Monthly Archives: February 2006

Snapdragon’s Secret

There’s a secret at the heart of every flower, including this snapdragon in my garden…

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Fire of Passion in the Cherry Heart

I photographed cherry blossoms today along Thousand Oaks near our home. These are photomacrographs, but very different from the photomacrograph series of cherry blossoms I took a few days ago. The first photos were implemented with tripod and macro lens on a damp day. The photos I created today (this is the first example) were handheld using a vibration reduction lens with an extension tube and macro filter on a day of bright spring intensity.

Mostly I tried to capture the fierce and wonderful backlighting. While I photographed, I enjoyed the exuberance of spring overtaking the time and place. These are passionate images, and I dedicate them to my Valentine!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Pansy at a Rakish Angle

I took this photo because the unexpected angle interested me. It’s not how one usually expects to see these flowers. The single drop of water sitting above the center of the flower moves me and makes me want to embrace the wonder of the universe!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Anthropomorphization

Along with an idealized (and often false) perfection in nature photography, we look for something we can relate to. That’s why many of my most successful photographs of flowers seem to be showing something with animus: for example, this ranunculus, found in Julian’s garden, reminds me of a face.

Another example: this wet poppy bud seems to remind many people of an anatomical part (you can decide for yourself what they have in mind).

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Perfection and Imperfection

Why do we expect our great photographs of nature to show perfection? The truth is that nature is rarely perfect. Human beings are not perfect, either. Just as character flaws can reveal the person, in nature photography imperfections show the real beauty of a leaf or a flower. For example, check out this stained camellia petal.

The photograph of the cherry blossom above was the first in my series of photos of cherry blossoms in the rain. The photo shows a blossom with imperfections, such as the slight stains on the petals. These imperfections are what endear the blossom to me, and makes it, well, perfect.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Extrapolation

When the weather is bright and sunny, as it is today, it seems like it will always be bright and sunny. On the other hand, when it’s been raining for a few days, it seems like it will always rain. For some reason, as human beings we are hardwired to project future trends based on the current reality. We’d rather believe that things will always stay the same, rather than the truth: things change, even if they’ve been static for a while.

I photographed this flower towards the tail end of the rain last week. Now the weather is warm, dry, and windy. My projection is that it will stay this way forever.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Fire in the Sky

The other day I was taking care of the kids when I noticed fire in the sky. Not literally. What I mean is that the sunset was glorious. But it was too late for me to find a good vantage point with a view of the bay, mountains, or bridge.

Sometimes the role of being a parent seems in conflict with that of photographer. Particularly when there is a great sunset.

So what to do? It may seem obvious, but the kids come first. No matter what. And I am so thankful for them, and in love with them (even though they sometimes drive me crazy), that I will miss any number of sunsets to be with them. Furthermore, there’s always another sunset!

What makes figuring out the logistics of sunsets and childcare a little difficult around here is the logic of the appearance of sunset. From a photographer’s viewpoint, the best sunsets come when there are clouds. When there are clouds, you’ll never know until the last minute whether it will be a complete dud, with the sun sinking without a trace into the cloud bank, or whether it might be spectacular. A judgment call a half hour beforehand in these conditions is quite likely to be wrong.

Anyhow, with this sunset, I crept out and up onto our roof for a few minutes. As you can see, it is not quite an all encompassing vista–although I do like the swirling fog on the way lower left–but perhaps the colors of the sky make up for it!

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Cherry Blossom Special

The cherry trees are starting to bloom in our neighborhood, although exactly which trees in our coastal zone depends on the precise altitude. So the cherry blossoms have come up to within a couple of hundred feet of our house. They make a beautiful and elegant display.

I was out yesterday in the mist and light rain photographing. The sun started to peek out. What great conditions for photographing cherry blossoms and getting close enough to view the anthers!

In the photo above, my favorite of the set, the anthers–the portion of the stamen that produce the pollen–are in focus. The flower itself and water drops are slightly out of focus, with a macro rig and an aperture set to f/16.

In contrast, in this photo anthers and flower are both crisp at f/40:

Cherry Crisp

View this photo larger.

Technically, these photos are a great deal like the water drops on a spider web I photographed a day earlier. The biggest issues are micro focusing and subject motion from the wind. In addition, I had some problem getting high enough on my tripod to be really close to the blossoms.

A human element was that I was out photographing with Julian, who got bored (as any eight year old would have) after a while: “Daddy, you’ve been photographing that one flower for an hour and a half. Can’t we please do something else?”

Neither whining nor wind stopped me from getting this rather unusual view of water drops within the world of the cherry blossom:

World of Wonder

View this photo larger.

In this detail view of the very center of the cherry blossom I was surprised to discover a convex, reflective shape like a cherry dome. The beginnings, I suppose, of the fruit.

Cherry Heart

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Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Stars Like Diamonds

Yesterday after the rain had ended I went out with my rig. I stopped along the outer fence of our garden, captivated by these drops of water caught in a spider web. The water drops reflect their environment, sunshine, and (in some cases) my camera and tripod. Hint: you have to look really closely to see me.

I think these myriad drops of water look like sculptured jewels or stars in the sky. In other words, irredeemably beautiful, vast, and special.

Photos taken with my 105mm macro lens, 68mm of extension tubes, a +4 close-up filter, ISO 200, f/36, and about 0.3 of a second. The big capture challenges: micro focusing, and movement of the spider web in the wind.

World Wide Web

View this photomacrograph larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Patterns, Photography, Water Drops

Mathew in a Tunnel

We got out the Ikea play tent for Mathew, and he and I spent some time crawling through the tunnel. Great fun!

This photo is with my digital fisheye lens. I like the way the seam inside the tunnel makes an apparent spiral around Mathew.

Here’s a photo of Mathew newborn, one of Mathew in a playhouse, and a fisheye of his biggest brother Julian:

Fisheye Julian

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

Helleborus in the Rain

I photographed this simple, innocent, child-like flower, with its raindrop for an eye, as part of the same series as this far more adult wet poppy:

Wet Poppy

Here is a photograph of an open Helleborus bloom (it’s also called a Lenten Rose) from the same plant.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Fried Eyeballs, Fried Eggs, and Photographing the Sun

There Goes the sun
Compression and symmetry
Centered

I photographed the sun, and did not blink. No King Canute, who tried to stop the waves but the waves wouldn’t listen, this project worried me. The sun is more powerful than my eyes. That’s obvious.

I think there’s nothing worse for a visual person to imagine than damaging one’s vision. Photographing the sun over a period of time through long lens (600mm in 35mm terms) obviously has that potential. Well, maybe harm to one’s kids is worse.

Excited by a photo I caught of the sun and south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided to try to catch the sun precisely in the middle of the Golden Gate span. At this time of year, the direction that the sun sets change substantially night to night–so the change from south tower to center span would be about a week. Of course, this assumes that you photograph the sunset from one position, and when the sun bisects the bridge depends on the location of that position. Your location and mileage will vary.

In reality, capturing the photograph I wanted meant spending every night for about ten days photographing sunset from one vantage point (Indian Rock). Not an onerous task, but I did want to be careful of my eyes. (Besides common sense, you’ll find a warning in the documentation for almost any reasonably long lens not to look through it at the sun.) After all, I am passionate about photography, but no image is worth risking oneself.

I figured that I would be photographing the setting sun (not the middle-of-the-day sun), which would make the project less dangerous. I wore my sunglasses with UV protection. And I glanced as little as possible into the viewfinder, just using it to set the shots up. Instead, I used the LCD display to get feedback about the photographs as I took them, and adjusted accordingly. (I could do this because I had the camera on a tripod.)

Ironically, close-up photography of this sun has a double involvement with fried egg: you don’t want to fry your own eyeballs, and you don’t want the sun to fry out the highlights in your photograph (if it does, it kind of looks like a drippy fried egg in the sky).

I thought I was pretty careful. But a day or two after the final session in the series I developed vision problems. My eyes felt funny and gritty, my vision was a bit blurred, and I started getting headaches.

Had I fried my eyes? A couple of pieces on the Internet made me think I might have damaged my eyes. (Here’s the WebMD article.) The symptoms seemed right (but then again when I read a set of symptoms on the web I can imagine myself having all kinds of bizarre diseases!). Also, I couldn’t see how both my eyes had been damaged since I only looked through my camera with my right eye.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, my othamologist didn’t find any damage, but he did find some inflammation due to some minor infection or allergy. Steroid eye drops should clear it up in no time. I may also need a stronger prescription for my eye glasses.

I am greatly relieved.

For my future reference, and yours, you can look carefully at the sun through some special filters with safety. Here’s an article by an optometry professor explaining the options (intended for amateur astronomers and eclipse observations). The easiest to get sounds like a pair of welder’s glasses with a #14 filter. I’m going to get me a pair before I photograph that next up close and personal sunset!

Here are the original posts with quite of few of my photographs of the sun and bridge:

Over the Edge

Posted in Photography

Water World

In brief: this photomacrograph is up close of the leaves of a flowering plant with water drops. It’s so close that if you look at the image larger you can see the hairs on the leaves.

A water world of the imagination, or mirror world as I’ve called them, this tiny universe, captured through photomacrography, seems to feature a central, very wet depot.

Here’s another water world, closer, seemingly more solid. What really makes me tingle about this second photomacrograph is the way the water magnifies portions of the leaf (for example, the hairs in the upper left quadrant).

Solid Wetness

View this photo larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Water Drops

Leucospermum Scarlet Ribbons

This Leucospermum “Scarlet Ribbons” blossom is about 1/4″ across in diameter. These flowers will get a great deal bigger, of course, as my plant matures.

The Leucospermum “Scarlet Ribbons” is a cultivar of the Proteaceae family created using careful hand pollination between 1974 and the early 1980s by Dr. Gert Brits of the Horticultural Research Institute in South Africa. (Click here for more information about the origins of this cultivar.) So you could say the Dr. Brits is the great, great, great grandparent of my beautiful Leucospermum.

The flower is now commonly seen as an “exotic” cut flower. The plant is popular in Japan and Italy as a “throw away” potted plant (but no one is getting my bush!).

On Flickr, JoelDeluxe comments that based on the thumbnail of this photo he thought it was an abstract. Here’s the thumbnail:

Leucospermum Scarlet Ribbons

I can see what JoelDeluxe means. As with photomacrography itself–and some other things in life–size does matter. It’s interesting how the apparent abstraction in thumbnail size changes at a larger size. As Solitaire1 so nicely puts it, the flower “explodes, but with a gentleness.”

Here, here, and here are some of my other recent photographs of Proteaceae flowers from the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Posted in Flowers, Photography