Archive June 2013

Floral Photography – Soft Light is Key

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in My Blog | 2 Comments

It’s pretty obvious – you need light to create photographs, so explaining light should be easy.  But, try googling ‘photography lighting’ and you get a mixed bag of advice and technical jargon.  It becomes confusing really quickly.  So, for my first photography tip, I’m going to stay low-tech and provide some simple tips for using natural light.

Thinking about light in a new way.

I remember reading this when I first got into photography, and it has stayed with me.  When you’re taking a picture, what you’re really photographing is the light.  At the end of the day, that’s all it is.  It’s your job to figure out how to capture the light in a beautiful way as it bounces off and gets absorbed by your intended target.  If you’re ever stuck and not getting the shot you want, it’s helpful to solve your photography puzzle by going back to that basic premise.

Beware sunny days and hard light.

Sunny shots can create unwanted white highlights.

Sunny shots can create unwanted white highlights.

When it comes to photographing flowers, it’s tempting to think, “Wow.  It’s a beautiful sunny day … time to get out into my garden and take pictures!”  But that thinking can lead to frustration because bright sunlight is ‘hard’ light, and hard light, 1) creates harsh shadows and 2) it blows out the white on flowers, creating big white blobs that even photoshop can’t fix.

Low-tech techniques for creating a beautiful photograph with soft light.

Shady shots allow for capture of detail.

Shady shots allow for capture of detail.

  •  Don’t shoot in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.  The optimal time to shoot is either at the beginning or end of the day.   In fact, photographers often refer to the ‘Golden Hour’ – the hour after the sun rises and the hour before the sun sets – as the best time to photograph outdoors.  You don’t have to adhere strictly to the Golden Hour guidelines, but be aware that the beginning of the day and the end of the day have the most diffused (soft) lighting and will provide the best lighting for flower photography.
  • Wait for a cloudy day.  That seems pretty obvious, but things like clouds and fog act as diffusers, creating a soft pleasing light when photographing flowers.  Different types of clouds bring different types of light too.  It’s fun to experiment with what type you like.  The ‘before a storm’ yellowy glow?  Low black clouds?  High white clouds?
  • Another fairly obvious option is to find some shade, though that will limit what you can photograph and can sometimes produce dark results.  Use an umbrella to create your own shade.
  • Generally, turn off your flash and use the available light.  The flash is often too bright, and if you’re taking an up-close shot, the flash may not even be aimed at the flower you’re focusing on.  That said, you can eliminate shadows if you use your flash, so if you don’t like how a shot looks, try turning on your flash back on.  You never know!
  • Use a diffuser.  If you’re serious about getting soft light you can set up a Soft Box Tent Cube in your back yard or on your balcony and arrange the flowers inside the cube.  You can use the background colors that come with the cube or make your own.
  • If you’ve found the perfect flower, always try a few different angles and perspectives.  You won’t regret taking too many shots, but you will regret not taking enough.  Tip:  try photographing flowers from below!

Have fun!

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you follow all or any of these guidelines.  What really matters is having fun spending time doing something you love.  And remember, if you photograph something you love, share it!

 

See Tip #2 – Depth of Field, Blurry Backgrounds, and Bokeh

 

 

Dandelion Wine: A Book Review

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

“Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” ~ Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.

Dandelion WineDandelion Wine was the first book I ever stole.  Actually, it’s the only book I ever stole.  Maybe there have been a few that I haven’t returned to their rightful owners (oops), but I always meant to give them back.  The difference between those books and Dandelion Wine was that I never intended to give Dandelion Wine back to my high school, where I read it for the first time.  It touched me so deeply that when it came time to turn it in at the end of the year, I simply couldn’t.  This was before the Internet.  Back then, if you lost the trail of something, you might never pick it up again.  I couldn’t take that chance, so I stole it.

Why?  Because I’m a Summer Lover.  I love everything about summer.  And so does Douglas Spaulding, the 12 year old hero of Dandelion Wine, who wakes up to his life during the summer of 1928.  The book takes place in Green Town Illinois an alias for Bradbury’s real hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.  It’s a semi-autobiographical tale that reaches back in time to search for those moments in life that rise above all others.  It’s a tale that ritualizes the ordinary, names the unnamed, and reveals truths that we all come to understand when we hit a certain age.

And what does this have to do with a flower web site, you ask?  Dandelions.  They grow for free on lawns in towns and cities and fields all around us.  It’s a flower that is more noted as a nuisance than a pleasure because they are often unwanted intruders that dot our lawns and elicit nasty looks from neighbours if we don’t manage them.  Ironically, their ubiquity has caused them to lose their power.  But, there was a time when people believed in the healing powers of flowers, including Dandelions.

“Even Grandma, when snow was whirling fast, dizzying the world, blinding windows, stealing breath from gasping mouths, even Grandma, one day in February, would vanish to the cellar.  Then rising from the cellar like a June goddess, Grandma would come, something hidden but obvious under her knitted shawl.  This, carried to every miserable room upstairs and down would be dispensed with aroma and clarity into neat glasses, to be swigged neatly.  The medicines of another time, the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sounds of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver skyrockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through and countries, all these, all these in a glass.” ~Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

P1040314-copy-(1)webWe could take a cue from the Spaulding family and revere our Dandelions, dents de lion, from the French ‘teeth of lions’, which the yellow petals are said to resemble.  It is said that Dandelions stand for loyalty and faithfulness.  Or, in the contradictory world of flower meanings, it’s also a ‘rustic oracle’.  With all this magnificent history, they can’t be so bad.  So, let’s celebrate this golden flower:

We can make healthy snacks:
“They Might Be Weeds, but Wild Greens Pack a Nutritious Punch”
(Oprah.com)

Brew up some wine:
Dandelion Wine Recipe

Make Dandelion Root Coffee:
Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe

Make friends with them.  Or be environmentally responsible if you have to rid your yard of them:
My Dandelion Is A Flower
Or just sit outside on a warm summer day and read or listen to a wonderful tale of summers past.  In honour of the first day of Summer, which is right around the corner, I think I’ll dig out my old copy of Dandelion Wine.  It’s not summer without it by my side.

 

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And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine.  Peer through it at the wintry day – the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind.  And peering through, color sky from iron to blue. ~Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

 

Flower Bed – Simon’s Cat

Posted by on Jun 14, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

Some Friday humour. 

For anyone who’s had a cat.  For anyone who’s had a garden.  For anyone who’s had a cat and a garden.  Enjoy!

You can find more Simon’s Cat videos at:

Simon’s Cat

Bleeding Heart

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in My Blog | 2 Comments

Bleeding Heart is one of ‘those’ flowers.  You know.  The kind that makes you wonder 1) how the heck nature came up with the design and 2) how the heck nature replicates the design so perfectly time after time. 

 

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To have been made in such a meaningful shape with such delicacy, it must have some purpose, some use, some special destiny.  Interestingly, it does.  Lately, I’ve become curious about the meaning of flowers.  In Victorian times, when you received a bouquet, you deciphered the message from the sender by examining the flowers and their meanings.  Each flower carries a meaning (Pansy – Think of me; Sunflower – False Riches; Ivy – Fidelity). 

There may not always be agreement about the various meanings, and it’s something of a lost art, but when you look at a Bleeding Heart flower, it’s not too hard to discern its meaning.  In fact, the flower is at the center of much folklore about undying and unrequited love.  It is said that its presence strengthens the heart and the possibility of romance.  It’s also said to be useful after heartbreak.  I find comfort in that.

 

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Well, as long as your heartbreak is in Spring because they are spring-time blossoms that like the cool weather and wet ground.  Too much heat will cause them to go dormant in summer, so depending on where you live, you might not see them during the summer.  Once they wilt, it’s best to cut them back right above the ground.  When it gets cool again, there’s potential for them to grow and blossom again.

It’s also known as Venus’s Car, Lady in a Bath, or Dutchman’s Trousers.  I don’t dare to guess what the meaning would be to a flower called Dutchman’s Trousers, but I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind it! 🙂

 

 

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— PS.  Completely unrelated, but definitely worth a mention, is one of my favourite books, The Bleeding Heart, by Marilyn French who passed away in 2009.   It’s a beautifully written book about the complexities of relationships between men and women.  It’s filled with love, grief, fury, and sadness.  This book is definitely about heartbreak.

 

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