Monthly Archives March 2012

Earth Laughs in Flowers

So assignment 3 on colour is in—done and dusted—in my tutor’s hands. Relief that I had submitted before I saw this post on Wicked Halo. It would have had me rethinking my whole approach! Together with a series of still-life arrangements reflecting the cycle of life, David LaChapelle has done the seasons—in a fabulous, intricate, colourful way that so appeals. [All images via Wicked Halo]

Painterly effect in some—similar feel to Lynn Collin’s Trespasser series, although much more vivid. Strong colour is part of LaChapelle’s style—in the images I have seen anyway. Inclusion of pop-culture junk allows him to pass comment on society. His images say something—ultimately I would like my images to do so too. I like the concept of still-life, and there seems to be a swing back to it at the moment—series of articles in March BJP—”Art as Object’.

Going to make my first little attempt at basic still-life and story-telling in assignment 4—but much more to come slowly over my studies—not going to take on too much in my first attempt especially since the experience of assignment 3 still lingers. So they will be nothing like this at all—just one doll and a few props! And maybe some smoke too!

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rejects, I have a few…

Wish that I could continue with the song as I describe my progress with assignment three, but unfortunately, that is not the case! Rejects, I have many; but I’m not phased by it at all. This whole assignment has been a learning curve of gargantuan proportions; and there have been days when I have cried—really cried and thought about chucking it all in—and there have been moments when I have been so bloody chuffed with the results, or a breakthrough in understanding the lighting or the gels; that all this stress seems really worthwhile! Do I regret choosing this option? A little in that it has impeded my chronological progress, but other than that, no! Even through the pain.

On reflection, I did push the boat out a little too far—lights, gels, colour, ideas, composition etc. Maybe too much to handle all at once, especially in my first module with the OCA. And I’m worried about running out of time for assessment. Did nothing for the first year—boring story—but that means my two years are up end June! Not sure where that leaves me.

I’ll admit that I have wandered off the path several times, playing with shadows; and a multitude of different gel colours, camera and light settings, which maybe I could have or should have sidestepped. But then I thought ‘b*llocks’ to it and just continued on my merry little way.

Thank you Catherine of In a conversation with you, you mentioned how you used Live View to zoom in and focus manually on macro subjects. I did it today; and it works so fab for me. Okay, it’s a bit of a bind in that I am shooting manual with strobes, so I have to remember to switch to Av to get a decent preview and then switch to Live View, then focus, remember to switch it off and switch back to manual before I shoot. But it is really helping me know that I nailed the focus!! Really grateful for that tip.

Still shooting tethered, which has become more reliable for me—most days! One of the cameras is having hiccups today, but I can work around that little hassle. And have given up entirely on getting a nice yellow background. Still muddy, irrespective of what I do. A challenge to master another time.

My blog is changing slightly. I will still post these sort of comments which are intended for general reading. And of course will still post coursework and assignment images; but have also started filling up my ‘InDesign’ journal far more with little comments which might be too inane or too personal to put up here. Also because of the copyright discussion that has gone on at the OCA forum, I am hesitant to put some of the photographers’ images and my comments here. Thinking I might make passworded pdfs for the research; not too sure?

But, for the record; photographers I have found useful for this assignment are:

  • Imogen Cunningham
  • Mapplethorpe
  • Antonio Gesmundo
  • Karl Blossfeldt
  • Harold Feinstein
  • Ron van Dongen
  • Christopher Beane
  • Kate Breakey
  • James Pitts
  • Isabel Bannerman
  • Joyce Tennerson
  • Harold Davis
  • Sabina Ruber

And here’s one I did earlier—using Live View!

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assignment 3—my take on it

At last, I have the assignment completed. It has taken far too long and I have hesitated and dithered for too long…! This is my reflection directly after completion of the assignment; and before receiving feedback from my tutor.

a bridge too far

On reflection, one of the recurring thoughts I have is that I took on too much. That effectively, I was combining both the colour and lighting assignment; and not getting to grips with either. There were too many factors to consider when I was trying to establish an image. I had to consider the background gel colour; and fiddle with light strengths and aperture to get what I wanted. Then I had to choose the flower and the colour aspect for the subject of the image and try and light that without affecting the background colour.

Depth-of-field and where to focus also became an issue—because I was changing aperture to control colour, but at the same time having to work out where to place the focus within the flower. And I also had to think about composition; and even the feel of the image. And try and tie that back to my big plan—which had fallen apart!  All this in the extremely confined space of a bedroom, and fighting with the computer and the tethering which I insisted on doing.

I had too many balls in the air; and I’m no good at juggling! Often, at least one; or more often, a couple, fell to the floor.

colour strength, aperture and ‘throw-back’

Initially battled extensively with trying to create clean colours for the backgrounds. The first images I took were far too muddy. Found out that my background was not a strong enough grey, so I did change that and had more success. I had to ‘play’ with aperture and light power a fair amount to try and get the correct balance. Mentioned on my blog—post entitled ‘i do feel a fool…’, posted Feb 6; about how I had been shooting with such a small aperture to get more of the content in focus; but had realised that it was also limiting the amount of light and therefore colour that the sensor was capturing.

Also had problems when I increased the power of the backlight because it would throw coloured light all around—the walls in the room had recently been painted bright white—and especially contaminate the foam-core. So there was much ‘fiddling’ with light strength and aperture to get the balance right.

were they too commercial?

Although I am relatively happy with these images, I do worry that they have no place in ‘art’ as such; and are a little too commercial in feel for this course? I am hoping that with assignment 4, I am able to become more experimental and more personal in my images—in that they reflect a sense of me—without being too naïve or simple.

sixteen from 700—the problem that is ‘overkill’

Fear that I had not ‘got the shot’ kept me shooting and shooting. I ended up with 700 images, from which I had to choose only sixteen! Granted not all images had to be assessed, many were just test shots where I was tracking the lighting and colour on the background; and then the foreground. But there were instances where I had six or seven virtually identical images—and wondered why on earth I had done that! A second shot as insurance for technical aspects; or an alternate composition is acceptable; but not willy-nilly repetition.

In previous assignments, I had tended to submit more than was required. Only one bonus submitted in assignment 1; but in assignment 2, I went a little overboard and submitted extras for each of the required criteria. Now, with all these images I have, I found it difficult to say ‘that is the image I’ll submit’. Working through the images, I tried to be as ruthless as possible; tried to work out why one image had more merit than another. By shooting too much, I made so much extra post work for myself.  Will try really hard in assignment 4 not to fall into the same time-consuming trap. Had worked well on that in assignment 1, where I had not gone the machine-gun route; but slipped up this time.

dirty sensor

These close-up shots with solid colours certainly showed where I had been lax in keeping my equipment in top working condition. Dirt on the sensor showed up clearly and necessitated much work in post!  I have now booked my cameras in for a professional clean. Previously I tried it myself, but ended up making the situation worse.

lack of cohesion

The set that I am particularly happy with are those of the tulips. It was not a case of just trying to fulfil the assignment—which I think was happening with many of the other images! When I started this series, I had a definite idea of what I was going to do, and how the four images were going to connect with each other. Again, looking back—maybe I should have been so hellbent on colour and different flowers—but should have taken a step back and seen the whole assignment for what it could be and worked towards that end constructively.

I know now that I would like to start again; and pick maybe only four flower types in total. I still have the dead roses here, and would dearly love to shoot them as another series for this assignment, but I am getting too far behind and too obsessed with this.

shooting tethered

This initially caused me problems because the video I watched online was an old one; and said I needed to set up the Canon Utility first and shoot with that, then use ‘Auto-Import’. This caused me problems because the Canon Utility kept renaming images, so I was having images with the same name each time I started—it did not want to allow me to retain the original filename. Maybe I was doing something wrong. But I was too scared to delete files with the same name; and ended up with many duplicate files.

duplicate files

The issue above was compounded by the fact that I was shooting with two cameras, so duplicate filenames were being generated, even though the files were different. When importing into Lightroom, I unchecked ‘Do not import Suspected Duplicates’; so then had to hand-check the images. And also because of shooting tethered and then transferring to the downstairs machine; I ended up with further duplicate files.

liveview to focus

Catherine gave me this tip for ensuring that my focus was more accurate. It did mean that I had to keep changing the camera from Manual to AV or TV, so that I could access LiveView; and remember to switch it back. But it really helped; and was one of the reasons why I was so much happier with the tulip series. I knew when I had nailed the focus and could move quickly onto the next image.

inspiration vs emulation

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times as I have worked through the images. The worry that I have of actually replicating the work of others. It’s annoying because I feel that those are actually the stronger images, and then I think that it must be because I have no original ideas of my own? First tackled the concept of ‘no original art’ when I commented on the work of Jodi Bieber—Real Beauty campaign at the Figure & Fictions exhibition. But at least she had taken a concept and worked with it, I feel I have just copied others work. Need to know how to recognise an artist’s particular style and possibly draw from that as opposed to creating replicas. Hopefully that skill and understanding will come in time.


I’m relatively happy with some of my images; but the assignment is not as successful as I had hoped. Lighting and gels seemed to become more of the ‘end’ instead of a ‘means to an end’ which is unfortunate. I surprised myself with the fact that I kept going for strong colours and graphic images in my final selection because initially I had reacted aversely to strong colour.

Found a book called ‘Flora Photographica’ by William A. Ewing as I came to the end of this assignment. Wish I had had it when I started, as I think it would have given me a clearer idea at the beginning of the role of flowers in photography; and thus given me more direction.

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tulip series

Here are the final set of images for my assignment on colour— a co-ordinated series of images on tulips…

I have taken too many images; and in all honesty; I’m still inclined to take more before I draw a line in the sand. But I think that if I start to commit, then the process of moving on will become a little easier!

This was one of the last sets of images I shot for this assignment. It was only at this stage that I began to overcome the problems I‘d been encountering with using the gels—controlling the light splaying all over the room; and also getting the strength of the colour created by the gels—to be how I wanted it.

Although I had started off trying to avoid creating only close-ups of flowers; the difficulty with getting the lighted background to hold a consistent spread of colour without dropping off into dirty grey gloom at the edges, was beginning to get to me.

This is not to suggest that doing the close-ups was an easy option, but it was one which allowed me to focus more on the image itself, as opposed to fretting over the spread of light on the background.


There were a number of influences at work in the creation of this series. The starting point was Mapplethorpe with some of his images of single tulips—the red on red background. Also featuring were works by Ron Van Dongen, specifically his colour flora images; and Harold Feinstein’s colourful tulips against black backgrounds.

Ultimately, the strongest influence on the tulips as a series  of images is the colourful pop-art silkscreens of Andy Warhol, although I steered clear of futher post-production manipulation which would have rendered them closer to his work. I am hoping that by looking at the series of four images presented together, the impression is sufficiently reminiscent of his work.

As with the Warhol silkscreens, which were repetitions of the same image, I tried to photograph the same tulip in the same position with the lighting as similar as possible.

I am in two minds as to whether I will show all four exactly as shot; or whether I will flip two horizontally, so that the ‘lean’ of the flowers is to the centre of the quadtych/tetraptych/polyptych.


The tulips were lit from above, which I think is similar to how the Mapplethorpe and the Feinstein tulips were lit. I used a softbox [35x90 cm] with a strip diffuser [15x90 cm] mounted directly above the flower. In hindisght, I wonder whether if I had opted not to use the strip diffuser, I would have got a better wrap of light around the sides of the bud which seem quite dark.

To light the front/underneath, I held a small home-made reflector—crumpled tinfoil—as close to the flower as I possibly could. Below was a large white foam-core board. I had contemplated placing foil or a large Lastolite reflector below to add fill-light; but I was having enough problems with the light from the gel. Thinking about whether I could have used one of the spare reflectors below the flower to help bounce more light? Maybe have some more images to shoot, so I will try and see if that makes a difference.

The background—as with all the images—was lit with a reflector covered with gels from the Lovegrove Collection. What had changed for these images was the positioning of the reflector. Previously the reflector had been placed below—out of sight—and angled up; but I had now raised it and positioned it to the left of the bud, hoping to get more even coverage of colour. There was still fall-off to the right; and this could be corrected in Photoshop by possibly increasing the vignette on the lighter side.


There was minimal post-processing. The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Standard Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

Because I wanted to add some punch to the images, I used the Direct Positive Preset—on the OCA forum, Clive W had given me an explanation on what was a traditional direct positive—and this was the effect I wanted. And added some Clarity (+30] and Vibrance (+25) to further beef it up and get the highly saturated pop-art feel that I wanted from this series of images. I also took the image into Photoshop and touched up some of the scratches on the stalk using Content-Aware Fill and the Patch tool. Finally,  I added a slight vignette in Lightroom.

similar colours

All the colours in this image—red, orange, yellow and green are from the warm side of the colour wheel. With yellow, which is situated half-way between red and green being the pre-dominant colour in the image.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | f/ 6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec

complementary colours

Although the tulip is a very orange-red, I have opted to classify it here as orange. As such, the image primarily contains the two complementary colours—orange and blue—in areas approximating the colour ratio of 1:2.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | f/ 6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec

accent colours

Similar in colours to ‘similar colours’ image in that the colours all still come from the warm side of the colour wheel, the pre-dominance of the dark orange-red in the background and in the tulip, makes the brighter yellow parts of the flower the accent colour of the image.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | f/ 6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec

complementary or contrasting colours

I’m a little unsure as to whether this image is composed of contrasting or complementary colours—is it orange and green or is it red and green?

I made no change to the lighting values, but I may have lowered the overhead light slightly—which would account for the increased highlight at the top of the tulip. Also did I manage to hold the hand-held tin foil reflector closer?

But the colour of the tulip seems to have changed and become more red/magenta than it was in the blue/orange image? Is that because the green light affects the way in which the colour is rendered?

manual | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | f/ 6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec

This is a link to download the post in pdf form—if it works!! BTW—have downsampled the file for quick download, so images might look a bitt naff!

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accent colours (III)

I was beginning to relax into the assignment; and take time to try alternate approaches. In the selected image, my accent colours are the orange of the pollen on the stamens, against the pinks and greens of the rest of the flower.


Continued this break from creating coloured backgrounds; and focused on the colours of the flowers themselves. And took some inspiration from the work of Harold Feinstein, where he captures flowers against black backgrounds with quite directional, painterly  lighting.


To control the light; I opted for a single snoot positioned up and camera-right. Burnt the highlights out and have tried to ‘save’ them in post.

Looking back now at Feinstein’s work; the edges of the light seem softer and more painterly; and I wonder whether he uses a painting with light approach, similar to the video I watched on That would give more control; but would need more attempts. And is something I might contemplate for assignment 4 on lighting.


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Landscape,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’. As the highlights were clipping, I attempted to rescue them—not sure how successful that was—by lowering the Whites’ in Lightroom 4. [‘Recovery’ in Lightroom 3]

manual | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | f/ 5.6 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec


In additional to shots created with coloured and black backgrounds, I also attempted some images of the lily against a white background; but it did not contrast that well; and also the lighting tended to be more of what I normally do—when I spray and pray.

My white backgrounds were not white enough; but have since learned that I should have exposed 1-2 stops more on the background to get that high-key effect. Also maybe if I had changed from the strobe with reflector to a larger softbox, the spread of light on the background would have been better. And if I had changed to white vinyl instead of trying to blowout my granite grey background.

Tried some shots in AV mode; where I used the modelling lamp to light the flower; but still fired the gel. Mixed results, the exposures were so much longer. I upped the ISO to 800; but had the aperture at f22. Don’t ask me why, no logic behind aperture choice. Think that there was just too much going on for me to keep tabs on it all!

Problem I encountered with these long exposures was movement—either from depressing the shutter or my movement on the wooden floor—but the images were not sharp. Changed to pre-focusing; moving to the computer, waiting for the flower to be still and then shooting via Lightroom with better results.

Also tried to cast shadows, similar to some of the Mapplethorpe images that I admire—again limited success—shadows too light and too soft around the edges. Think that could be rectified if the background was closer; and the light further away, so harder.

Know that sometimes I witter on in my work too much. But it is often when looking back at the images; and thinking them through again, that I realise where my major mistakes were—like trying to change the grey background to white, with limited success—when I should just have changed out backgrounds. That would have least have improve my chances of success!

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accent colours (II)

A return here to the more graphic, pop-art point of view with which I was definitely feeling more comfortable. Also the pink/blue or pink/green colour combinations which seemed to appeal to me. Thought that with the pink/green in balance as complementary colours and in areas that were mostly out of focus, the yellow accent colour of the stamens would draw attention.


The close-up of the detail in the flower is a return to the more scientific, architectural approach of Blossfeldt; but I have chosen not to include the whole flower and focus on that central detail.


Still my standard, safe lighting with the Octabox overhead. Was trying to concentrate more on the colour and what I was supposed to be doing in this assignment than fussing with the lighting.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/8 | iso: 100 | 1/160 sec


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Portrait;  Profile—2012 Process and the White Balance remaining “As Shot’. Also had once again to do spot removal in Photoshop; and added some sharpening only to the central part of the flower by using a layer mask on an adjustment layer.

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accent colours (I)

A return to my original concept of blurred images. Hoping there is enough for the flower to be immediately identifiable.


Had initially intended to follow a Mapplethorpe lead again, but my irises looked a little tattered; and any sharp image drew attention to that problem. This was why I opted for the blurred look. I wanted to capture the accents of yellow against the violet of the irises.

Still thinking that blurred abstracts of the flowers are something I would like to investigate at a later stage.


Did not use any strobes for this image. Lit only with the ambient light of the fairly dark room—hence the very long exposure.

aperture priority | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/6.3 | iso: 100 | 6 sec


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Landscape;  Profile—2012 Process and the White Balance remaining “As Shot’. Some spot removal in Photoshop, but think I may need to check that all spots were removed.


Little concerned that the three patches of yellow/orange are distracting? Should I crop at least the top right-hand corner to remove it? Possibly if I had changed my view point slightly when shooting, I could have eliminated it—but it was concentrating on using the curl of the main flower to hide part of the central accent.

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contrasting colours (III)

Possibly opting for the ‘easy’ way out of coping with the coloured backgrounds and the fall-off in colour, I increasingly shot close-ups of the flowers to eliminate as much of the background as possible while still trying to keep a balance between the ideas of colour and composition.


Ron Van Dongen’s flora images against coloured backgrounds were the impetus here. Unlike Mapplethorpe—which is where I started from when looking at images of flowers—Van Dongen’s flower images tend to be more close-ups. Mapplethorpe was a mix of close-ups and ‘in-situ’ still-life—and latter approach was where I kept running into problems with the backgrounds.

the problem with flowers

Was learning fairly quickly that if I was to photograph flowers again, I had to bear two things in mind—the quality and the age of the flowers!

I had been purchasing most of my flowers from a garden centre nearby or M&S/Tesco. And learnt that they were not the ideal source as the flowers often had damage that I could only see when assessing the image. Have made friends with the local florist who will order flowers in for me in future. Secondly, I need to shoot the images as soon as possible. This gerbera was in its third photo-shoot; as was beginning to show wear and tear around the edges.

focal point

Tried not to use a shallow depth-of-field just for the hell of it; but parts of the flower were definitely going to be out of focus. Deciding which part would be in focus took a while. It had to be aesthetically pleasing. Did a series where I started with the front petals in focus and then moved the focus point back through the flower’s centre and then to the back. Having the foremost part of the stamens in focus seemed to make the most sense.

Took me back to one of the initial exercises in the frame where we changed the point of focus.

manual | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 56mm | f/6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/160sec



Still lighting from above with the Octabox. And then played with the positioning of the stripbox [vertical] at camera left. From a series of five, I chose this one because I liked the way the light lit the petals in the left of the image; and also highlighted the stem—the shadows and the highlights giving the image a more three-dimensional feel—in my opinion.


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Landscape,  Profile—2012 Process. Made the background more ‘aqua’ by moving the Aqua and Blue sliders slightly to the left. Also slightly increase the saturation of the orange in the centre of the flower.

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contrasting colours (II)

Unlike my other contrasting colour images—which were rather unnatural or unusual colour combinations, this image of a sunflower was definitely more natural.


No direct photographer influence—more of a commercial, happy, sunny image to welcome the coming of summer.


Found the lighting more difficult here because of how dark the centre of the flower was; and brought the Octabox more to the front and tilted it towards the flower. Still have the second light to the left of the flower, as can be seen by the lighter areas of the leaves.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/6.3 | iso: 100 | 1/200sec


Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Adobe Standard,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

There was a fair amount of post in Photoshop. I cannot call it focus-stacking; but it is a composite of two shots. I did not want the leaves to be in focus; but did want as much of the petals and the flowers centre in focus.

Found this impossible with two shots; so took one where the lower petals were in focus and one where the top part of the centre and upper petals were more in focus; and merged them in Photoshop. Also applied quite heavy sharpening on the flower in Photoshop.

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contrasting colours (I)

Originally intended for the bin! Was horrified by the neon blue reflection into the flower; but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it—in a ‘Day of the Triffids’ kind of way! It’s pretty obvious that at this stage, I still have not got to grips with controlling the coloured light. In fact there were times, when shooting within Lightroom, I would click the button and close my eyes to escape the colour as it bounced.


The reason I kept this image was that in an odd way, it actually tied up with my influence here. I had intentionally set out to ‘mimic’ the close, symmetrical, scientific studies of Karl Blossfeldt; and so the semi sci-fi look of the image with its reflection seemed a bit of a bonus?

I do [did have—that was prior to the loss of both my back-up and images drives on same day]  have another similar composition of the image where I have managed to control/eliminate the blue glow. Not sure if that would be better?

changing attitude to colour

What was also becoming apparent to me, was how my attitude towards colour seemed to be changing. When I first started this module, I reacted negatively to strong colour, preferring the more muted, subtle tones. Yet here I was, trying to create very strong graphic images with vibrant colours. And the reddy-pink/blue combination was becoming a firm favourite.

manual | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70mm | f/16 | iso: 100 | 1/200sec


Similar to the lilies in the vase. Boom overhead with Octabox, Softbox [35x90 cm] camera left with normal diffuser instead of strip; and in a vertical position. Not that adventurous with changing lighting set-ups [yet!]

Placed on white foam-core, which is definitely reflecting light into the flower—except it’s not white light; but the blue emitted by the gel and flying all over the place!

Also the fact that because I was at such a small aperture [f/16], I really had to blow the gelled light to get the strength of colour that I wanted,  which of course made it bounce even more.


Minimal post. A few dust spots removed. The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Portrait,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

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complementary colours (III)

In a macro image, I longer faced the issue of handing the backlight, gels and the myriad problems it caused…


With more than a passing nod to Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia bud images! Once again, I have this conflict about inspiration versus emulation. Hoping that once I submit the assignment, my tutor will give me some clarification on where to draw the line in the sand on this predicament.


Pretty much the same as it has been—with the Octabox overhead; and a fill strip to the side [camera-left]. Think my lighting set-ups were pretty boring, but this was caused by the lack of space—having to have about four foot of dead space between the flower and the backdrop. Although that did not matter in this particular shot.


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as ‘Camera Faithful,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance “As Shot’. The image was slightly under-exposed, so I increased ‘Exposure’, ‘Shadows’ and ‘Whites’ in Lightroom 4.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/8 | iso: 100 | 1/200sec


Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as ‘Camera Standard’,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance “As Shot’. As with the previous image, it was slightly under-exposed, so I increased ‘Exposure’, ‘Shadows’ and ‘Whites’ in Lightroom 4

There was extensive cleaning in Photoshop as I tried to all the dust spots—certainly a very dirty sensor! Have now learned that spots become far more visible when the aperture is small—and the depth-of-field is greater.

manual | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/25 | iso: 100 | 1/200sec

choice of image?

Not sure which of the two will be my final choice. The first is dreamier, more romantic and I like the way the colours of the petals show up. The second is crisper, cleaner and possibly more scientific-looking.

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complementary colours (II)

After my initial setbacks with creating the coloured backgrounds using the gels, this was one of the first images with which I was relatively pleased. I captured two variations of this image—one with the aqua background and one with a blue background which closely matched the colour of the vase.

I had managed to get a fairly even colour behind the flower; but had controlled the power of the backlight so that it did not throw back too much light/colour contamination onto the white foam-core. This had been a frustrating problem in some of my earlier images; and I had to learn to control the strength of the backlight to get the colour I wanted whilst avoiding the problems it caused.


It’s very obvious where my inspiration has come for my images of calla lilies—Mapplethorpe. This is one of the problems that I battle with—as in where does one draw the line between influence/inspiration and emulation. Had a similar problem with an image of a magnolia bud—not yet sure whether I will include that one in this submission.

why this image?

Posting both options here. But the one I think I will submit is the blue/orange/aqua—alongside. The two images prompted much discussion on my blog because I wanted feedback on the background colours. Everyone said the darker blue was the better. Agree in that it complies with the blue/orange ratios; and that it seems a more vibrant image. But I felt that it was too commercial, too one-dimensional somehow; and that the one with the slightly more sombre aqua background had more depth and sense of emotion in it?

manual | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70mm | f/16 | iso: 100 | 1/200sec

And now this morning, I decide to add another option. No post has been done here; I’m just throwing into the ring, walking away and thinking… This is what happens when you overshoot!

technical problems

Learned in post-processing of the problems that one encounters when working with glass. I was aware that I would have reflections and shadows in the vase—and I am accepting them at this stage. I even like the way that the octabox from above causes a shadow on the vase which looks like the petals of a flower.

As for the glaring reflections, possibly after I have worked through assignment four; and tried to put into practise the lessons learned from my planned readings—then maybe I will feel differently about them and feel that I should have done more to eradicate them.

But the problems I had not anticipated, was how quickly glassware attracts dust; and also how much any water spots would show. This required much ‘cleaning’ in post-production.


Lit the scene from above with an Octabox [100cm] located on a boom directly above the vase and shining down. The position was chosen to avoid it affecting the colour of the background by spilling onto it too much. Also had the softbox [35x90 cm] with a Strip Diffuser [15x90 cm] in a horizontal position at camera left. It’s pretty easy to see where they were from the reflections in the vase!

Wonder whether if I had placed the strip box in a vertical position, if the reflection would have been more pleasing? And the vase was placed on white foam-core which would have been reflecting some more light onto the vase and flowers.

The background—as with nearly all the images—was lit with a reflector covered with gels from the Lovegrove Collection hidden behind and below the foam-core.


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Landscape,  Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’. Liked the effect the Landscape profile had on the colour of the flowers—darker, but more vibrant. The image was slightly under-exposed, so I increased both ‘Exposure’ and ‘Whites’ in Lightroom 4. Increased the ‘Saturation’ of f the background slightly and also took its ‘Luminance’ down slightly. There was extensive cleaning in Photoshop as I tried to remove dust and water marks from the glassware!

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complementary colours (I)

An image from my third attempt at this assignment—the first session after my blog post where I explained how badly ‘the wheels had come off‘ for this assignment; and how, I once again, gad to request an extension.


I’m trying here to step back and mimic Mapplethorpe’s approach when he placed flowers in vases and then shot them against a coloured background. Placed the horizontal flower in an attempt to fill the composition better; and also introduce some sense of isolation or loneliness. Not sure if that worked!


Lit the scene from above with an Octabox [100cm] located on a boom directly above the vase and shining down. Also had the softbox [35x90 cm] with a Strip Diffuser [15x90 cm] in a horizontal position just about in front of the bucket. This was because the stems were too dark.

manual | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70mm | f/16 | iso: 100 | 1/200 sec


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Standard;  Profile—2012 Process and the White Balance remaining “As Shot’. Also used Color Efex 4 filter “White Neutralizer’ to get rid of some of the violet that had contaminated the calico board. Did this in Photoshop; and used a mask so that only the board was affected.


Another one of those that I liked initially, and am now not too sure. Because of the problems that I was having with the foam-core reflecting colour, and because I have this ‘rustic’ object as my prop; I thought it would be a good idea to replace the foam-core with a more ‘natural’ calico. But it has not worked that well, it looks pretty flat and dirty. But think I got the ratios fairly close?

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colour harmony (III)

Shot shortly before the tulip series included at the end of this assignment, as I begun to feel more positive about gels. With this flower, I finally got the orange gel under control; and shot a series where I varied the strength of the backlight until I felt that I had matched the colour of the gels as close to the main colour of the flower as was possible [for me].


Most definite influence here were the flowers of Ron Van Dongen. It was only when looking at these that I thought of finding similar colours within the flower and the gels.

100mm f/2.8L Macro | 100.0 mm | iso: 100 | f/6.3 | 1/160 sec


The tulips were lit from with the Octabox angled above and forward to it; with a the Stripbox camera left. I also placed a large Lastolite reflector behind and to the right of the flower to try and bounce some of the light from the strip onto the back of the flower. It might have helped a little to reduce the orange light on the back of the leaf; but the reflection of the orange light is still visible on the leaf. the flower. There is also too much reflection on the flower petals, which was something that I worked on in the tulip series.

The backlight had been raised it and positioned to the left of the bud to help limit the fall-off, although there was still fall-off on the right.


There was minimal post-processing. The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Portrait Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

The orange light had deadened the green of the stem and leaf, so I adjusted the saturation and lightness of the green slightly to get it closer to what it looked like without the colour contamination.

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colour harmony (II)

An image from the first night I shot with gels—the night the wheels came off! I have included it because it is one of my few softer colour shots; and as a reminder that ‘no pain, no gain’ is the truth. How I have sweated through this assignment


Shana Rae is a US-based photographer who creates textures and actions for use with Photoshop. She creates romantic, ‘chocolate-box’ floral images which are then further processed with her actions. I wanted to emulate this approach—but opted not to do the post-processing—hence the choice of soft colours for both the flowers and the gel.


The tulips were lit from with the Octabox angled above and forward to it; and I held a large Lastolite reflector—creating a clamshell effect—to throw light onto the stems of the flowers. The vase was also placed on a white foam-core base which helped reflect light up.

The background—as with nearly all the images—was lit with a reflector covered with gels from the Lovegrove Collection hidden behind and below the foam-core.

100mm f/2.8L Macro | 100.0 mm | iso: 100 | f/14 | 1/160 sec

technical problems
  • There were many at this stage, but the major stumbling blocks were:
  • The background I had was not a strong enough grey to hold the colour of the gel—replaced this.
  • There was not enough space between the flowers and the background, so the spread of light was not sufficient—the room was re-arranged.
  • The colours were muddy—learnt that I needed to open up my aperture to allow more of the light in.
  • Battled with balancing two or more lights—learned to get one light right before looking at the next one.
  • The wheel fell of my boom—never use equipment for the first time when the pressure is on!

There was minimal post-processing. The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Portrait—it helped with the green of the background, without affecting the stems. Profile—2012 Process. With the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

Some Photoshop retouching to repair a couple of broken or torn leaves!

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colour harmony (I)

One of the very first images that I captured for this assignment; before I started on the coloured gel background approach…


When I first started planning for this assignment, I was keen to go down the ‘semi-blurred’ route; and did much research looking at the images of Ori Gersht, Uta Barth, Ken Kosenthal and Bill Jacobsen. [Blog post—search for a theme…. Posted Jan 04, 2012]. But as noted in the post, I finally decided in consultation with my tutor, that this approach might be a little risky, so it was something I opted not to pursue for this assignment.


Lit only with ambient light from the room’s standard light fitting and the modelling light from the little Quadra’s. The room was sealed from external light. Hence the longer exposure as recorded in the metadata underneath the image. Took a few shots, but they were too dark; so I also set the camera to over-expose by 1 stop.

shutter priority | 100mm f/2.8 macro | f/2.8 | iso: 800 | 1/15 sec | +1EV


The images were handled in Adobe Lightroom 4, with Camera Calibration as Landscape—which made the petals more orange.  Profile—2012 Process and the White Balance remaining “As Shot’.

The image was still slightly under-exposed despite my camera EV settings, so I increased the ‘Exposure in Lightroom 4.


I actually liked the image when I first captured it. But looking at it now, I find the green oasis stuff visible in the foreground and the darkness of the grey background distracting for this type of image.

Maybe if I had shot it with a lit white background or diffuser behind it, so that the background was white; and changed my perspective so that the green foreground was not included it would have sorted this type of image more?

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