Flowers have long been a subject of study within the art world and many photographers feature them in their images. Landscapers look for floral details to bring pops of color to their grand landscape images. Portrait photographers often use flowers to set the seasonal tone. Wildlife photographers understand that flowers also provide a food source for insects and birds while providing a nice background for their subjects.
But when was the last time you took a flower, in and of itself, as the full subject of your frame? When did you spend time approaching that flower as you would a landscape or animal subject when looking for compositions? When was the last time you took an hour with a flower?
If you can’t easily answer that question, now is the perfect time to try this photography challenge. Not only will it provide you with something to photograph, but it will have you thinking outside the box in ways that can be used with other subjects. If your pre-COVID-19 compositions were mostly wide angle or telephoto images, this exercise can help you focus on seeing all the details.
are definitely one of the most popular subjects in nature photography. They’ve been photographed with limited depths of field to convey a soft, romantic look. They’ve been photographed with large depths of field to show the abundance of a large group. Sometimes, the sun is included for a more dynamic shot. A vast
array of special effects have been employed to produce some truly stunning imagery. Indeed, flowers have been photographed in every conceivable way imaginable. However, the one way in which I hardly ever see is from the rear. I did a Google search of “Creative Flower Photography,” and out of the 100 or so results, only 2 or 3 photos featured the backside. That’s a shame because so many great opportunities are going unrealized.
Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.
I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.
One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.
Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.
Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.
Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.
I had almost forgotten what it was like to see vibrant colors in my viewfinder. Despite that and a nasty fall on the ice that took me out of commission for several weeks, I still prefer winter over the insufferable dog days of summer. Yet, as this winter–one of the harshest on record–comes to a close, I’m rejoicing along with many others the long-awaited arrival of spring.
One of the first jewels of spring are colorful cherry blossoms. In New York City, the place to go is Cherry Esplanade in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Every April, two rows of Prunus “Kanzan” trees–a gift from the Japanese government after World War I–adorn this area of the garden in a sea of pink. The month-long cherry blossom season known as Hanami ends in a weekend celebration called Sakura Matsuri.Continue reading →
Another rainy night rolls into the early morning hours, and I anticipate the end of the storm as the sunlight begins to break through the clouds. It is about 7:30am and the first glimpse of light beams through the thick blanket above. As it reaches ground level, the light reflects off of the colorful flowers in my garden, creating the most beautiful sparkling bed of jewels. Each time this happens, I am inspired to grab my macro lens and my tripod and head outdoors for a photo shoot.
I have always been fascinated by the magical images that can be created with water drops, reflections and refractions, so a few years ago I began experimenting with different ways of capturing this beauty in my garden or even in my home. The images below demonstrate a few of the techniques that I use for this type of macro photography:
The 7up Technique: For this image I filled a very clean glass with 7up (you can also use plain seltzer water). Then I inserted the pink gerbera flower in it while the bubbles were still very fizzy, and used a tool called the McClamp to hold the flower in place. After a few minutes the bubbles start to settle on the flower. I highly recommend using manual focus for this technique and it is also helpful to use a tripod and cable release to prevent any camera shake. Continue reading →