“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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
Macro photography lets you take a careful look at a flower’s center. I also find that the irregularity in a flower makes it special. I was attracted to the darker pink streaks on the petal in the back. In this image, I find my eye is first drawn to the delicate yellow tendrils of the flower’s center. In the asymmetrical composition, that yellow center needs a counter weight, which the fascia-streaked petal provides. Does your eye move the same way? Is your vision attracted to color changes, defined detail and edges?