Behind the Lens: Storm-Light Lily Garden

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Stormlight Lily Garden

Exposure Data:
1/2 second, f/16, ISO 160
Nikon D610 camera, Nikkor 24-70mm lens set at 62mm.

A tremendous line of thunderheads billowed over mountains east of Tupper Lake. For a brief time, the setting sun colored them with yellows and magentas, but the colors faded as the sun dipped below the horizon. I turned my attention to a marsh at the juncture of the Raquette River, Simon Pond and the lake, where the storm clouds’ pastel reflections were overlain by lily pads. I envisioned making an image in the impressionistic style of Claude Monet, like he painted his famous lily pond, with lilies sitting atop reflections and no horizon, so that the lilies floated on a world turned upside-down.

If I had painted this scene, I don’t think I could have placed the compositional elements better than nature had. I cropped to a composition anchored by dense patches of lilies; in the foreground, a spattering of lily pads seemingly meander from one patch to another on a diagonal, mirroring the angle of the clouds. In sparser areas, there are just enough lily pads and upright stems to hold interest.

To replicate Monet’s style, I took some artistic liberties in processing—reducing contrast while slightly boosting vibrance and saturation, and using Lightroom’s DeHaze slider to cut some haziness off the surface of the water. I also used Lightroom’s Luminance noise reduction slider, not to reduce noise, but to soften textures. Now all the major components—the luminous sky, the lilies and marsh grasses—merge in a painterly abstract.

It’s not just anywhere that one can be awed by a grand stormscape, and soon after use it to create an intimate waterscape, but in the Adirondacks, you can paint such photographs.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He will be leading or co-leading four photography workshops in the Adirondacks this fall, including the Weekend with Adirondack Life workshop September 21st-23rd. For information and to register, see API’s website: Mark’s Adirondack Waters book and others are available on his website,

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