Focus Stacking ‐ Spring Crocus Flowers

a crocus flower - crocus vernus - emerges from the ground in one of the first signs of spring

Crocus vernus
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   A closeup of two Crocus (Crocus vernus) flowers in the backyard last Spring.

   This photograph was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to have a shallow depth of field that would blur the background. Since these flowers were at different heights, having them both in focus was not going to occur along with a shallow depth of field. I might have been able to get these both in focus with an aperture of f/16 or higher, but this would not have the background bokeh effect I was looking for. So this is a blend of two exposures shot at f/2.8 each focusing on the top of one of the flowers. The two exposures were then merged in Photoshop. I like the effect this created, and it shows that a “focus stack” doesn’t have to have everything in focus through the composition.

   More photos of Spring flowers and gardens can be found in my Garden Photos Gallery.

My Top 10 Photos of 2012

   I always find it difficult to narrow down a years worth of photographs into one list of the “best”. It is a good exercise, however, to really sit down and go through your work and determine what images best fit your current vision for your photography. I did this back in 2010 and 2011 as a part of Jim Goldstein’s project and I am please to enter my images again for this years version.

   All of these photographs are available as Fine Art Prints.

   So in no particular order these are the “top” (probably better termed as favourite) photos I have made in 2012.

kalamalka lake provincial park panorama
Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park Spring Panorama

(Coldstream, British Columbia)

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Magnolia Tree in Queen Elizabeth Park

A Star Magnolia tree at in full bloom at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

flowering magnolia tree in queen elizabeth park, vancouver, british columbia

Flowering Magnolia Tree in Queen Elizabeth Park (Purchase)

-click to enlarge-

   On Friday I headed into Vancouver to photograph the Cherry Blossoms blooming this Spring. One of my first stops was Queen Elizabeth Park. I was there just over a month ago when there was still some snow on the ground and the only plants that were showing themselves were a few Snowdrops. Now, however, the gardens are coming to life with many bulbs in bloom and some trees such as Magnolia and Cherry in full bloom. This is a Magnolia Tree just to the north of the Blodel Conservatory. I made this photo from underneath because I liked the contrast of the flowers and the blue sky, and the path was very busy with tourists flooding the park from the parking lot.

   Queen Elizabeth Park is a busy place, but I didn’t expect there to be four tour buses in the parking lot. There were a lot of tourists in the park, which made wide angle shots of some of the Cherry and Magnolia trees impossible. When there are 5-10 tourists climbing the Cherry tree it is hard to get a shot without people in it. I can only imagine what this park is like in the Summer! Next time I go back I will try a time lapse of all the people – that might be interesting.

From Queen Elizabeth Park I headed to Stanley Park to photograph downtown Vancouver during “Blue Hour”. I will be posting some of those images really soon. Stay tuned!

EDIT: I also have a new photograph of this same magnolia tree showing fall colours

First Signs of Spring ‐ Crocus Flowers

a crocus flower - crocus vernus - emerges from the ground in one of the first signs of spring

Crocus vernus

-click to enlarge-

   Lets ignore the fact I had a bit of snow a week ago, yesterday it was +16°C/61°F and felt like Spring. These Crocus flowers (Crocus vernus I believe) in the backyard are helping to convince me that Spring might actually be here. At least it feels closer although today is raining and a bit chilly.

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White Water Lily Flower

rays of sunlight on a white water lily
White Water Lily
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   I made a series of photographs of these water lilies in a backyard pond last year. Many many photographs – so much so that this took me a while to go through and determine which ones I liked the best. This is one of my favourite angles, but was different from others that had nearly identical compositions. The few rays of sunlight that are falling on the flower made all the difference to this particular shot, and images taken immediately before and after did not have the same sort of impact. The great part about this is that I don’t recall noticing the direct sunlight at the time, so this was a happy accident when I was sorting through them later. I am often finding that if I stay with a subject for a while, and shoot a variety of compositions, not only will I find the winning composition, but something unexpected may also occur that changes the impact of the photo. Certainly a case for making more than one photo of a specific subject.

Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Macro

honeybee apis mellifera foraging on a buddleja flower
Nectar Gathering
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   One of the things I love most about macro photography is how a small area of the backyard can suddenly yield almost infinite possibilities with a macro lens. One of my favourite macro subject are bees – and while I have shot a lot of these it can be rather hit and miss. You need a decent shutter speed as these and other insects don’t seem to sit still long while on a flower. To do this I shot at a higher ISO than usual (800 in this case), and at a wide aperture (f/6.3 for a little more DOF than f/2.8) so I could have a high shutter speed. I was also doing this hand held with a 100mm lens with no stabilization, so a shutter speed of 1/100sec would have not turned out well with just the camera shake from my hands (that 1/focal length rule). These guys dart around so much that using a tripod would drive one mad so these settings are important.

   Even with settings like this there is still a lot of trial and error. So I take a lot of shots. This further illustrated to me my need to upgrade from my 2Gb CF cards – they were okay for my 30D but the 7D in RAW mode results in 22-25 megabytes for each photo. Once you start taking something other than landscapes having only 70 exposures available before switching cards is limiting.

Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides)

woodland skipper ochlodes sylvanoides sipping nectar from a lavender flower
Woodland Skipper
(Ochlodes sylvanoides)
-click to enlarge-

  A few years ago I made it my quest to pursue the “perfect” bee on a flower shot. I took hundreds of photos – but my technique and understanding was not (apparently) very good. I wound up with a few keepers but nothing that really made me feel like I nailed it. Having to go through all of those shots burned me out on the idea and while I have shot the occasional bee since, I’ve generally avoided trying again.

  I have a much better understanding of how to shoot this sort of thing now, and inspired by this post by Robin Black, I decided to try again. The lavender flowers in the backyard are somewhat past their prime, but the insects are still all over them collecting nectar. I found this Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides) to be a more interesting subject than the plain honeybees, though the Skippers seem to be a lot more manic in their movements. I am quite happy with this shot, but is it the “perfect” Skipper photo? Not yet!