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 . . .

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)