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.



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

flowers, photography


Well, the limit of only one shot per week is already too much for me so I shall rename this project, at-least-one-flower-per-week 🙂

A few weeks ago I jumped in and purchased a piece of software called Topaz Texture Effects 2. I already use Lightroom to catalogue and to process RAW shots (I always shoot raw so I have the maximum information recorded), and I occasionally use Photoshop Elements 14. I also regularly use two of the NIK plug-ins: Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro 4. Yep – sounds like a lot, but it depends what it is I want to do with a photo. Silver Efex Pro gives amazing control with the processing of black and white shots, and Color Efex Pro has some very useful presets to extract a little more detail, or for a blur vignette, or for a coloured vignette. However, Topaz Texture Effects 2 give me the gift of speed when working with textures. I can pull up a shot and hover my mouse over textures in a side column to see how they would look on my shot. Previously, I would have had to open both the picture and the texture in PSE, check it out, play with the blend mode etc and then have to delete all of that if it doesn’t quite work the way I thought it would. This software from Topaz is amazing! Although it comes with built in textures, you can also add your own. Very useful. So, here are two shots from my garden this morning so you can see how the new software is going:


I know that the idea of using textured overlays in photography wont be everyone’s cup of tea and indeed, it’s not always mine – but I do like the painterly effect that it gives to flower shots. What’s more, they have now made their base editing software, Topaz Studio, free to all. Check it out. I have downloaded it and will post a review when I get a chance to have a really good mooch round.

Until next week . . .


Week 2 of my flower-a-week blog already. Wow, that flew by!

This week, I have been getting more comfortable with some new software from Topaz called Topaz Texture Effects 2. It allows me to process my flower shots further and get a more painterly effect. I never could get to grips with paint and brushes so this is one way I can create ‘art’. Not that I plan to move away from straight, clear, sharp flower shots but this is a different way to try to convey how the flowers look to me – as delicate, fragile things that have some kind of mysterious or ethereal quality.

This particular shot was taken in a walled garden at an old stately home just a few miles down the road – Elvaston Castle. I grew up in the village just down the road and spent a lot of time there in my childhood. It’s nice to be able to go back as an adult and see it all in a whole new way.

Anyhow – less rambling and more pictures 🙂 For this weekly blog, I am posting both the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ shot. You may prefer one or the other, or like me, you may like both for different reasons. Or perhaps you don’t like either. That’s the thing with art – one man’s delight is another’s disaster.

Until next week . . .


flowers, photography · Uncategorized


In light of all of the political debate flying around, I thought it may be time to start the project I have had in mind for some while now: a weekly flower photo blog. In theory, I will post a photograph for each week of the year – whether or not that will work in practise is yet to be seen!

My aim throughout the year is to build in both my knowledge of photography techniques, and my knowledge of flowers – both the garden variety and the wild flowers we see out on walks locally. I am sure there will be some interaction with software and further learning curves too.

So, here goes with week 1: Moon daisies in the morning light.