Flower Photography – A Mild Obsession #1

flower-photography1What does one need to do to get the perfect close-up of a wild flower? Set up a tripod, clip on camera, then snap, snap it’s in the bag, camera, chip.. whatever? Maybe… but consider a few unexpected impediments first. Finding the perfect clump of subjects (mostly the easy part), stopping(screeching to a halt) suddenly (sometimes interesting along a busy highway)…parking and gathering up the necessary gear (easy) – then my least favourite part, lugging everything over hill and dale. Tripod, camera bag with several lenses which never seem to get any lighter and then fun, fun, fun…It seems, seemed a short distance across three fences to where the wild, gorgeous yellow number (nothing exotic – a simple daisy but a beauty!), nods in the gentle breeze..but…

Have you ever tried to climb over a fence with tripod in hand and weighty camera bag over shoulder? “Just pass them through the fence and follow”, you say! In theory perfect but as is often the case when I’m out ready to shoot I have tripod ready, camera clipped in, slung over right shoulder legs extended, spread ready to go (the fact that I look like a giraffe with ungainly neck protrusions goes unnoticed) and my camera bag is old, slightly smelly and large!. So, how do I climb through the first fence, let alone the second or third in pursuit of the perfect daisy without a lot of folding of legs pushing and shoving, and unclipping of my precious digital genius first? Simple answer – I don’t, I try to get through regardless. Result? The air rapidly turns blue around my head and expletives neither original nor inventive start erupting unbidden from my person. And then the final indignity as at least one part of my favourite jumper gets snagged by an ever vigilant barb! My alternative solutions: throw the gear over and hope for the best, find a gate (how many miles to the nearest?), or simply leave it all in the SUV…barring the digital genius and one’s favourite 1:1 lens of course!

flower-photography2My final decision? Leave tripod and bag in the SUV, take the necessary, and hope that the ravages of the previous night haven’t wrought havoc with traditionally rock steady hands. So then leaping like a gazelle over fences one, two and three, I stride toward the perfect clump of yellow. It’s late in the season, so all the white daisies are pretty much done – rich, golden yellow it is.

Selecting the perfect specimen is next. I needs to decide what I’m trying to say in the pic. Perfection with clarity – nature’s form, sublime in its attention to detail or organic soft colour merging into more colour with shadowy bits – a bit of both perhaps. The magic of digital, the freedom of digital – the ability to try everything because one can! I love it. It’s a revelation, a deepening of the creative urge to explore new realms without cost… or end sometimes.

Sure, one can always argue that it leads to lack of direction, lack of planning but one can also argue in return that it extends one’s vision, increases one’s output and ability to see the world from different perspectives. I relish the challenge!

Back to the world of yellow! Perfection… mmmm. Unable to settle on which of the perfect choices is THE perfect choice I decide to shoot anyway, putting pen to paper or rather index finger to shutter button in order to get the creative juices flowing. As always seems to happen, I relax into it and my mind opens up to the possibilities: depth of field, front edge of a petal in focus back edge out and vice versa but mostly my mind is consumed by warm yellow. Kneeling on the ground head down intensely focused – the butt in the air angle would not be an attractive sight for any passing observer but I don’t need to worry about such considerations as this mild obsession most often leads to splendid isolation.

A bit of advice – bracket everything (1 either side in ½ stops or thirds if you have the choice), shoot at the highest resolution you can achieve with whichever model of digital genius you possess and take at least half a dozen shots per chosen angle. Give yourself the best chance of capturing the one you really wanted – the perfect image, beautiful enough to grace your wall, a wall anywhere. One feels such an idiot when one has to declare it didn’t quite happen because of trigger finger meanness! Digital genius is defined by trigger finger generosity or put another way – repetition is the basis of professionalism. Whatever it takes I say. Get the shot! The satisfaction is immense.

More advice – check the first few images carefully on the preview screen just to make sure everything is working as it should. Don’t end up taking twenty splendid black and white shots of a gorgeous yellow daisy – do the greyscale thing in Photoshop! Slow down, check the first few brackets. Check that the ISO is set to 100 not to 1600 from last night’s fun and that all the exposure compensation overrides are back to normal (or leave the settings at 1600 over by two if weird and whacky is what you’re after). Little things but in my twenty years as a photographer these little things become mortifyingly large things if ignored!

So perfection captured, 0 and 1’s secured in the land of Flash wizardry it’s back across the three fences leaping not quite so enthusiastically now, the gazelle’s knees are a little creaky from kneeling on the damp ground – back to the ever patient, ever reliable SUV. Gear stowed, key in the ignition, we’re off …A glow of anticipation washes over me!

But never forget the first things to do on your return? Download and backup! Forget at your peril. DOWNLOAD AND BACKUP just in case you didn’t get it the first time.

Copyright 2005 Patrick Heathcock

About the Author

Sometime commercial photographer London, fulltime flower art photographer and web designer living in the southern semisphere, soaking up the sun. Visit http://www.aflowergallery.com to view the yellow daisy and more!

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