Apr 282011

Mother’s Day is fast approaching so I decided to come up with an image that I can have printed and give as a gift. I’ve had some success with shooting flowers so I decided I’d work with that but try something a little different. One of the most difficult parts of the whole thing was finding some roses in decent condition. I finally did find some, however, and then came home and turned the dining room into a temporary studio. Here’s the first shot.

I hung my roll of black felt from the top of the dining room windows and unrolled it enough to drape across the dining room table. Then I took a large piece of glass out of the entertainment center and set it on top of the felt for a reflection. I also used an eye dropper to strategically place a large puddle in front of my main subject, a yellow rose. That actually worked out fairly well in most of the shots I took, but in the shot above, I moved my flash (with my brand new soft box attached) from roughly 45 degrees camera right to just slightly camera left which seems to have eliminated most of the reflection. In the end, I chose this shot because I prefer the lighting on the rose so much more than the shots with the strong reflection.

Now for the next shot.

For this shot, I used all 3 of my extension tubes and my brand new Orbis Ring Flash. I used my 70-200 lens and started out with my smallest extension tube, took a few shots, added the medium extension tube, took a few shots, then finally added the large one before I felt like I was as close as I wanted to be. I lost count of how many shots I took before I finally felt like I had the right parts in focus combined with a good exposure.

I’d really like to get some feedback on which of these two shots should be used for Mother’s Day. Either leave a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter. If you do leave a comment here, please make sure you say who you are unless it’s really obvious by your WordPress account name. I get my share of spambots trying to get through and I’d hate to delete a real comment because I thought it was a bot.

Mar 222011

In honor of a very special friend turning the big Four-Oh today, I set out with my camera to capture an image just for her. Dawn, just let me know what size print you want and I’ll get it to you. I thought it would be cool for you to have a picture of something beautiful that existed on the day you reached this milestone in life.

Click for full size

Now for the “behind the scenes” info. Getting this image very nearly turned into a race against time as I had a bit of difficulty getting done with work as early as I wanted to. I was also struggling against a persistent stiff breeze. I walked around the UT Gardens for quite a while becoming quite discouraged before I finally found a bed of tulips. After taking a few test shots, I was pleased to find that on ISO 400, I could shot at f8 with a high enough shutter speed to hand hold. (I was worried about the amount of light available as it was quite overcast and the sun was getting low in the sky.) That made it so much easier to work my way closer and closer to my chosen flower while adjusting the zoom and changing angles for different backgrounds.

This shot is one of nearly two identical shots. This is actually the second one I processed and the major difference is that I changed the white balance. Although shot on the Cloudy white balance setting in the camera, I changed the balance to Fluorescent on this one. I immediately liked how it turned what was a boring grey sky in the background to a fairly deep blue. Adding the vignetting to darken the edges added what I consider a dream-like feel to the photograph. It also brought out some of the purplish-blue hues in the tulip and I did some very subtle hue adjustments to accentuate that as well. I spent some time flipping back and forth between the two versions of the image (Cloudy vs. Fluorescent) and called in both Mary and Katy for their opinion. I had already decided I preferred this version but I was happy that they independently agreed.

Sep 262010

Woo Hoo! Two days in a row! Go me!

I had to pick up Lisa from school one day last week and I had some time to kill so I took my camera into the UT Gardens to see if I could find anything to shoot. It had been raining about 30 minutes before so everything had raindrops. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod with me so I couldn’t get any extreme close ups of the drops. Still I got some interesting shots. Here’s my favorite.

Post-processing this image got interesting in one way. The edges of the flowers were so close to being fully saturated that bumping up the saturation for the rest of the image almost immediately blew them out into what I can only describe as “bizzare-o land”. I actually had to selective desaturate the edges so that I could then gently bump up the saturation on the image as a whole (which it needed, IMHO, for impact). Not a whole lot of other processing was done. I did some sharpening and added the vignette, but that’s about it.

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.