Flower Photography - "Dance of the Flowers".
Canon 500D – Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L II lens @200mm
f/2.8 – 1/500sec – ISO 100 – hand held. 08.00am
This photograph was taken on a September morning last year lying down on my neighbours’ dew-soaked lawn.
There a mass of Japanese anemones growing in the garden and I had taken pictures of them on a couple of occasions but had never been that satisfied with the results. I was using my macro lens to get close up shots of these beautiful flowers and indeed had got some quite nice photographs. But, nice as they were they all seem a little bit ‘ordinary’ and taking close up macro shots outside meant that even the slightest breeze caused major problems when it came to getting thing in focus.
As I sat there one evening with the sun behind casting some soft evening light on to the flowers me I was again struggling to capture anything special. But when thinking how best to use the available light it just suddenly occurred t me that if the sun was setting behind me it would be rising in front of me. Obvious I guess but there you go!
So, early the next morning I tried again. The sun rose behind some trees that were behind the mass of flowers and produced a fantastic backdrop. However there was a slight breeze and so focusing was still an issue. Also by getting close in to the flowers the amount of background in each shot was minimal.
Sometimes when taking photographs a wider perspective getting more into the shot turns out not to be ideal and getting closer in, simplifying the shot by limiting what is in it, is better, Less is more. And I think that was the issue here. Less (ie just a flower) was not working I had a fantastic background so capture it.
I changed my lens to my 70-200mm zoom lens and stepped back away from the flowers and sat on the wet lawn. My view was now wider, the background looked great and the gentle breeze was less of a problem now that I was not using the macro lens.
Great. Now just think about what you want to achieve. I really liked the nature of the background and to make this more so I felt I wanted to use f2.8. This would narrow right down how much of the shot was in focus and make the background a wonderful and chaotic arrangement of light and colour and ‘randomness’.
The breeze was not an issue. My shutter speed at f2.8 was fast enough really even though I was hand holding the camera and I felt as long as I got my main subject (a flower) in focus, the rest of the picture was so random a bit of blurriness was probably a positive thing.
It took a while to work out the best composition. There was such a mass of flowers that it was not very obvious at the outset what would make the best picture so I just started snapping away and gradually it became clear which angles were working and which were not.
I took a lot of photographs that morning. There was some slight time pressure it that as the sun rose I started to lose my beautiful background but I had about an hour in which I think I took about two hundred pictures!
I use Lightroom 3 for post-processing. I find that it is much more straightforward to use and more intuitive to use than Photoshop and for the vast majority of my photographs is more than adequate. I also use some of Nik Softwares’ plug-ins. These are a fantastic set of easy to use programmes available for Lightroom and Photoshop.
I had taken so many photographs that narrowing them all down and picking the best one was difficult. Lightroom is very helpful in this regard with the number of tools and options it has available to help make that final selection.
Having finally selected what I though was the best photograph I started work on it. It didn’t require that much post processing but a there were a couple minor issues I wanted to change slightly.
Because of the very bright background the foreground flowers especially the main one on the lower left hand side were a touch to dark and the detail in the main flower was not quite as good as I wanted.
So I opened up the photograph in Nik Softwares Viveza 2. This programme allows you to select any number of specific points on the photograph and then edited an area surrounding that point (the size of which can varied) in whatever manner you choose. I first edit the main flower by slightly increasing the brightness and saturation and then gently increased the definition by slightly increasing the ‘structure’.
I then increased the brightness slight of the bud and flower nearer the top of the picture and of the out-of-focus flower just seen at the centre bottom of the picture.
I then moved back into Lightroom where I adjusted the overall exposure very slightly using the histogram as my guide. I was happy to allow some areas to be over exposed. I has been shooting straight in to the sun and felt that small areas of over-exposed were not only acceptable but also added to this particular image.
I then slightly increased the saturation of the whole shot giving it that nice warm feeling. No cropping was required. Job done!
There are a lot of flower photographs in the world (!). Try to look for an unusual way to capture their beauty. A shot of a single flower in bright sunlight does not standout from the crowd. Try getting really close in, try shooting from below, try shooting from behind ie try anything that might get something a little different. Try different times of day.
When shooting macro shoots even a slight breeze can lead to blurred photographs. I sometime use a Wimberley clamp to help. This has a tight clamp at one end for fixing to your tripod or any other firm object and then an adjustable arms has a ‘soft’ clamp at the other end which can be used on the stems of plant without damaging them.
Backgrounds are important. Perhaps send as much time consider your background as you do the main subject of your photograph, the back ground can make or break your shot!