Tag Archives: gel

How to shoot flowers

A cool way to shoot flowers

red amaryllis speedlight outdoor flower close up photography tungsten white balance cto gel

End of year is flower time. Flowers for New Year, flowers for X-mass, flowers in pots and flowers in boxes. If you like to photograph them it’s a great time. I do.  Great. But how to shoot a picture of a  flower so that it catches the eye? Let’s try a couple of things and find out.

First we need a flower. The nicer the flower the nicer the picture. That’s obvious. I got lucky when guests showed up with a big bunch of deep red Amaryllis flowers. They were big enough to shoot with my 70-300 telezoom lens. Now, what kind of light do we need? Inside the house was too dark to make a nice picture. The sky outside was grey overcast. Better make the photograph outside in this case. Because of the clouds the light was very soft light. That works well for flowers.

red amaryllis speedlight outdoor flower close up photography tungsten white balance cto gel

Now, how about the background? The book sais flowers look nice on black and white backgrounds. But I didn’t have any of those laying around. I had a grey wooden wall outside though. How about a neutral grey then? That will let the green and red pop. So we had a deep red flower, overcast sky and a grey wooden background. I also dialled -1 in the exposure compensation to make the red deeper. The focal length was 200mm and shutter time of 1/2 second. Result: nice photograph, but can we make it more exciting?

Sure, we can.  What if we could turn the grey to blue so that it looks like water? In fact that’s not difficult to do. Just change the white balance setting of the camera to tungsten and everything will turn blue. The texture of the water even look like waves. One slight problem: our red flower will turn blue as well. And that’s not what we want. There’s away to fix that though. We can take an off camera flash and turn it into tungsten light. Simply by taping a CTO gel on it. If our white balance is on tungsten, and we shoot with a tungsten light, we’re back on neutral. Except that our background and will remain nice and blue. By the way, you have to shoot manual at a low shutter speed, so that you catch the day light on our background. And the nicest part is that the flash makes it look that the picture was taken at sunrise, near a lake or so.

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Tajikistan – persimmons covered in snow

Tajikistan – persimmon trees covered in snow

 

persimmon

Snow came early this year in Dushanbe. As I was walking through my garden admiring the white blanket I noticed the snow covered persimmons remaining in the trees. That deserves a picture I thought, and went back inside for my camera. My first shot I took in aperture mode. Let the camera do the thinking and see what comes out. Not bad, but nothing special either. Just another picture of persimmons hanging in the tree.

persimmon

 

Let’s throw some light on this, I figured, and took out a strobe that was still standing in my living room from a previous shoot. First shot, nothing fancy, just pointed the strobe straigth on the persimmons. I mounted a grid of 20 degrees to concentrate the light. Camera put in manual mode, at f16 and a shutter speed of 1/125.  It already looks a bit more interesting, but the f-stop effectively blocked out the daylight and made it look like it was shot at night.

persimmon

 

So for the next picture I reduced the f-stop to 6.3 in order to blend in the daylight. To avoid overexposure I lowered the power on the strobe. Taping some orange gel over the light helped to bring out the soft orange from the persimmons. Now that starts to look like a picture. Nice orange colours almost like there’s a glowing sunset. There wasn’t though. It was a grey overcast day, as you can see in the background. That light is not affected by my gel covered strobe.persimmon

Would be nice if I could get rid of that grey colour. Not that it’s ugly, but it doesn’t help the magic of the moment. Hang on, how about changing white balance? And since I have a very orange gel on my light, turning the white balance to tungsten might just work. Tried it, and it did. The background turned to deep blue, which just works wonders with the saturated orange of the persimmons.

Same persimmons, but with a bit of light and white balance tricks a picture that is just common turns into wow. This picture was made with a strobe, but the same could be done with an off-camera flash. Check out this link for more on colour gels and white balance.

 

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