Monthly Archives: April 2006

Poppy Three Ways

The saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Although why you’d want to skin a cat, I don’t know. It sounds mean, unpleasant, and essentially futile.

In any case, there are certainly more than one way to photograph a poppy. In this case, a white Icelandic poppy, Papaver nudcaule “Wonderland Mix” from Julian’s garden. (I say “Julian’s garden”– and my eight year old is very fond of this flower patch, and certainly helped design it and pick out its occupants, but guess who prepared it, planted everything, and maintains it? Hint: not Julian.)

In the photograph above, I photographed the poppy in ambient sunlight, using a small tungsten spot light to shine through the petals and create a luminous effect.

This photo shows a conventional–but extremely close–macro in ambient sunlight:

Poppy Fur

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Finally, this photograph was taken with my new macro flash kit (about which, more later):

Strobe Poppy

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Here I Am

My delight in photographing water drops continues. Someone on Flickr suggested that one of these days I’d morph into the water drop, and when you looked at the photo carefully, there I’d be.

So I couldn’t resist when I saw my reflection in this drop. I sized another image of my face, copied it onto a layer in the water drop image, and lowered its opacity.

Here I am. You can see me more clearly if you look at this photograph in a larger size.

Maybe the effect is a little hokey, but it’s also fun.

Speaking of looking closely at water drops, I’m amazed by the extent to which I am looking at pure light when I focus on them. Light reflected and refracted, as in these captures:

Sunlight 2 Sunlight 1
Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Water Drops

Sun Catcher

When I take one of these extreme close-up high depth-of-field water drop images, it’s really hard to see what the photo will come out like from the camera viewfinder. Even the depth-of-field preview doesn’t tell me that much, because at small apertures like f/40 with a bright sun I can’t really see much. Also, the effects of sunlight on the water drops are very unpredictable.

I can tell a little bit more–but not much more–from the LCD viewer after I’ve taken the photo. The problem here is partly that in bright sunlight it is hard to see it, and partly that at the LCD size the difference between almost in focus and crystal, laser sharp isn’t readily apparent.

So I was delighted to see the way this one came out when I opened it in Photoshop. Create sun rays, nice luminosity on the freesia bud, and very sharp water drops. Yes!

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Water of Life

This is one of my favorite of the water drop series I’ve been working on lately.

Taken at sunrise in my garden with a tripod, a long lens, and macro contraption, kids wailing up a storm and tripping over me, on my belly with my clothes wet from the wet grass, happy and lucky–to get total stillness for a second so I could take this photo!

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Kiss Me

Like the highway sign in Steve Martin’s movie about Los Angeles that in no uncertain terms tells Steve to “kiss her, you fool,” this tiny flower sticks out a marquee begging for a kiss.

Taken with a macro lens, extension tubes, and a close-up +4 diopter filter, the halo effect is created by the low depth-of-field and focus on the extended invitation rather than on the flower.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography


In the great flower versus weed controversy, the oxalis gets my vote as a flower while the dandelion is clearly a weed. Clearly, the dandelion is beautiful viewed up-close as a flower and when it goes to seed. But with its multiple propagation strategies, it is so hard to contol in my garden. By gum, this flower is a weed!

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Ferraria Crispa

I photographed this flower the other day in the South Africa section of the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden.

It is a ferraria crispa, a member of the Iris genus. As Solitaire on Flickr put it, “leopard skin bloom, and it’s a ferrari? I want one!”

Turns out that this is a rare flower whose bloom only lasts for a day. According to the information on the website of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve near Capetown, the flower also smells of carion.

I didn’t smell anything. But it just goes to show: is that leopard-skinned Ferrari really worth it if it smells of dead meat?

Posted in Flowers, Photography


I photographed this water drop with my 200mm macro lens early one morning this week. It was very nice of Phyllis to drive the kids to school so I could have the time to compose this image in peace and quiet.

It’s a simple image, but I like it.

I’ve been asked a number of times whether the sunburst was added in post-processing. The answer is no, this image except for minor level adjustments and sharpening has not been Photoshopped.

There’s a major divide between photographers–people who understand the principles and techniques of classic photography, and can aspire to create images–and digital technicians. As wonderful and glorious as the digital technologies are, the best bet is still to start with a good photograph.

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Waves of Yellow and Blue Flowers

I intentionally selected this clump of blue flowers with yellow flowers in the background, with the idea the the colors would create a powerful color statement. The rain cleared, the sun came out, began to set, and lit the water drops with golden light.

Each water drop was tiny. I aimed at one nearby, hoping to capture the clarity of the yellow flower in the blue water drop against the background of the yellow flower wave.

As Rabindranath Tagore writes:

The same stream of life that runs through the world runs through my veins night and day.
It is the same life that emerges in joy through the dust of the earth into numberless waves of flowers.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Water Drops on a Peony Leaf

Here’s another photo showing that the peony has beautiful parts besides its flowers.

An extreme magnification, from a technical viewpoint this kind of photo is difficult because of shallow depth-of-field even stopped all the way down. In addition, with the lens stopped down, a slow shutter speed has to be used. The slightest movement of the subject will ruin the photo, so patience is required. I knew this would never work, so I compromised pn 1/60 of a second with about f/16.

Water Solids

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Peony Parade

Sunlight and water drops on my tree peony flower: what a glorious subject to photograph!

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Peony Revealed

I was surprised to see the core of the peony resolving itself within my viewfinder.

This is a tree peony flower, a lovely and exotic speciment that blooms once a year with exactly three wonderful flowers. There have only been three flowers in any years for as long as we’ve had this plant.

I have been spending a great deal of time photographing these flowers this year and their secrets.

Tree Peony Flower 2

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Less is sometimes more. I loved the way the drops of water came into focus beneath the cloud of peony petals in this photo:

Peony Revelation 2

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Fairly Abstract Peony

This is a fairly abstract photo of the stem of a peony. I was experimenting with attaching both an extension tube and (old, manual) telextender to my 200mm macro lens. So the view is a pretty extreme magnification. It’s also rather soft focus and very colorful.

I like the effect, and am reminded that all parts of a plant can be beautiful and colorful–not just the flower!

Posted in Flowers, Photography


I photographed this California poppy surrounded by blue flowers today in a high wind.

I’ve mentioned before the wisdom of making photographic lemonade when given lemons. In this situation, I knew I couldn’t make a successful stopped-down high depth-of-field macro. So I decided to take advantage of the wind, and to try to portray the wind in the image I was creating.

With the camera on tripod, I opened the aperture as far as I could for the fastest possible shutter speed (1/125 of a second at f/5.6). I got down on my belly like a snake, and shot up into the blue flowers, focused tight on the poppy. My object was to show the contrast between the out-of-focus blue flowers blowing in the wind, and the poppy–which held still for just the decisive instant so that I could take this photo!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

White Flower

This small white flower sits in a shady corner of my garden. It gives off a vague odor of garlic, weird in such a graceful flower.

What I like about this photo is the way the soft green background with dark lines contrasts with the firm white delicacy of the flower.

Posted in Flowers, Photography