Meadow Sun And A Bit Of Fun

17 06 2010

I would like to go back to the very roots of this blog in today’s post. If you read this blog from the very beginning you know that my main intention for starting it was “bringing nature closer” to all of you.

I am still awed again and again by the tiny little details that can be found in nature on our every step and I want to capture these details and present them to you, sometimes in a more artistic way, other times in more traditional way.

Some 1 or 2 months ago you could have seen yellow fields and meadows everywhere and I am not speaking about rapeseed now. I dared to use my artistic license to call these tiny flowers Meadow suns as they shine from every meadow and as yellow is optimistic colours it always make me cheerful. Yes, I am writing about as simple and common flowers as Dandelions. During their time they are really on every step and they can’t be overlooked.

I tried to capture this little flower in original way to remind everyone how beautiful it really is.

~ Meadow Sun ~
1/200 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4, ISO100

I like the curves and how the brighter and darker parts varies. It really reminds me Sun throwing hot clouds of gas into space.

~ Vanilla-Strawberry Shake ~
1/200 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 100

This is a photo of the same part as in the previous photo but focused on the end of tendrils. The colours seemed a bit of humdrum so I played with it in Lighroom, coming with this after some time. It was made only for fun yet I really like the result.

Both photos show my intention to seek common things in nature and capture and present them in unseen way. I like to go into such details that real things become abstract such as in these cases.

Hopefully you like it and it made you a bit more cheerful.

Thanks for looking and for your comments!

Technical details: photos in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera, Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 USM macro lens and HOYA close-up +4 filter, everything mounted to a tripod, under natural conditions.


Negative Space in Flower/Macro Photography *Updated*

14 06 2010

If you ever heard about Negative space you already know what I want to write about. If you never heart about it but you already have some experience with photography, I am pretty sure you know what Negative space is but you only don’t know it is called so.

Let’s begin with commonly used definition:

Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image”, says Wikipedia.

It is simple as this. The negative space is everything in the frame beside the main subject(s) which usually means that negative space is a background. You know how important the “right” composition is and that different compositions can significantly influence viewers perception of the photo. I will not write here how to compose a subject in an image, how to use a background to make the main subject pops up, how to mix various colours in the image aso.

I want to focus on something that I realized only recently and that is the use of negative space in flower and macro photography. In flower and macro photography you usually compose the photographed scene in 2 different ways:

  1. the main subject is wholly in the image,
  2. the main subject is only partially in the image.

Now I would like to present the role of negative space in both types of composition and how it influences viewers perception. Let’s look on the following photo:

~ 1/320 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4, ISO 100 ~

The flower on this photo is a Dwarf Tulip (Tulipa tarda), a tiny tulip variety that blooms in early spring in patches of 10+ bright white and yellow blossoms with a diameter around 2 centimetres. The flower blooms fully open only in direct sunlight and closes quickly in shadow thus I had to take the photo around noon and therefore the strong light in the centre of the flower. There were also other blossoms quite near to this one and other flowers resulting in a messy background so I opted to mount a close up filter to my macro lens for super shallow depth of field. Now the colours of the background were not pleasing at all so I yet converted the photo to BW and applied sepia toning and darkened the corners, leaving only the blossom and some nice diagonal blurred lines behind it. Note that this photo is not finished because it was intended only for use in this post; in finished photo the distracting petals entering the photo at the bottom were removed in post processing.

Now it is a great photo for illustrating what is negative space. It is everything around the main flower. The main subject is also called positive space. I could be happy with the photo if I removed those petals near the bottom – it was composed according to the rules of thirds and it looks good, in my opinion. After watching it for a while I realized that it doesn’t evoke the feelings I would like to be evoked. Even though I used macro lens with additional close up optics and even though the front lens of the macro lens was only couple of centimetres from the blossom, it still looks like a small flower and that’s exactly what negative space does in this case! Surrounding whole main subject it makes it look small in whole composition even though it would be printed on huge canvas. My eyes are dragged to the flower which is right but then they leave it and start wandering around the image searching for some other interesting subject and finally, finding nothing else, coming back to the flower. I, as a viewer, find it distracting.

So, what can I do with it? Crop it to eliminate the negative space!

If cropping I prefer either original 2:3 format or square format. I don’t like other aspect ratios much. So after a couple of tries of different crops here is one which I like. It is much better now, don’t you think? My eyes enter the photo in top left corner, follows the petals directly to the centre where they circle around the sharpest anther, sometimes leaving the central part, following the top petals right rim and coming back following its left rim and circling around the centre again. Hmm, I like it! After watching it for a while I got that feeling again. There is still too much background which is too dark and the flower still looks a bit small. There is still a bit more negative space than positive space and that’s what makes the difference.

Last try, crop it a bit more:

The ratio between negative and positive space is now near to 50% and it proves itself. My eyes go the same way as in previous case but now don’t have any reason nor intention to leave the flower  to wander above the rest of the image. The flower is all I see and watch and that is what I wanted. I wanted to show the flower to the viewer and there are no doubts that the flower is what this photo is about. Yes, there is that cropped left petal but it is not distracting in my opinion. I think that it creates a certain tension in the photo as it drags my attention and leads my eyes to the centre of the flower again. This is the result I am happy with and this is what helped me to understand the negative and positive space and how the amount of each and ratio between them can influence viewers perception of the photo and what is in it.

It does not mean that finding a balance between negative and positive spaces is the target. The target is to realize that there is something such as negative and positive space and to use it according to your vision. And I believe that even though I tried to explain it on example of flower and macro photography, it is fully applicable in every kind of photography.


After your comments here and on NSN forum where I post my photos I decided for a better crop on 3rd image:

Enjoy the early summer and I’ll be happy for your comments!

Technical information: the photo was taken with the Canon EOS 450D camera, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens and HOYA close up +4 filter under natural conditions with a help of tripod (the blossoms are only couple of cm above the ground so it was nice test for my tripod).

My Free Textures

5 06 2010

I do not use textures in my work very often, rather rarely, I would say. I was not charmed by it so far and I neither try to be master in it. There are others mastering the use of textures in their work, creating an original art this way, such as Barbara Kile or Anita Bower.

If you still do not know what I mean by using a texture in photographer’s work I will describe it a bit more. If you are interested in creative photography and you think that your photos are still missing something you can try to use a texture or even more textures. You can either create your own or you can choose some of the tons of free ones on the net, e.g. on Flickr’s group Textures for layers.

I should now probably state what is a texture in this meaning. The texture is usually a photo of some surface with interesting structure, colours, patterns etc. in it. A subject for such photo is usually a paper sheet, a tile, a cloth, a brick, wood and many other materials. Beside the textures of real subjects you can find also artificially created textures (made in some graphical editor).

“Well, what is it good for?” you may ask now. If I should answer according to my experience, I used textures mainly for giving a  photo a certain look and feel. You can look at my photos below as examples.

You can use textures also for separating the subject, for example if you took a photo of beautifully blooming Daffodil but you were not able to get rid of the background which disturbs viewer from enjoying the beauty of the flower you can use texture and eliminate the background by applying texture over it, leaving only the subject you want to show. If I reckon with applying a texture on some photo later on I usually try to separate the subject yet during photographing phase by using a blank white or black background.

Now we come to the technique of using textures. You can find many tutorials on the net. My one is quite easy:

  1. I process the photo to the final phase.
  2. I take the photo to the Photoshop (PS).
  3. I find suitable texture for the photo and open it in PS as well.
  4. I resize the photo to the size of the texture.
  5. I create a new layer over the photo and copy the texture to this layer.
  6. I change the blending mode of the layer with the texture to Overlay and adjust the opacity to my liking.
  7. I carefully erase the texture from the subject with wanted opacity and that’s it.
  8. I can do some additional steps such as adding a vignette, adding another texture or making some special processing to the whole image, if I want to.

As I wrote in the beginning I use textures rather rarely but I like to capture details and maybe a month ago I decided to create my own textures by photographing interesting textures in the world around me and give them to the other photographers for free.

Here are some examples:

~ Orange Mix 2 ~
1/320 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 100

The previous texture, suitable for a background in my opinion, was created during taking photos presented in this post. I was captured by the colours and shapes in this scene and perhaps I thought to use it sometime as a background for some of my photos.

The next texture is a photo of floor tiles in a monastery Rosa Coeli in Dolni Kounice, Czech Republic. The monastery is abandoned for more than 300 years and has wonderful atmosphere. Sacred buildings are usually in a good shape in our country so this one is a rarity.

~ Rosa Coeli Tiles 1 ~
1/50 sec. @ 50 mm, f/10, ISO 200

Next texture is a wall of a cottage next to our one. It is not used almost at all and it is in neglected state. The walls are lined with a special material we call “sololit”. It is made of paper “splinters”, basically from pulp, and the wall was once painted by some brown paint which now holds only on few small places.

~ Old Cottage Wall 2 ~
1/100 sec. @ 100mm, f/5, ISO 400

Last texture is a photo of old grungy metal table which belongs to the not used cottage from which is  the previous photo. As the rain, snow and wind slowly work on the table surface the layers of colours peels off and rust stains appear. The combination of colours and structures is fantastic.

~ Grungy Metal Table 2 ~
1/500 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 200

You can find all my textures in full resolution here on page “Free textures” and also in lower resolution in my Flickr texture set. All textures are released under Creative Commons – Attribution license and are free for use under the conditions defined here. All my textures are full sized with only few post-processing steps allowing user to adapt them as much as possible.

So, feel free to use my and also other free textures, be sure to check the conditions of use and …

… enjoy the weekend!