Monday, May 28, 2012


I got Geri a bromeliad for Mother's Day.  There are numerous varieties of this tropical plant (which I discovered is pronounced "broh-MEE-lee-ad").  The one I got is about 18 inches tall and consists of bright orange and green leaves that are waxy and stiff.  It appears that the leaves start out as yellow-orange and turn to orange before ultimately turning green.  Here is the how the plant looks.

I was attracted by the plant's bright colors and thought it might make an interesting photographic subject.  Not as easy as I thought.  The plant is very three-dimensional, with leaves extending in all directions from a central "column."  That creates a substantial depth of field issue, as it is virtually impossible at close range to retain good focus on leaves that are extending toward the camera as well as those extending away.  I thought it might work to shoot the plant from directly overhead.

There is some interest in this shot, but it is essentially monochromatic and looks a bit "flat."  Alternatively, because the top leaves are more yellow, I thought it might work to limit the shot to that top portion.

I thought this shot was pretty flat also and generally not very interesting.

However, the other day I noticed that a shaft of late afternoon sun was backlighting the orange leaves, creating a lot more "pop" in the colors of the leaves.  By the time I got my camera out, the sun was gone, so I decided to create my own backlighting, using a lamp.  I really liked the results, even though they technically were "staged."

One of the best shots, I thought, was the one I placed at the top of this post.  My goal was to capture the backlighting at the base of the orange leaves and, hopefully, to juxtapose that against one of the green leaves in the background.  By focusing on just the base of the leaves, I was able to avoid many of the problems with depth of field, as I did not have to concern myself with the portions of the leaves significantly further from or closer to the lens.

I probably took 30-35 shots in all, featuring different areas of the plant and at various apertures.  I feel most of the shots I kept (10-12) are interesting as intelligible abstracts.  In general, the shots that seemed to work best were those with more wide open apertures, which served to soften the areas not in focus.  However, I also felt it was important that there be one or more lines in the image that were in sharp focus to keep a point of reference for the viewer.

Here is another shot that I thought worked fairly well.

This was taken at a wide open aperture of f/4.5.  Note that at least a portion of the diagonal line is in sharp focus that serves to draw the viewer's eye and to provide a reference point.  I also felt that the dark portion running up the left side of the shot, as well as the dark portion in the lower right, served to provide balance.

Here are some shots that were not quite as successful.

This shot is just a bit too simple, I think.  I debated cropping out the dark area in the upper left corner, but decided it would make the shot even more simple and have kept it in.  This shot was taken at an aperture of f/11, but even at this relatively narrow aperture, there is very little texture outside of the line of the central diagonal.

Here is another shot of the same general area of the plant.  Here the central diagonal is darker, and there is a bit of a dark area in the lower left that creates some balance.  However, in fact I had to crop this shot more narrowly because I felt the diagonal as originally positioned was too far to the left.

In the shot below, the backlighting on the leaf has created a lighter yellow-orange, introducing another color.  Note also that I was able to maintain a sharp focus on at least a portion of the central line, even though this was taken at an aperture of f/5.6.  I liked that the point of sharpest focus was also the point of greatest contrast in color.  However, I think the shot lacks some balance, as all of the green is on one side.

The shot below has better overall compositional balance.  I think the dark leaf on the left and the open wedge in the upper left help.  However, I think the shot would have been better if the green portion on the right had extended further down. This was taken at f/5.

As a comparison, here is a similar shot taken at an extremely narrow aperture of f/57, creating much greater depth of field.  Although I generally liked the shots taken with less depth of field, I thought this shot worked quite well, in part because of the strength of the "V" lines and of dark leaf in the left of the image.

Here is more of a horizontal shot.  Although this works OK as an abstract, it seems to raise questions about the darker object extending across the upper left portion of the image.

Here is one more shot, taken at an aperture of f/20.  The oval of light in the upper center of the shot is a little strange.  Otherwise, I thought the shot worked well from a compositional point of view.

These photos did a lot to revive my interest in looking for intelligible abstracts.  I also think I learned something about the use of shallow depth of field.  It is OK so long as the viewer is provided a point of focus that makes sense in the shot and so long as there are no elements out of focus that distract from that point of focus.  I think those principles worked well in this series of photos.

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Since publishing this post a couple of days ago, I have taken a few more photos of the Bromeliad.  Here is one of them, shot at an aperture of f/51.

This has a bit more complexity than previous shots, but is still suitably abstract for my tastes.

And here are two more, one taken at a very narrow aperture of f/57 and the other at an aperture of f/11.

There is a line of sharp focus in this last shot (more or less in the center as the main line of the plant curves slightly to the left), in keeping with my prior comments/analysis to the effect that there needs to be at least one such line.  However, the overall effect of this shot is quite soft.  Nevertheless, I think it still works as an abstract.

1 comment:

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