Botanical Elements is one of my four digital montages currently featured at a group exhibit at the Mitchell Library in New Haven, CT from Feb. 8th – Mar. 31st. Our opening reception was exciting and very well attended. I created all the digital montages specifically for this space because many visitors to the Library are familiar with the Dinosaur sculpture on the front lawn of the Yale Peabody Museum as well as the Handsome Dan sculpture on his own bench near the Yale bookstore. These vertical panoramas are almost four feet high and extremely eye-catching:)
For several years I’ve been thinking about animating flowers against moving water…the digital montage has always fascinated me. Historically, when photographing on location, I stop down the aperture, get close, and isolate the subject against the existing environment. My neighbor has a beautiful plant in bloom right now. However, this project requires a different approach and the challenge increases as the complexity of the flower increases. I have been building a library of my favorite “isolated” flowers and it’s time to include the passion flower. These were made on location and I placed a piece of white paper behind the plant. Next step may well be to ask my neighbor if I can snip one to bring home. To be continued.
About a year ago I met Douglas Dubler who taught a course at the New York Botanical Gardens – abstract floral photography inspired by Georgie O’Keefe. I invited several photo friends to come with me and we all had an amazing learning experience. At the start of this year, with Douglas’s firm encouragement, I finally switched from Lightroom to Capture One and although it took me some time to explore the program at this point I feel competent. My established workflow is to start a new catalog each year and I see no reason to change at this point.
I resist the impulse to use Lightroom for almost everything – now, just to set up & export an html web gallery which is not one of my core skills. As a part-time, non-matriculated grad student at Southern CT State University, we are standardized on Adobe Creative Cloud so it makes sense to continue to be familiar with the program and it’s updates. This semester I will be studying motion. Very exciting!
It seems that lots of folks recommend and feel comfortable working with the program they know, myself included. Over the years, I have worked with private clients who were interested in learning about Lightroom. It’s always a challenge to shift gears and rewarding when the result is worth the effort.
Over the next month, my short-term goal is to set up Capture One Catalogs for each previous year’s photos. I am excited about this new project.
Last week, we watched a MOMA Q&A on Gordon Parks. Have just finished rereading his autobiography, Voices In the Mirror. His body of work is so incredibly relevant right now. His visual art was, is & always will be transcendent.
In his autobiography, Gordon Parks indicates that he did not study photography formally. He spent time getting to know and earning the trust of the people he photographed. He also spent time studying traditional composition in museums. This served him well on future assignments.
I could not put the book down. His descriptions of poverty and racial injustice are searing. To my thinking, he was a creative genius, very nice and brave.
When I get discouraged about the political climate today, just thinking about this American hero brings me joy and fortitude.
Images from a recent trip to the New York Botanical Gardens 2020 Orchid Show…although this approach is relatively new for me, I find the tendency to favor extremely soft focus when making images of this nature. And, yet my eye goes right to the dark image in this mosaic! Perhaps because it lacks color or perhaps because the sense of sharp detail invites closer inspection.
Starting to enjoy working with CaptureOne and can’t wait to do the daily edit:
1. rather intense & subjective color edit of hue & saturation for greens & yellows
2. brought up the shadows & blacks with a modest amount of healing on a layer
3. love luma curve to bring down the hotspots – subtle mask
4. dodged shadows from nikon macro twin flash -subtle mask
5. adjusted program settings of the FOCUS MASK so it was a tad more “generous”. The lip and central column are not on the same plane, so it is necessary to stop down because I prefer both parts, if framed in camera, to be in focus.
The CaptureOne controls are very responsive. Love working with this program…it took me about 7 weeks to start feeling comfortable:)
This paph was in pretty bad shape with brown aging spots around the edges (left only a few to hint at the integrity of this specimen) and tons of microscopic debris which I really dislike…so a roundtrip to to Photoshop was required.
This took tons of work at 200% magnification.
Then, took a shortcut and ran a hi pass PS filter to sharpen up only my favorite parts of the blossom and put another dodge layer to even out the flash shadows a bit more…next visit will adjust the powers setting and try some extra diffusion.
This is the original .nef file w/o any adjustment…can’t believe I have the courage to post this:
First things first…for years I thought this was an orchid although my florist sense saw it as an iris…coincidentally it appears during the Orchid Shows…the plant info folks at the New York Botanical Gardens cleared that up for me lickety split….
and then, attempting to stay on track with my goal to learn how to use CaptureOne…this edit was done start to finish within the program…I was able to use a luma curve adjustment layer to achieve the tonal range in the blue. Having had a chance to peek behind the scenes of recent CaptureOne edits by the awesome Douglas Duber, I was able to sharpen a few areas and easily edit the colors to approach those I wished/remembered, and thus, add more drama and contrast. The controls in this program are very subtle yet powerful. Working with masks is starting to feel comfortable!
However, I am still having a few challenges with the healing adjustments and realize for the short term I may still have to roundtrip to PS to cleanup a few spots. For the sake of transparency…the spots are still here:)
Plan to go back next week and hope it’s still there…
Editing colors is fun and easy in CaptureOne…continually amazed by this program..the readouts are a lifesaver in terms of controlling the tonal range and preparing for a color managed print workflow.
The surface of this Paphiopedelum (far right) is very reflective and very dimensional so it’s always a balance between focus, exposure and need to use natural light. CaptureOne HDR controls are incredibly effective and sensitive. However, the surface of the orchid had many blemishes which required tons of touch up so it made sense to switch to PS for the final edits.
Each flower requires a different approach:)
7 days to go – the reflecting pool inside the NYBG Conservatory…
This room is peaceful and receives lots of natural light. Usually the pink passion flowers bloom late afternoon although I’ve never been able to predict when this will happen so it’s always a wonderful surprise. This year, surprise barely describes the room. The fountain is covered with moss and the water only circulates softly in the pool below. This means there are no bubbles to capture in the dark water below…just a slight sense of aquatic motion. The surface is covered with tiny green and red botanical growth which naturally clump together leaving space for the sky and glass supports to reflect in the water.
I took a photo workshop in Westville, CT this past summer and the leader told me it was best to get it right in camera so I did not have to spend time in Lightroom or Photoshop. Perhaps, she did not understand that I enjoy visiting The New York Botanical Gardens again and again or sometimes what makes one a decent photographer is the desire to improve each work. ..she announced to the group that I was “good photographer”. This did not feel like a compliment..it felt like a “slap” because I pressed my point and she then accused me of “acting like her teenage daughter.”
I always aim to be better and ignored her misguided advice which seemed based on expediency and not the desire to grow and thus, continue to do exactly what I enjoy.
This image is the result and, I can’t wait to go back again.
The color editor in CaptureOne is amazing…was able to isolate and pump up the saturation of the blues and greens.
9 days to go: this image was very challenging. Under macro magnification, the surface of this Phragmipedium has very tiny filaments which attract an incredible amount of debris. Perhaps, it is my background as a floral designer that prompts me to “perfect” the flower in post because it is obviously impossible to do this “in camera” at a highly curated orchid show:)
Additionally, because these orchids are terrestrial they are frequently presented near the ground. This presents another challenge…because any supplemental light will typically bounce off the beautiful, puffy pouch frequently creating a bit of a hot spot.
Knowing this going into selects for post , either I do edit it first or save it for near the last.
Something else really bothers me… the names that are usually placed very near the specimen. And, then there are the plastic clips and blue green supports that often hold the specimen in place.
So there is alot extra to edit. I was able to adjust the exposure, HDR and edit a specific color range, and a heal layer for the first touch up In CaptureOne. As a newbie with this program, still have to work with luma range and that will be the next challenge to tackle. Totally love this program and took the edit as far as possible for me before switching to Photoshop. for the pixel-based touch ups,. etc.
The plan, of course, is to go back down to NYBG soon, when it’s a less crowded than on member’s day and have fun trying several lighting set-ups: one with the R1C1 macro flash, another with a large diffuser on the SB 910 and another with the ISO cranked way up. No tripods allowed!
Naturally, my husband, got a perfect shot of a Paphiopedilum in camera with his iphone. His back faced a wall of windows which provided perfect natural light.