There’s power in the flower.
For the photographer of natural subjects, there is no more intriguing, no more satisfying, and no more sexy subject than flowers. Flowers are open to a more literal, a more abstract, and a more personal interpretation than any other photographic subject. From fields of lupines or asters, to pairings of what flower photographers call, “strange bedfellows“, and on to one small sliver of the edge of a single petal, they are our most versatile subject.
Today we will look at some examples of macro photography of flowers. From moderate to extreme close-ups.
Let’s start today with what is a pretty ordinary way to make a flower picture. Ordinary, but forever effective. This wild Yellow Onion was photographed by Andras Zambo. If you want a powerful way to show a flower in an image, and you want people to understand and recognize a species of flower, a single yellow plant against a blue sky, keeps your attention on the flower/plant and its design.
These next two images are from Flickr Earth Images contributor Sarah Chamberlain. Both the water droplet photo and the image of a Crocus, employ the (very) limited depth of field technique. The secret to making this super close-up style of flower photography work, is to make very sure that you have something sharp (in focus), and to make sure that the point of focus, is where you want their eyes to rest. I think the water droplet at the top/center of the first image, and the flower’s yellow center of the second, are the perfect place to draw the viewer’s eye.
This next image is also a picture with very selective focus. The only way this picture from Shelley Sparrow works is if the flower’s center is tack sharp. She accomplished that feat and the image is beautiful.
In keeping with that shallow depth of field, point of focus theme, let’s look at Anne Sophie Delmotte’s photo of a beautiful pink flower. Notice how despite fact that there is an out of focus swirl of flower closer to us than is the sharp part, our eyes go immediately to the in focus part of the image. If that out of focus area was a different color or tone than the rest, this picture would have been “uncomfortable” to view. As it is, it is a very artful image.
With all said and done, there may be no more powerful way to display a beautiful and unique flower than with a single subject, artfully posed against a contrasting (not contrasty) background. This picture from Ewa of a Mexican Hat is as simple as it gets, and very powerful. The secret here is to have enough depth of field, to show a completely in focus flower, with all its beauty and detail, yet keep the background soft and lacking in specific details. Well-done.
My favorite way to show a single in focus flower, is with a black or at least dark background. Add some backlight to a bright yellow flower, and about the only thing you could do (my opinion) to make it even better, is to pose the flower in profile. That’s exactly what was done here.
Len Miles created this image and I am not sure whether the effect was done in the field or in studio. Whether the background is actually very dark or it has been darkened in the editing process. Anyway you look at t, it is beautiful.
I of course have photographed a few flowers in my life. The three pictures below are humble in comparison to those above.
This first image of a Yellow Prairie Coneflower and a Tree Cricket is somewhat in keeping with the wonderful Mexican Hat picture above. The top of the flower and cricket are in focus and sharp, while the petals get softer and the background is simply a wash of color. Viewing your potential image with the depth of field preview lever on your camera is a plus in this sort of image making.
With this single blossom image of a New England Astor, I made sure my depth of field covered the entire area that is closest to the viewer, The rest can fade into softness. I needed those water droplets (dew) closest to us, to be tack sharp. This cold, wet unfurled flower almost gives a sense of movement in the way those petals sweep upwards.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a super close-up, that shows everything sharp and in focus. This Sunflower was spread out almost entirely flat. In other words, almost everything that showed in the viewfinder was on a single plane. I still shot the picture at f32 to make sure I covered all those tiny curves and depressions with clarity and focus.
I don’t know if it’s possible to emphasize strongly enough, how satisfying it is to honor flowers as a subject. You will be all the richer for it. In fact, macro photography of almost any subject will be the most rewarding artistic journey that you will ever travel. You will make discoveries that you‘ve never dreamed of.
God Bless, Wayne