Accustomed to insect photography, I was surprised how difficult it was to photograph flowers. I was astonished by the different colors and the amazing patchwork that appeared in my viewfinder.
Normally I photograph insects, but I had decided to take some images of flowers in my garden. I never thought that it would be so difficult to get some interesting compositions with only flowers and without the little bugs that are always the central interest of my photos. I was a bit puzzled by my first shots. I was trying to compose as I’ve always done with insects and working at the same distances. I soon realized that wildflowers are much bigger than the insects I usually photograph. I needed to step back and increase the distance to the subject in order to show the flowers in their environment.
This picture was taken in a single shot. The focus and exposure were both set manually, and I shot in RAW format. I used a remote trigger, a Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash and the distance to the flower was 6 feet (1.8 m).
Canon 7D . Sigma 180mmf/3.5macro . 1/250ss . f/5.6 . ISO250
It was 6:00 p.m. and the two flowers were situated in the shade by my house, while the background was still well lit by the sun. Because the flowers were in a shaded area, I needed more volume and depth in the light on the flowers, so I positioned a remote flash 45 degrees to the right of the flowers. The remote flash was triggered by the camera's internal flash unit, so I had to set the shutter speed to 1/250 second, the minimum sync speed. A lower shutter speed would have required that I used a tripod to stabilize the gear to avoid any motion blur. I just used a monopod for stability.
"I like the idea of giving flowers human characteristics. I decided to compose the cosmos flower and the flax flower as if they were having a rendezvous."
I like the idea of giving flowers human characteristics. I decided to compose the flax flower and the cosmos flower as if they were having a rendezvous. I used wild oats to create an appealing bokeh, both in the foreground and the background. To keep this faded, soft structure I selected an aperture of f/5.6. As a consequence of the 1/250 second and f/5.6 settings, and considering the available ambient light in the background, I opted for an ISO of 250 to get the right exposure for the background itself; the flowers were a bit underexposed.Once these parameters were set, I manually adjusted the remote slave flash unit power to 1/68 to obtain the right amount of additional fill light from the right side behind the flowers. As usual, I took some shots to check the histogram and focus, and then another bunch of clicks to be sure I captured what I wanted.
I used Lightroom 3 to process the image and I worked with a 16-bit file.
1) I browsed through the images and made a first selection of the pictures I liked. Once the selection was made, I developed my RAW files.
2) I adjusted the White Balance.
3) I adjusted the Color Profiles in the Camera Calibration panel.
4) After that, I adjusted Luminosity and Contrast.
5) The Color Profile I used was ProPhoto RGB.
6) I saved a full-size copy of the file as an uncompressed JPEG. I also saved a version in a web format.
1) Technical parameters have to be set manually and adjusted constantly as you change your point of view or your composition.
2) Working with an additional light source was the key to get this perspective of the flowers and the pleasing structure of the bokeh.
3) Make several pictures of the same scene with varying settings to see how things evolve in terms of depth of field and bokeh structure.
I live Toulouse, France, and I'm an aeronautical engineer by profession. I discovered digital photography in 2008. I love to spend time in my garden or in fields to discover this tiny, beautiful world nearby.