I’m often amazed at just how much subconscious thought and planning goes into the creation of a “simple” photograph.

A couple of years ago, I was in the Thain Family Forest of the New York Botanical Garden. Located in the center of the 250-acre garden, this forest is the last remaining tract of original forest that once covered most of New York City. I was initially attracted to a rustic, log fence at the entrance to one of its trails. Seeing it as the perfect foreground element to lead a viewer’s eye into the photo, I positioned my tripod in the center of the trail and leveled it to the height of the fence. This was the best perspective to show the lines converging as they disappeared around the corner in the distance. I was also careful not to set the camera in a position that would place a fence post directly in front of a tree. How many times have you seen poorly composed photos of trees and poles “growing” out of a subject’s head? I wanted to make sure that the most prominent posts were clearly separated from the trees. I then had to decide where to place the focus point. Had I focused on the closest part of the fence, the trees in the background would have been soft. If I had set the focus to infinity, the immediately foreground would have been out of focus. My best option was to focus midway into the scene and select an aperture that would give me a range of sharpness extending from the foreground all the way out to infinity. (Today, focus-stacking software is available to make this task much easier). It had rained the night before and the leaves were still a bit damp, creating a slight but noticeable glare. I put a polarizer filter on my lens and was surprised at just how much it improved the picture. It eliminated the glare while simultaneously saturating the color.

This all explains how I took this picture, but, just as important, is when I took it. A photo like this definitely would not have worked on a sunny day. The contrast between the shadows and highlights would have been greater than even a polarizer filter could handle. Although the day was dreary and overcast, it provided the perfect lighting for this scene.

These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind before each photo I shoot. Sometimes, it’s the simplest-looking images that require the most mental calculations.

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F.M. Kearney is a fine art nature photographer, specializing in unique floral and landscape images. To see more of his work, please visit