My first impression of this tulip is of “arms wide open,” a loving embrace. The bright yellow and white center look like light and goodness at the core. The purple color and fine texture bursting out of the darker disorderly background also speak to me of joy, and the renewal of Spring.
Christians may see an Easter message: purple for the Lord’s Passion, his suffering and death. The white center revealed could symbolize the divinity and hope of the Resurrection.
“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.
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.
The cool thing about a 15mm lens is that you can elevate your foreground subject to become the center of the universe. As the background blurs in the distance and rounds itself to represent the whole world, this single tulip in its brilliant pink hue and crisp focus dominates the scene, or if you will, the whole world.
This is one way to photograph hundreds of colorful tulips in bloom in Baltimore’s Sherwood Gardens. Scanning acres of tulips and azaleas, I found that one place to begin was on my knees with one tulip, just one.
Nikon D800, ISO 100, F 6.3 handheld at 1/400 second. Processed in Lightroom, Photoshop at Topaz Impression. April 2016