Flower Pictures - A Mild Obsession #2
So a gorgeous yellow daisy mesmerises me, swaying elegantly in the light afternoon breeze, bathed in the warm light. Mmmm...emotions gently bubble to the surface, excitement foremost, followed by the deep satisfaction that I've been able to make time to return to this spot to revisit my yellow daisy. I've already shot her once...but...now another chance to create another feel, another image worthy of my wall.
As before I dispense with my tripod. An odd decision? Perhaps... but here's my thinking on the subject. Firstly this is a decision which individual photographers need to make for themselves and secondly, and please understand this clearly, there are no rights or wrongs when the intent is artistic creation.
A tripod slows the process down (a good thing), it allows for greater reflection on composition and it creates the freedom necessary to style the shot without losing the angle of view one has chosen. It also has the added benefit of helping to steady the camera considerably so that camera shake is avoided. Actually in practise that bonus can rapidly become nullified - add a little spring zephyr to the mix and suddenly movement becomes an artistic must have, with or without the tripod!
Easing swiftly on to my preference...
Shooting fashion was my world for a number of years and even though I used a tripod a lot in the studio, more often than not on location I preferred to hand hold my monster of a medium format camera (GX680). Luckily it has an autowind so cranking to the next frame wasn't a bore, but the freedom to be able to approach all shots by circling the subject to see how the world looked from that perspective was hugely stimulating. Good stuff! And oddly now that I'm shooting my mostly inanimate gorgeous yellow daisy and the like, I feel incredibly fettered when using a tripod. Don't ever let anyone dictate that there is only one proper way (ironically almost always their way - strange...). Discipline is in your approach and consistency of approach rather than just the tools.
There is another factor in the mix - DIGITAL...A little rant last time, a repeat now...Freedom! To me digital spells freedom - access, creativity, lack of stress about mundane matters like money i.e. cost per frame "wasted". If you like to shoot a lot of each view as I do, this would get prohibitive real quick on film. I urge you as a budding or even a relatively experienced photographer to shoot lots - life is too short to stuff a mushroom (if you get that you get my point), and shoot at the highest res possible. I cringe at sad sack stories of the one that got away.
Be disciplined, shoot smart. Make yourself a checklist, mental or written, of things to check and use it every time you go out to shoot. It's the little things...you try explaining to a client that you forgot the charged batteries at the studio or even worse, a whispered aside to assistant "Herm where's the film?" And then even worse the reply "I thought you packed it...." Checklists rule okay!
So to the gorgeous yellow number...Another decision, another choice. Shoot the natural view or create an instant outdoor studio background with flags, fills and scrim. Me, I like the control of creating my own environment as far as possible. I like the deep orange fuzzy card in the background with my model languishing, exotically garbed in yellow organza, in the foreground. Daisy perfection!
Now for some forward planning...don't ever restrict your ability to shoot by not planning ahead. Take a few extras with you...
I grabbed a series of different colored cards before I left, A4 sheets as the work is close and my subjects mostly small, and I cut a slit down the vertical centre line to 1/3 into the page, then carved out a small round hole (a keyhole in effect),a perfect fit around the stem of most flowers, without doing any real damage. Don't worry about the slit, Photoshop will clean that up! For the purists out there sorry if that's cheating in your book, but hey if you've got it, use it, is my feeling.
I also stuck a bit of foil, white card and black card in for good measure. A tiny mobile studio - flag and fill! Do it properly if you're going to do it at all. The foil can be well used to create pattern or glitter on an otherwise dull surface, the white card to fill in the shadow areas and the black card to define edges on white/light subjects. On really bright, sunny days it's worth adding a sheet of scrim to the mix to soften the light over the subject. Diffuse light created by a cloudy day or by a decent piece of scrim is so much easier to work with - color saturation is deep and satisfying without huge loss in shadows or highlights. Be prepared!
Do not rule out the harsh directness of full-on sun. It can be awesome to work in direct sun - huge drama, brilliant glitter. Give yourself a break - luxuriate in choice. Never loose site of the point...GET THE SHOT...the shot that's beautiful enough to grace the wall...any wall!
See the beauty!
Copyright 2005 Patrick Heathcock
About the Author: Sometime commercial photographer London, fulltime flower art photographer and web designer living in the southern semisphere, soaking up the sun. Visit http://www.aflowergallery.com to view the yellow daisy and more!