Flower Photography - “Morning Poppies”
Canon 500D – Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II – 135mm – 1/800 – F/3.2 – ISO 200
I have always enjoyed taking photographs of poppies. They seem such a ‘happy’ flower to me and they come in all shapes a sizes. Even the seedpods that appear after they have died have some interesting qualities.
The problem is that there are a lot of poppy photographs around and trying to get an ‘original’ shot is quite difficult. Some of this originality can come from the poppies themselves, the flowers, the composition etc but I am a strong believer that the background can ‘make or ‘break’ an image. Therefore, I try to produce an image that has all the qualities needed for the foreground in term of composition, depth of focus, colour etc but one that also has an interesting background.
Achieving a great background is not always as easy as it sounds. It has to be ‘interesting’ but not so much so that it detracts from the subject matter. Conversely though, a plain background is just that – plain. The colours of the background should also try to complement those of the main subject matter and it is pleasing to see vague images, suggestions of the main subject, repeated out of focus in the background. I think that if you can manage to pull all these aspects together you having the making of a beautiful image.
Having gone out on several trips to try to get some images of poppies I was getting increasingly frustrated as I was finding it difficult to get all of the above mentioned aspects in the same photograph. If the composition was good, the light was wrong, if the light was great the background was dull etc etc. So, with this in mind I decided I would plant some of my own poppies in my back garden. I was able to plant then in such a location that in both the early morning and in the evening I could get behind them and shoot ‘into the sun’. I was hoping that this would enable me not only to get a good composition but also then to always able to achieve a great background. Shooting into the sun open up the possibilities of some fantastic bokeh.
This picture was therefore taken lying on the ground early one summer morning with the sun just rising in the background. I took many shots but this one was my favourite. It has a poppy in focus in the foreground and another out of focus in the background. It has a seedpod and it had hidden in the bokeh, hairy poppy stems. It also has the out of focus grasses on the left. All in all, I was very pleased with the final result.
I felt it was a little too dark and needed some minor post processing work to improve the image. I find Photoshop complex and difficult to use so all my post processing work is done using Lightroom and Nik software.
Firstly in Lightroom I increased the exposure slightly but found whilst this improved the image overall it made the main poppy too bright. I therefore moved the image over to Viveza. Here I was able to adjust the following:-
The exposure of the whole image was increased very slightly.
The contrast of the main poppy was slightly increased, as was it sharpness.
The exposure of the poopy stem with the seedpod was also increased slightly.
A white vignette was added to remove the darkness that was apparent in all the corners.
At this point I was 99% happy with the image. I did some more very minor adjustments to the colour, contrast and exposure until I was completely happy.
Flowers are beautiful and very photogenic and consequently many people like to take photographs of them. In order for your images to stand out from the crowd try to look for an unusual way to capture their beauty.
Backgrounds are so very important. Spending as much time to consider your background as you do the main subject of your photograph can make or break your shot! Backlighting, as in this photograph, can produce some spectacular images.
If you cannot get the shot you are after in the ‘real world’ plant your own world!