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.

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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.

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.

A Meadow Full

A meadow full of lupines stretch far into the dark edge of the woods. Here are a few compositional tips.  When you frame a photograph, it is a good idea to consider the foreground, middle ground and background, letting the foreground elements lead your eye through the frame.

Shallow depth of field makes the three well lit lupines in the foreground stand out. The countless lupines in the middle ground tells the story that the meadow stretches out a long way, and the dark background at the upper left allows the eye to exit.

Did you notice the star shaped leaves in the lower center? This helps to balance the composition. Did you notice the lack of distracting elements — Nothing that distracts or detracts from the main subject?

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Where does your eye go first in this composition?

As you consider these factors of light, fore/middle/background, S curves, shapes, lack of distractions and depth of field, you are well on your way to learning how to create a dynamic (rather than a static) image.