July week 4 – Lo, How a Rose is Blooming

Almost every city and town has a “rose garden.”  They seem to attract people of every age, culture. gender and philosophy who admire the beauty of the rose and in them find peace, serenity and joy while walking among them

It seems that most people never grow tired of photographing roses. The gardens also provide a wonderful location to create portraits, wedding images and family photos.  My father who was a portrait and wedding photographer would always take the bride and groom and their party to Central Park Rose Garden in Schenectady, New York.

An overcast day is the perfect time for portraits of people and the roses themselves because the colors are not washed out by the sun and their details are not lost in deep shadows.  Sunshine in the garden will make for very garish, contrasty and harsh images.

Dew Drops on Petals – Ring Light Flash

It is here among the rose’s petals and perfumes that you can practice and perfect practically every type of photography technique:  selective focus, macro, creative, maximum depth-of-field, abstract, portrait…. you name it!  You can even challenge yourself to go into the rose garden with every lens that you have and not return until you have used each one.  Or with a single lens capture multiple angles and vantage points!

I have the tendency of spending a lot of time looking through my lens at the same subject and repeatedly tweaking it by changing the angle slightly, the exposure or the depth-of-field.  Allow yourself the option of working with just one rose for an hour.  Or return to the same rose garden several days in a row before you head off to work or whatever routines fill your day.

Every morning Golden Gate Park was laden with fog and some mornings the fog was so thick that the drizzle and drip of it was making gorgeous water drops on the roses – the kind you cannot reproduce with a spritz bottle. For three mornings I worked exclusively (for an hour) with a 100-400 mm lens and an extension tube.  The tube allows you to move in a little closer than your minimum focusing distance.

Tweaked in Photoshop – Levels and Poster Edges

At 200-400mm your background is rather narrow as opposed to all the clutter you include with a wider angle lens.  Background can make or break your image.  I prefer soft splashes of color for a background.  Position yourself so that other flowers or greens are at certain distances from your subjects (looking especially for colors darker than your subject) and check your depth-of-field.  Too much focus creates too much busyness.

Getting in close to find compositions of just parts or petals of the rose is another way to capture their beauty. If you add flash be careful because the dew drops will reflect the flash,  although you might experiment and see how that can help create an image.

So I return to a beloved 15th century hymn song in my childhood:

  • Es, ist ein’ Ros entsprungen
  • aus einer Wurzel zart,
  • wie uns die Alten sungen:
  • von Jesse kam die Art
  • und hat ein Blümlein bracht
  • mitten im kalten Winter
  • wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Lo, how a rose is blooming – indeed!

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