Some flower photographers claim that bright sunny days are not good for capturing flowers. Some go out with reflectors, diffusers and big honking strobe lights on sunny days to get that perfect shot. For me it's a game, go out and find that flower at that moment that the bright sunshine works to the advantage of the observer.
Thursday was a glorious blue sky day wedged between two that were murky and dim, so I took both my trusty Cannon G-10 and Nikon Coolpix P90 to the New York Botanical Garden to find a flower where the strong direct sunlight was just right.
Spending the entire day looking for that perfect flower I thought that perhaps now I can articulate what I've learned about flower photography so far. I'm not meaning to blow my own horn but I've been running that play for a while now and I've developed a few skills in composition and dramatic effect.
I got a little too involved it this diary. That's why it's a day late.
I've yet to find a photographic specialty. As a photo buff I like to think of myself as a "Jack of all trades, Master of none." Photography is sort of new to me and it is all still an exploration. Not that I never had a 35 mm camera, I just didn't like paying for the developing of photographic skills. Now I enjoy a middle aged hobby, learning as I go.
Flowers like most photography is a matter of taste, so let me start off with a question about the photo below. Does this picture appeal to you?
Perhaps the photo is "too busy" but it was my favorite picture from Thursday. I don't expect anyone to relate to my photography obsession but I love the impressions found in the out of focus background. In this photo the blown out background shows where the light on the pansy is coming from. I also see the story of a spring garden in this photo, perhaps an English garden. What can you see?
Lately I've been getting in tight to see what I can see.
Almost four years have passed since I've taken up photography as a pastime. Often I wonder if it is an art form or a pastime. One sure fact is that taking pictures in the digital age is a great memory tool. Recording people, places and things offers a clearer chronology of activities. Flower photography grabbed me pretty quickly because it represents both the recording of ephemeral beauty and the changing seasons.
I have one photo that is not from Thursday to show how flowers grabbed me. This Bird of Paradise was my 201th photo. It was taken back in September of 2006 at Laguna Beach. Something went wrong and it was a happy accident. That sword isn't really white, in reality it is blue. The explosion of light coming out of the base of the flower, I have no idea where that came from but when I got back to my computer in the hotel room I was pleasantly surprised.
Now I get it, the white is because the sun was perpendicular to those parts of the flower and the effect is overexposure. I guess I've learned how to simulate that happy accident except I can't because besides my hard drive, Photobucket and a few comments here, that particular flower is long gone.
Now through more persistence and with a little more understanding of the media I get the shot more often. That photo above, the back lighted pansy is one of around twenty attempts to find the right composition. That one was my favorite of the day but this one, a peony in sunshine is probably the best picture I took on Thursday.
There is still room for happy accidents. The reason for my stalking that peony is cropped out in the photo I liked the best. The reason was observing the way the sunshine was falling on and creating a ripple. Obsessed with the wave in the petal from the upper right corner of the photo I was surprised to come up with a dramatic photo without the wave.
For me the best part of the flower photography experience in public gardens is other flower photographers. While trying to capture a wildflower on a hiking trail seems all about solitude, the perennial gardens and the conservatory are always very social experiences. Almost everyone with a camera exchanges information with one another and much of my education in flower photography seems to about an oral history now.
The conversations are never dull, often are about what is blooming where and sometimes include a walk with a new found friend. One point that seems accepted by everyone outside of the really serious photographers with all their extra equipment is that the perfect day for flower photos are the days when the sun is softened. It is often true. This almost perfect rose taken at the end of the day when the sun was low and there are no hard shadows is pleasing enough.
The garden had allium everywhere this week and the look of these firework like flowers are very pleasing in shade.
But a little back lighting adds some punch and comes closer to the actual color of these blooming onions.
How's this for a burst in direct sunlight?
Or finding a peony where the sun penetrates in such a way as to add dramatic shadows and a little spark.
Now my hobby has become proving that sunny day flowers are more dramatic than those that bloom on easy soft focus days, a game of seeking out the flower that is most complimented by the harsh direct sunlight. When I arrived at the perennial garden on Thursday I found a Germanium and made a study of it.
I find the hunt to be very satisfying and it has become a new way of looking at flowers. One rule of flower photography is that you need a good flower to get a good flower photo. Looking for both an undamaged flower and one that looks good in the light is my kind of puzzle. I've never looked at flowers so closely before.
Another bonus of flower pictures in the NYBG is flowers under glass. The American desert is in full bloom now and they go great with a little Bronx sunshine. Below is a nice pin cushion, then the Soft Hair Prickly Pear followed by the more common variety, a plant called Cleistocactus icosagonus and Star Cactus.
In the Old World desert it is now autumn but there was still the Sweet Scented Sesame to enjoy.
Getting hungry? Well I'm not sure if you can eat the Scarlet Banana but I love the color.
Or you can take a trip to the Philippines to check out the really odd flower of the "tayabak" or Jade Vine.
Or to a tropical rain forest where you can find an interesting flower that is called Anthopterus wardii and looks like dessert.
And the the Passion Flower is dripping wet.
In the lowland tropics of Peru it is also autumn and just like here in the temperate forest there is an autumn aster to enjoy that is called Onoseris weberbaueri.
Back outdoors and into the Bronx sunshine for one of my favorite seasonal flowers,the Iris.
Now that was a good day.