Improving My Garden Photography

With portraits I love to capture emotion but how do I get the ‘feel’ of my garden with shots of plants? Here I share some technical details of my quest to improve flower photography, knowing that there is still much room for improvement.

Notes: Rain drops on daisy, 60mm macro, ISO 200, f 4.5, 1/1000th sec taken as soon as the skies brightened. Focus is on the largest rain drop and the shallow depth of field ensured the yellow stamen in the background would blur (so not compete for attention with the water drop). Exposed to the right with care taken not to clip the highlights so detail of the petals would show. I have cropped this image slightly – a 100mm macro lens would have enabled the shot without cropping but I’m using the lenses I have.

Foxgloves, 60mm macro, ISO1600, 1/80th sec, f/5.0,

Notes: Here my camera was angled towards the sky and exposure dialled right up so the highlights were blown intentionally. This ensured that the background was completely ‘lost’. An ISO100 – 200 would be more ideal (for print quality) BUT I was not using a tripod AND the increase in exposure meant 1/80sec was the lowest I’d dare go for sharpness. Aperture of f5.0 meant most of the flower was in focus. I saturated the reds a little post production.

Bee in foxglove

Note: A bee arrived just as I had taken the first foxglove image. I quickly upped my shutter speed to 1/640sec and fired away hoping to get one shot in focus, there was no way this creature was going to sit around for a photoshoot. (If I had increased my shutter speed the photo would have ended up underexposed. Note how the white background in the first foxglove image becomes bluer in the bee one). The flower the bee went into acted as a miniature soft box! Because of the higher ISO I can’t crop in too closely for detail of the bee, but can still see the pollen sacks on the legs and the paper thin wings!

Cosmos, 60mm macro, ISO3200, f4.5, 1/800th

Note: A breeze always seems to appear as soon as I choose a flower – maddening! Embracing the conditions the shutter speed was increased a bit – I knew I wouldn’t get sharply focussed edges to the petals but I didn’t want a complete blur. Were I to print this, the extra graininess from higher ISO would add texture to this ethereal picture.

Wind blown Cosmos, ISO3200, f5.6, 1/800th sec

Note: Changing the aperture to f5.6 and altering my point of view allowed me to capture the detail of this bedraggled Cosmos in the garden after a rain storm.

Rose Mutablis, 60mm macro
histogram of above image

Notes: Bright sun is often not the ideal conditions for getting colour and detail of flowers UNLESS you underexpose by a lot (see histogram) to get a black background and make the colours ‘pop’. Use of a tripod would have improved sharpness of the stamen.

Borage in bright sun

Note: Photographing into the sun enabled me to highlight the hairs on this borage and get a ‘washed out’ look to the colours. (Tripod and manual focus would have improved the sharpness of this image).

Double exposure, Canon 6D Mark ii, 70mm f4.5

Note: The above image is an in camera double exposure using my 70 – 200mm f 2.8 lens. I’m still figuring out the technical details here – it’s still very hit and miss. Perhaps I’ll share in a future blog when I’ve figured it out.

I always shoot in manual mode and RAW format for best control of the final images.

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