A Visit To The Flower Cooler

It usually happens every year about this time.  The last of the summer flowers, the sunflowers, have had their days in the sun and  the summer heat has cooked the clouds into oblivion, leaving blown out scenes on the coast and here on the farm. It’s the dog days of August.  Bright, vibrant color takes a vacation and my enthusiasm for photograpy begins to sag.  Then I remember the flower cooler, that cool oasis for color where all the flowers we can’t grow because of the intense heat are imported and stored to await the arrangers..

I’ve never cared for photographing arranged flowers.  I much prefer shooting bunches of them in buckets like these long stem roses above.

The light level in the flower cooler is, as you might guess, quite low and since I don’t like using flash, I had to dial up the ISO and close down the lens.  A tripod was mandatory.

After I fired off maybe a dozen or so shots, I decided to just have a seat in the flower cooler and chill out a bit but for the first time in several days, I was anxious to get home and process my work.  Nothing like a little color to wake up your eyes and your enthusiasm.  Thanks for visiting and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Storms and Sunflowers

The weather gods have not been kind to photography the past two weeks.  Here in souteastern North Carolina,  we’ve had a constant run of storms and torrential rain.  And when the sun did manage to show itself now and then, one had to be mindful not to venture too far off from shelter because it was a good bet that more nasty weather was coming.  I did manage to grab a few Sunflower shots which worked wonders for my cabin fever.  Van Gogh’s seem to be the sunflower of choice in these parts. Probably because they appear to be just about impervious to heat and storms.

I use Spot Metering a lot when photographing Sunflowers.  I take my reading from the center of the target flower.  That was the case in the above shot.  The light pulls the target to the eye and darkens the background.  This is an invaluable technique when the sun is behind your subject thereby putting it into the shadows.

With the contanstly changing light, I was constantly changing my settings.  Back to center weighted metering for the above shot which was with a Nikon D700 and a 60 MM Micro lens. Micro is Nikon Speak for Macro.

As for white balance, my usual practice is to set the camera on Cloudy and leave it.  Since I shoot everything in RAW, I have the option to change the white balance in the RAW Image conversion panel but more often than not, I just leave it on Cloudy. Perhaps the weather will lose its bad attitude by next week.  Thanks for the look and have a good week, rain or shine. See you next time.

The P.G’s Return

A large, showy shrub, the PG Hydrangea was sent to the USA from Japan in 1961.   They thrive in Eastern North Carolina from mid summer through early fall, seemingly immune to the severe weather conditions that usually accompany summers here.  When it comes to hydrangeas, PG’s are the strongest of all.  The huge flower clusters open as pure white blooms from 18 inches long and nearly a foot wide.

The show continues throughout the summer.  In late summer, the cones turn a pretty pink and when Autumn arrives, the blooms morph into a beautiful shade of rust with gray-green leaves.  Easy to grow, PG’s like moist, rich, well drained soil and grow to an average height of six to eight feet. They prefer full sun to partial shade.  Great fun to photograph, they are one of the few blooms that last throughout the summer.  Thanks for the visit and have a great week ahead. See you next time.

“New” Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G VR Lens

It’s  used glass, but in all respects it could be called brand new.  Not a scratch on it.  I bought it from MPB in New York.  I’ve been dealing with them for some time and never been misled.   To each his own but to me, it just seems kinda crazy to spend 16 hundred dollars for a lens when I can pick one up in like new condition for half the price from a reputable dealer. Suffice to say there were no exploding cigars.  I clicked it on my Nikon D750 and screwed on a 67mm uv filter from my collection, and headed for the cut flower beds here on the farm where the pink cone flowers were just coming around.

All shots were hand held with VR (vibration reduction) on.  Camera settings: manual mode, custom white balance.  ISO 400, center weight metering, exposure time 1/500th of a second.  The lens,  which like all of Nikon’s high end glass, is built like a bank vault, was fully extended to 200 mm.

As the light began to break through the clouds, things began getting crowded on the cone flowers and I called it a day.   The 70-200 joins the 18-35 f/3.5-4.5,  24-120mm f/4, the 70-300 mm f4.5-5.6 and the 200-500mm f/5.6 in my camera bag.  The zoom collection is all done…..for now.   Thanks for the look.  See you next time.

Shooting Amaryllis

“Of all the flowering bulbs,” I read online, “the easiest to bring to bloom” is the Amaryllis.  So why in the world was  it so difficult for me to get a decent shot of one.  We’ve grown them seemingly forever here and I’ve always had difficulty coming up with a shot that really catches the eye to the point of perhaps enticing someone to buy one.  It sounds like a “no- brainer”!  An Amaryllis in full bloom is a sight to behold.  Gorgeous flowers, they  really bring a room or a garden to life.  But for some reason, I’ve never been satisfied with my photographs of them.   I’ve done close-ups and macros; I’ve gotten on my back and shot them from underneath; I’ve gotten behind them, over them, by the side of one.  I’ve shot them from every conceivable angle; in morning light, late afternoon light and once even at midday.  Desperate people do desperate things!  Then one of the “Arrangers” here said in passing to me,  “why not shoot a close mass of them, all  growing at different angles from one another but none facing directly into the camera. ”  This was my first attempt.

Of course, the leaf just left of center is a huge distraction but I was close.  I decided to move in tighter and search for a similar view without any leaves nosing into the frame.  I wound up moving around the entire bed but eventually I got what I thought would work.

Even the “Arrangers” who are very prickly about putting flowers “in their proper perspective” approved of this one.   “Worthy of your web site, John, ” said one, adding “perhaps  someone might be moved to buy a print of it.”   Perhaps! Thanks for the look and have a great week ahead. See you next time.

Springtime Blues

The hydrangeas are staging their annual color show.  They run through their color parade quickly;  from a pale to brilliant yellow then to a soft blue ripening to a deep blue.

The color of hydrangeas is determined by the soil.  The more acidic the soil is, the more blue they will become.  This particular hydrangea bed lives under a tribe of tall Lob Lolly Pines which makes for acid soil.

I use spot metering for most of my flower shots, taking the light reading from the flower itself.  It puts the bloom in the spotlight darkening the background.

It takes several days, depending on the light, for the blooms to go all blue and another day or so to reach their prime color which is of couse Deep Blue.  Nikon D700 Camera with a 70-200mm f/4 lens set at 200mm. Thanks for the visit and have a good week ahead.  See you next time. .

A Rush to Bloom

It seemed far too quick. Everything just decided to bloom at once.  It was as though the stage manager for the big spring show just packed up and walked off the job.  Perhaps all the spring bloomers went into a panic after three hard freezes in almost as many days iced the camellia blooms. Whatever, the daffodils, wild dogwoods, pink and red azaleas all decided to come on stage at once, quickly followed it seems, by the white azaleas, rhododendrons and pink dogwoods. Now everything has peaked, the blooms are dropping, and the temperatures are zooming up to near summer territory. The humidity will soon ramp up and before we know it, the high heat of summer will be back.

I know, everything has its time.   Its just that this time around, all the plants got the same wake up call. It was so quick I missed the crab apple blooms. I didn’t even realize it until one of my flickr buddies in Raleigh posted some on his site.  I ran over to the crab apple here on the farm and there were all the blooms on the ground.  I was too late.

But not too late to grab the Rhododendrons which are even now nearing their pink.

I got lucky with the pink dogwoods. They were all in full bloom when I got out to take a look.  It isn’t often that I’ve seen the pinks blooming at the same time as the wild white dogwoods but in this topsy-turvey spring, there they were.

Experience has taught me that photographs of flowers and blooms are a dime a dozen,  and I dare say most people are more turned on to landscapes.  The visitors to my flickr site confirm that. I just love color and something in me demands I give the blooms and flowers their due. I just wish they would space out the big show a bit and stay on stage a little longer. .

An aside about flickr.  The week brought news that the photo sharing site is under new ownership: Smug Mug!  I never thought Yahoo knew exactly what to do with flickr.  They weren’t photo people. Smug Mug is. Perhaps better times are coming.  Thanks for the read and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.