flowers, photography

Choices, Choices . . .

If I cast my mind back a year or so, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using anything ‘artificial’ on a photograph. I enjoyed getting really sharp shots of flowers so I could see the tiny details.

But

Then I began to look at work by photographers such as Kathleen Clemons and Denise Love (2 L’il Owls) and there was something about their treatment of flower shots that brought forward the essence of the flower – the romance of the flower. So, I began experimenting with textured finishes and realised that by using various effects, I could produce something far closer to what I had seen through my rose-tinted spectacles. And the more I experiment, the more I like the finished product. However, that doesn’t make any difference to the importance of getting as much as possible right in-camera which includes lens choice, choices of angles, choice of aperture etc etc.

This week’s flower of the week is a dahlia. A particularly striking pink dahlia from my garden. Now, the first thing that struck me about this dahlia was its symmetry – and that the flowers are actually really heavy. In this case, its essence didn’t seem to be about anything fragile or delicate but rather about how bold and striking it was. That being the case, I chose to use a dedicated macro lens, the Sigma 105 macro. I shot at f6.3 to give it some depth of detail and show off that symmetry and I shot at 1/125 second on a fairly still day to keep it sharp. I also chose to face the flower more or less straight at the camera, again to emphasise that symmetry.

deep pink dahlia-1

However, I kept on looking at this flower and as well as being quite striking, it’s still very fragile and delicate. I am always amazed at what can grow from a tiny seed and what the odds must be against that tiny seed managing to grow into something so complicated with so many chances to fail along the way. But, my choices above don’t really show that side of the flower.

For the next shot, I used the same camera and lens but I opened the aperture a little to f4 which meant I needed to slow down the shutter and as the light had also changed in between, I ended up shooting at 1\80. The slightly larger aperture allowed the focus to start falling off noticeably thereby softening the whole image. I also shot from the side to make the flower look less bold and I included the little bud that seems to be shyly dipping its head. Once I had converted the raw file, I then took it into photoshop and added a layer of texture by Jai Johnson in a sympathetic shade to soften everything a little further. I then did a little further work to the blend mode and opacity of the texture until I had found the mood I was trying to create. All in all I felt that by now, the flower looked far more delicate and romantic – far from the very clear and strking image above:

dahlia-1

So there you have it: the same flower, same camera, same lens but different creative choices. I did notice that where I have posted these shots online, the first one has drawn comments that note is as ‘striking’ where the texture edit is more often referred to as ‘so pretty’ which sort of tells me I did the job I was trying to do which was to take one object and apply deliberate creative choices to affect the mood of the shot and sway the viewer to a particular way of seeing.

And the other bonus is that when you play around like this, you learn an awful lot about your own gear and what it can do with a few tweaks 🙂

Until next week . . .

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flowers, photography

Competition Win – review of prize

I was recently lucky enough to be first out of the hat in a competition in Professional Photo magazine. First prize was a tripod and camera bag of my choice from Vanguard up to the value of £300. Nice!

I browsed Vanguard’s site, made my choice and the lovely people there sent it out to me in no time at all. I’ve been fairy busy lately so was unable to get out for a week or so to give it a good workout. However, I managed to remedy that today and my lovely, long-suffering partner accompanied me to take some shots.

vanguard gear-3

Photo by Rob Gibson

The fields at the back of our house are filled with bettony, yellow rattle and ragwort at this time of year making them very colourful – and a haven for all manner of wildlife. That’s enough for me to get out there and in amongst it to try out the Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 tripod and the Sedona 41KG backpack.

The backpack is fabulous. It bridges a gap between my smaller, Lowepro Traveller 150 and my large backpack that houses all of my stuff – but is then too heavy to carry. I managed to fit a Nikon D750, Nikon 70-300 lens, Nikon 18-35 lens, Sigma 105 macro lens, a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Sweet 50 and a set of macro extension tubes – and still with room left for purse and phone.

The tripod is a real winner too. It is so quick and easy to change the position of the legs and the head, to raise the column, to lay the column sideways, and to splay the legs to get really close to the ground. In addition, it comes in a carry case that you can sling over your shoulder and although this is no flimsy thing, it is still light enough to carry round with you for the day. I have used it in the garden for flower shots as well as carrying it over the back fields and I am delighted with it.

In fairness, neither of these items could be classed as cheap but you really are getting what you’re paying for. In relative terms, I got far more quality than I would have expected for this price band – which I personally would consider to be kind of middling.

So, if you’re looking for some camera accessories, it’s worth having a look at this company.

Vanguard

 

Until next time . . .

flowers, photography

Weekly Flower Shot

It’s Dahlia time. There’s just something about Dahlias that is perhaps equalled only by Rudbeckias. Put either of those two flowers with a Lensbaby and it has to be a winner.

This particular Dahlia bloomed in my garden a couple of days ago and by the time it was fully open, the curly petals were gorgeous. I wanted to capture that swirly, delicate nature of the bloom and what better tool to do that with than a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with a Sweet 50 optic. I also got to thinking about Ted Grant’s statement that goes something like this:

“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”

Now he is clearly talking about people – but when you photograph a single flower, I think you approach it in pretty much the same way as you would for a head and shoulders portrait. Ted Grant thought that to photograph people in colour would mean that those colours would draw the eyes away from the essence of the person: we would look at the colours rather than scrutinising the character that lies in the finer features of the person’s face.  I decided to give it a go with this particular shot to see if it worked and I certainly noticed that once I had stripped the colour, my eye was drawn first to the contours of the petals which is, I think, what gives this flower its character. If the colour is there, I am drawn straight away to the streaks of deep pink leading to the bright yellow centre and only then, maybe to the outer countours.

So, in the end, I have the unprocessed version, which I like – the processed version with a few tweaks and a little bit of texture added, which I like – and a black and white version, which I like! So, that’s takes me to the next dilemma of deciding which version is the ‘final’ one. Well, I guess that decides on whoever may be looking at it.

And that’s art for you 🙂

As a final word, if you like this kind of dreamy, soft focus effect on flowers, you really should google Kathleen Clemons and take a look at her work. Stunning!!

dahlia bwThe Black and White Version

 

dahlia rawThe Unprocessed Version (processed only to convert raw to jpeg)

 

dahliaThe Colour Version with added texture (processed in Topaz Texture Effects 2)

 

 

flowers, photography

Lensbaby Love

I love my Lensbaby. I bought this lens fairly  recently after seeing some fabulous flowers shot with these lenses. Since flowers are my favourite  subjects for photography, I thought I’d give it a go. I bought the Composer Pro II along with the sweet 50 optic. This allows me to decide where I want my ‘sweet spot’ of focus to be and then let the focus fall off sharply around that sweet spot. It takes a little getting used to but if you are already an avid tog with a good grasp of your camera’s settings and how they work, it will probably only take a few hours to take snapshots, review them and understand what the lenbaby of your choice is doing. The Sweet 50 along with a 32mm macro extension tube is perfect for single flower portraits. Although I purchased the dedicated Lensbaby macro converters, I find that a standard set of macro converters does the job just as well – however, I hasten to add that it does just as well for my purposes which doesn’t necessarily mean it will work that way for everyone.

So, my weekly flower for this week is a double osteospermum from my garden shot with a Nikon D750, a 32mm tube and the above lensbaby setup.

If you have a lensbaby, please post me a comment to let me know what your experience with them was and if possible, add a shot to your comment – especially if you use them for other than flowers. I really feel I ought to try them for other things too.

Double purple osteospermum