Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Phoenix boasts a great botanical garden, which I have already visited twice during our stay in Arizona, once with Geri and once more on my own, with camera and tripod.  Since we joined Friends of the Domes in Milwaukee, we have visitor privileges at the Arizona facility also, and it is only about 10 minutes from our apartment in Scottsdale.  The Garden includes about 50 acres of grounds featuring desert flora.  There were always a number of others there also taking advantage of the photo opportunities.

Typically, I found myself taking "abstracts," including the one above as well as the following.

This caught my eye because of the white strings that were curling off of the edges of the spiky leaves.  This shot was taken at an aperture of f/36 to maximize depth of field.  However, I also took another shot with a wide open aperture of f/3.2.

Now only the few strands closest to the lens were in focus.  I turned this shot into a B&W, which seems to work better as an abstract.

The best shot would probably be something in between the two extremes in terms of depth of field.

It is almost always sunny in Phoenix, and I tried to take advantage of that sun to capture backlit scenes, such as in the following.

I would have liked to have darkened entirely the space above the cactus in the latter shot, if I could have.

Here are a few more "abstracts" where I thought the sunlight helped the shots.

I liked the colors in this last shot, but I wish I could have excluded the white material in the lower part of the photo.

The sun didn't always help, as in the following shot where I thought the shadows were a bit of a distraction from the texture and shape of the plant.

The plant was five-sided and about three inches across, and I think it would have been best to have included all of the plant rather than cutting off some of its corners.  However, the plant was wedged up against others, and it was not possible to capture all of the plant without incorporating parts of others, so I chose to isolate it as above.  The definition on this shot was really quite good.

Not all of the shots were macros.  Following are a couple involving "larger" scenes.

This saguaro cactus was probably 50 feet high.  I intentionally included the sun in the shot.  Not great.  If I try this again, I will work to get a shot that does not include anything else in the lower part of the image.  Also, it would probably be better to have more than one object in the frame.

Here is another shot of cacti that I turned into an abstract of sorts by cropping out everything but the ribbing of the cactus plants.

This shot also has very good resolution.  It was taken handheld with my standard 24-120 mm zoom at f/22 for 1/50 second.  Here, I think the shadows created by the sunlight helped to accentuate the cacti's ribbing.  There is a little sky visible between the cacti in the upper portion of the image, but I didn't think it distracted from the shot in this case.

March is a time when the desert starts to bloom, and there were a lot of opportunities for floral shots in the garden.  A lot of the other visitors with cameras seemed to be focusing on those blooms.  Here are a couple that I took.

This was a very long, narrow flower and I could have captured all of it.  However, what caught my attention was the fact that the blossoms at the base were spreading out, while those further up were still tight against the central stem.  I took this at a fairly open aperture of f/5 to eliminate any clutter behind the plant.  The flower itself is in very good focus.

Here is another shot of a flower that was enjoying the full sunlight.

I wound up taking this photo as a fairly tight shot to eliminate some distracting elements that were encroaching on the flower.  Even though this shot is in very good focus, in the end I was not satisfied with it for a couple of reasons.  First, I would have liked to have been able to darken all of the background, but there is a light background element in the upper left center behind the flower as well as in the lower left that I could not get rid of.  Second, the center of the flower has some light colored, dead (or at least defective) aspects.  So I cropped the shot down to just the right side and rotated it as follows.

What remains is in very good focus and has a black background.  I left some of the "dead" center portion rather than to crop it any more tightly.

I also found myself attracted to the spikes characteristic of desert flora, as in the following abstracts.

In the second shot the spikes were on one plant positioned in front of a second and the plant was being backlit by the sun.  I'm not sure of the source of the "shadow" spikes visible in the upper portion of the shot.  The spikes actually ran vertically in the original shot and I simply rotated the photo 90 degrees clockwise.

Finally, I noticed a cactus with very stiff (as in darning needles), curved spines that were multi-colored and being backlit by the sun.  Here is a shot taken at a very narrow aperture of f/45.

Although a lot of the spikes are in good focus, I felt the spikes at the base of the image were distracting.  There is also a bit of clutter in the background.  Here is another shot taken at a nearly wide-open aperture of f/4.5.

Now only three of the spikes are in any sort of focus, and only one of them (in the lower left) is truly in good focus.  I like this shot better than the first one, though I think the best shot as an abstract would have been at some aperture somewhere in between the two.  Next time.

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