Jul 212010

I had an idea for a flower picture a couple of days ago and I finally got all of the required components together tonight. The idea was to photograph a flower submerged in a vase on a black background with multi-colored pieces of paper scattered around close enough to be picked up in the bubbles. I really wanted to get in close and fill the frame with petals dotted with bubbles. I picked up some Sprite to use in the vase to generate the bubbles since I figured water would be too hit-or-miss on where the bubbles were.

I’ve only tried to construct a shot in a studio setting once before. I tried to back light some colorful fall leaves on a piece of glass. It was an utter failure. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. It was at least educational in that I learned what didn’t work. I have better equipment now and better command of my camera so I was hopeful I’d get something decent this time. While I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, I came away with something that I like even if no one else does.

Setting up this shot was a bit frustrating. The single biggest challenge was getting the flower anchored at the bottom of the vase and keeping it there while covered in bubbles that wanted to pull it to the surface. Speaking of bubbles, HOLY CRAP! Sprite generates a WHOLE LOT of bubbles. Seriously! It quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to get the shot I originally envisioned using Sprite. I was now firmly in abstract territory so I decided to just go with it.

I took many, many shots both to make subtle adjustments to the exposure (shooting in manual mode) and just to capture the varying patterns the bubbles made. For the last set of shots, I brought the lens just a couple of inches or so from the side of the vase. The shot below is from that last set and is my favorite so far.

This was shot a f/25 @ 1/200 with flash on camera left and a reflector just inches away on camera right. The flash is about 18 inches away and reduced down to -2 stops. At full size, this isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like it to be, but that’s probably largely due to shooting through the vase plus the inherent loss of sharpness at small f-stops. I was shooting with a remote release although I forgot to have the D90 lock the mirror up first which might have induced a little vibration. Still, it was a fun project and I like the result even if it wasn’t exactly what I was going for.

Special thanks to my daughter Katy who helped a great deal. She did everything from holding the reflector to helping me come up with a way to anchor the flower.

Jul 202010

Back in April, I went on a field trip to the University of Tennessee Trial Gardens with my close-up/macro photography class. I came out of that trip with several shots that I’m really happy with. One of the shots that ended up being among my favorites was almost discarded as a disappointment until I fiddled with the white balance. Below is the shot as it came out of the camera.

I was pleased with the composition and the flower in general, but the background was bland, at best. I don’t remember now what prompted me to do, but I decided to try the other white balance settings. The shot was made in daylight mode and shade and cloudy made small and unremarkable (IMHO) changes. When I changed it to fluorescent however, I immediately fell in love. Eighty-five percent (okay, that’s a guess) of the impact between the image above and the image below was just changing the white balance. Sure, I played with vibrance and clarity and a little sharpening and so on, but the bulk of the impact was made just on the white balance change.

This picture has convinced me to make checking out other white balance options part of my workflow for just about every image. Sure, there are some images where white needs to be white, but anytime I have the option, I check it out. You never know what you might come up with.

Jul 132010

One of the photography websites I belong to is nikonians.org. They have an ENORMOUS number of discussion forums. If you shoot with Nikon cameras, go check them out and you’ll see why it is perfectly appropriate for me to put enormous in all caps in that previous sentence. Anyway, one of the forums is used for monthly assignments. There’s a different theme every month. For July, the theme is grasses. There have been several very nice images posted already and here’s the one I shot on Sunday for it.

Tall Grass

Tall Grass in Summer


  • Nikon D90
  • Nikkor 55-200 f/4-5.6 @ 200mm
  • ISO 200
  • F/8 @ 1/160
  • RAW capture processed in Lightroom 3

This particular piece of grass was growing in a field at the edge of the road at the end of a cul-de-sac in my neighborhood. It was late afternoon and a rather large tree growing on the side of the field was already casting a large shadow across most of the field and freshly mowed yard of the lot next to the field. Fortunately, this piece of grass was still in full sunlight and was leaning out far enough that I could easily position my camera to get the mowed yard behind it and isolate from the rest of the grass. I zoomed all the way into 200mm and got close enough to fill the frame.

Lightroom adjustments involved pumping up the black level some which did 90% of the work making the background look as nice as it does. Quite a bit of clarity and I selectively darkened the colors of the seeds using HSL Luminance adjustments just a bit. Add a touch of sharpening and noise reduction and vignetting and we’re done.