The Delicate Cleome

This white Cleome stands out so beautifully in Erika’s garden. I love the delicacy of this flower and also how tall, complex and balanced it looks. If someone described me this way, I would be happy.

cleome, flower, summer, white, garden
I love the delicate petals of this white cleome, growing in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

When I was making this photograph, I looked for a simple background, so the Cleome would take center stage. I think the yellow coneflowers, shown out of focus in the background do a nice job as “best supporting actors.”

Spinning Flowers

I nudged myself to get out in the backyard and experiment with some flower photography today. Summer 2020 should be the summer of experimentation, right? I played with long exposures and spinning the camera while pressing the shutter. My favorite image was this one of my hydrangea plant that preserved the outlines of the leaves.

#hydrangea, #experiment, #creative,  #july #flowers, #flowerphotography, #nature, #outdoorphotography, #abstract, #spin
Hydrangea blossoms in pink and blue appear slightly abstract in this spinning image, nicely framed by a wreath of vibrant leaves. © Catherine Kelly

If you want to try this method, you need to set the camera to manual and dial in a long exposure like a third of a second. To achieve a correct exposure, you will need to stop down the lens (to perhaps f/11 or f/16), and set a low ISO (such as 100). The settings will vary for you based on the available light. Focusing is still important. Once you have achieved a good exposure with shutter speed, aperture and ISO, it’s time to play.

Leaf Art in the Tropics

It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Stripes and Polka Dots

Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!

This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Learning Your Tropical Plants

My first thought of a name for this brilliant bloom was “fireworks,” but I wasn’t far off. This splash of color drew me close at the Naples Botanical Garden. It’s a Starburst bush / Clerodendrum quadriloculare. I was not finding it under searches for “fireworks flower” or “tropical plants,” but my friend Erika, a gifted gardener, led me to its proper name. The Starburst bush is native to New Guinea and the Philippines. No wonder it thrives in the tropical climate of Naples, Florida in the “Garden with Latitude.”

#starburst, #fireworks, #tropical, #light, #garden, #gardening, #naplesfl, #botanical, #botanicalgarden, #flower, #pinkandgreen, #pinkflower, #macrophotography, #naturephotography, #outdoorphotography, #nikon, #phillipines
The Starburst bush, clerodendrum quadriloculare, looks vibrant in the late afternoon light at Naples Botanical Garden, photographed in February 2020.

In doing my botanical research, I was tempted to order some seeds and plants, but I don’t currently have access to a garden or gardening tools. I’m hoping my desire to dig and plant will still burn when I return to my home in Pennsylvania.

The Ghost Tulip

“Ghost Tulip” is my own affectionate name for this unique tulip that reminds me of the Ghost Orchid, the elusive tropical orchid that blooms in Florida in mid-summer. Seasonal Florida residents can’t catch a glimpse of the ghost orchid, since they have months ago fled to northern climes.

The Ghost Tulip stands out brilliantly from its green leaves and earthy roots. Find it at the Spring Flower Show, Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh.

My good friend Sharon was patient with me as I composed, focused and captured 64 photographs at the Phipps Conservatory Spring Flower Show. I shared with her my thoughts on photographing flowers.

“I’m mainly concerned with finding good compositions here. The background must be simple yet show some depth. If I choose a single flower to dominate the composition, it’s helpful to have a second flower play best supporting actor, to echo the main actor, but play a secondary role, as in this composition,” I added.

Later, “I mentioned that a star pattern is always a good thing, as is an S curve or a diagonal.”

“Why?” she asked. “Ha, ha, good question,” was my reply.

Luminous Cactus Flowers

As we take a close look at this blooming cactus, we first notice the spikes and the complimentary colors of the red flowers emerging from the green cactus body. The sunlight and shallow depth of field give us excellent clarity.

#cactus, #flowers, #redandgreen, #spikes, #sunlit, #cobweb, #web, #spider
A close look at the sunlit blooms on the cactus. Those spikes look sharp!

But then we notice the delicate spider web illuminated by the sun. Where is the spider, who lives in symbiosis with the cactus, not at all discouraged by the sharp spikes?

Hydrangea Twins

Just outside my back door, I found fraternal twins on my hydrangea bush: a pink and a blue blossom on the same plant. All the rain in the past few weeks are helping the blossoms last. Stay away, hungry deer!

#hydrangea, #july, #pinkandblue, #favoriteflower, #nature, #flowers, #nikon, #sewickley, #pennsylvania
Fresh pink and blue blossoms on my hydrangea bush. Shot with Nikon D800, at 1/500 second, f 2.8 and ISO 100. Shallow depth of field gives the photo an intimate feeling.

The hydrangea may be my favorite flower, thanks to associations with my daughter’s  June wedding as well as memories of seeing them on Cape Cod.

To Make (not just take) an Image

In the age of iPhone photography, most people seem to think that shooting a photo is all there is to it. Well, first you have to see the image, that is pre-visualize it as an interesting two dimensional image. Next, you have to have a camera or iPhone with you. Third, you need to compose the image and click. Then, many will share the image instantly on social media. Done.

Often you will get pretty cool results with that workflow, but professionals know there is much more to image making. Much expertise goes into lens choice, camera settings for depth of field, selective focus, and then processing. My workflow includes processing first in Adobe Lightroom, then Photoshop, and sometimes even a third application such as Topaz or Nik/Google applications. The impact of this tulip image is the result of my experience with shooting choices as well as processing choices.

#NYBG, #tulip, #green, #greenandwhite, #bicolor, #contrast, #sony, #spring, #may
This high contrast image of the rare green and white tulip encourages the viewer to enjoy the detail and shape of the petals.

A non-photographer will often ask the question, “Is that photoshopped?” as if the question were really, “is it real?” I like to explain that processing a digital photo with image editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop is an essential part of the creative process. I MAKE an image. I don’t just TAKE and image. Using Photoshop to process images is, in fact, my job.

Chihuly’s Organic Towers

Chihuly glass sculptures, installed in many prominent American botanical gardens, ostensibly aim to imitate nature. How do you compare these sublime towers of glass at the New York Botanical Gardens to a nearby stalk of blooms?

#NYBG, #chihuly, #tower, #yellow, #red, #tower, #nature, #art
Chihuly’s yellow and red spire of glass spokes stand in stark contrast to the round pavilion at the New York Botanical Garden.

Inside the neoclassical pavilion, I found this simple and elegant stalk of blossoms. It is rather understated, you might say, but similar to the sculpture in its overall shape and repetition of blossoms up the stalk. Here the colors are more muted, not bold, primary colors the sculpture has.

#NYBG, #newyork, #nature, #closeup, #macro, #symmetry, #pole, #flower, #simple, #elegant, #delicate, #sony
Close up of delicate blossoms emerging symmetrically around the plant’s stalk at New York Botanical Garden.

Inside the pavilion shown in the first photo is a more fanciful Chihuly tower sculpture that reminds me of a Dr. Seuss illustration. It is white with pink polka dots, and its spokes curl like snakes. Symmetry is no longer the operative word. We might say this piece shows more personality.

#NYBG, #newyork, #chihuly, #glass, #sculpture, #art, #pink, #pinkandwhite, #drseuss, #personality
Polka dots and irregular curls give this Chihuly sculpture a different personality. New York Botanical Garden, inside the pavilion.