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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 60mm macro’

It is now the season for irises. All kinds of irises are starting to pop open in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are neighbors in a townhouse community in Northern Virginia, which means there is relatively little space for gardening, but Cindy manages to pack an amazing amount of flower power into her limited area. Fortunately, she and her husband, who is also a Michael, live in an end-unit, so they have a bit more space than the interior units.

Cindy likes to select flowers to grow that she knows will be photogenic and love to pore over the flower catalogues on line. Our challenge is to figure out how to capture the  beauty of these carefully selected flowers in the crowed garden. One of Cindy’s techniques is to use a small artificial background to help to isolate the flower. Often she uses a white foam core board to which she has attached a piece of black velvet-like material. She can then create studio-like images with a black or white background, depending on the flower.

This technique requires two people, because it is almost impossible to hold the background in place and frame a shot at the same time. I took these iris photos yesterday while Cindy held the background in place for me and then we reversed positions. In some of the images it looks like I was using some kind of studio lighting, but it was all natural night on a somewhat cloudy day that diffused the light nicely.

You don’t really need any special equipment to create this effect—you could use almost anything for a background. The day before, our improvised background was a collapsible black storage cube from IKEA that Cindy had just given me. The final photo, taken by Cindy with her iPhone, shows me holding that black cube and gives you a sense of the garden environment and how the technique is used.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

iris

background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this tiny red tulip yesterday morning in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer, my first tulip sighting of the year. One of Cindy’s passions is gardening and she deliberately plants a lot of flowers that she believes will be photogenic.

Last fall she planted bulbs for some large, frilly, multi-colored tulips that she hopes will bloom later this year. (See my posting from last spring entitled Fire-breathing dragon to see an example of one of those crazy-looking parrot tulips.) I will be looking for those exotic flowers, but I have to say that am often drawn more to the simple, spare elegance of a single bloom, like today’s tulip.

When I first started to get serious about my photography almost ten years ago, I imitated the type of photographs that Cindy was taking, with a lot of emphasis on macro shots of flowers. Cindy taught me a lot about photography during those early days, lessons that have stuck with me as I have ventured into other areas of photography.

One of those lessons was about the value of a well-composed, graphic image, like today’s simple shot. Anyone, in theory, could have taken this shot, but they would have had to be willing to get on their hands and knees in the dirt to do so, another one of Cindy’s lessons. (If you want to see more of Cindy’s tips, check out her article How to Grow Your Garden Photography Skills that was featured several years ago on the NikonUSA.com website.)

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How much longer must I wait? That question has become a familiar refrain for most of us as our days of isolation and quarantine drag on endlessly. Sometimes it seems like time is standing still, yet there are hopeful signs that things are slowly improving.

I visit the garden of my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, almost every day, checking to see what has changed. Over the last month I have observed the growth of the leaves and stalks of a new crop of irises. A few of them have flowered and withered, but most of them are still buds, offering only a hint of their beauty that is yet to come.

Here are a few images that I captured on Thursday of iris buds of different shapes and colors, a preview of coming attractions.

iris buds

iris bud

iris bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first saw some tiny little flies buzzing around in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer, I knew that they were not bees. I could tell that they were hover flies, because of the way they acted, or perhaps you know them as flower flies, because of where they can be found most often.

As I observed the flies, I was attracted to the beautiful, elaborate patterns on their bodies and realized that this was a different species of hover fly than I was used to seeing. Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, there are over six thousand hover fly species worldwide. How could I possibly identify this species?

I was shocked, amazed, and delighted when a Facebook viewer informed me that this species is known as the Eastern Calligrapher Fly (Toxomerus geminatus). I love the thought of someone hand drawing the delicately etched pattern with pen and ink, creating a miniature work of art.

If you want to learn more fun facts about this cool little fly, check out an article from riveredgenaturecenter.org entitled “Bug o’the Week–Eastern Calligrapher Fly” by clicking on the name of the article.

Eastern Calligrapher Fly

Eastern Calligrapher Fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the irises in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer have not yet bloomed, but this one beautiful yellow bearded iris decided to jump ahead of the others. Most of the iris buds are on stems several feet high, but this blossom is only a few inches off of the ground—perhaps that is why it was an early bloomer.

If you look closely at the two shots, you will immediately notice that I took them on separate days. The light was quite different on each those days and there were raindrops present on the petals when I took the second shot. Additionally, I chose a very different shooting angle for each image and processed them to emphasize different aspects of the photo. I have a slight preference for the overall feel of the first shot, but love the raindrops in the second shot—I think the pair of images work well together in tandem.

 

yellow iris

yellow iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The color and texture of this tulip reminded me of a ripe peach when I first saw it yesterday morning. Alas, it will be months before peaches will be in season and the canned cling peaches that I remember from my childhood can’t compare to the fresh ones.

Like so many of the wonderfully colorful flowers that I have featured recently, this beauty is from the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Thanks again, Cindy.

At this time of the year, I tend to shoot most often with my 180mm macro lens. With my APS-C crop sensor camera, I get an equivalent field of view of almost 300mm, which gives me some standoff distance for shooting live subjects like dragonflies. However, for shooting subjects like flowers, I found it difficult to frame the images because I was shooting from so far away. For this shot, I switched to a 60mm macro lens and shot with the aperture wide-open at f/2.8.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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