First year of photography

6 01 2010

It’s almost one year since the moment when I started to focus on flora and nature photography and in this post I would like to present 10 photographs from this time that I like the most and that somehow summarize my work.

I have always liked nature and had a camera with me on trips or vacations but I didn’t know what to focus on so I took casual photos. I at least knew something about composition but I still produced only common average photos. I decided to write a short story behind the photo and I want to thank Mark Graf who did this on his blog and it inspired me.

Lily Stamens – It all begun with this photo. One day a colleague of mine mentioned that he bought a close up filter for his camera and I convinced him to lend it to me. I mounted it to my Tamron 17-50 lens the very same day and tried several shots of these lilies that we had in vase at home. That’s how this photo have been done and it influenced my next work significantly. I bought own close up filter and started to shoot in the surroundings of our house. There is a plenty of opportunities as we live in a village and our house is surrounded mostly by meadows and fields.
Dreamy Landscape (Meadow Dreams Series) – I used the close up filter mostly with Canon 70-200mm lens and this is one of the results, personally one of my favourites ever. If you wonder what it is and how it was done, then you shall know that it’s a single blossom of Ranuncul (Globe-flower) and smaller Forget-me-nots lower shot through a tall grass trunks.

Before this photo was taken I made a personal discovery that had probably the biggest influence on my later work and it was a discovery of art by exceptional artist, Michael Brown. I spent hours and hours reading through his blog posts, soaking up an inspiration and I knew that this is the kind of photography I want to make. You can find this and other photos from this series in 2 posts, here and here.

A Border (Floral Curves Series) – Another attempt for abstract floral photo. On this Zantedeschia lily I was attracted by its vivid violet blossom and dark green colour of leaves with wax texture. It had nicely curved leaves with bright, almost white, spots and I planned to play much more with it. Unfortunately, it dried quite quickly and for unknown reason. You can find more Zantedeschia images in this post.
A Day lily / Hemerocallis (Floral Curves Series) – Day lilies are excellent subject for abstract floral photography. There are many different colour varieties, they have quite big blossoms allowing a photographer to “delve” into it and they have thick petals full of liquid which makes petals glow when backlit. You can find more such images in this post.

This shot as well as all others were taken with a Canon 100mm macro lens which I bought because a zoom lens + close up filter didn’t provide the quality I was looking for.

Gymnocalycium cactus – When summer came and cacti of my wife started to bloom I thought that it might be great subject for photography. Moreover cacti photos are not seen very often. You can see more photos of this cactus here.
Unknown cactus – Another beautiful blossom with amazingly vivid colours. Unfortunately, the day when I took this photo was not hot enough, only around 25°C, and the stamens were not “standing” but leaning toward the stigma. More photos of this cactus are here.
Yellow rose – I tried to capture a beauty of roses several times but never ended with at least average image. This time I was really happy with the result 🙂 It was previously published with one more photo in this post.
Dragon Wing (Floral Curves Series) – This may be hard to distinguish but it is a rim of leaf from peach tree. I was attracted by the small “claws” on the edge and by the colours. It was originally posted here.
Dried Oak Leaves – I was looking for shooting autumn leaves for long time and this is one of results. I like Oak Leaves for their curvy shape and strong leaf veins. You can find more here.
Red Leaves in Japanese Style #2 – A bush with these very thin branches and tiny spear-shaped leaves was only couple of meters from the oak tree that you can see in previous image. It was even captured in the same day. The bush had wonderfully coloured leaves with hues of red and orange and they were nicely lit by autumn sun light. It was originally posted here and you can find another version of this photo here.

As I look at the selection I think that it nicely represents my style and direction. I mostly take photos of flowers, especially blossoms and then leaves but abstracts are still my biggest love, so to say.

So this is my year of photography, I’m really looking forward to creating such a selection for another year and analysing it – did it change and how, is there any progress?

Have a great photographic year and have your eyes open wherever you go, inspiration is everywhere!


Photogenic subjects in nature

12 12 2009

If you are waiting for next photos of the orange bush presented in previous post, don’t be afraid, your waiting is at its end. After your warm responses to previously posted image I opened it again in LR and adjusted a bit accordingly to your suggestions and suggestions of other fellow photographers. The most of you suggested a bit lighter background and less tight frame. I wasn’t very happy with the frame either so here is updated version. The background is not so saturated and a bit lighter, frame disappeared and a slight vignetting was applied. What do you think now?

1/200 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 100

I would like to write about more or less photogenic subjects in nature now. Have you ever wondered how is it possible that some subjects draws your attention more than the others? Have you ever realized that you can take several great photos of one subject while none or only one in case of another subject? Some subjects literally draws your attention and you just find another and another wonderful compositions while it is extremely hard to find a single suitable composition of other subject no matter how hard you try. Do you have the same experience or is it only something in me?

Anyway, this red/orange shrub was of the first class, I was finding another and another compositions and all of them looked pretty well through the viewfinder. Well, reality is a bit different when you download all the files to your computer but still I ended up with 3 images which I liked. The first one is above and here is the second one.

1/160 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 100

If I’m really attracted by such colourful subject and I already took a certain number of photos I sometimes “switch” to abstract mode and I look for some compositions where colours and shapes could create something interesting. In this case I wanted to achieve a wash out colours. I wanted it to look like painted with water colours. If I passed or failed is up to your consideration.

The third and last image was taken with similar intention as the previous one but with an idea to have at least something in focus and the rest only as shapes. I wasn’t very happy with the colour version because of greenish background so I tried some enhancements in LR and was satisfied with Antique Grayscale preset.

1/160 sec. @ 100mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Technical information: all the images were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USm macro lens under natural conditions (autumn sun light, slight wind). All post-processing was done in Adobe Lightroom 2.5.

It’s a very long time since I gave some advice here and now is a good time for one: never be satisfied with the image you wanted to take. Try to examine the subject as much as you can, try different f-stops, compositions, lightning conditions, try to exploit as much of the subject as posible. I guarantee you that you’ll be surprised with some results.

That’s all for today, have a nice weekend and enjoy the Christmas preparations!

Impression in Japanese style… ?

8 12 2009

When I spent a weekend with my family in the mountains 2 weeks ago shooting oak leaves from previous post I was attracted by interesting bush, unknown to me, with very thin branches and tiny thin spear shaped leaves. The bush had amazing variety of autumnal colours from yellow through orange to red. I took a couple of photos (well, around 40, I guess) as sun shone through the leaves and a slight wind was playing with them. Here is one of the photos. When I post-processed it I played with vignette settings in LR 2.5 a bit and I came with a setting that reminded me those simple Japanese Zen drawings usually drawn with black ink and brush.

1/200 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 100

Technical information: the photo was taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM lens under natural conditions, hand held.

What do you think? Is the orange too prominent? Is it too tight? Does it evoke any feelings?

I will post some other photos of this bush next time.

Enjoy the first snow where you already have it! (We have only rain, fogs and cold 😦 )

In the main role: Oak leaves!

29 11 2009

By now you should already know that I am attracted by tree leaves of all colours and shapes and I often take photos of them. One of my most favourite leaves are oak leaves. They have wonderful curved rounded shape and its back side is often brighter than back sides of other leaves. I spent previous weekend with my family on our cottage in near hills covered by woods and when I was looking for something interesting I found oak leaves in following interesting placements.

The first one was lit by nice autumn sun light and I was attracted by its texture as well as its shape.

1/200sec. @ 100mm, f/11, ISO 200

Then I noticed another oak leaf with very nice dark green moss only few steps from the leaf and I thought those two might make nice contrast together.

1/125 sec. @ 100mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Here is the leaf as I found it surrounded by beech leaves and leafless blueberry bushes.

1/125 sec. @ 100mm, f/4.5, ISO 200, 2 stacked images for bigger depth of field

Subject for last photo was  a thin stem of young oak tree with few yet gripping dried leaves on its end. The background here is dried grass. I tried to capture the melancholic autumn atmosphere here.

1/250 sec. @ 100mm, f/5, ISO 100

Technical information: all photos were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2,8 USM macro lens under natural conditions and hand held.

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for improvements, don’t hesitate to share them.

Enjoy the first frost where you have it!

Christmas Cactus (A tripod test)

24 11 2009

It’s been a while since I posted information about my purchase for a tripod and you may already wondered when I will post some first experience and shots from a tripod testing. Well, the time is now 🙂

To start from the beginning, the very first test shooting was a disaster. I bought the tripod with intention to be able to take photos inside our house during upcoming short days so it’s obvious that I wanted to test it in these conditions. With the Christmas Cactus already blooming the subject for testing was clear. It was a nice sunny day (Saturday 2 weeks ago if I remember well) sun wasn’t shining directly to the room, yet, so I had a nice strong natural ambient light, cactus standing on the wooden dining table, camera upon the tripod and the testing started. I already found pleasing composition beforehand so I just started shooting. I decided to go to a Live View mode, 5x magnification and then I immediately noticed that whenever I touch the camera, it moves. I “pushed” it with every single push of any button. When I removed my hand the camera came back to its original position so it was not a problem at all. First I tried some shots with shutter speed around one second (with 2s delay which automatically shoots in mirror lockup mode) and was surprised when I saw that the images were blurred 😮 I immediately recognized what was the problem – it was the floor! In Live View mode I could see that my every move on the floor makes the image on LCD to move.

We have wooden floors in the house and they seem to be quite soft. Made of wooden planks, it often creaks (is it the right word?) on certain places and bends down when stepped on on others. You can also notice smaller things rattling on table, fridge and so on when you go over the room fast 🙂 So, I tried some different positions and places in the room and became almost desperate because the only thing I found out was that if I want sharp images I need enough light for shutter speed > 1/2 s. And before you ask, no, I couldn’t try any other room. Our kitchen is currently the only available room due to windows position and due to the fact that we (meaning me, my wife and son) share our house with my wife’s parents and grandparents and I don’t want to bother others with my hobbies.

As I said in the beginning, the first shooting was a disaster. I had 0, yes, ZERO, usable photos after maybe an hour of shooting.

I had another chance after a week during next weekend. Maybe I was more patient or what but I have found out that some planks are maybe less soft… :), anyway, this time I took some photos that I dare to present here even thought they are far from what I would proudly present. Still I find them appealing.

The first one is rather a test of post-processing skills as it consists of 6 stacked images automatically aligned but manually stacked in PS CS4. The background is our beech table with a bit enhanced colour. I’m a complete newbie in shooting against “blank” background so any tips are welcome 😉 See larger version, please.

6x 1/2 sec. @ 100 mm, f/10, ISO 100, stacked manually

For second image I was attracted by bright green colour of back-lit cactus “leaves” and I especially liked the contrast between a back-lit and not back-lit leaves.

1/5 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 100

For the final image I looked for some see-throughs and even though I didn’t find any suitable, I really liked how a group of backlit blossoms was almost glowing with white, red and all the shades between them.

~ Red Vision ~
1/30 sec. @ 100 mm, f/5, ISO 100

I like how the small bud on the leave is “hidden” from the light and guarded by soft thorns. Several names for this image came to my mind and the one I like most is Red Vision. It’s like looking on the world through a window covered by a raspberry jam (think of anything YOU like instead of jam) 😀

Technical information: all images in this post were created with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100 f/2.8 USM macro lens upon tripod, and under natural conditions.

I hope that you like it and am impatiently awaiting your comments.

It seems that Father Autumn don’t want the Lady Winter to rule the world yet, so enjoy every single warm rays of sun light you have, they’ll be cooler soon!

Peach Trees Leaves

17 11 2009

We have several peach trees in our garden and two weeks ago on one warm sunny day I noticed that one peach tree has leaves with nice warm yellow colour while another one has leaves with dark red colour. I thought that these 2 colours would make a good contrast so I picked up couple handfuls of those yellow leaves and one red leaf. I dropped those yellow leaves on the ground and arranged them so no ground was visible. Then I tried to drop the red leaf several times on those yellows and looked for appealing composition. After some time I came up with something that I liked. When I processed the image in computer I liked the result but wanted the colours even more enhanced so I tried the Orton effect and really liked the warm glowing colours.  Here it is (see larger):


1/400 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4.5, ISO 100

I have posted this photo in 2 photo forums, on one I got several answers that the light is too harsh, on the second they liked the light 🙂 So I wonder what you will say. And for your information, there’s nothing over exposed according to histogram 😉 Just today I’ve noticed that the top half of the image is significantly heavier than the lower part but the composition does not work when it is upside down. What do you think?

When I had a couple of images that pleased me I squated to look closely on the leaves and I was attracted by their jagged rims. I took another couple of shots and was quite surprised by the results.


~ Dragon Wing ~
1/640 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

What you see is about 2/3 of original image. I know that it is too tight in the lower left corner but it’s the best I could come up with. It’s another addition to my Floral Curves Series (very slowly growing) and as I’m big fan of fantasy the first thing that appeared on my mind when I saw the image was “wow, it looks like a dragon wing” 🙂

Technical information: both images were shot with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2,8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, hand held.

I hope you like the images,
enjoy the autumn/fall colours and light!

How to improve in photography?

15 11 2009

First of all I want to thank you for sharing your experience and observations about using photo forums. The most discouraging reasons from posting your photos at such forums are:

  • it is too much time consuming,
  • you need to comment other photos to get some feedback on yours,
  • some forums are based on unwritten rule “give me nice comment and I’ll give nice comment to you”.

Most of you answered that mainly because of the first reason you don’t post your photos on photo forums no more or only seldom. This leads me to question: what do you do to improve your photography?

Practicing? OK, but how do you know that you do it right? Taking photo courses? All right, but that’s mainly one time event so it doesn’t tell you that you improve continually, right?

I’m really looking forward to your replies and while thinking about answer you can let your eyes wander over following image 😉


~ A Hazelnut Tree Leaf ~
1/100 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 640

Technical information: the photo was taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, hand held.

I took this shot in our garden last July when I was walking with a camera in my hand, looking for something interesting. I noticed this leaf and it attracted me by the way how it was lit by sun and how the veins in the leaf were dropping shadows.

Enjoy every warm day as winter will arrive soon!