Dilemma of processing (Marigold post)

4 09 2012

Maybe you know this, too. You take photos but you don’t have time to process them all, you take new ones and the older ones stack on your hard disk. I try to process photos soon enough but I have always some older photos while taking the newest. And those newest ones are always most alluring, stealing most of my thoughts and photography mind so it’s really hard to get to processing older photos. On the other hand I like some older photos so much that I’m dragged to them also. It’s like an eternal struggle in my mind. To make it even more complicated sometimes some older so-far-unprocessed photo stuck in my head calling for processing all the time but I don’t know HOW to process it. I know what the results should look like, what atmosphere I want to put in it but the “how” comes after some time usually. After months sometimes. Anyway, I must say that the discipline and order win mostly and I process photos from the oldest ones as it was also with these marigold photos. How do you do it? What is your approach?

~ Marigold Fan ~
1/13 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8 (+f/8), ISO 100

Marigolds, from genus Tagetes, are very common garden flowers where I live. You can find them almost in every garden or even in pots on balconies through cities. People like them even though they don’t smell very nice what lead people to call them commonly as “smelies” or “stinkies”. To me the smell is not so unpleasant but it is very strong and persisting. I never had any interest in these low-grade flowers (how I perceived them) until maybe 2 years back. By then I started to look at them for their look itself and I started to like them mostly for their colours and various blossom structures. There is not a big variety in colours, mostly they are in hues of yellow through orange to red but what I like the most is the contrast between edges of petals and the rest of petals like it is in photos in this post.

~ Tiny Harpoons ~
1/30 sec. @ 100 mm, f/5.6, ISO 100

But it’s not only edges of petals what makes these flowers look interesting, some blossoms have also greatly detailed centers as it is in photo above (click on it to see all details in larger format).

The official czech name for this flower is “Aksamitník” which could be translated to English as something like “velveteen flower” as the root of the czech name is “aksamit” = “velveteen”. I guess that the name comes from the structure of the petals and how smooth they are on touch. There is even one more informal name we use for this flower which could be translated as “an African” with the same meaning as a person born in Africa but spelled differently. When I did small research on these flowers I found out that some sources state Mexico as a land of origin to these flowers, while other sources state USA and South America and some even Africa. According to wikipedia one Tagetes specie, Tagetes minuta, “is now a naturalized species in Africa, Hawaii, and Australia, and is considered an invasive species – weed in some regions.” So our common name “an African” is strongly misleading. Still it is the mostly used.

~ Blues and Oranges ~
1/30 sec @ 100 mm, f/2.8 (+f/4), ISO 100

Marigold is not only pretty flower, it has much wider use. As it supposedly deter some insect pests it is planted together with some vegetables for which insect pests have weakness. Such a vegetable is tomato, potato, egg-plant and others. You probably wouldn’t guess that essential oil gained from Tagetes minuta is used in perfume industry and even as a flavouring in food and tobacco industries. A colouring gained from Tagetes erecta is used in European Union in food industry while in USA it is approved only as a colouring for poultry feed. Interesting, isn’t it?

Now few words about the photos accompanying this post. The first one is about colour contrast between edges of petals and the rest of petals as well as about structure of petals which in some species resembles a fan. The second photo is about centre of the blossom and even though I like photos with higher contrast and darker tones, I think that this little bit washed out processing suits it well. The most difficult part of processing was unification of background which was slightly green and the stem of the flower which was slightly blue. Third photo is again about petal edges but also about structure of  whole blossoms of Tagetes patula. The blueish stem is left here as it nicely stands out against flowers in background. I really like this orange-blue combination as it is not commonly seen in nature. The last photo is a square crop of the third one. In case of first and third photo I used 2 photos for the final result – a photo with shallow DOF as a basis and a photo with higher f-stop number for sharper details in the edges.

Let me know which photo you like most and why.

Enjoy the coming indian summer!

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Season of Irises

3 06 2012

A season of irises is here again as every year. For maybe 3 previous years I tried to photograph irises and never ended up with publishing-worthy images. This year I try again and I already have some hopefully decent photos which I dare to publish in this post.

Irises are interesting, very varying flowers spread almost worldwide. From short to tall, from smaller to bigger, from wild to cultivated, irises are one of the most frequent flowers in our gardens together with tulips and roses. Their colours vary from pure white to very dark, almost black varieties and multicoloured cultivars are common. Iris blossoms usually last several days but we can find differences also here as some are so fragile that even harsh sun, wind or rain harms them while other are still beautiful even after strong rain.

We had 3 varieties in previous years – fragile white/yellow, strong yellow/orange and quite fragile violet/yellow cultivar named “Mary Todd”. It seems that the strong variety haven’t survived last harsh winter and “Mary Todd” had only couple blossoms destroyed by rain very soon. The fragile white/yellow variety has been in great condition last weeks, having more than dozen blossoms so I waited for any opportunity to take photos of them. Some opportunities were ruined by bad weather but I managed to take couple photos during previous week and also during past weekend.

~ Iris Sprout ~
1/50 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

This variety has pronounced veining in lower petals and whole blossom plays with white and yellow hues. Blossoms are rather small and very fragile with thin petals which often become translucent after couple days or rain. Their days of this year are almost gone.

When looking for suitable composition I decided to take some details of these beautiful flowers as they are often depicted with whole blossoms in a frame. I named the photo above “Iris Sprout” because the “beard” looks like a new small plant to me. Actually, as I am looking at it now, it reminds me willow catkins.

I am aware of the photo being a bit dull but no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t able to process it so that the contrast would be still good, the brightest parts white and veining not too dark.

~ Irisfall ~
1/30 (1/8) sec @ 100 mm, f/4 (f/8), ISO 100

I like the “misty” look of this photo and therefore the name “Irisfall” as a version to waterfall. With water being falling in a waterfall it would be more correct to name this “Beardfall” but I like “Irisfall” more. Always when I watch this photo, it looks to me like the beard is rolling through a valley and falls down the steep bank, creating a mist which is raising above the fall and illuminating whole valley with gold. But maybe it’s only me, dwelling too much in worlds of fantasy.

To achieve a bit deeper DOF in area of beard I combined 2 images – shallow f/4 photo as a basis and f/8 photo from which I carefully transferred part of the beard.

I’m not sure if I will get to taking another photos of this iris yet this year but if not, then in next year, I guess. Fortunately, we bought another iris variety this year and it only starts blooming these days. It has unique apricot-orange colour, strong smell of grapefruits and it belongs to the strong varieties blossoming nicely even after hard rain. The flower is packed with buds so I guess that I’ll have enough fun with it. Actually, I hoped that a blossom will open during past weekend but it didn’t until Sunday evening and that was too late.

Have a nice week and … thanks Tracy for inspiration!

Technical information: all photos in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens mounted to a tripod, under natural conditions, outdoors.





Springtime

21 05 2012

Another month has passed and I had only one new photo to post.

~ Born To Be Wild ~
1/3 sec. @ 100 mm, f/5.6, ISO 100

My wife bought these tulips some 2 months ago. It wasn’t really possible to guess their colour(s) but those ruffled petal edges looked interesting to her. When they opened I really liked the torn edges and colourful blossoms with bright yellow centers and red petals or green petals with red streaks in them as you can see it on the photo. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any suitable composition without the pistils which may seems as distracting to someone. The photo was taken with afternoon sun behind the flower making the colours really glow.

With nice almost summer weather of last weeks I went outside with a camera couple times to practice but guess what, wind, the spoiler of good photography has been blowing almost all the time! Sometimes so strongly that it did not make sense to go outside with camera at all, sometimes so slightly that not a leave stirred but still too strongly for persisting a fragile flower under 1/100 of second. So after some attempts and failures I decided to work through older unprocessed images and found this one of lily pistils.

~ From A Hand ~
1/8 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

I liked the unusually colourful petals which makes nice background in my opinion. The pistils looks to me like an open 6-finger hand from which center grows the stigma. With the bright fresh colours reminding me a spring it matches the tulip photo above even though the processing and feel of both photos differes a lot. At least they match in my eyes.

Have a wonderful springtime!

Technical information: all photos in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens mounted to a tripod, under natural conditions, indoors.





Revisiting subject

20 01 2012

Originally I wanted to name this post Cool colours in warm winter because we have exceptionally warm winter this year but then the day after taking the photo which is accompanying this post we got snow and it lasts for more than a week now. So let’s leave the title and move to the real content of this post.

If you are taking photos for longer time you have probably came through the situation when you would like to take a photo of a subject which you photographed in past or it just happens that such a subject lands in front of your lens. Then you probably know that if you tend to investigate the subject very well, as I do, it is more complicated next time. The truth is that there are subjects which are so variable that you can take a photo of them every time and it will be always a little bit different. This is valid for subjects with complicated structures and as I am a flower photographer a nice example of such a subject for me are roses as every single rose has differently folded petals and they exist in uncountable amount of colour varieties. Then there are subjects which look like the same but you can add difference by changing background and angle of view. Such a subject is for example cyclamen. And then there are subjects which are more complicated and it takes time to take a photo in a different, previously not taken way. I found this challenge with hyacinth this year.

Hyacinths exists in five colour variants (white, yellow, pink, burgundy red and blueish violet), as far as I know. Beside colour the flower as such looks always the same. A cluster of trumpet-shaped blossoms placed one next to each other. Two years ago I examined a white hyacinth from bigger distance and took a photo of more flowers in this cluster resulting in this photo. Last year I examined pink variety more closely, resulting in this series of photos. This year I finally got a blue/violet variety which I always wanted to have. BUT, when I started to examine it with a camera on a tripod I was surprised how difficult it was to find something appealing this time. I found several compositions but they were mostly copies of the photos which I took last year. After some 15-20 minutes and couple of not-fully-satisfying captures I found one which I really liked.


~ Cool Hyacinth ~
0.3 @ 100 mm, f/2.8 ISO 100

The flower was placed in contra light so the blossoms in direct light turned slightly to blue whereas blossoms in a shade turned out in violet and the colour combination was really interesting; the shade of blue reminds me colour of icebergs. I decided to go with fully open aperture to get as much smooth colours as possible and I think that it turned out really well. It reminds me a pastel drawing. As usually I took this photo also with higher f-stops and later I layered together the one taken at f/2.8 with one taken at f/10 and I used the latter one to paint pistils with more details into the softer one (layered and painted in Photoshop).

So after all I ended up with a photo which does not look like any photo of a hyacinth I took so far and that’s exactly what was aiming for.

Even though revisiting the same subject in photography may seem as tedious or boring, I find it challenging and I think that it is great for training photography eye and creativity. Try it, it’s fun!

Technical information: the photo in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens mounted to a tripod, under natural conditions, indoors.





Daylilies 2011

29 07 2011

Daylilies are flowers which brought me to macro photography and to flower photography in general. We have a daylily “bush” in a garden and I try to take some photos of it every year when it is in bloom. This year their season is slowly ending and so I am posting my latest attempts.


~ A Probe ~
0.5 sec @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
Click on the photo to see it in bigger resolution.

The more photos of one subject you take the more complicated it is to take another and not repeat yourself. With daylilies I still focus fully on “colour flows” and lines but I am also looking for something unique in the blossoms that would make the photo special. In the photo above it is the stigma which is usually erected out from a blossom but sometimes it stays inside.


~ A Lift ~
0.4 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
Click on the photo to see it in bigger resolution.

I like to look for an interesting interaction between abstract shapes and lines supported by colour gradients. In the photo above two stamens were going in parallel evoking look of those double glass lifts. Lifts for insect perhaps.

Photos above are “common” ones, with minimal post processing. As I was working with the photos below I thought that perhaps it’s time to try something a little bit different. To make these abstracts a little bit more special.


0.4 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
Click on the photo to see it in bigger resolution.

Image rotation, low contrast and high brightness did the trick here. I was tempted to give it title “Ribs” but I resisted because the photo evokes pleasant feelings in me which wouldn’t persist if I would use the title.

Brightness slider went unusually high also for last photo even though not as high as for the previous one. I like the juicy colours in this one.


0.3 sec @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
Click on the photo to see it in bigger resolution.

All these photos were taken indoor this time. The blossom was on the windowsill to absorb as much sun light as possible and then slightly shaded from direct light so the colours could pop. Without shading the colours and light were too strong, too harsh. I will be definitely glad for your opinions and if you would like to compare it with my daylily photos from previous years, here they are (2010, 2009).

Enojy the weekend!

Technical information: all photos in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens on a tripod; under natural conditions.





The Nature Conservancy Photo Contest 2011

21 07 2011

I informed about the TCN Photo contest previous year and now it is here again. Here goes the message:

The Nature Conservancy is holding its 6th Annual Digital Photo Competition. This year, it’s easier than ever to enter using your Facebook log-in info – http://photocontest.nature.org/ or through The Nature Conservancy’s Flickr Group – http://my.nature.org/photography/flickr.html.

Original digital photos that feature the natural wonders of the lands, waters, plants, animals and people around the world are all eligible for the competition.

This year at least 35 photos will be selected as honorable mentions and finalists, and our online community will vote for their favorite images to determine the winners. The grand prize winner will be featured on the cover of the 2013 Nature Conservancy calendar.

This competition is open to all photographers age 18 years or older regardless of residence or citizenship, as long as the laws of their jurisdiction allow participation. Photo submissions must be uploaded by 11:59 pm PST Monday, September 12, 2011.

For more details, please visit http://photocontest.nature.org/ and feel free to contact me with your questions.

Consider your participation.


~ Crucifiction ~
0.8  sec. @ 100 mm, f/14, ISO 100

When I was looking for a photo to accompany this message I came up across this one which wasn’t posted , yet. It is direct shot of central part of Miltonia orchid blossom. The flower was on a windowsill backlit by afternoon sun light. I was amazed by the patterns and colours.

Have a nice rest of the week!

Technical information: all photographs in this post were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens on a tripod, in natural conditions.





No unsuitable subjects

3 07 2011

You see something and tell yourself “This would be a great subject for a photo!”or the opposite “This wouldn’t make for a decent photo”. I guess you all know this. During past months I’ve learned that there are NO unsuitable subjects. You can take a decent photo of any subject you find. It’s only about time and creativity.

Now let’s speak about flowers. Some of them are naturally more appealing than others and then it will be probably easier to take a nice photo of them. If it comes to the originality of such a photo, well, it will probably take you a little bit more time to come up with original photo of an appealing flower but on the other hand there are beautiful flowers of which taking original photos isn’t easy at all, for example orchids. And then there are flowers which might not be much appealing, I bet everyone has some. I personally don’t like pansies. They are so fragile, so flat, so… boring! But it’s their season now and so I decided to give them a try. We have 2 colour varieties in our garden and it’s nice that each blossom is a little bit different from others even in one colour variety. I wanted to have an original photo so I was looking for different composition than I saw already on web and I came up with very close close-up. Pansies have nice small details if you take a look at them closely but I wanted something original so I decided to convert photo into painting using Snap Art 2 plug-in for Photoshop. I used “oil on canvas” setting as this matched best to the subject. Click on photo for bigger image with more details.


~Like a Butterfly ~
1/2 sec. @ 100 mm, f/20, ISO 100

One advice if you decide to photograph pansies, take a fresh blossoms and not after rain otherwise you will spend hours in photo editor cloning out all the specks, especially from dark parts.

Another flower which I saw as unsuitable for decent photos is petunia. It nicely beautifies our windows but when it comes to taking nice and original photo of it, well, I didn’t think it will work. Then I saw a great photo of petunia on flickr and I decided to give them a try. When I started to study the flower closely I noticed that magical deep violet colour which was so rich that it was almost black. It looked so great that I really wanted to have some nice photo of it. It wasn’t so hard to find pleasing composition but as the leaves in background were a little bit disturbing I thought about conversion to painting again. This time “impasto” style worked best so here is the result. Click on photo for bigger image with more details.


~ Black velvet trumpets ~
1/2 sec. @ 100 mm, f/20, ISO 100

I think it works quite nicely but when I was in Photoshop I thought that maybe I could try also some other filters (sometimes when working with a photo I simply start to wonder what various filters/presets could do with it. This time I went directly to “invert” filter even though I really don’t know why, it was some kind of intuition and here is the result which really appeals to me. Click on photo for bigger image with more details.


~ Surfinia feather ~

Feather was the very first thing which came to my mind when I saw this image.

I tried also other filters but haven’t got anything interesting until I went to Snap art again and tried other presets. I used only “impasto” and “oil on canvas” in past because other presets usually results in something not so impressive but this time I really liked result of “stylize” filter which gave the photo a little bit cartoonish style. Click on photo for bigger image with more details.


~ Violet Gold ~

I like all these results and I wanted to share them with you. Here you can see how a subject which saw as unsuitable for good photo may turn up as direct opposite so if you have some subjects which you resisted to photograph so far, give them a chance. I’m pretty sure that you’ll be surprised with your results. Anyway, taking photos of subjects which we see as unsuitable for good photos is great exercise because we need to overcome our bias and think about the subject deeply to be able to work with it and expect good result.

If photos in this post will serve as inspiration for you I’ll be more than pleased. Let me know your results!

Enjoy your summer holidays and vacations.

Technical information: photograph in this post was taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens on a tripod, in natural conditions.