We all know viruses are bad. Right? Well, not so fast. Not to minimize the tragedy of the SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 pandemic we are all currently experiencing, but there are viruses known as beneficial viruses, some of which actually protect us from disease. There is quite a bit of info online about these should you care to Google.
This tulip, a variegated tulip, may be the result of a virus. The story I recall hearing goes something like this: One day a variegated tulip showed up somewhere and in order to try to replicate it all sorts of breeding experiments were conducted, unsuccessfully. Eventually it was discovered that the cause was a virus that effected the bulbs. A history of the tulip breaking virus can be found on this Wikipedia page. Today, apparently, variegated viruses are being bred.
This image of a variegated tulip was created from four separate photos using the focus stacking technique.
I was told this flower is a blue thistle, but I’ve seen other flowers that look quite different also called blue thistle. I didn’t see any that look quite like this when I looked at Google Images, but I’m sure there are many varieties. Of course, this top-down view provides limited perspective so I may post another shot of one of these from a different angle later so you can get a better idea of what they look like.
Recently I mentioned rim lighting and that I had been looking though my library of flower pics in order to find a good example of that lighting technique. I think this shot shows the effect pretty well. A light placed somewhere to the rear of the flower and pointed directly at it illuminates the leaves (if that’s the right term) around their edges, their rims, creating a white outline that separates them visually from the black background making them stand out. Without that light it would be difficult to distinguish with such acuity where the leaves end and the background begins. Of course, the flower is also lit from in front otherwise only its outline would be distinguishable.
Rim lighting or backlighting can be found naturally, outdoors, more so when the sun is at a lower angle and is coming from behind the subject. If one wants to show more than just an outlined silhouette of the subject that can be tricky because you also need light coming from in front of the subject to illuminate it–you need at least two light sources which is problematic if you aren’t carrying the right gear.
Enter, fill-flash, or fill lighting. When a subject is backlit by the sun, for example, in some cases the on-camera flash can be used to illuminate the front of the subject so it isn’t lost in darkness. I say in some case because the flash has to have enough power to light the subject. This is seldom the case with a smart phone and even the much more powerful flash of a camera has a limited range. If you’ve ever seen camera flashes going off at an event in a stadium know that other than wasting camera batteries they are useless. As the distance between a light source and the subject doubles its power, it’s brightness, falls off by a factor of four. By the time on on-camera flash travels twenty feet or so it is no longer capable of illuminating anything to a significant degree. For you geeky sorts the science governing this is called the inverse square law.
Properly balancing backlight with fill flash can be left to the automatic functions of some cameras, but even then exercising manual control over the ratio of fill light to backlight can generally achieve more natural, pleasing, superior results. Here too, as I often do, I will champion photographic knowledge over the automatic settings of a camera.
Recently I posted an image of a different kind of anemone. It had contrasting colors that were bright and somewhat startling. By contrast this Japanese anemone, is rather plain, but I prefer to think of it as delicate, graceful and demure. I think they are so lovely in their simplicity and form.
This mage was made from a stack of 10 photos using the focus-stacking technique. As with my other photos, tap or click to enlarge.
One of the more dramatic flowers I have photographed came from a tree of several common names including the devil’s hand, Mexican hand or monkey’s hand tree. This flower came from a tree in a neighbor’s yard. I had never seen one before so I didn’t realize at the time I photographed it that later in the growth cycle the “hand” portion of the flower will extend higher above the rest of the flower giving it the appearance of being a hand sticking out of the flower. It’s very cool, but sort of a little creepy. LOL. Better examples of what I’m talking about can be found here. I shot this flower a little prematurely, it would appear.
If I recall correctly the sturdy petals of the flower act as cups to catch and preserve rainwater. I’m uncertain why. Perhaps as little reservoirs to attract insects so as to encourage pollination.
This mage was created from a stack of 198 separate photographs using the focus-stacking technique.
Borage, or starflower, is a common garden plant in my neck of the woods. It’s also commonly regarded as a weed. What is a weed? Ralph Waldo Emerson described a weed as a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered. Others say it’s a plant growing where you don’t want. However you define weed I suppose is up to you. If you want to know more about borage Wikipedia has a page here.
Weed or not, I like borage because, for one thing, it’s fuzzy. Those spiky looking protrusions are rather soft to the touch, at least on the flower I photographed, and touching them was fun. Why do we like touching fuzzy things, anyway?
You won’t see a view like this of a borage flower unless you are on the ground looking up because the flowers point down. Something else I’ve noticed about them is that only one bud seems to flower at a time on any given stem, so that cluster of buds you see will only have one flower, and when that flower is spent another bud will open and so on. I could be wrong but I think that is what I have observed. they also seem to be very popular with bees.
This image was created from a stack of 7 photos using the focus-stacking technique, then a close-up are was cropped out of the original image. A light placed behind the flower transilluminates the petals (shines through them) which both lightens their color and gives them a sparkly quality. That same light also lights up all the little fuzzies of the plant.
As you can tell by the title of this post I’m uncertain this is an Iceland poppy, a papaver nudicaule, or a similar looking flower, papaver croceum. I am ill equipped to tell. I enjoy this photo of it, whichever it is.
I shot this flower 8 different ways the day I had it in the studio. This image was cropped from a shot that showed the whole flower. 24 separate photos were combined using the focus-stacking technique to make this image.
I wrote the other day about rim lighting. I’m still not certain if there is a clear definition… one says the subject isn’t visible except for the outline of light created by a light place behind the subject. Another definition says simply “backlighting”. Too many things in this world are debatable!
Here, one of the lights I used was placed behind and above the flower. You can see shadows created by it on the petal on the right at about 3 o’clock. You can also see evidence of it in front of the anthers where they cast shadows on the petal in front of them. The same light creates brightness around the rims of the anthers giving them separation from each other and the petals. Oh, and it’s responsible for lighting the hairs on the stem of the flower as well.
When the colors within a subject are as similar as they are for this flower, using light to create an interplay between light and shadow as well as to create separation from one part of the subject and another can make a really big difference in the success of a photo.
Calla lilies often seem to have such graceful and beautiful shapes. I like this one enough to dedicate my time to photographing it. I think a vertical cropping may have suited this flower more, but maybe I had a reason at the time it was made to crop it horizontally. Dunno. Don’t remember.
I’ve been looking through my library of flower photos to find one that would allow for a discussion about rim lighting. This may not be the perfect example, but it’s close enough.
What I want to call your attention to is the lighting on the spadix I think it’s called, the yellow pokey-uppy thing in the middle of the flower. Note how it has more light on the right side and top. That’s no accident. It’s from a light that I had placed to the right side and a little behind the flower. See how the brightly lit right side and top of the spadix stand out from the red part of the flower which I think is called the spathe. On the left side of the spadix, however, there is much less light and this side does not stand apart from the spathe so well. The brighter side has more visual “separation” from spadix due to the difference in brightness values, or contrast.
The lighting here can be possibly be referred to as rim lighting although it may be more of a side light because rim lighting might properly outline the spadix on both sides, around its rim. Whether side light or rim light, the point is less what you call it and more the role it plays. Without this light, which also creates some highlight reflections on the spathe, this would be a very boring photograph.
Experts with lighting create areas of light and dark along the edges of their subjects that contrast with dark and light areas of the background. The photographers who shot centerfolds for Playboy were masters at lighting and the control they exercised creating alternating areas of light and dark between the models and the background often showed amazing lighting control.
Controlling light is generally easier to do in the studio where light can be manipulated. Still, having the awareness of photographing things in such a way or from such an angle so that they are separated from the background or where parts of the subject are separated from each other can raise the quality of a photograph from blah to bravo.
One of my long time favorite photos is this shot of a water lily. Its anthers writhing like snakes in a mating dance with luminescent stripes of golden pollen set against the purples and lavenders of the anther tips and petals are colors that just draw me in.
I spent a good long while shooting this flower over the course of a couple days. I shot 20 stacks with as few as 4 images and as many as 31 images in each. This image was made from a stack of 16.
I never photographed the flower in its fully open state. I don’t remember why–it may not have survived until it completed opening or there may have been some other reason, but it still makes for interesting viewing in spite of, or perhaps because of the less symmetrical arrangement of its anthers.
This close-up of an anemone was made from a stack of 7 separate exposures using the focus-stacking technique. I came across this image while I was searching my library for a photo I could use as an example of a lighting technique called rim lighting. This shot is not a good example of the technique but I thought it was eye catching and would make for an interesting post, something of a respite from all the coronavirus hoo-hah everyone currently is dealing with.
Most of my later, focus-stacked flower photos were created for a line of note cards I marketed for a spell and this may have been one of the more popular cards. Although I stopped printing note cards some time ago I still have some on hand so if anybody happens to be interested in getting hold of some contact me via the Contact Russ link in the menu bar or the Comments field.
From Wikipedia: “Some species of Agapanthus are commonly known as lily of the Nile, or African lily in the UK. However, they are not lilies and all of the species are native to Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique), though some have become naturalized in scattered places around the world (Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, Ethiopia, Jamaica, etc.).”
This particular flower was plucked from a neighbor’s garden in the San Francisco Bay Area. They seem to do well in this climate as they are found in more than a few gardens. I have also seen them in white, although less commonly.
Elements of this photo that for me make it work include the contrasting colors of the rich green and lavender-purples placed against the black background. Always paramount, of course, is the lighting which creates nuanced areas of light and shadow.
I have found that black is an excellent background for colorful subjects. It does not distract from the subject. Quite the opposite–since a solid black background provides nothing really to look at, the viewer’s attention is called to the subject.
Now here’s a photo tip for the day: many things that at first look black to the eye will photograph much lighter and look like a dark gray. The best material I have found for obtaining a dark black is velvet. There are different qualities of velvet, of course, and some may work better than others for this purpose. I have used a couple kinds with good results. There are some specialized photographic background of various materials that are supposed to photograph as a dark black but I have not used any of those.