Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Flower power

A little diversion from my usual travel photos; I've been photographing the bearded irises in the garden, on a dewy morning.

It's the first time I've ever taken flower pictures. Normally I never use the closeup ability of my camera or lenses, so this is something new.

A few lessons.

Just because the flower is a few centimetres away doesn't mean I don't need depth of field. I actually needed f22 to shoot down the tunnel of an iris and have the furry stamen clear all the way back.

On the other hand a really wide aperture lets you shoot the flower and keep the grass behind well out of focus, just a blurry green background. It's amazing what a difference that makes.

Don't ever use autofocus doing this. It unerringly picks up just the bit of the plant you don't want in the picture. Use manual focus and choose carefully exactly where you focus - whether it's on the furry inside, the raindrops on a petal, the texture.

Keep moving in all three dimensions - around the plant, up and down, sideways. These are complex shapes - every inch you move will show new vistas.

Zoom in. Relentlessly, zoom in to find a line, a pattern, a texture, a vortex, that makes a complete picture on its own.  Showing the whole flower is for simple flowers, like harebells. A bearded iris has too much complexity for that. I'm amazed how poor my shots of the whole irises are, compared to those shots where I zoomed up close.

I've done nothing with lighting today. No flash, no reflector. Just using ambient light. I might think about using some light next time to get a little more definition on the shape of the irises.

Rain is your friend. Nothing makes an iris sexier than raindrops on the petals.

Last lesson: don't overlook your own back yard. Today I was still a travel photographer,  but I travelled inwards, not away.

Next week: photographing cats.

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