Carolyn, tell us a bit about you and your passion for flower photography…
I am a very late bloomer, only really getting into photography 10 years ago, in my mid-60s. I’m gutted that I didn’t “get the bug” when I was young. I’m not into gear, have only a bridge camera but am generally very happy with the results I achieve.
When I joined the Friends of the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch about 20 years ago I started visiting the Gardens early and late in the day when the light is softer and more conducive to better images. Also, the earlier, the better, as often this is the calmest time of the day - wind is the bane of a flower photographer’s life!
My aha moment was when I learned how to throw the background out of focus. Shooting into the light and getting ethereal bokeh is such a thrill. Of course, there are times when it’s impossible to get into the right position for this, especially if shooting in the Botanic Gardens or on a garden tour. Trampling over the garden beds is just not done!
Flower photography is one of the genres I love as I make my own cards from my images.
How do you achieve the finished results, do you edit your images?
I use Lightroom to edit my images, usually adjusting the white and black sliders, sometimes bringing up the shadows too. At the moment, I really love the moody look which can be created in-post, making the background dark and emphasising the blooms. I use the Tone Curve to achieve this, adjusting it until I have the effect I want - how much I move the sliders all depending on how bright or dark the image was to begin with. One thing I discovered by accident, is instead of adding Clarity to make one’s images sharper, if you take the slider the other way, the image becomes misty, as if you’re looking at it through tissue paper.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite photos?
Magnolias are one of my top favourite flowers and as I write this, the image of dozens of magnolia blooms and their angular stems, looking like a stained-glass window, is my favourite image. In fact, I like this shot so much that I got it printed onto metal.
The shot was taken at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens last spring. It reminds me of a stained-glass window with the small branches simulating the black between the different tones of the glass. I shot this into the sun and there was another tree behind the branch I was photographing. The flowers on that tree appear like bokeh. I did a small amount of Tone Curve adjustment on this image as I liked the brightness of the raw image.
What tips can you share for photographing magnolias and flowers in general?
Being large and relatively heavy, magnolias are still easy to photograph in a slight breeze, unlike smaller more delicate flowers.
All flowers invariably look better with dew or raindrops decorating them so cool mornings or after rainfall are ideal times to visit parks and gardens.
Contrary to popular belief, bright sunshine is not your friend if you want images with the truest colours. Choose flowers in the shade if a sunny day is all you have to work with. Try to make sure you don’t have bright spots of sun in your background as well. If the flower you wish to photograph is in full sun, ask a friend to hold up a jacket or even use their shadow to shade the flower.
Remember, even point-and-shoot cameras and phones have macro modes which allow us to take close-up shots - sometimes just part of a flower makes as good an image as the full bloom.
What’s next for you?
I intend to make a book of my favourite flower images.
Where can we find you online?