Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dry Roses & Crystal Shadow

Here is an application of the previous post about how to take pictures of flowers.

This is a photo of some dried Valentine's roses but the twist is their shadow is diffused because the light source is coming from a reflection off crystal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to Photograph Flowers


When you photograph flowers, you have to make a couple of important decisions.

As with any photograph, your first decision is to decide: What's my subject? Is it a bouquet of flowers, or the macro view of a stamen? A single flower closeup? A bed of hundreds of flowers? A field of thousands?

From this decision will flow many specifics of the picture you want to take and how to go about it.

Macros - Let's start with the macro photo — that is, with extreme closeups. Of course, you can only take this type of picture if your lens has a macro mode. This rules out most film point-and-shoot cameras that can't focus closer than two or three feet. With a macro, you're focusing from a few inches!

When you take a macro photo, focus is all-important. Your plane of focus is very shallow — just a fraction of an inch. So you have to make another decision: Exactly what part of the flower do you want to be in sharp focus? The pistil? The stamen? A petal? (We've run out of high-school biology terminology, but you get the idea.) Unless you're a botanist, you will probably make this decision "on the fly" — that is, as you look through the viewfinder. When you see the image that you want, press the shutter!

While it is possible to take a good close-up photo handheld, our advice is to use a tripod if at all possible. Particularly if the flower is swaying in the wind, changing the focal point every moment, you're better off not adding the additional confusion of a swaying camera too. Use a tripod and be patient. Most often, the wind will die down from time to time and the flower will stand still and "pose" for an instant. That's the instant to shoot!

Tip - Windy conditions? Try using a sheet of cardboard to protect your target from the wind. Becareful of it's effect on lighting conditions however.

Shot of a Single Flower Head - Much of what we said for the macro view applies here too. As before, you can't get close enough for this type of picture with film point-and-shoot cameras. Once again, you'll be better off using a tripod if possible. Remember also that you don’t have to make pictures of single flowers while you’re bent over in the garden. Over the years many great photographers have made wonderful still life studies of flowers in a studio setting where there’s no wind and the photographer has precise control over the lighting. Whether you’re taking pictures indoors or out, once again exposure will be more precise if you use a gray card or take an incident reading. And the picture will often be improved if you can add a crawling critter.

Good focus is still important, but it's not so critical as it was with the macro. The zone of good focus is now a few inches, not just a fraction of an inch. So, while you still want to focus well, you don't need to watch focus quite so critically.

An added decision for you to make with this type of shot is to consider the direction of light. It's possible to take a very attractive picture with the light in its "usual" position, streaming from behind you toward the flower. But give strong consideration to backlighting — that is — light coming from behind the flower, toward the camera. Since flower petals are usually translucent, backlighting can give them an iridescent glow that accentuates the flower's color and brings it to life.

Bigger Floral Subjects - What about a bed of flowers...or a field of them? Here, you can probably use a point-and-shoot as well as an SLR. A tripod is less necessary. Focus is no longer critical — it can extend for feet or even miles. And metering with your built-in meter will probably produce a good result.

What about the direction of light? It still can make a difference. If you can check how the flowers look from different sides, by all means do so. Frontlighting may be all right. Backlighting — or sidelighting — may be better. Camera angle — that is, height — is usually less important in this type of long shot. (You should still stoop down to see if the image is improved from a low angle that will accentuate the nearest flowers.)

What should you look out for here? We think you should go back to the very first decision: What's your subject? A bed or field of flowers may look exquisite to your eye, but often makes an awfully dull picture. Look for something that will add interest to the picture. Something else that will draw the eye of the viewer and be the subject of your picture, with the flowers acting as swatches of color that complement it.

If you're photographing a flower bed, look around. Perhaps, a child playing amidst the flowers will make a far more interesting picture. Or the house behind it. Or the apple tree in the foreground? Or the fence in the background. Or anything else you can find to draw the viewer's eye and add interest.

Do the same with a field of flowers. Is there a barn that would make a better subject? A tree? A windmill? A lone person far out in the field. A babbling stream? A majestic mountain landscape?

To sum all this up: Flowers are colorful and can make beautiful subjects when you're close up and they fill the frame. You're better off finding another subject, and using the flowers as an "accessory," when you're shooting from farther away.

- Summary and Excerpts from the New York Institute of Photograph, HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH FLOWERS - PART 1 article

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Out to Lunch

As often I get to use my camera, I don't have enough time in the day to manage my photos or post new ones to my photography blog. I have been working on other projects that have taken up the majority of my time, like my World War II History site and WWII History blog.

This has basically eaten up all my photoshopping and posting time. However I have been collecting historical WWII photos and images into a database, so my photo work goes on, even if slightly redirected by about -60 years.

Out the Window

Being stuck in the office all day has its advantages and its disadvantages. Fortunately I have a wonderful wall of windows on the other side of my desk that overlooks the Seattle waterfront and Puget Sound. I can watch the ferries make their runs every day.

In the last couple weeks there has been an increasing number of eagles flying around and over the water. I have been able to get a couple shots of them flying over with my 75-200 telephoto lens on my Canon Rebel XTi.

Here is a shot of a Golden Eagle flying over the Edgewater Inn.

Here is another shot I took a few weeks back of the sunset through my desk foliage.