Creative Lighting and Exposure

One of the techniques I love to experiment with in photography is the creative usage of lighting and exposure — especially on the subject of flowers. Besides the obvious beauty, I discovered shooting flowers is a great way to help you learn how to use better lighting, exposure and composition.

When I look at a flower, I mentally break down all the different components and shapes: its colors, petals, stems, leaves etc. I see shapes and colors instead of the flower. By observing the flower this way, I am able to have different views of the flower rather than just seeing the one dimension view.

Oftentimes when I get ready to shoot; I usually have a visual image in my mind on how I want to post-process and what the result might look like. This gives me a better idea on the settings I would use when composing for a shot. For example, this series of dahlia flower was shot on a bright sunny afternoon. Knowing the light would be harsh and the flower colors would look too bright and flat. I decided to use the harsh lighting to my advantage and make the flowers look surreal and luminous. To achieve the look, I use f/6.3 (the largest opening available on my lens) to get a better shallow depth of field, and I use exposure setting lower than what my camera indicated as the correct exposure. By shooting it darker, I can later manipulate the light and color values better in Lightroom3.

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And The Rain Returns

Woke up this morning feeling tired. I had a restless sleep from the heavy rain and wind all night. I was really hoping the warm temperature and sunny days would stick around for a while but from the weather forecast, it looks like the grey, rainy, cold days is back — a 15 degrees difference from last weekend. C’est la vie… at least the rain is good for shooting flower photos. Usually, I carry a small spray bottle with me to make water droplets on flowers but I think the rain does a better job.

Here are a few snap shots I took of my neighbor’s irises.

 

Wordless Wednesday

Painted Red Dahlia

Here is another photo I’ve converted into a painting, using Photoshop paint effect.

Before:

After:

Spring Blossoms In Winter

Here is the first flower blossom for the season but season of what? Winter? Spring? It’s a freezing 32 degrees today. Burr… that’s a difference of 16 degrees from last week. It’s no wonder this poor bush is so confused and decided to have spring blossoms in winter.  

However, the confused blossoms gave me the perfect opportunity — that is to have a flower date with Macro. It has been a while since we’ve done anything together. Needless to say, the date rekindled our love affair… 😀

Late Bloomer

I woke up this morning, feeling  unmotivated and lack of inspiration. Of course, the first thought was to skip posting. Then as usual, I start to have this inner civil war with my conscience: to skip or not to skip. It was like having a devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, debating the pros and cons. I’m happy to say the angel won the debate. One of the things I’ve learned since starting this blog is that when I hit a creative block, it’s better to work through it than to let it be an excuse to not do it.

So… I loaded the camera with a fresh battery and the 50mm prime, and forced myself to take a walk. I walked across the street to the golf course pond thinking maybe I will find something interesting. Other than the usual flock of ducks, the pond felt cold and lifeless.  No more dragonflies hovering, bees buzzing — not even a mosquito. The vegetation looked brown and exhausted.

As I continue to trudge along the wet muddy path, I came upon a small bush with some dandelion blooms on it. That became my inspiration and the title “Late Bloomer” came to mind. I searched around the pond for other flowers and found a couple more late bloomers. I’m glad I listened to the Angel…   🙂

Flora in Volunteer Park

At last… hot summer weather has arrived in Seattle. For the last few days, the temperature has been in the mid 80’s to low 90’s. And instead of cooling off at the beach; I ended up spending about an hour sweating in the Volunteer Park Conservatory’s  green house photographing these amazing flowers. I used my 50mm prime lens for all the shots. The more I use this lens, the more I love it.

The lighting in the green house was perfect for experimenting with the exposure and depth of field. I kept the aperture at f/1.8. and ISO 200. In Photoshop, I used the luminosity mask technique to change the brightness and give the image a soft glow. I recently learned this technique from Tony Kuyper. Check out his website for the free basic luminosity mask tutorial. However, he does offer more advanced techniques for a donation. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Flowers From Macro

It works every time; nothing like pretty flowers to rejuvenate the romance. I love my dates with Macro…