Flower portraits – more than just snap shots

A portrait photographer’s studio set-up usually includes backdrop and lighting elements. The lighting may be flash, large strobes, or reflectors, or a combination of any or all.  The backdrop colour and pattern is selected not so much as a flat surface as it is as a background to flatter the subject seated in the foreground. The lighting separates the subject from the background as well as creating dimension on the subject’s face.

If asked to produce an outdoor portrait an experienced photographer might begin by selecting a neutral background or erecting a backdrop and would use either flash or reflector to light the subject. But if I asked the same photographer to give me a good picture of a plant he/she would likely just kneel down and snap the picture with little thought to background or lighting.

After years of merely kneeling down to document pretty plants I decided that I wanted more. I realized that it was the shapes and plant forms that drew me to gardens and close-up photography, not necessarily any interest in flowers.

During my quest to make my plant and garden photos more than just snap shots I discovered the flower photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. His portraits of flowers are always posed and include the kind of dynamic lighting one would expect in photographs of beautiful people. His spectacular colour images are thoughtful compositions filled with dramatic colours, and his black and white photographs of flowers, like orchids and calla lilies, convey moods that to me reveal more with each viewing.

Unlike Mapplethorpe, I don’t cut flowers from my wife’s or other people’s gardens and move them to a studio setting, yet I still want to control the composition and lighting.

To do that I needed an outdoor setup with a backdrop similar to what I would use in a studio. So I went to a local fabric store and purchased a 2×2 foot piece of black velvet and had loops sewn in each end through which I could insert sharpened dowels. The velvet works perfectly and creates a very matte, black backdrop. I easily move it around and poke the dowels into the ground to position it for blocking the sun or unwanted objects behind my composition.

I sharpened another dowel; but on that I attached a little spring clamp to hold reflectors like white matt board, small mirrors, or the shiny 12×12 inch piece of tin I like to use.  It all depends upon the amount, and quality, of light I want on my small subject.

As with most close-up work one needs a tripod and I have several. My favourite for flower photography, if I don’t have to pack it around, is a Benbo, a unique tripod with a flexible main joint that allows each leg to be independently placed, so the camera can be positioned at almost any angle to the subject.

I can walk into any garden, choose a flower, visualize how I want the composition to be, position the small backdrop, arrange my reflector, set up the tripod, attach the camera, and start making pictures. That all takes time (in an hour I don’t move to very many different subjects) and it is that time-consuming process that helps me think about what I want to accomplish and separates me from the kneeling snap shooters.

The backdrop and reflector does not cost much to make, and are easy and fun to use.

I think for dedicated flower lovers taking the time to create portraits of flowers that convey mood and show a personal connection, will be much more satisfying than photographs that are merely quick records; and I urge readers to consider taking portraits of flowers rather than snapshots.

These are my thoughts for this week.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Email your comments and suggestions to me at emcam@telus.net or phone 250-371-3069.

John Enman owns and operates Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops, selling an interesting selection of used photographic equipment and offers professional wedding and event photography.  Check out www.enmanscamera.com.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

(TNRD Library)
Let the mystery of the Summer Reading Club begin

Are you ready to ‘Crack the Case’ at the Barriere Library?

(Metro Creative photo)
Gardeners of all ages invited to enter 2021 NT Fall Fair contests

The North Thompson Fall Fair Drive Thru scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4,… Continue reading

Milsom Lodge was built in the East Barriere Valley when the Milsom brothers purchased two parcels of land in 1911, DL 2323 and DL2324. (Milsom’s photo)
The Milsom Lodge: The mansion, the ballroom, the history

“At the turn of the century, when so many families were leaving… Continue reading

teaser
Ladies Golf close enough for a cheery wave

A new month - new COVID rules - a new start. For… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read