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Old Mar 25, 2008, 8:25 AM   #1
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Between Eddy's question about shots for PPG and 2many's comment about small DOF focusing with a macro lens (always a frustration), it got me thinking about what makes a really good flower close-up/macro, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill flower picture. Is it sharpness? Is it DOF? Is it lighting? Is it color? Is it shape?

I reached no conclusion last night. In fact, I think I confused myself even more, and decided to offer a couple of examples and ask all of you about some things I've been playing with. I hadn't posted them because I don't think they are exceptional, they are all flawed in some way and I'm not completely satisified with them. All of these were taken with the K10 and the Viv 105 lens. They were all in deep shade and I was playing around using the flash wirelessly - the on-board flash was working at the control but not adding any light to the picture.

These first two were taken with the flash held in different spots. I was thinking that what might make a flower picture really good is a feeling of shape. So often with flash the subject is flattened, and changing the location of the light gives it more molding. The differences between these two pictures is small, but I thought significant. The flaw in them is that the DOF isn't quite big enough (though it isn't horrible and its better in one of the shots).

#1 - more straight on:

#2 - more from the side:

This second two looks more at shape. Both of them got the DOF I wanted - they separate out the closer flower from the one further back. However, while I like the first one with the two flowers, I was somehow disappointed in the second one - thought the bud in focus leading into the OOF flower just didn't work - while I like the symbolism, I thought it got lost in the uninteresting shape of the bud.

#1 - flower and flower:

#2 - Bud and flower:

Here I was trying for a bit of luminescence with the flash. Both pictures are taken with the flash below (I think I was lucky enough to have it actually sitting on the ground, rather than hand-holding it). I think the first one is more successful, but not sure that it really is - the flower almost looks a bit OOF or with camera shake or something. Perhaps the backlighting effect makes it look a little fuzzy.

This second one has the same problem. I can't decide if the strong light is a detraction or not. It's the effect I wanted but I don't think I like it much - should have been diffused more, I think.

I don't think any of these pictures are exceptional at all. The flowers are interesting, but aren't rare - it's just a bush growing on a hillside in the botanical garden, and it isn't labeled what it is. I like the colors and shape of them so I take pictures of them.

So what would separate these shots, which are more than casual shots but not very good, from something exceptional?
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Old Mar 25, 2008, 8:50 AM   #2
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That's a really good question for which I would like to know the answer as well.

I've posed this question on another forum and I'll share the comments I get there with you here.

I just got my 90mm macro lens about 6 weeks ago and the pink flower (my PPG submission) was my first try.

Macro photography is an area for which I aspire to do well.

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 10:12 AM   #3
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I'm not much of a fan of Flash photos as they always seem to look like artificial light was used and control of the over bright light is always a problem. Just my preference and not stating right or wrong here. You hit the nail on the head with your list of factors that go into a good flower macro Harriet. All of them are needed and make up the composition of the shot. Getting all of them to work all at the same time is the key I guess. I also have a preference(personal one again) for flower photos that are not looking down into the guts of the bloom. Too close is as bad as too far away. So distance comes into play as well.

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 11:01 AM   #4
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Hi Harriet - I'm going to suggest a differentapproach at this. Sometimes DOF is not as important as lack of DOF. Some people call it Bohkeh, but I just call it shallow DOF. With that you can control the area of the flower (or bug) you want in sharp focus or that you want to lead the eye to when looking at the picture.

This might be some interesting petals or the stamen of the flower. There is no rule that says the entire flower must be in sharp focus, so use F22 all the time. The problem with this isthe background, which might just be to busy and draw the eye away from the pretty flower or pretty part of the flower.

The other thing I have been guilty of is shooting in full Sun, causing harsh shadows within the flower. This year I have went to a white round 12" diffuser that I can put betweeen the Sun and the flower. You have to be careful, if you don't get all the background in the diffuser, it overpowers the flower with its brightness. Along with this, I have been using a small tripod to get down low andcompose my shot, along with the 2 second timer, that activates the mirror lockup and give me 2 seconds to position my diffuser after I click the shutter. I still use a DL, (no SR) so the tripod helps in others ways too.

I am including a picture of a Prairie Star that I took last weekend. I used f4 and my diffuser. Notice how the shallow DOF draws the attention to the center of the flower and gets rid of a very busy background. At least in my opinion it does, not everyone may like this. Having said all this, often times you want someof the leaves and stems in focus to add to the beauty of the flower. So it's up to the photographer to decide when to use shallow or deep DOF. One thing about photography is there seems to be always room to learn more andtry different things. I'm not surethere is any rule that is not made to be broken, which makes me feel like a kid again- Bruce

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 2:27 PM   #5
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That's a very interesting question. I'll start with a non-technical answer, that works for me. When it comes to photography I mostly try to "capture a moment". What do I mean with that? Think of a certain situation, maybe a year ago. Can you remember every little bit that happened? I can't. Instead of everything there are certain moments that come into my mind. A certain smell, a noise, some pictures. The pictures I am happy with are those, that capture such a moment.

In case of the flower pictures... ask yourself what the special thing is, that you will remember. If you can't do this right away, put your camera aside and just watch the flowers. Walk away and then some hours later tell someone else about those flowers and why they were so special and why he/shy absolutely HAS to come with you and have a look on her/his own.

While you do so, what pictures are you describing? At which points do you say "oh I wish I'd have a photo to show you!"

Go back and try to take these pictures with your camera.

DOF doesn't matter. If you can "transport" that moment, that special "something" of the flower to that person, to the viewer of your photo - then you succeded. Sometimes it's the color, sometimes the structure, some details, the light... you know what I mean. Try to find that special thing, play with it, let it become your model and do your best to capture it technically well.

Hint: The last part usually is the easiest, if you don't believe me - take a technically good photo (sharp, good contrast, good colors). How long did it take you to do so? Now take that picture and crop it, find just the right size and part of the image, maybe rotate it a bit... until composition is just right. How long did THAT take you to do?

My 2 cents,


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Old Mar 25, 2008, 4:34 PM   #6
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Dont ask me, I obviously dont know.
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Old Mar 25, 2008, 5:07 PM   #7
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I'm not sure either, as it takes more than a thousand words to describe a picture. When I like a picture, it's because I think it's good. As easy as that!:-)

Often I like a picture because it shows more, like your second last (which I think is very good). It's not only an Abutilon flower, it's also a flying saucer about to land...

Another example of this was Jim's "Triffid" http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...868001#p868001

Or maybe the picture just shows what you want to show, like thkn777 says.


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Old Mar 25, 2008, 5:22 PM   #8
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I posed this very same question on two other forums.

I'll post the links to the discussions. (I hope they don't mind that here on this forum)



Some good stuff on both.

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 6:19 PM   #9
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Seems to me like everyone who has posted pictures on this thread have answered the question very well!

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 7:16 PM   #10
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Mine never seem to impress me as much as they did when I was looking through the viewfinder
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