Tuesday, May 1, 2012


On May 1st, I took advantage of my membership as a Friend of the Mitchell Domes to pay a visit to the Boerner Botanical Gardens, which are located on the southwest side of the Milwaukee metropolitan area about half an hour from our home.  It's really early in the season, and most of the available floral displays were tulips, and unfortunately, some of those were past their primes.  There were, however, some opportunities.

For the most part, I wanted to avoid the more mundane shots, such as the following.

The following shot is more cluttered, but I liked the the context that it provided.

These shots were taken at a wide open aperture of f/3.5, which served to blur out the backgrounds but left the rear sides of flowers out of focus.  Here is a third shot of a tulip that has more of a dynamic quality to it.

In keeping with my interest in creating recognizable abstracts, a lot of the shots I took were of just portions of the flower.  The following photos illustrate this.

The second shot has a lightness that I like.  The lighter area in the upper right is part of the natural color of the tulip.  I like it.  Although these are abstract, it is clear that they are portions of flowers.

I like the following shot also, but it is more or less completely abstract.

Again, the light area in the upper left is part of the natural coloring of the flower.  The afternoon was quite breezy, which meant the flowers were moving around quite a bit.  Fortunately, even though the sky was overcast, it was bright enough that shutter speeds could be very fast, reducing the impact of the breeze.  The shutter speed for this shot was 1/500th second.

The series of shots I liked best was one where I took the shot from directly above the tulip, as in the shot at the beginning of this post.  I liked this composition because of its unorthodox perspective.  The issue for me was the appropriate depth of field on these shots.   The top edges of the petals were all at about the same distance from the lens, so I could get good focus on the edges.  I took the following shot at f/4.5.

The petals below the edges are not in good focus, but that doesn't really matter, as the eye is drawn to the edges.  However, the stamen (I think) in the center of the flower is noticeably out of focus.  Here is another shot taken at a much narrower aperture of f/20.

Now the stamen is in better (but not perfect) focus, but so is the foliage below the blossom, taking attention away from the blossom.  Here is a third shot taken at f/8, sort of a compromise between the other two.

Perhaps the best shot of this series was the one at the top of this post.  It was also taken at f/8.  However, because it is a tighter shot with the lens closer to the flower, the depth of field is narrower, throwing the foliage further out of focus.

Although most of my shots were of tulips, I did take the following shot of a jonquil.

I liked this shot because the angle was from behind the flower rather than the usual shot from the front.  I wanted to emphasize the green area behind the white petals as well as the "dead" portion underneath, so I didn't mind that the shot cuts off the left and right edges of the flower.

Finally, I took the following shot of a pair of dandelions.

For this shot I lay on my stomach about 15 feet behind the dandelions and hand-held the camera just a few inches above the grass.  I set the aperture wide open at f/4 to blur out the background, just leaving the flowers (and a few blades of grass) in good focus.  I positioned the flowers to the left to emphasize the use of negative space.  I actually took several shots in this position and this had the best focus, which is really quite good.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John, This is Sarah from your Macro class. I really liked your photos yesterday and your blog photos are beautiful. I will be sure to add your blog to my reader.