look like, light on/around the subject has become increasingly important. For this series, I mostly shot later in the day when there was still some light either hitting the subject or flooding into my chosen composition. Almost exclusively, I make use of backlighting from above the frame for this type of work – the high key feel this can create was my intention. I was looking for some softness, diffusion, and colour to the lighting, so the last couple of hours of daylight each day were the best times to shoot.
In the description of your series, you touched on how important the background is to help the subject to stand out. Could you go into detail explaining the crucial role the background plays in these types of images?
Through experimenting as I was creating the collection, I found that the background was critical to the visual appeal of each image. As the depth of field is so shallow, the background really becomes a shape of colour or light, and so the primary subject of each image needs to either be separated carefully from the background, or at least not be overpowered by the strength of colour, or luminosity of elements behind it. Where the background is too bright, dark, or the colour harmony is off-key, the images tend not to work so well as the viewers’ eyes are drawn away from the main subject of the frame.
You’ve mentioned that the perspective is an element in photographing flowers to be conscious of, what have you learned about the role camera angle plays while creating these types of images?
In most of the images in the collection, I am shooting from 20-60cm from the ground. In one or two cases, even lower, depending on how low the sun is. If the camera angle is too high, the subject of each image tends to get lost in its surroundings. From a lower perspective, the light reflecting through the plant/flower is also more apparent which generally makes for a more appealing result. I found that by sitting/laying on the floor with the camera in many cases, I was able to find some really immersive and unusual compositions. I think that once you find your subject for this genre of images, it’s a great idea to try looking at your frame from different heights to see how the scene plays out with the light you have at your disposal.
Can you take us through your thought process both in the field tackling these intimate scenes and during post-production?
In the field, I’m looking for reasonably healthy, clean-looking plants/flowers. I’m also considering how the light is working with the subject in question, how the subject looks set against its close surroundings, and what the background might be, depending on the focal length/perspective I choose. I also try to consider the edges of the frame, and not placing anything too distracting close to those. Good colour balance/harmony across my scene is often on my mind in the field as well.
Once I have something framed that looks pleasing, I look to ensure that the technical aspects of the frame are good – generally I want focal sharpness on some part of the key element in the scene, so I’ll check my focus point is good through live view, and begin to capture some frames. On occasions, I’m looking for some movement in the subjects with the wind to create a pleasing visual effect. Although sharpness of a key point in the frame can be effective, so can softness, movement, and distortion in this genre, so I’ll be considering this as well as I shoot to see which option looks best.
Some other aspects that I consider are whether there are objects/conditions that I can use around the scene to create interesting effects – for example shooting through one flower/plant to the primary subject can produce lovely diffused colours, or framing your subject through some moisture on the ground can create highly compelling distorted light artifacts. In some cases, I’m looking for things like water drops on a flower/plant to provide a visually interesting detail.
In post-processing, I generally look at each image to ensure that the main subject is sufficiently clear firstly. From there, colour harmony, and temperature are important facets for me. I experiment with different white balances and tint in order to harmonize the colour across the whole image. I also creatively crop each image – I think that what you leave in a frame, as well as what you exclude can be a very important aspect of the final impact.
I always look to eliminate or minify overly distracting elements; small bright areas and small blemishes are removed to keep the final piece of work clean. I also look to ensure that nothing in the background is too dark, and may use levels/curves to correct any areas that have too much emphasis.
To finish each image, I often experiment a little further with another round of colour balance adjustments in Photoshop, particularly to the highlights. My over-arching intention is always to produce a visually engaging piece of work.
What have you found to be the biggest challenge while creating this series?
I think that finding the right way to compose this type of close up image was a significant challenge, or certainly at the start of my work on this series. I came home from the first few shoots with images that were in the right direction but felt like they weren’t quite of the standard I was hoping to achieve, often due to not quite getting the camera height/perspective right. As with many other aspects of landscape photography, perseverance, patience, and a willingness to fail often helped me to push through the challenge of some initial disappointment to a final set of work that I was happy to publish.
What would you like people to take away from this series?
One of the most satisfying aspects of making this series has been that it refreshed my perception of local photography, as well as what some creativity and working with what is available to you can produce. I was very constrained geographically, and yet with some imagination, I found myself able to output a body of work that I am pretty happy with.
Perhaps a take-away is that the smaller landscape right outside our own doorsteps can be abundant with possibilities for nature images. I’ve felt for quite some time that quieter, more delicate parts of the natural world have as much interest for me visually as grand vistas, so I hope that people will see this series of work, and find a little inspiration to explore this part of the genre for themselves.