How I Got the Shot: Flames of Foliage

Photograph by Mark Bowie


Flames of Foliage Amongst Hemlocks and Pines, Near Little Green Pond, St. Regis Canoe Wilderness

Exposure Data:
1/3 second, f/25, ISO 200 
Nikon D300, Nikkor 18-70mm lens set at 70mm.

A stand of hemlocks and red pines rises majestically from sparse deciduous foliage along the west shore of Little Green Pond. I saw their trunks as powerful visual elements, monuments stretching unencumbered into the forest canopy. The few leafy green trees surrounding them appeared in soft counterpoint. I could have shot the scene as a straight documentary image, but the green foliage was too thin to adequately fill the voids. So I decided to create an abstract, an intentional blur that would allow the foliage to fill in the gaps. I first chose a camera position for good separation between the tree trunks. Next I selected a small aperture and low ISO setting to be able to shoot at a slow shutter speed. Then, during the 1/3 second exposure, I moved the camera upwards in a slight jittering motion, along the dominant axis of the trees and, in the process, retained some textural detail in the trunks while allowing the deciduous trees to “paint” around them. The result looks like flames licking up the trunks. The amount of detail captured in this type of image is dependent on the shutter speed and the amount and speed of the camera movement, so I experiment. Moving the camera along the subject’s long axis usually looks best. Not every image is a “keeper”—in fact, the failure rate can be quite high. But when one works it can be a treasure, an image that looks more like an abstract painting than a photograph and captures one’s perception of a subject’s true spirit.

Mark Bowie and fellow Adirondack Photography Institute instructors Joe LeFevre and Johnathan Esper join Adirondack Life staff for the Weekend with Adirondack Life photo workshop in Lake Placid September 19th-21st. Mark and Institute director John Radigan will lead their annual photographic retreat September 21st-26th, and Mark and Johnathan will take participants on a photographic tour of the Long and Schroon Lake areas with their Adirondack Peak Fall Foliage workshop September 28th-October 2nd. For more information on API events visit  For more on Mark’s work, visit his website:

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