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!





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.





Intentional camera movement a.k.a. panning

12 06 2011

“In photography, panning refers to the horizontal movement or rotation of a still or video camera, or the scanning of a subject horizontally on video or a display device.” – Wikipedia

Panning  or basically any camera movement during exposure is one of techniques to which comes almost every photographer who gained some experience and wants to try “something different”. It produces varying results, some excellent, worth of hanging on wall, some not as good. A set up producing usually very good results is vertical panning in wood, I wrote about it in my post Pan in wood. As a flower photographer I tried this technique also with flowers and got very nice result shared in post Creativity..unlocked!

Simple panning, meaning vertical or horizontal movement is the most simple way with which probably everyone starts. After trying this you can continue with rotation, zoom, combination of movement and zoom… whatever you want. Bad thing about this technique is that results are often hardly predictable. It happens to me that I do the movements which resulted in good photos in past but they suddenly do not work. Is it a subject or is it only me? In such cases I usually try other movements such as already mentioned rotation. I think that following photo is nice example.


1/6 sec. @ 100 mm, f/32, ISO 100

On this shot I captured part of our meadow which blooms heavily every year. Unfortunatelly, I don’t know the name of the yellow flower (it’s not Dandelion or Ranunculus) but I know that those pink/violet spots are cloverleaf blossoms. In case of this technique (rotation) I get one decent photo on maybe 10-20. Sometimes it’s really hard to get desired composition when you need to move your camera so quickly.

When rotation technique fails, try whatever else. This past weekend I was trying to take some photos of our blooming lobelia pot but I wasn’t able to find decent composition with so many small blossoms so I tried panning. After several tries I came up with a photo which appeals to me.

1/2 sec. @ 100 mm, f/32, ISO 100

If I remember correctly, the movement which lead to this was crazy wobbling with camera from left to right so it’s absolutely impossible to repeat that movement again. I must say that I really like those bright lines and colours. It reminds me refractions of sunlight on water surface.

If you want to try something new, something original, something that results in interesting photos or if you just like what you see here, grab your camera and give it a try. If you will be patient, you will definitely get something very interesting even after your first tries.

I wish you a lot of fresh energy into the starting week!

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





Meadow Dreams continue…

3 08 2009

I wrote about my Meadow Dreams Series here some 2 weeks ago and it seems that you liked it. Whereas the first presented photos were taken under the bright day light and mainly on grassy valley meadow (next to our house) today I post images taken in late evening sun light on the mountain meadow (next to our cottage 🙂 ).

I was looking for some interesting scenes for this series for whole weekend when I saw that the very last rays of beuatiful warm sun light were lightening a near meadow one evening so I haven’t hesitated a second, took my camera and shot  following images. It was a pity that the sun went down so quickly but that’s the way it is, I guess.

You can see the radical difference in the atmosphere between images in this post and the previous one. Last time I wrote that light is the key element for this kind of photography and I think that following images only prove it. I would like to take another bunch of photos in the early morning light but it’s not so easy for me to wake up so early and go outside to shoot before my travel to work. Also flowers are usually closed in the early morning.

When I was processing these images I decided to name them to boost the atmosphere a bit and to give you a hint of what I see in them.

Meadow-dreams-V---Hurry,-a-night-is-coming

~ Hurry, A Night Is Coming! ~
~ Meadow Dreams Series ~

1/160 sec. @ 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

While I was processing the previous image I decided to crop it to square format to get a different image with a different story behind it.

Meadow-dreams-VI---Alone

~ Alone ~
~ Meadow Dreams Series ~
1/160 sec. @ 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Meadow-Dreams-VII---Family

~ Family ~
~ Meadow Dreams Series ~

1/250 sec. @ 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Technical information: All shots were taken with Canon EOS 450D + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 + HOYA Close-up filter +4.

I hope you’ll like it. Enjoy the summer!