Search Results for: echinacea

LAB Inversions

I am often asked about my technique for obtaining creative effects using LAB color adjustments in Photoshop. While the theory behind this set of techniques is a bit complicated, there’s nothing complex in practice about using LAB color adjustments creatively. I’ve written about these techniques both in The Photoshop Darkroom and also in The Way of the Digital Photographer.

To make your life easier if you want to experiment with creative LAB, I’ve also written a Photoshop action that you can download for free using this link (check out the included readme file for installation instructions). This action essentially presents the possible LAB channel adjustments as a palette of possibilites for you to choose from when making your creative choices, and I’ve used my own action—Photoshop’s word for a macro—to create the different creative versions of the images shown here.

For example, with the cone flower (Echinacea) shown here, last year I planted it in a pot on the porch, assuming it would essentially be an annual. Somewhat to my surprise, it has come back strongly for a second year in its pot. We water it with recycled water—such as unfinished water bottles started by the kids. The young flowers are translucent and striated, like the day-old blossom shown. As the flowers mature, the petals become opaque, and a mono-colored shade of pink magenta.

Echinacia © Harold Davis

Echinacia © Harold Davis

The miracle of LAB channel inversions and adjustments leads straight to the alternative, colorful versions you see below:

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

I plan to print these images as a quadtych, with the four images arranged in a sequence, pairing the original version on white with the Inversion on White, and the two black versions together.

Echinacia Inversion © Harold Davis

Echinacia Inversion © Harold Davis

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Inversions (and lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!)

From the humble Echinacea photographed for its delicate petals, the miracle of LAB channel inversions and adjustments leads straight to the drug-crazed and colorful versions you see here (just as they used to think soft drugs led to harder ones). Poppies will put them to sleep, and their little dog too! Even though the Echinacea is a simple, calming herb, and it is certainly no relative of Morpheus or his fearsome descendants.

Echinacia Inversion © Harold Davis

Echinacea Inversion © Harold Davis

I plan to print these images as a quadtych. In other words, four images, with the original Echinacea and the three shown here.

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

What a great word “quadtych” is! Almost as nice as “quidditch.” I often create sequences using the creative power of LAB, and these seem like a natural for printing quadtychs—and even pentaptychs and hexaptychs!

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

Posted in Photograms, Photoshop Techniques

Cycle of Life

Cycle of Life

Cycle of Life, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Spring turns to summer, the precise demarcation of the season change lost for me in a haze of books to write, photography in the studio, new Photoshop features to play with, and family matters. Not to mention the oddities of the Pacific weather system in coastal California, where July can easily be chillier with more fog than March or October. In my garden, my beloved poppies are no longer the prime attraction, being swiftly surpassed in sheer gaudiness of coloration by the Dahlias and Echinaceas.

The world moves to a rhythm of its own, and our society has us on a treadmill that only seems to increase in velocity. With four kids, there’s always something to take care of: a doctor to visit, playdate to arrange, or mandatory school affair to show the parental flag at.

But it’s important for me to take the time to sample the tempo of the growing things in my garden. They have a cycle of life that is all their own, as seen in this Papaver Rhoeas photo from early June. The Poppy in the center of the photo is mature, but the one to the upper right has just bloomed, shedding its delicate pod cover onto the petals of the more mature flower. The entire life cycle is compressed into a matter of hours, but seems somehow languid and dreamy if I take the time to observe it closely.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Flower Macros

Echinacea Pink Double Delight

Echinacea Pink Double Delight, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Flower macros are a personal subject that I return to over and over again with great joy. The photo above is an Echinacea Pink Double Delight that I photographed just after a recent rainstorm.

The daffodil in the sunshine (below) is from early 2008. I found the RAW file recently when flipping through my archives, and decided to have some fun converting this simple, sunny image.


View this image larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography


Echinacea purpurea Hope

Echinacea purpurea Hope, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This photo shows a Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea ‘Hope’. This a patented hybrid, with a portion of each sale donated by the wholesale growers to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, a leading organization in the fight against breast cancer.

I’ve been growing exotic hybridized Echinacea to photograph. There’s no way you can get these at a florist, so to photograph them I needed to cultivate them. This was one of my first nice specimens, picked just before the onset of autumn rains.

I photographed the flower using a black velvet background, and bright but overcast daylight from the front and side. The finished image combines 4 captures at shutter speeds from 6 to 30 seconds. Here’s the full exposure data: Nikon D300, 85mm perspective-correcting macro, 4 exposures (6 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds) combined in Photoshop, each exposure at f/64 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Driving Nicky and Mathew to school this morning in the pouring rain I half-turned to Mathew, and said, “I love you.”

Five-year-old Mathew replied, “I know, Dad.”

I didn’t want to make Nicky feel left out, so I said, “I love you, Nicky.”

“I know, Dad.”

Compared to the vast feeling of love in my heart for these boys this seemed a bit too routine for me. I felt the need to add, “That’s good. It’s important to know you are loved by your father.”

Mathew: “You’re not ‘father.’ You are ‘Dad.'”

Puts me in my place.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Each Apple Pear

Pear Blossom Special

Pear Blossom Special, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Obviously, I have a fondness for small aperture, fully stopped-down flower macros that use high depth of field to convey sharpness. (I explain the relationship of aperture to depth of field in Chapter 2 of Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.) For example, take a look at Echinacea Harvest Moon, Rose Study 11, and Lily in a Green Vase.

But sometimes the high-depth-of-field approach won’t work, either for technical reasons or because having the entire photo sharp doesn’t give the desired visual and aesthetic impact. In fact, selective focus can be so attractive that there are special tools you can use, like the Lensbaby, intended for just this purpose.

The apple and pear blossoms in this pair of photos are espaliered along a fence with our western neighbor. These trees have multiple varieties (five in the case of the apple, three for the pear) grafted onto a single trunk, with the varietal branches spread across the fence. It’s an interesting tangent that any apple you are ever likely to eat will have come from grafted stock rather than seed. Apples seeds simply don’t reliably reproduce, so once you get a good eating apple what you do is reproduce it over and over again by grafting, which essentially means genetic cloning.

I do generally believe that a tripod is the photographer’s best friend. But in this case, the blossoms were high up the fence, so I wasn’t going to able to bring a tripod to bear. Besides, there was a steady breeze. So I made the best of it, and hand held these photos using image stabilization at a fast enough shutter speed so that the subject motion wasn’t much of an issue.

The trick here is to get the plane of the camera as parallel as possible to the area of the subject that you care about. Also, you need to press the shutter release at exactly the right instant, because even slight subject (or camera) movement can spoil the focus. But if all the stars line up, selective focus can make for very nice images.

Apple Blossom Special

View this image larger.

[Both photos: Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens, 36mm extension tube, +2 diopter close-up filter, ISO 100, hand held with image stabilization enagaged; Apple: 1/250 of a second at f/8, 95mm (142.5mm in 35mm terms); Pear: 1/160 of a second at f/6.3, 82mm (123mm in 35mm terms)]

Related stories: Cherry Blossom Special; Botany of Desire.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Photographing Water Drops

Why am I so interested in photographing water drops? What are the special challenges and techniques associated with photographing water drops? Do different water drops have different characteristics (in other words, is there a taxonomy of water drops from a photographer’s perspective)?

Orchid Water Drop, photo by Harold Davis. View this photograph larger. Read more about this image.

Leaving the technicalities of water drop photography aside for a second, water drops interest me because they are, as poet William Blake put it, a world in a grain of sand. Each water drop seems like a complete world, or universe, to me with its unique colors, reflections, and refractions. These worlds are ethereal and ephemeral, meaning they are fragile, ghostly, almost like magical parallel universes.

Technically, water drop photography is macro photography with some subject-matter specific difficulties. Macro photography in and of itself is one of the most technically difficult kinds of photography because once you get really close to a small object, inherently shallow depth-of-field, precise focus, and motion—even the slightest motion—are all issues that can defeat a photograph, no matter how beautiful it would be otherwise.

What makes water drop photography a bit more difficult than run-of-the-mill photography of very small subjects is the extreme reflectivity of a water drop and the fact that a water drop is in almost constant motion.

There are some techniques you can use to help abate the motion problem. For example, the photograph at the top of this story was taken using a macro flash. Here’s a story I wrote about using flash to enhance water drop photography. Under the right conditions, using flash to light water drops can both stop the motion of the water drop and also provide sufficient depth-of-field.

As with photographing flowers in the field, one can use a special clamp to hold down the plant or branch that “hosts” the water drop. Here’s more information about using clamps to control the motion of a water drop so one can make a long exposure.

Once your lens is really close to a water drop, you may as well realize that your depth-of-field is going to be shallow, even with the lens stopped down as far as it will go. The only remedy for this is precision. Precision about focus, about placing the camera focal plane parallel to the subject, and about composition. You may find that a magnifying eye piece attachment helps with this.

Here’s where the precision of composition comes in. If you recognize that even at f/64 there will not be all the depth-of-field you might like, then you need to focus on the key elements of the composition, hopefully towards the center of the image front-to-back. For example, in the photo of water drops on an ice plant below I focused on a water drop very much in the mid-zone of depth.

Nature’s Harp, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger. Read more about this image.

Yes, Virginia, there is a taxonomy of water drops. Water drops from irrigation have very different characteristics from water drops generated by a spray bottle or in the studio. And water drops that are genuinely from rain are best of all. Of course, it is really rare to get water drops from rain in the sunshine. Because even if it rains and then is sunny, water drops will then evaporate very quickly. So if you are interested in photographing water drops, and there comes a day of rain followed by sunshine, get out there with your tripod and macro gear. Particularly if the day is without wind.

Once you spend some real time looking closely at water drops, you’ll be able to distinguish rain drops from “artificial” water drops. For example, the photo below shows a classical “real” water drop on an echinacea flower in my garden.

Echinacea Water Drop, photo by Harold Davis. View this photograph larger. Read more about this image.

To learn more: Water Drops category on Photoblog 2.0, Water Drop Photograph Techniques.

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Rose Studies

As everyone knows, roses are associated with seduction and obsession. As Diana Wells puts it, “the rose represents love, magic, hope, and the mystery of life itself.”

My obsession with roses as a gardener was swift and overwhelming, until my small garden was overwhelmed with more roses than could possibly fit. Today, I find myself as a gardener more excited by flowers such as hellebores, echinacea, and protea from South Africa such as my leucospermum.

Obviously, I am still obsessed with photographing roses. Few flowers can equal the rose for beauty of line and shape, not to mention sumptuous coloration.

These two images are two of the studies from my rose photography marathon this week.

The photo above was stopped down to f/40 for maximum depth of field and then underexposed to bring out the tonal richness in the dark red rose.

On the other hand, I overexposed the rose below to emphasize the transparency of the variegated petals.

Now for something different, as I’m off to Yosemite with Julian and Nicky!

Rose Study 10

View this image larger.

Related link: my Rose set on Flickr.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

How big is my garden?

I get asked often, “How big is your garden?” With all my photos of flowers, some people assume I have a large garden, and this is not in fact the case. Although even maintaining the smallish, rather urban garden we have is a stretch—a joyful stretch—along with taking care of the three boys, photography, and the rest of life.

Actually, I am tempted to answer the question about the size of my garden in biblical terms: to mutilate John 14:2, around my Father’s house there are many gardens. My garden is dense, with enough to keep me excited about macro flower photography. A kind of large container garden on about 1/3 of an acre.

The fruits and vegetables are in raised beds along the narrow, protected southwestern exposure. The northeastern passage is a path between the house and street, too narrow really to be called a garden, but beautiful in in a secret garden kind of way. The backyard is more-or-less consigned to the kids, their play structures, and vehicles.

I garden to photograph. Only the front garden behind its curved fence is truly mine: I plant poppies, dahlias, roses, echinacea, leucospermum, hellebores—whatever I want to photograph.

My garden has the virtue that it is mine: if I want to put a tripod leg somewhere, clamp a plant, or even cut a flower for studio photography, there is no one to stop me.

“Are all your flower photographs of your own garden?” No, there are many gardens surrounding my Father’s house. Some days, when I have the time, I like to mount my equipment in my pack, tripod on the outside, and head for a good flower photography destination. Very locally, and not in preferential order, Annie’s, Berkeley Hort, Blake Garden, and the UC Berkeley Botannical Garden. I took the photograph of the Escapade Rose (with a little spider) the other day at the municipal Berkeley Rose Garden.

Here’s a photo of a balloon flower from my very own garden:

Within the Balloon Flower

View this photograph larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography