I’m not a great one for flower shots. It’s not that I don’t like them (within reason) or that there aren’t some really fantastic close-up shots of flowers out there. It’s just that, well, they tend to be cliched, and often quite uninteresting.
Maybe, much like they have introduced Extreme Ironing, they should introduce Extreme Flower Macros, which would involve taking technically competent close-up photos of flowers in dangerous and exotic locales, like on cliffsides, or in Antarctica.
If they have flowers in Antarctica.
However, every now and again (generally when I am a little bored) I will go for a wander and take some flower shots. I tend to like flowers when they’re part of a landscape (try here, here, here and here)- they add a flash of colour, contrast and depth. However occasionally they can look quite nice by themselves.
I went for a number of morning rambles when I was staying in Pai, in Mae Hong Son Province, in north-western Thailand. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pai. It was peaceful, and there was very little for me to do, save read, write, take photos, and potter around narrow country lanes on my scooter. I slept well in the cool mountain air in the hut I was staying in, and I would often wake early(-ish). The days would dawn misty, which would burn off by mid-morning, after which a warm sun would dominate a blue sky until sunset. Hard to find a more affable climate.
My early morning walks were more limited in subjects, therefore, due to the mist. It made landscapes hard to capture, and there wasn’t a lot else happening out there. However the flat, gentle light was perfect for macro photography. Much like portraits, flowers can be captured in a variety of moods, but the way in which the photographer chooses to do that will be dictated by the light. Strong overhead light tends to flood colours, and also makes it difficult to avoid the photographer’s shadow becoming part of the frame when trying to take a close-up. Evening light can be warm and pretty, but often adds an orange cast to petals while trying to capture the richness of the natural colour, and can also be contrasty, destroying fine detail. By contrast, in a morning mist, light scatters off the very water-droplets in the air, which is why although the total level of light in the mist tends to be lower, the effect on a camera’s exposure meter is not dissimilar to shooting into backlight, resulting in poorly-defined silhouettes, as the light is bouncing off the very air in every direction.
In portraiture and close-up photography, this is kind of like having a zillion tiny little strobes, and can often lend a very pleasing, gentle cast to images that makes them ideal for capturing detail without unnecessary contrast or hue (though beware of using any flash, for the same reason!). And so I wandered down some of the flower gardens close to where I was staying and investigated the way the dewdrops hung from the petals, and trying to capture the subtleties in the textures and tones of the buds and leaves.
The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM that I have for my Canon EOS 400D (seriously, Canon should be sponsoring me) is a joy for this kind of work. Not only is the 60mm a suitably fast lens at f/2.8 (the 1.6 crop factor makes this a 96mm equivalent on a full-frame 35mm camera), giving fabulous sharp depth-of-field and silky-smooth bokeh (the blurred effect you get in the background of close-up shots of this sort, produced by shooting on a shallow depth of field- that is, wide aperture or low f-stop value), but the macro function is fantastic, and enables incredibly close photography and fabulous details. Even on a 10 megapixel sensor this allows for some super enlargements, and my biggest regret with this lens (as I’ve lamented elsewhere) is that I can’t stick this lens onto my 5D due to a different mount. Shame, as I don’t have a macro lens for the full-frame yet, and it’s sorely missed.
Anyhoo, you won’t see many flower-shots in my portfolio, but I did enjoy these ones from Pai. Hope you do too.