Creative Garden Photography: Making Great Photos of Flowers, Gardens, Landscapes, and the Beautiful World Around US 1681985616, 9781681985619

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Creative Garden Photography: Making Great Photos of Flowers, Gardens, Landscapes, and the Beautiful World Around US
 1681985616, 9781681985619

Table of contents :
What’s Not to Like about Gardens?
Entering the Garden
Understanding Gardens
André Le Nôtre and the French Garden
Garden Styles
The Backyard as Garden
The Garden as Status
The Importance of Garden Design
Photographing the Garden at Large
Of Light and the Garden
Intensity of Light
Light Direction
Checklist: Finding the Right Position
Understanding Reflectivity
Color and White Balance
Exposure and Light
Key Takeaways about Exposure
Special Times for Lighting
Using a Tripod
Creative Options with Tripods
Anatomy of a Tripod
Tripod Legs
Tripod Heads
Using the Tripod in the Garden
Focus and Depth of Field
Being in Focus
Soft Focus
Camera Position
Tilt-Shift Lenses
Focal Length
Types of Lenses
Focal Length and Depth of Focus
Manual and Autofocus
Depth of Field
Aperture and Depth of Field
Infinity and Hyperfocal Distance
The Garden in Black & White
Converting to Black & White
Extending Dynamic Range
Multi-RAW Processing
High-Dynamic Range (HDR)
Automated HDR
Impressionistic Photography
In-Camera Motion
Subject Motion
Out of Focus
Creative Exposures
In-Camera Multiple Exposures
Gardens of the Mind
Taking the Garden Close-Up and Inside
The Art of Transparency
How Light Box Photography Works
What Kind of Light Box Works Best?
Arranging Flowers on a Light Box
Light Box Photography
Post-Production of High-Key HDR Images
Inversions in Post-Production
Understanding LAB Color
Inverting a White Background to Black
Brightening Images after Inversion
Photography on Black
The Flower as Diva
Low-Key Photography in the Field and Studio
Low-Key HDR Post-Production
Macro Photography
Macro Photography Gear
Macro Lenses
Extension Tubes and Bellows
Close-Up Filters
Focusing Rails
Specialty Gear
Extreme-Macro Lenses
Macro Photography in the Garden
Focus Stacking
Focus Stacking in Photoshop
Photographing Water Drops
Approaching Water Drop Photography
Reflections and Refractions
Spider Web Studio
Photographing Little Critters
Getting Close
Stopping Motion
Focusing and Critters
Auxiliary Lighting
Modifying Light
Macro Lighting Tools
Notes, Resources & Index
Where to Go for More Info
Sensor Size Matters
About EXIF Data
Focal Length
Cameras and Lenses
List of Figures
Locations of Gardens Photographed
Botanical Glossary
Photographic Glossary

Citation preview

Creative Garden Photography Making great photos of flowers, gardens, landscapes, and the beautiful world around us

Harold Davis

Dedication For Julian, Nicholas, Mathew, and Katie.

Creative Garden Photography: Making great photos of flowers, gardens, landscapes, and the beautiful world around us Harold Davis ISBN: 978-1-68198-561-9 1st Edition (1st printing, October 2020) © 2020 Harold Davis All images © Harold Davis Rocky Nook Inc. 1010 B Street, Suite 350 San Rafael, CA 94901 USA Distributed in the UK and Europe by Publishers Group UK Distributed in the U.S. and all other territories by Ingram Publisher Services Library of Congress Control Number: 2019952088 All rights reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or utilized in any form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher. Many of the designations in this book used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks of their respective companies. Where those designations appear in this book, and Rocky Nook was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed in caps or initial caps. All product names and services identified throughout this book are used in editorial fashion only and for the benefit of such companies with no intention of infringement of the trademark. They are not intended to convey endorsement or other affiliation with this book. While reasonable care has been exercised in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein or from the use of the discs or programs that may accompany it. Printed in Korea


What’s Not to Like about Gardens? Entering the Garden Understanding Gardens André Le Nôtre and the French Garden Garden Styles The Backyard as Garden The Garden as Status The Importance of Garden Design Photographing the Garden at Large Of Light and the Garden Intensity of Light Diffusion Light Direction Checklist: Finding the Right Position Understanding Reflectivity Color and White Balance Exposure and Light Key Takeaways about Exposure Special Times for Lighting Using a Tripod Creative Options with Tripods Anatomy of a Tripod Tripod Legs Tripod Heads Using the Tripod in the Garden Focus and Depth of Field

Being in Focus Soft Focus Camera Position Tilt-Shift Lenses Focal Length Types of Lenses Focal Length and Depth of Focus Manual and Autofocus Depth of Field Aperture and Depth of Field Infinity and Hyperfocal Distance The Garden in Black & White Converting to Black & White Extending Dynamic Range Multi-RAW Processing High-Dynamic Range (HDR) Automated HDR Hand-HDR Impressionistic Photography In-Camera Motion Subject Motion Out of Focus Creative Exposures In-Camera Multiple Exposures Gardens of the Mind Taking the Garden Close-Up and Inside The Art of Transparency How Light Box Photography Works What Kind of Light Box Works Best? Arranging Flowers on a Light Box Light Box Photography Post-Production of High-Key HDR Images Inversions in Post-Production

Understanding LAB Color Inverting a White Background to Black Brightening Images after Inversion Photography on Black The Flower as Diva Low-Key Photography in the Field and Studio Low-Key HDR Post-Production Macro Photography Macro Photography Gear Macro Lenses Extension Tubes and Bellows Close-Up Filters Focusing Rails Specialty Gear Extreme-Macro Lenses Macro Photography in the Garden Focus Stacking Focus Stacking in Photoshop Photographing Water Drops Approaching Water Drop Photography Reflections and Refractions Spider Web Studio Photographing Little Critters Getting Close Stopping Motion Focusing and Critters Auxiliary Lighting Modifying Light Macro Lighting Tools Notes, Resources & Index Where to Go for More Info Sensor Size Matters About EXIF Data

Focal Length Cameras and Lenses List of Figures Locations of Gardens Photographed Botanical Glossary Photographic Glossary

What’s Not to Like about Gardens?

“Your land must be a realm of peace and content, and there must gardeners be in high honour.” —J.R.R Tolkein, The Two Towers What’s not to like about gardens? I adore gardens, and I certainly hope you do, too! I also love flowers and beautiful landscapes. The world would be a better place with more beauty, flowers, and gardens. Creative Garden Photography is a book about gardens, flowers, and landscapes and about what makes gardens special and beautiful. It’s also about the photography of gardens. If you like gardens, I hope you’ll also like my photography of the natural world, ranging from the mundane to the grand, and use my book as a kind of armchair traveler might, to enjoy many aspects of the world of nature, from my backyard to France, Japan, and beyond. Just to be clear: Creative Garden Photography is not just about gardens. This is a book focused on the intersection of gardens and all that can be in gardens, as well as photography and photographic techniques. I don’t think considering photography solely as a narrow and technical topic works. You can’t really contemplate garden photography without considering landscapes, lighting, and flower photography; in other words, the whole of photography of the natural world. It is a photographic truism that to really capture the essence of a subject you need to understand it, and why you are photographing in the first place. Putting this another way, I like to say to my workshop students, “Want to take better photos? Stand in front of more interesting things. Want to take really better photos? Become a more interesting person.” In the context of garden photography, becoming a more interesting person means getting a better understanding of what gardens are about, what kinds of gardens there are, where a specific garden fits in this framework, and what the components of a garden are. What makes a garden special? How can the unique sense of an individual place be rendered in imagery? What is the best way to photograph a flower?

Good photography of flowers is predicated on knowledge of light, lighting, photographic technique, and a sense of color theory. It’s also important to know how to use a tripod and how to take advantage of the characteristics of depth of field. Some knowledge of botany can lead to even richer photos. Knowing more about flowers means one can take advantage of the blatant and riotous floral display of color and botanical sexuality to create excitement and feeling in an image that might otherwise seem run of the mill.

Baltazar Chrysanthemum—The Baltazar chrysanthemum is a new hybridized version of the spider chrysanthemum introduced in the Netherlands. This flower was created to travel well and have a long life as a cut flower in a vase, as well as to look spectacular in a garden. I photographed this Baltazar chrysanthemum using a macro lens with a camera facing straight down on the flower blossom on a black velvet background (see pages 272–279 for information on this technique). Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/15 of a second at f/11 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Pretty Pink Peony—I love peonies! When I set out to make a series of macro images showing the centers of a few peonies, I decided to try to emphasize the luscious quality of one of my favorite flower species. Nikon D850, 150mm “Dragonfly” macro, 6 seconds at f/32 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

From the viewpoint of Creative Garden Photography, a garden involves flowers or plants, and perhaps some human cultivation, as these fit into the landscape. A real “gardeny” garden probably means there has been active garden landscape design with the intention of creating specific effects. Usually, but not always, these effects are visual—but there are also gardens primarily designed to attract pollinators, to smell good, for medicinal purposes, and for other non-visual reasons. Personally, I don’t think gardens need to be fancy. Many of the ideas in Creative Garden Photography can be applied to create interesting and compelling imagery in a tumble-down backyard gone to weed and seed. This kind of informal lab for photographic image-making can be more exciting to the photographer than the most hoity-toity, fenced-off-with-boxwood-hedges-and-paths French garden. For photographers, a garden as I’ve defined it allows the development of the technical tools of the craft as well as a deeply honed sense of place that can be taken out to the entire universe of almost all photographic subjects. I’ve written Creative Garden Photography from two perspectives. The first is that to get a really profound image of a flower or a garden, you need to have a true and deep sense in your heart of why the flower or the garden matters, and why you care about

it. In other words, the underlying idea and soul of the garden is important, and how you relate to it is even more important. My photographs of botanicals and gardens in this book, the case studies and stories behind the images, and the meditations and thoughts about gardens generally are intended to help you arrive at your own sense of self and place when you approach the flowers, gardens, and landscapes you’d like to photograph. Creative Garden Photography is also very much about the technique and craft of photography. What are the challenges, techniques, and best practices? What gear do you need? What are the specific issues that come up in flower and garden photography, such as focus, focus stacking, macro work, and lighting? How can creative camera techniques best be deployed in the context of garden and flower photography? If you are interested in gardens and flowers, then take a look at the photos and case studies in Creative Garden Photography. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer of flowers, plants, places, landscapes, and—yes!—gardens, then my hope is you will find the technique sections of Creative Garden Photography enlightening, helpful, and valuable.

Berkeley, California

Park Vista—Just outside Paris, connected to Paris’s urban core via the regional railroad, lies the Parc de Sceaux (pronounced “so”). The Parc de Sceaux is a vast, organized area created by André Le Nôtre. It is not as well known, but just as magnificent as some of Le Nôtre’s other creations such as Versailles and the Tuileries. On a cool spring afternoon, I enjoyed wandering the paths and vistas of the Parc de Sceaux, and stopped to make this inviting image of a park bench beside one of the wide ways. For more about photographing the French style of garden, see pages 26–33. Nikon D300, 22mm, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 3 seconds, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

PHOTO CAPTIONS THROUGH PAGE 17 Cover: Sunflower Panorama—I love sunflowers! They are bright, they are yellow, and they remind me of a sunny day and the colorful paintings of Vincent van Gogh. How can you not feel cheerful when you look at a sunflower? As I made this lively sunflower panorama, I tried to convey the same positive attitude that sunflowers always convey to me. This light-box composition was quite wide, so I shot the left side first, then the right. In order to achieve a wide tonal range, I made six bracketed exposures of each side. Nikon D300, 40mm macro, twelve total exposures, each exposure at f/11 and ISO 100, panorama exposed in two panels, each panel with six exposures, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/13 of a second to 4 seconds, tripod mounted; for more about light box photography, turn to pages 224–257. Front piece: Buddha—The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, displays numerous eclectic Orientalia surrounding a floral hedge garden. It is particularly notable for its portals, openings, and transitions—for example, the round passage to the Buddha statue shown in this photo. Nikon D850, 90mm, 1/400 of a second at f/8 and ISO 64, hand held. Title page: Giverny Afternoon—One of my favorite places in the world are the water lily ponds in Monet’s famous gardens at Giverny, France. Most likely, you are familiar with the way Monet rendered the water in his lily ponds in his famous paintings. I was fortunate enough to photograph the gardens at Giverny in the late afternoon after the crowds had left, and in this image I emphasized the floral aspects of the banks of the water, rather than the pond itself. Nikon D850, 28mm, 1.6 seconds at f/22 and ISO 31, tripod mounted. Copyright page: Sunflower—I spent a wonderful day photographing at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens near Boothbay Harbor, Maine. In midsummer, the garden is filled with an incredible array of flowers. With this image of a sunflower, I intentionally opened my macro lens to its widest aperture to use low depth-of-field to create a soft effect on the petals. Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/250 of a second at f/2.0 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Page 7: Simple Tulip—Part of the point of having a flower garden is to enjoy cut flowers like this tulip placed in a simple vase on a white background. Nikon D810, 55mm Zeiss Otus, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 0.6 to 10 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted. Pages 14–15: Into the Vortex of the Universe—I created this complex and somewhat chaotic composition of flowers on a light box and captured it using the techniques explained starting on page 224. Nikon D800, 55mm Zeiss Otus, seven exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 100, tripod mounted. Opposite: Dandelion in Calvignac—One of my favorite things to do in life is to get down on my belly on a sunny day when there has been mist and dew overnight, and photograph dandelions. I know that to most gardeners dandelions are pests, but the difference between a weed and a flower is surely definitional, and to me dandelions are paradise. There is an innate structure to the dandelion that is surely unequaled in the kingdom of flora. With this dandelion, I woke early before even the croissants had been delivered in the Lot River Valley of Southwestern France. Wandering down towards the river, I came upon this lone dandelion, rasing its head from a dark patch of shade that the sun had not yet found. I underexposed by 2.5 EVs to capture the internal seedpods of the dandelion and also to allow the already dark background to go very dark. Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/13 of a second at f/20 and ISO 200, tripod mounted. For information about the cameras and lenses mentioned in the photo captions in this book, and their relationship to sensor size, see page 352.

Entering the Garden

Ghosts in the Enchanted Garden—In André Le Nôtre’s Parc de Sceaux gardens, the fountains are only turned on for holidays. Consider the incredible engineering feat it was to create this display in the seventeenth century! I photographed the water display in the Parc de Sceaux from the top of the progression of fountains to show the sequential nature. I also used two shutter speeds: one faster, intended to capture the water in motion, and one slower in order to show a smoothing effect on the water in the pools and to capture the reflections. The point of this complicated process was to show both silky slow-motion water along with crisp spray from the fountains. Nikon D800, 70mm, six total exposures; three exposures at f/8 and ISO 320, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/500 to 1/80 of a second; and three additional exposures at f/32 and ISO 50, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/6 of a second to 1.3 seconds; tripod mounted.

Understanding Gardens

gar·den: /'gärd(ə)n/ noun: a piece of ground used to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs, or flowers. verb: cultivate or work in a garden. What is a garden? Although you may feel that you intuitively know a garden when you see one, this is a surprisingly controversial and tricky issue. It is important, though, for one’s overall understanding of the garden. First, let’s pick apart something I just wrote in the previous paragraph that may have gone past you without additional comment. (Oh yes, I can be devious!) I wrote that you likely know a garden when you see one. Surprisingly, this echoes the famous United States Supreme Court dictum regarding obscenity: You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. Be that as it may, the real problem here is with the assumption that gardens are limited to the sense of sight. Gardens can also be felt, smelled, touched, heard, and sensed with one’s eyes closed. Gardens figure largely in humanity’s sense of their own history. It is hard to think about gardens without recalling the travails of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Whatever else may be said about this biblical episode, it is clear that the garden represents a delightful and innocent existence.

Shadow in the Temple Garden—I photographed this rock garden on the grounds of a temple in Kyoto, Japan. You can see the shadow of the temple roof on the left side of the image. Of course, a garden such as this requires constant maintenance over the centuries to keep its form and shapes. This maintenance is itself a kind of statement about the purpose of the garden. The garden demonstrates that the temple is wealthy enough to be able to afford the continuous labor this garden has required over the long years. The ritualized shapes of this garden are intended to echo the visual impact of raindrops on a still pond as the rain begins on a cloudy day. Nikon D800, 48mm, 1/400 of a second at f/14 and ISO 400, hand held.

Hydrangea and Carnation Petals—In my opinion, gardens do not have to be very big. In fact, in the garden I created and photographed in this image, you are looking at an image that is on macro scale. The entire width of this garden, photographed on my light box, is about 3" (roughly 7.5 cm). My idea in creating this image was to convey a sense of happiness. Generally, when I am in a garden I am happy. I believe one of the most important functions of a garden is to make people happy. To visually convey happiness in this image, I contrasted the vivid red carnation petals with the more subdued but beautifully blue hydrangea petals. Nikon D850, Zeiss Makro-Planar 50mm, five exposures at f/22 and ISO 64, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 5 seconds, tripod mounted.

For much of the prehistory of humanity, hunger was a constant companion. Just as the Garden of Eden represents a peaceful and verdant existence without struggle, having the ability to plant and maintain a garden is insurance against hunger, and an important bulwark against starvation. As history progressed from the pre-recorded mythological to the times of the Romans and Greeks, gardens became a status symbol. Moving forward through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to current times, for a society, public gardens represented a surplus of wealth and stability. For wealthy individuals gardens were one way to display status, along with many other status symbols, including in no particular order, large tail fins on cars, the height of towers in a Tuscan city, and the ostentation and display of formal dress. To summarize, gardens are important as a public resource and a place for people to enjoy themselves. Almost as far back as humanity can recall, gardens have also been an important indicator of status. In addition, gardens can and do provide functional purposes, including the growth of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. A striking example of the functional garden is the formalized medicinal garden found in many important Medieval monasteries. But wait! Is this all there is? Gardens are a public joy and a way for rich people to show their visual sensitivity. They are also a place where you find fruit trees and echinacea. Isn’t there more? This is where things get subjective. In the account of a prominent scholar of gardening, a inner-city arrangement of old tires should be considered a garden. Some Japanese Zen gardens are beautifully made of gravel and stone. Is there any limit to what a garden is? If not, what is the point of using the term garden to describe a particular kind of photography? These are great questions. But I don’t want to get us too bogged down in issues of taxonomy. From the point of view of this book, a garden has the following

characteristics: Some form of enclosure or separation from the world at large Human design, planning, and cultivation Most likely, at least some decorative intent Usually, but not always, predominance of botanical items in the design of the garden (the Zen rock garden I just mentioned would be an exception) This is an ad-hoc working definition, but it’s good enough to get started. From the viewpoint of the photographer, the elements that trigger going into “garden photographer mode” start with the enclosure and with the botanical element. To learn to be a good garden photographer, one must train one’s eye to work with the natural and unnatural landscape in enclosed spaces. If you can combine this with spectacular photography of plants and flowers, then you will be well on your way to becoming an accomplished and creative garden photographer.

Cloisters—The Monasterio de la Magdalena is along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail just outside Sarria, Spain. The monastery was built in the twelfth century, about the same time that the town of Sarria was founded. Today, it is used in part as a hostel, or albergue, for pilgrims. I found this beautiful camellia tree blooming in a cloister garden. iPhone 6s, processed in Waterlogue and Image Blender.

André Le Nôtre and the French Garden

His grandfather was in charge of the gardens at the Palais de Tuileries. His father was a gardener for the royal family. His uncle and cousin were gardeners. Born into an important family of gardeners, André Le Nôtre (1613–1700) is one of the best-known garden designers of all time, despite the fact that he left no legacy of writing about his gardens. All we have to understand his work are his gardens. These include most of the major public gardens of France, including Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fontainebleau, Versailles, the Tuileries, and many, many more. Besides gardens in France, Le Nôtre provided the design for Greenwich Park and Windsor Castle in London, and the gardens of the Venaria Reale and Castle of Racconigi in Italy, and he contributed designs for Charlottenburg Palace in Germany.

Bust of André Le Nôtre—In Paris, entering the Tuileries Garden from the Place de la Concorde, a bust of André Le Nôtre occupies a place of honor in a niche on the left, along with a list of many of the gardens he designed. Nikon D850, 40mm, 1/800 of a second at f/8 and ISO 400, hand held.

Along with the garden of Versailles, Le Nôtre also devised the city plan for Versailles, which is a very symmetrical plan with radiating avenues, circles, and broad straight promenades. This design was the inspiration for the L’Enfant plan, the

master design for Washington, D.C., approved by George Washington and created by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French engineer who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. What gave the gardens designed by André Le Nôtre such immense popularity during his lifetime? Why can we immediately recognize a garden that is in whole or in part inspired by the principles of Le Nôtre’s gardens? There are a number of factors at work here. First, it should be said that most of Le Nôtre’s gardens could not be constructed today due to practical considerations of cost and that the land for the garden is already in use. Essentially, Le Nôtre designed gardens for aristocrats for whom cost was no object, and who could sweep any occupants of the desired acreage out of the way by fiat. Did the high-handed way in which Le Nôtre’s gardens were created help lead to the French Revolution? Perhaps, but that is a thesis for another time.

The Road Goes Ever On—Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s chief minister, hired André Le Nôtre to create the gardens for his own Chateau de Sceaux, which is now a large public park on the outskirts of Paris. The Parc de Sceaux features the long, formal geometric promenades typical of Le Nôtre’s designs, shown here in an exercise to capture the vanishing point in a perspective rendition. Nikon D300, 27mm, nine exposures at f/22 and ISO 200, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/50 of a second to 5 seconds, tripod mounted.

In any case, a French garden in the tradition of Le Nôtre can be recognized by its

clear, delineated paths, laid out in a geometric progression. Generally, flower beds are separated in an organized way from other features, such as paths, benches, reflective ponds, and fountains. This style garden is ingrained in our conscious and unconscious idea of “the garden.” Any time you see a suburban house with a boxwood hedge, it is a descendant of the French style of garden that is a separate area apart from the wilderness. Every lawn that is “too-too” neat and tidy owes something to the French garden.

Villandry—The garden of Villandry in the Loire Valley in France is considered by some to be the most beautiful garden in the world. Certainly, although comparatively modern, it is the epitome of the French garden style in the tradition of Le Nôtre. The geometric fantasy of Villandry was created in the early years of the twentieth century by Dr. Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish-born doctor and medical researcher who married an American heiress. Part of the project at Villandry was restoring the chateau, but clearly the heart of the issue was the incredibly complex and organized garden. Nikon D300, 18mm, six exposures at f/22 and ISO 200, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/50 of a second to 1.6 seconds, tripod mounted.

There’s undoubtedly a luxuriant quality to these gardens—which is part of the point. Traditional French gardens are intended to demonstrate the status and prosperity of the owner. Apart from the wealth required to create a garden of this sort, to keep a French garden maintained requires an army of gardeners, such as those who worked for the Le Nôtre family dynasty of head gardeners. It’s also very clear that a Le Nôtre–designed garden is an artificial construct. This is a garden that is not primarily about nature or wilderness. In fact, the French garden makes a point of being distinct from primordial wilderness. A pattern has been placed on top of nature that restricts nature, often using boxwood hedges to delineate lines, and creates a human-imposed regularity on nature. The French garden attempts to demonstrate human control with patterns and lines over the chaos and entropy of nature.

Hedge Maze and Garden—The boxwood hedges in this image create a controlled pattern and are used to delineate both paths and the floral beds. The contrast of the red poppies and blue ground cover with the green of the hedge creates a striking effect when viewed in aggregate from above. Nikon D300, 150mm, 1/15 of a second at f/25 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Luxembourg Gardens—The Jardin du Luxembourg is located in the heart of the 6th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was originated in 1612 by Marie de' Medici for her new home, the Luxembourg Palace. The garden today is owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Luxembourg Palace. With its model sail boats, flower beds, puppet shows, tennis courts, and plenty of good seating, it is dearly beloved by Paris residents and visitors alike. The tree-lined promenade and lawn shown in this image are reminiscent of typical French garden designs. iPhone 5, processed in Plastic Bullet and LoMob.

Tree Line—Looking up at the Le Nôtre–designed Parc de Sceaux, I was struck by the symmetry of the tree lines mirroring a clearing for the path. One of the key characteristics of the French garden is the symmetrical relationships. Many of the trees that you see in a French garden are pollarded, cut back hard to shape them and keep them smaller in size. Pollarding is a gardening technique that has been used since Roman times. It is mentioned in literature dating as far back as the first century BCE. It was late afternoon when I was ready to take this photo. The light was golden and there was a large cloud above the trees, refracting the light and creating the pink haze that you see around the edges. I realized that the way to capture the striking symmetry of this view was to place my camera on the tripod as low to the ground as possible, and use an extreme wide-angle (15mm) viewpoint. Nikon D800, 15mm Zeiss Distagon, 1/30 of a second at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

In the end, at least without a small army of gardeners, entropy wins. The best modern gardens are designed to allow for some of this natural growth. At the same time, some planned areas are also incorporated into contemporary garden design—and for the expectation and practice of geometric layout in garden planning. For this, we are indebted to the legacy of Le Nôtre and the French garden.

PHOTOGRAPHING THE FRENCH GARDEN There are some special considerations when you photograph a garden created and planned in the traditional French manner. Here are some specific things I pay attention to when I am photographing a French

garden. First, the design of these gardens always involves progressions set in a context of a vista with perspective. Good photography in this context involves capturing the way objects on the path of perspective recede in the distance. This usually means working with the camera on a tripod and increasing the depth of field as much as possible. Next, the separation of flower beds into patterns means that it should be possible to capture the specific delineation of a floral pattern into large shapes formed by flowers, colors, and beds, such as a fleur-de-lis, hearts, diamonds, or even a national flag. Finally, part of the point of the French garden is always to impose geometry on a landscape. This means that the overall pattern can only be fully seen and described from a high vista. Almost inevitably, the French garden landscape will provide a perch from which one can obtain this vista with a camera—and my first stop in any French garden is to figure out where the high point is, and to photograph the overall landscape plan. From there, I move on to smaller details that distinguish the garden.

Garden Styles

Nature is beautiful in many of its guises, from untouched mountaintops to coastal beaches and arctic plains. When humans impose their vision upon nature, the results can be stunning and beautiful, although sometimes raw wilderness speaks more to my soul than any cultivated garden. In any case, the taxonomy of garden design has identified a number of garden styles that are typical of specific eras and areas. These include: French gardens: Usually extremely formal and delineated by hedges, paths, and prescribed vistas (see pages 26–33). The French garden style is derived from the gardens of the Italian Renaissance, so might be better called the “Franco-Italian” garden. English gardens: In contrast to the Franco-Italian garden, the English garden is thought to be wild and free and to allow plants to take their natural form and shape. The reality is that classical English gardens are not as wild as all that, and the freedom has its limits. In other words, the English garden is closer to a cottage garden than it is to the wilderness. Japanese gardens: This kind of garden follows a very developed tradition involving aesthetic and philosophic ideas embedded in the Japanese culture. Generally, Japanese gardens avoid excessive ornamentation and include a focus on the natural landscape. Both plants and materials are generally intended to indicate antiquity, to express the ephemerality of life, and to provide fuel for meditation on time’s unstoppable advance. California-style gardens: California design has a very specific look and feel, where gardens are manicured under Monterey pines and run down to a craggy shoreline, occupied by fanatical surfers. Well, you get the idea! If you are a professional garden designer, or even anyone who has planned their own garden, you will know that one of the most important design ingredients is time. Plants and gardens grow and change over time, as they should and is the way of nature. Unfortunately, with the first garden that I planned, I didn’t really give this much thought. So within a few years, my larger specimens were all competing with each

other and the paths had more or less vanished.

Flower and Shadows—Gardens in California often show their warm-weather lineage, with touches of old Mexico, old Spain, and Moorish influence. This means courtyards, stucco white walls, provisions for shade, and the contrast between splashes of color—such as the red-potted impatiens in this image—and otherwise monochromatic exteriors. I photographed the corner of the garden shown in the public area of Blake Garden in Kensington, California. Canon PowerShot G3, 1/20 of a second at f/8, hand held.

On a larger scale than my postage-stamp garden, time has to be accounted for in terms of the life cycle of a garden. Grand public gardens, like those in France, can be replanted seasonally or every few years. This is one way to handle the issue of time. The other approach is to allow for the changes that will take place in the future. An implication of a time-based garden plan is that there is a life cycle. In the early years of a garden, it is like a toddler, still maturing. At a certain point, the garden is mature and at its best. This can last for a number of years. With the arc of time, the garden will go into eclipse and need to be redesigned or replanted. From the viewpoint of photography, understanding where a garden is in its life cycle is one way to capture the garden at its best. I should probably note here the principle that Japanese garden designers term wabi-sabi ( )—that many plants and gardens are most beautiful through their entire life cycle, and as they begin to decay. Obviously, geography, topography, and climate play a big role in garden design. Not only do these factors limit what is possible in a given garden, they also limit what

seems appropriate. For example, I am always irked by the water-intensive lawns of golf courses in the desert. A golf course is a kind of garden, but to heavily water it in an arid climate is, in my opinion, simply insane. Go ahead golfers, flame me, I can take it!

Aisle of Sight—The great central valley of California is dominated by agribusiness farms and is the “bread basket” of the United States. This large-scale farm “dresses up” its entrance with an aisle of mature trees. I stopped in the partial haze of a sunlit windstorm to make the image shown here. The dust kicked up by the windstorm created a wonderful diffuse effect. Nikon D300, 62mm, 1/160 of a second at f/11 and ISO 100, hand held.

Nachi-san—The temple complex at the terminus of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail near the Inland Sea of Japan is a UNESCO World Heritage monument that is the focus of a great deal of religious pilgrimages in Japan. While some pilgrims do it the hard way and walk the ancient stones of the Kumano Kodo over mountain passes and down through deep valleys to arrive in Nachi-san, most visitors arrive on bus tours. While tchotchke stands and other facilities abound for the mostly-Japanese religious tourists, the temple complex at Nachi-san is a serious place with an ancient tradition and heritage, showing its lineage as both a Buddhist shrine and a Shinto temple, both an important part of the official Japanese syncretic religion beginning in the Meiji era. There’s no doubt that the formal, decorative, and just plain elegant aspects of the gardens surrounding the temples, some of which are shown in my photograph along with temple buildings and the sacred Nachi waterfall, are intended to bring these elements in a meditative fashion to the mind of the visiting religious pilgrim. Nikon D800, 40mm, 1/60 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Some plants require a winter with a hard frost; others cannot take too much cold. Climate plays a big role in what can be designed into a garden, and the style of a garden. The specifics of what plants can be grown where is delineated in a number of

classifications well known to gardeners—in the United States, most famously the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone system. Within a given region, even a scheme like the USDA’s zone system may not be precise enough. For example, where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many micro-climates that can vary tremendously even if they are adjacent. They have a few sayings about Bay Area weather: Don’t like it, wait five minutes. Really don’t like it, move over 10 feet. In summary, the best-designed gardens are really appropriate for their geographic, topographic, and climatological environment. A related interesting issue is what kinds of plants to use in one’s garden. Some gardens are based around native plants. The idea of these gardens is that only species that were present before human cultivation should be included. Other garden styles are more eclectic: If it can grow there, it can be included. Overlaying the general principles of garden styles and design, there are many specific kinds of gardens that have their own aesthetic and style orientations. I’ve already mentioned some of these, for example French gardens, Zen rock gardens, and golf courses. Many other single-purpose gardens come to mind. This list includes vegetable gardens, herb and medicinal gardens, and single-species gardens—such as a garden only of orchids or a camellia garden—to name a few.

The Backyard as Garden

I’m a great one for formal gardens just like I enjoy wearing my tuxedo to the opera. Only kidding! But I do like gardens of all sorts, from the public and formal to the highly informal. The thing that’s really interesting is that from a photographer’s viewpoint, a backyard garden need not really be designated as a “garden.” Often, the most interesting things are not the expected ones. So while it is wonderful to photograph a perfect camellia or a perfect rose, it is also very exciting to photograph a plant that is taxonomically categorized as a weed. After all, it is the wise botanical artist who knows that the distinction between flower and weed is somewhat arbitrary, and definitely in the eye of the beholder. The oftmaligned weed can easily surpass in structural interest the more snobbish pedigreed flower. It’s often the case that the shapes on flora that are not generally considered part of a garden—weeds and grasses growing wild, for example—can be more unusual than the standard flower. Photography is above all about light. It has often been pointed out that the word “photography” means “writing with light.” The meanest weed in the shallowest garden can be lit with the most interesting light and sometimes create a more interesting photo than a hoity-toity, sublime orchid captured with high-end studio lighting. If you have some outdoor space attached to your dwelling, and it doesn’t really matter how big the space is, it could be a patio or a postage-stamp-sized plot in a city, there are two directions in which you can use the outdoor space for “garden” photography. I like to think of these as “outside-in” and “inside-out.” Outside-in means bringing your floral subject inside for photography on a light box, on a black background, or using other studio techniques (see pages 224–347). Inside-out means taking indoor plants and moving them outside for a temporary photographic shoot. This can have the advantage that you can easily use high-end macro gear, backgrounds, and lighting equipment in nature. Without the possibility of using your inside-out studio, it can be quite a schlep to get this kind of equipment to a

random outdoor location. See page 285 for more about how to use macro gear in this situation.

Summer Grasses—In the traffic circle outside my front door, weeds grow galore, and when spring turns to summer, the weeds turn a deep California brown. Approaching the weeds, I cut and carefully arranged a few stalks on my light box. To create the image shown here, I inverted the Lightness channel in the image using LAB color, and then converted the entire image to monochrome. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, 1/4 of a second at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Actually, as the narrator says in the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, in the end the infinitesimal can be as large as the infinite. To gain the benefit of the backyard as garden, you don’t really even need a yard or outdoor space. A window box can work very well. So start thinking creatively about how your garden imagery can be enhanced by bringing the outside-in and the inside-out. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A few plants or seeds in a pot can grow into a lovely photographic subject. One of the things I do every spring is replant the pots on my front porch (my porch is shown on page 74). When the weather starts to warm a bit, I go to my local nurseries and look for favorites—usually several kinds of poppies, anemones, and a cone flower or two—and then I also look for something new that I haven’t photographed before or a tiny flower that would add a touch of color to a composition. After a fun

planting session, I then tend my little garden and wait (sometimes impatiently!) for them to grow.

Along the Camino—Along the Camino Portuguese was an old stone wall with a rose trellis. The wall was undoubtedly ancient, the trellis more modern. This beautiful informal garden extended from a nearby cottage right along the edge of the pilgrim path, nestling into an improbable nook in the old fortifications. Nikon D850, 28mm, 1/125 of a second at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

The Garden as Status

Gardens have long been status symbols. The garden at Versailles that André Le Nôtre (see pages 26–33) designed for Louis XIV was part of the Ancien Régime stage play of wealth and power. The point of this kind of over-the-top status symbol is to wow people so that they understand that is is desirable to submit. The good news for us as garden lovers is that status-symbol gardens often start as a declaration of status and change into something like a living museum, sometimes, but not always, following a revolution. In more recent times, wealth and power have become decoupled from public office at least to some degree. Public office holders can be thought of as designees of wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers and DuPonts. The fantastic gardens created by some of these families were originally intended as private preserves. They can be thought of as works of art, just as a billionaire might have a Rembrandt or an Impressionist painting in their home. Over time, many of these gardens have transitioned into the public domain, either in the hands of a public trust, such as a nature conservancy, or via a botanical garden organization which may charge admission. In some cases, prestige gardens have been given to universities to use as teaching gardens for landscape design departments. As someone who loves gardens, I must feel grateful to the need of oligarchs to display their wealth and taste in peacock fashion, because otherwise these gardens probably would have never been made. Isn’t it nice that these people have left these beautiful gardens for us? It’s not only very rich folks that use gardens as a status symbol. In almost any suburb, the lushness of lawn and garden plays an important role in neighborhood reputation. Should a modest neighborhood garden be neglected for a year or two, neighbors and acquaintances will inquire whether anything is wrong, perhaps with concern that area property values will go down.

Garden Mosque—Toward the end of the eighteenth century, in the grand gardens of Europe built by potentates and absolute monarchs, the garden mosque, or “folly,” became trendy. These mosques were not specifically religious edifices, and they may even have been sacrilegious to Islam. The structures often contained highly stylized versions of decorative plaster and tile work reminiscent of Moorish styles. One of the last remaining examples of these decorative garden mosques can be found in Schwetzingen Palace Gardens in Germany. The Schwetzingen mosque was designed by Nicolas de Pigage and finished in 1795, following sixteen years of construction. In addition to the cupola and minaret, the complex includes several large colonnades, a “Turkish” garden, and formal rooms decorated with inscriptions in both German and Arabic. I was privileged to photograph the Schwetzingen Gardens mosque just after sunrise, with the reflection of the mosque appearing in a still, decorative pond. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, 1/4 of a second at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

When I take my first look at a garden and size up how I want to portray it in a photographic image, I try to understand where the garden fits on the status hierarchy. Important public gardens have a different mood and feel than personal, artistic expressions. Versailles is very different from Monet’s Giverny, which Monet created as part of his work process and his art, without any idea that his garden would confer status. Understanding the extent to which status was a primary concern of the garden’s creators helps me delineate the context of photography in the garden. Generally, but not always, the more a garden is about status, the more formal the garden. There are beautiful gardens that were created to confer status and there are

beautiful gardens that have no connection to the concerns of prestige. But having an idea about the intent behind the garden’s design helps me know how to capture the garden’s soul.

Portal—The wonderful Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, is built around sculpture acquired from around the world, creating an eclectic and somewhat oriental effect. The Buddha framed by the round portal was intended to create a vista, as are many of the other sculpture placements in this garden. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was married to financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. In addition to this garden and many other philanthropic works, she was a prominent patron of modern art and donated much of her collection of European modernist paintings to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Nikon D850, 56mm, 1/160 of a second at f/16 and ISO 1250, hand held.

The Importance of Garden Design

Do gardens have to be designed? Or to put this question another way, do gardens have to be designed by human garden designers? This is a surprisingly controversial question. Clearly, according to the Bible, the Garden of Eden was designed independently of man and woman, although arguably for their benefit. Less dogmatically, there’s a clear case to be made that the best gardens are actually not intentionally designed. I completely subscribe to this viewpoint. Some of the places that I view as the most beautiful gardens that I have ever seen are in the wilderness, and untouched by human hands.

Yosemite Snowstorm—I drove down into Yosemite Valley from Crane Flat in a full white-out blizzard, tire chains required, windshield wipers freezing, and huge wet flakes of snow turning visibility to nothing. As I was rounding the bend and beginning the descent into the valley floor, the storm began to lift. I parked and raised my camera to make some images, with the gnarled shapes of the trees in the snow echoing the rock formation in the background. Nikon D70, 52mm, 1/400 of a second at f/11 and ISO 200, hand held.

Flowers at Giverny—In the late afternoon light, the aisles of flower beds under arbors planted in the garden at Giverny looked almost like an Impressionist painting. I put my camera on the tripod, and lowered my ISO to make as long an exposure as possible to amplify this impressionistic effect, by adding a very slight amount of motion blur to the flowers in the foreground. Nikon D850, 122mm, 2 seconds at f/29 and ISO 31, tripod mounted.

I do understand, although I disagree, that many garden devotees feel that intentional design is a prerequisite for a place being a garden. Somewhat oddly, in Japanese gardening, there is usually very much an intentional garden design. However, the point of wabi-sabi in Japanese garden design is largely to mimic the sense of nature performing and time passing on its own without human intervention. The beauty in decay is that these things are created supposedly without human intervention. In any case, most of the gardens that you are likely to photograph have been impacted by intentional design. In a significant way, this echoes photography itself. Photography can well be thought of as applied two-dimensional design: One is creating a visual statement within the constraints and constructs of a horizontal and vertical axis. There are any number of theories—the rule of thirds, entry and exit points from an image, etc.—that purport to provide a recipe for rendering the real world in the two-dimensional design that is a photograph. Similarly, a garden is an act of design, albeit three-dimensional and involving living flora (pace to the Zen rock garden). An important aspect of intentional garden design is to take into account the progression of the garden over seasons and time. So essentially, as a photographer who is design conscious, one is rendering a threedimensional design project and hopefully creating a two-dimensional version. Can the photograph ever exactly replicate the design intentions of the garden? Maybe not. But here we enter a gray and murky area. One of the key issues is what the photographer means to do. Hypothetically, if one is hired by a garden designer with the mandate to create a portfolio photograph, then the photo ought to largely echo the intentions of the designer. This might be somewhat different if the photographer is hired by the wealthy patron who commissioned the garden design. In this case, the point of the photo might be to make the garden look sumptuous, and convey a sense of the status of the garden’s patron (see pages 44–47). For my own part, it is certainly my preference to add my reaction to a garden to the intentions, as I read them, of the garden’s designer. For example, visiting Monet’s garden at Giverny has given me a feeling of intense exaltation. My goal in creating photographs of Giverny is to convey this sense to the viewer. The long and short of it is that the intent of the designer always matters, no matter who he or she is, and no matter how the garden has grown up since the original

plantings. Most garden designers—from the designer of the smallest backyard garden to the royal planner for the largest, most sumptuous palace grounds—creates a garden following a plan, and with something very clear in mind. It’s good to have an understanding of the design idea, but what you do with it is up to you. This will depend on your goals in creating the photograph and what you want to do with the photograph.

Wisteria Gate—On a busy street near where I live in Berkeley, California, I noticed this blue house and gate, leading to a front yard garden. As the cars whizzed by behind me, I stood on the sidewalk looking at the house and was struck by the attractive ironwork on the garden gate. But the overall effect was a little stark. As spring commenced, it became clear that a wisteria vine had been planted to give a splash of purple color and soften an otherwise straightforward exterior. iPhone 6s, processed in Waterlogue and Image Blender.

Photographing the Garden at Large

Grand Canal—The grand garden of the Parc de Sceaux lies just outside the boundaries of Paris, France. Designed by André Le Nôtre (see pages 26–33) for Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, this garden presents the formal symmetries of the French style at its finest. On a gray day, I rode the regional train from downtown Paris to the Parc de Sceaux. Wandering among the mesmerizing reflective canals and ponds, the gray sky began to break up into spectacular cloud formations and I made this image of reflections in the Parc de Sceaux’s Grand Canal. Nikon D800, 15mm Zeiss Distagon, 1/250 of a second at f/13 and ISO 100, hand held.

Of Light and the Garden

It’s a truism of physics that you can’t photograph an actual object. As odd as this may sound—and I know some folks will go, “say, what?”—I will repeat that it isn’t possible to photograph subject matter itself, only light transmitted or reflected by an object that is the photographic subject. As counterintuitive as this seems, it is absolutely true, and worth repeating: If light is not being emitted or reflected, there is nothing to photograph. The implication is that if one is photographing emitted or reflected light, one needs to pay particular attention to that light, perhaps even more so than the object that is doing the reflection or transmission. It is usually pretty obvious when you are photographing emitted light, such as that emitted by a bare light bulb. It’s not as common to photograph emitted light as reflected light, because not that many objects actually emit light, and when they do, they are often not very attractive. We don’t usually make photographs of our flashlight beams or strobes, or looking directly into the sun. While a given photo may have some emitted light in it, the vast bulk of photographic compositions deal with reflected light.

Road Less Traveled—This image shows two entrances to the Green Dragon Temple, which is nestled in a valley just to the north of California’s Marin Headlands. On my way out, leaving the monastery and gardens, I turned around and saw the split in the road. The coastal fog cover acted as a diffuser and created a wonderful quality of light, which helps to make this photograph special. Nikon D300, 60mm, 1/160 of a second at f/6.3 and ISO 200, hand held.

Dawn in the Flower Forest—I watched the way the early morning sun hit this miniature jade flower in my garden over a period of days, waiting for the time when the sun would selectively hit the petals, but not the background of the garden. Finally the time was right and I lay on my belly with my coffee mug beside me. I was careful to use a telephoto lens that provided me with the additional stability of vibration reduction. The difference between the intensity of the brightly lit jade petals and the dark background of the garden is what makes this image striking. Nikon D300, 200mm, 12mm extension tube, +4 close-up filter, 1/400 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Most elements found in a garden do not emit light. The sun itself is the exception that proves the rule. Therefore, understanding the characteristics of reflected light when photographing in a garden is crucial. As I’ve noted a few times, light can be either emitted or reflected. In addition, from the photographer’s viewpoint, the following characteristics of light are important: Intensity—This is how strong the light is. Diffusion—How hard or soft the light is. Direction—Is the light coming from behind, to the side, or in front of the camera? Does it fall on the subject or is it coming from behind the subject? Color—The color of light is measured in degrees Kelvin and refers to where the light falls on the blue to red spectrum. Five characteristics—reflectivity, intensity, diffusion, direction, and color—are generally grouped together to form the loosely defined and subjective term, the quality of light. When I am analyzing a potential photographic subject—such as a flower or in the garden—besides the quality of light, I am also concerned with whether: My intentions are to create a dark or light image. Transparency plays a role in the image. Strong shadows are involved. I have pre-visualized the image in color or black and white. Before I get bogged down in the weeds of light and lighting, so to speak, I do want to say that the first thing I do when I visit a new garden with my camera is to check out the position and strength of the sun, and the weather conditions, such as the extent of cloud cover. From a practical point of view, the role of clouds and the sun in field garden photography is incredibly important.

Often I like to photograph in gardens with some kind of fog or cloud cover. The diffusion of light that this creates is ideal for warm-toned, romantic images with just a hint of softness. If I am photographing on a full-on sunny day, often I am very aware that the lighting will be best in the late afternoon or the early morning (see pages 92–95).

INTENSITY OF LIGHT From the viewpoint of understanding light, intensity is perhaps the easiest concept. Intensity of light refers to the strength of the light. This is something that can be measured by a light meter, such as the one in your camera. The strength of the light, as measured by your camera’s light meter, is a great starting place for understanding how to set your exposure in a given situation (see pages 85–91 for more about exposure). Figure 1. Effective light intensity (side lighting)

*Light falloff subject to the inverse-square law.

It is worth noting that for a photographer, effective light intensity means that, in addition to the strength of the light, you need to consider: The distance the emitting light source is from the subject. The distance that the subject—which is presumably reflecting light—is from the camera.

To make this a bit more concrete, when photographing a flower in sunlight, you are not actually concerned with the light intensity of the sun as if you were right next to it. (If you were next to the sun, you would be crisped.) You are concerned with the light intensity of the sun as diluted by the distance to the flower. Note that in the real world, dilution of intensity will also occur due to cloud cover, atmosphere, and other factors.

Poppy Snake—This Papaver rhoeas seedpod was backlit by the early morning sun. I exposed for the hairs on the poppy, which are brighter than the shadowed pod itself by several f-stops. The light from the translucent hairs is reflected toward the camera very differently than the light from the seedpod in shadow, and it is this contrast that in part gives this image its punch. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 1/400 of a second at f/11 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Not only is the emitted light diluted by the distance from the sun (the emitting light source) to the subject, the intensity of the light is further diminished by the distance from the flower (the photographic subject and reflective source) to the camera. This relationship is shown in the context of side lighting in Figure 1 on page 60, with the emitted light called “Distance 1,” and the distance from the camera to the subject labeled “Distance 2.” The physics of this are pretty simple, and it is a visual relationship that photographers can intuitively understand.

It should also be pointed out that each transmission of light is inevitably subject to the inverse-square law. In the context of the sun as the light source (Distance 1), from the photographer’s viewpoint, the inverse-square law is essentially irrelevant due to the intensity of the sun and the vast distances of solar space. Where this matters practically is when the light travels from the reflecting subject to the camera (Distance 2). The fact that the intensity of light over this short distance is subject to the inverse-square law implies that bringing the camera closer to the light-emitting or -reflecting subject increases the intensity of light more than you’d expect as you shorten the distance. Conversely, moving the camera away from the subject significantly reduces the intensity of light. If you are interested in the technicalities, the inverse-square law falloff is quadratic, not exponential as is commonly (but incorrectly) written.

Pilea ovalis and Annona muricata—I made this photo in a University of Heidelberg botanical garden greenhouse, where the light was extremely soft and diffused due to the glass panels on the greenhouse roof. The intensity of the light was uniform across almost the entire subject matter. However, the coloration on the individual leaves and the areas in shadow are hardly uniform. So the interest in this composition comes from the variation in intensity caused by differences in reflectivity of specific areas in the subject matter (the leaves), and how these differences are rendered as a pattern in the final result. Nikon D800, 85mm Nikkor tilt-shift macro, 15 seconds at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Cactus Flower—Some kinds of cactus rarely flower. In fact, with a number of species, the efflorescence happens only once every hundred years. So I was very excited to learn that a cactus of this sort had gone into bloom in the parking lot of a neighborhood shopping center. I rushed up with a full complement of macro lenses and hoped to use my tripod. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing so heavily that tripod use was out of the question. Boosting my ISO slightly (to ISO 200), I noted that the white of the cactus flower was reflecting and emitting a great deal of light while the stamen were relatively dark. I made the decision to allow the stamen to silhouette and go dark, and expose for the much brighter blossom, which led to a very fast shutter speed (1/8000 of a second). Focusing on the stamen created a soft effect in the overall blossom with the lens wide open at f/2.8. I returned to the location later the same day with the hope that the wind had died down so I could use my tripod. Alas, the blossom had come and gone, and was no more for perhaps a century. The moral: Carpe diem! And make the best photo you can with the conditions you have. Nikon D850, 150mm Irix macro, 1/8000 of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Bear in mind that light intensity has significant implications for exposure (see pages 85–91), but it is never, or very rarely, of a single piece. The intensity of light that is reflected by a subject almost always varies considerably across a photographic subject depending upon many factors, including the reflectivity of the individual parts of the subject (some leaves are simply more reflective than others), and the nature of the light that is being reflected (dappled sunlight is inherently irregular). It is relatively rare to have a photographic subject with uniform light intensity. While this may be the goal in some studio photography, such as when photographing a product, it is almost never the idea in garden photography. In fact, the power and beauty of garden and floral imagery usually comes from the variety of intensities of light in the image. We all know the power of dappled sunlight to evoke wonderful sunny days, and the sense of a single beam of light passing through tree tops to a leafy forest floor. The goal of creative garden photography is to make use of these variations in light intensity, and not to try to deny that they exist.

DIFFUSION Diffusion refers to how harsh or soft the light is. This is a qualitative measure that is often fairly obvious from a visual point of view. For example, in the photography studio there are many light modifiers, such as umbrellas, soft boxes, and grids. The point of these modifiers is primarily to soften direct, harsh light. Hard light can be thought of as coming directly from a stark source, such as a strong light bulb or the sun. Soft light is diffused, in the studio using a modifier and outdoors or in a garden with fog or a cloud cover. It is worth noting that the act of diffusing light cuts down on the intensity of the light. For example, you could create a diffuse effect by placing something over the camera

lens. In the past, this has been accomplished with Vaseline, or somewhat more racily, a ladies’ stocking. The point of the exercise is to create a soft and gentle lighting effect. A side effect and consequence is also to cut down on the overall intensity of light hitting the camera.

Forest Sonata—Waking up before sunrise in Yosemite Valley, California, the world seemed cold and gray with a dense fog in the air. I threw on my clothes, made a quick cup of coffee on my camp stove, and grabbed my camera. At first, the scene was colorless. But as the sun rose and the air started to warm, brilliant shafts of light made their way through the atmosphere. The point of this image is to show the contrast between the diffused rays of light and the bright sun. By the way, this kind of light ray that is created by moisture in the atmosphere is called “crepuscular.” Nikon D300, 32mm, 1/500 of a second at f/5 and ISO 100, hand held.

If you put a modifier over the camera lens, then the entire image is modified. However, in the field it is often the case that an image can have different degrees of diffusion. In other words, the photograph can be both hard and soft; for example, when rays of the sun are making their way through early morning fog. Some of the best landscape images are made using the inherent drama in this contrast.

LIGHT DIRECTION In any situation, one of the first things I take note of is the direction of the light. For example, it is difficult to make a good portrait, or image of nature, with the camera pointed directly into the light—with some notable exceptions in backlit photography proving the rule. One of the most crucial properties of light is its direction in relationship to your subject and your camera. To keep things simple, when people discuss the direction of light, they generally describe how the light strikes the subject, not the direction of light in relation to the camera. Of course, if you know the direction of light relative to the subject, and you understand the reflectivity (see page 79), then you will have a very good notion about the direction of light related to the camera as well (this is making the usually valid assumption that the subject is a reflective light source and is not emitting light). Light that hits an object on its front is called front lighting (Figure 2, upper right). Figure 2. Front lighting

Figure 3. Side lighting

Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden—In the famous tea gardens in Golden Gate State Park, San

Francisco, California, I photographed the stylized, arched footbridge with the front light coming from behind the camera and creating a pleasing reflection in the pond. Nikon D300, 14mm, 1/200 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Light that comes in from the sides is called side lighting (Figure 3, page 68). There is really no clear delineation for when lighting that is basically front lighting becomes side lighting—and a great many photographic subjects involve both front and side lighting. Nevertheless, it is vitally important to get a sense of the predominant lighting because this will help you make a better photo, and also understand how best to expose it. In some situations, overall lighting is so general that there is really no clear sense of light direction. This can be the case when there is overall cloud cover, often very desirable in garden photography. This kind of overall lighting is often referred to as ambient light.

Japanese Bridge, Schwetzingen Garden—I was fortunate enough to get access to the gardens of Schwetzingen Palace, near Heidelberg, Germany, before sunrise. The exact story of obtaining this access is complex and involves good friends, a secret gate with a special key, a social networking club, and a case of designer beer. In any case, it was truly a privilege wandering these luscious gardens with my camera in the predawn darkness. Gradually, it began to get lighter. As the sun came up, I made my way to the canal and this Japanese bridge. With the bridge backlit by the rising sun, I made this capture with my camera on the tripod. Nikon D850, 116mm, 15 seconds at f/36 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Ambient lighting may not present an obvious sense of directional clarity, but it is important to take the time to examine it closely. While the direction of light may not be obvious, within the ambient light you can usually find various light directions, sources of illumination, and faint shadows. Ambient light is often far more complex than it initially appears. In garden photography, and when photographing close-ups in the garden, overall ambient lighting can be best of all. An idea is to start with overall ambient lighting, and add some form of additional lighting to emphasize a portion of the subject matter. This can be done using a reflector, a fixed light, or a strobe (see pages 340–347 for more about artificial lighting). Backlighting comes from behind the subject (Figure 4, right). In theory, if the subject is opaque, this would mean that there is no light reflected from the front surface of the object, which is the plane you would be photographing. Think of it this way: A solid black object lit only from behind will not be illuminated on the unlit front side unless light is reflected into the unlit black front areas by some other light source. In other words, backlighting should be regarded as a special situation requiring special techniques—one that I happen to use a lot in my work. The special situations where backlighting works well are: With translucent subjects such as flowers on a light box when the idea is to create the illusion of partial transparency (see pages 224–257). There is an interesting interaction between the edges of the object and backlighting. The photo Poppy Snake on page 61 is a good example where the primary subject of the photo is the backlight hitting the edges of an otherwise dark subject. The primary intention is to create an image showing a silhouette. This often works best in black-and-white photography (see pages 158–167).

Figure 4. Backlighting

Garden Shrine—If your gardening shed is like mine, mostly there are some tools in it, maybe a little organic fertilizer, and a bag of mulch in the corner. But not all gardening sheds are the same. The shed in the gardens of the Green Dragon Temple near the Marin Headlands, California, also serve as a shrine and have a niche with a Buddha that is lit from the top, often with beautiful glowing light as shown in this image.

Nikon D850, 40mm, 1/25 of a second at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Home—Home, they say, is where the heart is. In my case, it is also where the garden is. Fortunately, in California something is in bloom almost anytime in the year, and it is easy to keep a garden looking attractive. The photo to the left shows the front entrance to our house on a bright, overcast day with diffuse lighting. They don’t know it yet, but some of the flowers growing in the pots are my photo “models” to be. iPhone 6s, processed in Waterlogue and Image Blender.

CHECKLIST: FINDING THE RIGHT POSITION What is the first thing you do when you see a new photographic scene? Maybe you’ve just entered a garden. If you’re like me, perhaps you take a deep breath of the garden fragrance, note the wind direction, and check the overall surroundings for the kinds of light you may be dealing with. Ambient light under a diffuse sky calls for very different techniques and makes very different images than harsh, strongly directional light. Probably this issue of the overall kind of lighting is the most important pre-check you can make before a garden photography session. But it’s also a very good idea to align the lighting with a quick take on the garden style and how you want to position yourself in it. In this regard, I suggest you ask the following questions, which you may want to

modify to suit yourself, to combine a sense of lighting with the topography and layout of the garden: What kind of garden is it? Take a look at the section about “Garden Styles” starting on page 34 to get some ideas about possible categories. What’s the overall lighting situation? Is this a cloudy day good for floral portraits, or a day in which you will take advantage of directional lighting and shadows? Can you identify an overall high point in the garden where you can get a vista of the garden as a whole? If there is a high rock or balcony, head up there before you even take out your camera. What is the organizing structure of the garden? How does the light direction relate to this structure? Is the garden organized around axes, as is the case with many French gardens? If so, how does the light direction compare with the directionality of the axes? Identify portals in the garden. The most important portal is the main entrance to the garden. In addition, many gardens have internal portals. Portals and the paths leading up to and away from them are extremely important in garden design and garden photography. When you’ve identified a portal, make a point of understanding how the directionality of light relates to the positioning of the portal. This list of questions can be used as a kind of checklist to provide a good starting point for thinking about light and particularly about light direction in relationship to a garden.

Private Garden, Camden, Maine—This extraordinary backyard garden bears the same relationship to a normal postage-stamp backyard garden (such as my own) that an ocean does to a pond. Designed from the ground up, with terraforming created out of abandoned rocks, it is a true artistic expression. I have visited this garden a number of times, initially to scout for a visit with a workshop class of mine. When you enter a garden such as this, which was clearly sumptuous but with the design ideas and plan unknown, the photographer’s task is to quickly understand the gist of the place, and the overall design theme that makes it work. It was clear to me that the arbor, shown in this image, was a key element in the organization of the garden, and right away I set up my tripod to include it in an initial image. Nikon D810, 28mm, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Keep in mind that your answers to the questions on this list will change. One of the great things about natural light is that it is almost never the same twice. The complex relationship of light to a garden is always in flux. It is well said that the only thing constant is change. As I photograph a garden, I make sure to revisit the interplay between light and the design of the garden. That way, I can use the specific, wonderful features of a garden, and photograph it at its best in light that is constantly changing.

Reflections on a Maine Pond—Standing on a flat rock in this isolated Maine lake, for a brief moment the wind died down and the water was still enough to create a perfect reflective surface. I ignored the whirring clouds of mosquitoes and with my camera on the tripod, made a series of exposures to extend the dynamic range of the resulting image (see pages 169–191). If you analyze the path of light in this image, what is happening is that the light emitted from the late afternoon sky is striking the trees in the forest, which emits the light back at the angle of reflection onto the water. Since the mirrored surface is almost perfectly reflective, the camera picks up both the primary light reflection (the forest) and the secondary light (the reflection emitted by the forest in the water) as very comparable in tonality and sharpness. Nikon D810, 38mm, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/2 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

UNDERSTANDING REFLECTIVITY The Fundamental Law of Reflection states that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection, as shown in Figure 5 on page 80. The Fundamental Law of Reflection tells you most of what there is to know about how reflection works from a theoretical viewpoint. What the law doesn’t explicitly state can be deduced from it. Another way of putting the Fundamental Law of Reflection is that the angle of light shining on an object determines the angle at which that light will leave the object. The kind of reflection will, of course, depend on the characteristics of the lighting and the surface doing the reflection. Reflections that are diffuse don’t change much in brightness when you shift your angle of view. However, reflections that are caused by direct lighting are close to a mirror image of the light source that made them, and vary from bright to nonexistent depending upon the camera’s angle of view. For example, a completely white card produces diffuse reflections, and the light is reflected diffusely in almost all directions from the white card. However, a good mirror produces direct reflections. Therefore, a camera positioned at the angle of incidence will see a clear version of the reflected light source, while a camera located away from the angle of incidence will not see the light source at all. In a great deal of photography outdoors, the subject matter—which, as already noted, can only be light!—is given and cannot vary at a specific time and position. A singular exception to this has to do with the angle of reflectivity. Not only will slight movements in camera position change the reflectivity of incoming light, but there is also a tool designed to do this, providing the light is bouncing off the subject within a specific angular range. This tool is the polarizing filter (“polarizer”), which will literally change the angle of reflection. Polarizers work best with side lighting at approximately 35–45 degrees, but can work in other situations as well. The polarizer is one filter I always carry in my kit because the effect is almost impossible to

recreate in post-production. Figure 5. Fundamental Law of Reflection

COLOR AND WHITE BALANCE The color of light is a very important part of our perception of light quality. There is no doubt that for some people a bluish fluorescent light, which may be ecologically sound, correlates to a depressing environment. Conversely, the warm light of a sunset coming into the fire-lit room of a cozy mountain cabin almost always invokes feelings of happiness and contentment. So, the color of light is clearly important to the emotional reaction of most people to imagery; therefore, the photographer must learn to take the color of the light into account when creating an image. If you want to make people unhappy, show them an image of drab soldiers in bluish light. If you want to make them happy, show them something beautiful in warm lighting.

Orchid Water Drop—To make this image of a water drop on a cymbidium orchid, I used a single macro flash unit attached to the end of my lens and hand held another macro flash unit. When you use a light source such as a flash to illuminate the subject, the light emitted by the artificial source (the flash) replaces what might have been emitted by the natural ambient light, and is emitted as a reflection by the object being photographed (the flower inside the water drop). With this image, you can see light reflected by my second hand-held flash unit: it is the hot-spot on the middle left of the water drop. Nikon D70, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 1/60 of a second at an effective aperture of f/45 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Technically speaking, the color of light is measured as temperature on the Kelvin scale. But from the photographer’s viewpoint, it’s not clear that there’s a great need to go into the technicalities of how the Kelvin temperature scale works, other than to know that there is a range from warm to cool. You can set the reaction of your camera to the color temperature using Auto White Balance, which allows the camera to automatically detect the color temperature of the incoming light. Alternatively, there are sometimes specific reasons for dialing in a generalized white balance setting—for example, daylight—or a specific setting in degrees kelvin. Note that white balance settings are completely adjustable after the fact in post-production, provided you’ve made your capture as a RAW file. When you make a capture as a JPEG, it is harder (but not impossible) to change the white balance after the fact. There are a fair amount of details involved in technical production of an image that is expected to reproduce light neutrally. For example, if you are a photographer on assignment charged with creating a lifelike reproduction of the Mona Lisa, then you need to be very careful about measuring and controlling white balance. The purpose of this is to make sure that the color in your image capture and subsequent reproductions are true to life. My thinking with a garden scene is that essentially there is no “true to life”—or, in a day with quickly passing shadows and shafts of light, the scene is constantly in change. If you try to chase “true to life” in the vibrant outdoors, you will never get an image because nature refuses to be pinned down. I am more interested in the emotional resonance of the light at the time I make an image, and I do make a point of observing this in terms of where the light falls on the white balance scale from warm to cool. Sometimes I even jot it down in a small notebook. When I come back to an image in the post-production process, I try to recall the emotional pull of the light at the time the photo was made, and often recreate this effect in post. Special times of day lead to special kinds of light. There’s a differential in the color

temperature of sunlight at sunrise and sunset. For more about this important topic, see pages 92–95.

Intricate Detail of Nature’s Perfection—I woke up before sunrise. The world was in darkness and I could sense a heavy morning mist lying on the fields. Throwing on my clothes and grabbing my camera, I headed out. As the sun began to rise, I traversed an entire field covered in dew. Each tiny water drop on this dandelion began to glow with inner colors as the light of the rising sun was reflected and refracted in the drops. I got down on my belly, lowered my tripod as far as it would go, and photographed the colorful water drops against the backdrop of the still-dark field that the sun had not yet reached. Nikon D200, 105mm macro, 36mm extension tube, +4 close-up filter, 0.3 seconds at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Jasmine’s Shadow—Much of the poetry of natural life revolves around the sun. Yes, literally our Earth is revolving around the sun, and so are we, all of the time. Our light when we are in nature is also provided by the sun, and it is at its most dramatic when it comes upon us with the rising of the sun or when it fails us at the setting of the sun. With this extreme close-up of a jasmine blossom, the rising sun creates the internal glow at the core of the flower, the general lowlying backlight, and the dark shadow of the flower. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 1/40 of a second at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

EXPOSURE AND LIGHT Some people are fixated on sports. Others enjoy playing the stock market. But if you are like me, I am constantly fixated on exposure. Watching exposure values even when I don’t have my camera with me is a true passion. When you make an exposure, light enters the camera’s lens and hits the sensor. The camera translates this incoming light into a software file that can be viewed or printed. If the exposure settings are wrong, the resulting photo may be ruined. Letting in too much light can cause an all-white overexposed photo with no detail. Too little light can cause a black underexposed photo, also with no detail. Between complete overexposure and complete underexposure lies the terrain of the workable image. A workable image involves a two-step dance: The settings in the camera balance the light coming in. Theoretically, a correct (also called a proper) exposure exactly balances the incoming light. This is sometimes called the exposure equation, because the light coming in to hit the sensor is exactly the light expected by the exposure settings. The exposure settings themselves—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—make up the exposure from the camera-side of this exposure equation. The three exposure settings are often represented as a triangle, as shown in Figure 6 below. There are two things to observe here. The first is that to keep an exposure constant, if you change one of the settings in the exposure triangle, you have to adjust another one of the settings in the opposite direction to compensate. The other important observation is that a correct exposure as measured by the light meter in your camera is often not the exposure that will provide a good photo. The correct exposure is only the starting place and is best used as a springboard for your creative exposures. Figure 6. The exposure triangle

Torre do Río—On a bend in the Río Umia, in a forested area near Caldas de Reis thermal resort in Galicia, Spain, the Torre do Río is a fantastic boutique hotel created from an abandoned early industrial–era factory. The Río Umia runs around this property as well as through it, in a waterfall that served as power for the original purpose of the building and now feeds the swimming pool. The gardens of the Torre do Río are many, varied, and mostly feature views of the river below. Wandering the stairs and bridges of this fantastic fairy land, I tried to capture a view that gave a sense of the overall scope and scale of the place. I needed to find a viewpoint that had some uniformity of exposure values, and the view back toward the main building from a footbridge over the river was just right. Nikon D850, 44mm, five exposures taken at shutter speeds ranging from 1/4 of a second to 2.5 seconds, each exposure at f/29 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

I recommend taking your camera off Auto exposure and learning to set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO manually. At the very least, it is worth setting these controls manually until you have a good intuitive sense of what they can do for you. After aperture and shutter speed have become your good friends, if you prefer to go back to Auto or Aperture preferred metering, then be my guest, so long as you know what the creative controls can do for you. You could write a whole book about what each of the exposure controls can do for you creatively. But let’s at least take a quick look. Aperture: Setting the aperture determines the size of the opening that lets light in through the lens to the camera’s sensor. The primary creative impact of the aperture setting is on depth of field. Depth of field controls how much of an image is in focus from back to front. The smaller the opening in the lens, the more depth of field you have. Somewhat confusingly, aperture is denoted using an f-number usually written f/fnumber—for example, f/16. The larger the f-number, the smaller the opening, and the smaller the f-number the larger the opening in the lens. See pages 134–141 for more information about aperture and depth of field. Shutter Speed: Despite the name, shutter speed is actually not a speed. Rather, it controls the duration of time that the shutter is open; in other words, the length of time during which light can hit the sensor. Provided you remember to think of shutter speed as actually a duration of time, you will find this setting easy to work with. It’s intuitively clear that shorter durations of time will freeze motion, and longer durations of time cause motion to blur. This is the key creative property of the shutter speed setting: A short duration of time, such a 1/1000 of a second, will freeze motion, while a far longer duration of time, such as 30 seconds, will cause something in motion, such as clouds and moving water, to blur. ISO: ISO measures the sensitivity to light of the sensor. It is the least useful of the

exposure settings from a creative viewpoint. But you should know about it because it can be used to balance the other two settings in the exposure triangle. The higher the ISO, the more noise in the resulting image. This is dependent on your camera, and up-to-date cameras have less noise at all ISOs, but you do need to keep this setting within reasonable limits. For example, with my Nikon D850, if I don’t want to see any visible noise in the final image when it is blown up large, I need to keep my ISO below about ISO 500. For lower noise, it’s best to use a camera at its “native” ISO; for the D850, the native ISO is 64.

Arbor at Giverny—It has been one of my great pleasures in life to pay multiple visits to Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s famous gardens at Giverny, France. The gardens are bisected into two parts. When Monet created the gardens, a railroad track separated the two parts. Today, the railroad has been replaced by a road. An underground passage connects the lower part of the garden, which is centered around the famous lily ponds, with the upper gardens, consisting of more conventional flower beds. To create the lily ponds, Monet damned the local river, which led to a series of conflicts with local farmers. As I approached this wonderful watery environment, I tried to experiment with giving emphasis to the appearance of the ponds themselves. To emphasize this, I increased the shutter speed as much as possible by lowering the ISO in the camera (to ISO 31). Lowering the ISO meant that I could increase another leg of the exposure triangle (the shutter speed). Nikon D850, 78mm, five exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 0.3 to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/29 and ISO 31, tripod mounted.

Shukubo Ekoin—Mount Koya in Japan, the center of Shingon Buddhism, is part religious destination and part resort town. The general effect is something like a cross between Arlington National Cemetery, Westminster Abbey, and a resort town. There are more than 100 temples and monasteries in the town. I stayed in the guesthouse for one of these monasteries. This style guesthouse is called a Shukubo, and it is part youth hostel, part resort hotel, with everyone sleeping on the floor in rooms divided by paper screen partitions. There are guided meditations morning and night, a pre-dawn fire service, and attractive gardens. When I got to Koya-san, it was autumn and a cold rain was falling. The trick for me was staying warm. Paper walls don’t make for great insulation and the only warmth came from small kerosene heaters. In the late afternoon, there was a break in the weather. While it was still wet outside, I was able to take advantage of the protection of a covered walkway to get out my camera and tripod and photograph one of the interior monastery courtyard gardens. Nikon D800, 28mm, three exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 0.3 to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

KEY TAKEAWAYS ABOUT EXPOSURE Your camera will generally give you a correct, or “proper,” exposure. But the correct exposure is not the one to use in many creative situations. It is just the starting place. Exposure controls, particularly aperture and shutter speed, are crucial to creative photography. You should get to know how these controls work —and, most important—what they can do for you and your work as a garden photographer. The exposure histogram displayed by your camera includes valuable information about your photography. You can learn more about exposure histograms starting on page 245. Understanding your camera controls is one thing. Understanding the theory of exposure is something else. When you understand both the theory and the implementation in your specific camera, you will be able to master the art of making creative exposures.

Special Times for Lighting

I have often joked that landscape photographers need to be sentient and aware around sunrise and sunset. Otherwise, we could spend the entire middle of the day and not miss too much. This, of course, is not entirely fair. Depending on the kind of weather, bright overcast in the middle of the day can create great diffuse lighting for garden photography. Nevertheless, photographers need to be particularly conscious of the light early and late in the day. With sunrise, as dawn commences, light turns an attractive shade of blue. As the day progresses, light becomes golden. Finally, the sun comes up. Things stay golden for a little, and then become the bright full-on sun that we know.

Towers of San Gimignano—As I have noted, some gardens are built as status symbols (see pages 44–47). At other times and places, status has been measured by camels, carpets, or the length of the tail fin on one’s car. In San Gimignano in Tuscany, Italy, status for minor nobility depended on the height of the towers that they built, although by statute toward the end of the medieval period, towers were limited to the height of the Palazzo Comunale (its tower was roughly 230 feet tall). Many of the seventy-two historical towers in San Gimignano are still standing. On the late afternoon of a rainy day in Tuscany, I found myself on a hillside vineyard overlooking San Gimignano. As it became clear that there might be a break in the clouds, I raced into the old medieval town and found a high perch where I made this image showing battlements, a cloistered garden, and the sunset clouds heavy with rain. Nikon D810, 28mm, eight exposures taken at shutter speeds ranging from 1/125 of a second to 4/5 of a second, each exposure at f/8 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Solar Flare—The sun was setting quickly as I wandered with my camera. I framed some decorative grass and focused close with my macro lens wide open (at f/2.8) to make the setting sun large and magnificent in the image. Nikon D850, 85mm Lensbaby Velvet macro, 1/8000 of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Sunset reverses this process. As the sun begins to set, colors become saturated, and light becomes golden. Light stays golden shortly after the sun goes down, and then turns a wonderful opalescent blue. Eventually, everything becomes dark. Of course, this picture of lighting will vary depending upon many things including place, time of year, and cloud cover. The sunset progression is, in fact, longer than the

sunrise progression. This lighting is so special that we have names for it: blue hour and golden hour. Both times and kinds of lighting are worth paying special attention to. In particular, blue hour in the evening lasts far longer from the camera’s viewpoint than is apparent to our naked eyes. The rubber meets the road when the photographer combines awareness of the special times of lighting with the ability to positionally track a photographic subject. Some of this can be seat-of-the-pants: One observes the light changing for sunrise or sunset and gets to a place that would be great for a photograph under the observed conditions. But there’s also a lot to be said for planning. Apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) and PhotoPills can tell you not only when blue hour and golden hour will occur at a given location, but also how sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset will track against a given photographic subject. Both TPE and PhotoPills are available as apps for the iPhone or Android; TPE is also available on the desktop. Ansel Adams famously said that if you don’t go out when the weather is rotten, you will never capture a clearing storm. So, yes, the other special factor that is important to keep track of in creating good landscape and garden photography is the interaction of the weather with the lighting. When I see storm clouds at sunset or sunrise, particularly when these clouds are moving swiftly, I think of the situation as “zero or hero.” All too likely, the clouds and storm will sock back in, and hurrying to a great photographic location will yield me nothing more than sodden rain gear. But good photography takes patience! Sometimes—often enough to keep me out in the rain—the clouds break at just the right moment and then the combination of special lighting and dramatic weather can produce glorious imagery.

Using a Tripod

If I had a nickel for every time a student in one of my workshops complained about their rickety tripod, well, I’d have a lot of nickels! Seriously folks, a tripod is one of the most important pieces of photographic gear, and a good one will help you to avoid frustration and will last almost indefinitely. It makes sense to buy a good tripod in the first place. I can’t emphasize this enough. I could tell you stories about people whose gear has been destroyed or damaged due to inadequate tripods. Also, the same students who give me the nickel’s-worth complaints about tripods, all too often go up a ladder of inadequacy: They learn pretty quickly that the first tripod won’t do. Next, they get one at intermediate cost that will almost do. Finally, after three or four pathetic tripods, they bite the bullet and buy the one they should have gotten in the first place—a tripod that will be their creative partner over the years. It actually baffles me as to why folks who are willing to spend a lot for the latest camera gadgets are reluctant to pay the relatively modest sums for a quality tripod. Next time you are wandering in a garden and see some poor photographer schlepping around a case or backpack full of gear as well as a tripod, and wonder why they are bothering with the tripod, since you can get perfectly good selfies without a tripod, there are a few things to keep in mind. One is that a tripod is absolutely needed in many situations, particularly in low-light conditions, if you would like tack-sharp photos. In this regard, let’s digress and talk a little about shutter speeds (see page 88). Some macho photographers have exaggerated notions of how long they can hold a camera steady. When you are speaking of steady in the context of a really sharp photo, it means really steady. I’ve had guys—and it usually is guys—inform me that they can hand hold at a full-second exposure duration. I may nod, but in truth this is highly unlikely, along with a flat Earth and the existence of the Yeti.

Anthers in Love—This extreme close-up of the interior of an Asiatic lily required a tripod for sure, not only because of the length of the exposure (20 seconds), but also because of the magnification of the macro. The higher the magnification of the macro, the more even slight vibrations impact the sharpness of the resulting image. Incidentally, this is a related effect to use of a telephoto lens: The more magnification of a distant subject, the greater the impact of even slight camera motion. To make this image, I used a telephoto macro lens (the Nikkor 200mm f/4). This lens features a tripod collar, so the lens collar can be mounted on a quick-release plate that attaches to the tripod. This brings the center of balance of the entire rig forward, and adds to the stability. With any macro lens that is longer than normal focal length, you should see if a tripod collar is available— particularly one that already provides the correct footing for the plate on your tripod head. Nikon D850, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 20 seconds at an effective aperture of f/40 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Chez Monet—I used a tripod to line up this photograph of the main entrance to Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s house from his garden at Giverny. I made a number of exposures at different shutter speeds to extend the dynamic range of the image. Using a tripod meant that I knew the exposures would be in alignment. In post-production, I combined the exposures in Photoshop. Ever wonder why this somewhat odd shade of green became the signature color for Monet’s garden at Giverny? Me, too! My fantasy is that when Monet was rehabbing the place, Jacques the local hardware guy said, “Claude, baby, I can get you a great deal, wholesale, on lots of cans of this very special green. . . .” Nikon D300, 17mm, seven exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

It’s true that critical sharpness, and the unsharpness that may result from slight camera motion, isn’t really visible on Instagram, and isn’t apparent until you do a high magnification, either on a monitor or in a print. But if this kind of critical sharpness is the desired goal, my opinion is that the longest duration hand-held exposure threshold should be about 1/250 of a second. Keep in mind that image stabilization technology, sometimes called vibration reduction, can extend the viability of hand holding, perhaps by as much as two or three stops, so to 1/30 or 1/60 of a second. Note that not all cameras and lenses are equipped with this technology and that results can vary. The variability of image stabilization leads to manufacturers’ suggestions of over-shooting by a factor of three or four if you are relying on it, so that at least one of the exposures will be sharp. But even if you can take advantage of image stabalilzation, in the dark corners of a garden or if the light gets golden after the sun sets, if you want to stop your lens down for increased depth of field (see pages 113 and 134–141), at a reasonable ISO, you won’t be able to achieve shutter speeds remotely like 1/30 of a second (1 second is more like it). The upshot of all this is that for many kinds of dim or low-light photography in a garden, a tripod is an absolute necessity.

CREATIVE OPTIONS WITH TRIPODS The kicker is that there’s a completely different point to carrying a tripod in garden photography that has nothing to do with capturing low-light subjects. In fact, it’s hard to think of a tool that gives you more creative options that cannot otherwise be achieved than a tripod. These include: Technical light box work (see pages 242–249) Dark-background photography where the subject, such as a single flower, is isolated High-dynamic-range imagery using multiple aligned photos (see pages

179–191) Incorporating multiple focus points in a single image Focus stacking (see pages 303–309) Extreme macro photography, such as photographing water drops (see pages 310–323) Creative exposures, including rendering subjects that move in attractive ways (see pages 198–199)

ANATOMY OF A TRIPOD Tripods are made of a number of materials, including aluminum and other metals. But the best by far is carbon fiber, made from graphite fibers. It is the same material that is used in high-tech windmills, spacecraft heat shields, and artificial limbs. Carbon fiber is lightweight and very strong. It also will not conduct temperatures, a significant advantage if you photograph outdoors in the winter. The only real disadvantage that I can think of is that it is an expensive material.

Seiganto-ji Pagoda at Nachi-san—The three-story Seiganto-ji pagoda is part of the Kumano Sanzen Temple complex at the end of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail in Japan. This is a very special place for nature worship, going back millennia because of the proximity to Nachi Falls, shown at the right of the photo. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is hard to photograph without many religious pilgrims in the frame.

I put my camera on the tripod, and used a neutral density filter to make a very long exposure (360 seconds) that blurred the water and made sure that anyone moving through the frame would not be visible as part of the image. Nikon D800, 135mm, 10x neutral density filter, 6 minutes at f/29 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Here are the four tripods that I use in garden photography, from left to right: A: Heavy-duty tripod that can be used in the studio or field. The is the Really Right Stuff (RRS) TFC-34L with carbon fiber legs and a load-bearing capacity of around 80 lbs. (35 kg). The head is an RRS ball head BH-55 with a load capacity of 50 lbs. (23 kg). The tripod is equipped with a center column controlled with a collar. This is a great heavy-duty tripod, but it is heavier than I would like to carry around unless I am headed someplace in a car. B: Travelling RRS TFC-24 with three legs, no center column, and an extreme lightweight BH30 ball head. This ball head has a carrying capacity of about 15 lbs. (6.8 kg). I use this tripod when I am carrying my camera gear on my back, as the total weight is roughly a manageable 4 lbs. (1.8 kg). The downside to this tripod is that the maximum height is about 60 inches (152 cm). C: This is an older tripod that I still like to use. It is equipped with Gitzo carbon fiber legs and a central column that is ratcheted with a crank lever. The ball head is a Kirk Enterprises BH3. The tripod and head combination are fairly lightweight but significantly heavier than the travelling RRS TFC-24, although it does have a higher reach. D: This is a Kirk Enterprises Mighty Low Boy MLB-1 with aluminum legs, re-engineered from a Manfrotto tripod, and designed to be used low or flush to the ground. The ball head is from Acratech. In the studio, a tripod of this form factor can be used for tabletop work. In the field, this kind of tripod lets you make photographs from an unusual close-to-the-ground viewpoint.

A tripod, as you might expect, consists of legs and a tripod head. The head comes equipped with a bracket socket, intended as a quick-release mount for the camera. While there are some manufacturers who do their own thing, the vast bulk of tripod heads are standardized to use the Arca-Swiss bracketing system (this standard is by no means limited to this one manufacturer). Every camera, or lens with a footing, that will be mounted on a tripod head with a bracket needs a mounting plate to match. The mounting plate gets attached to the tripod screw hole on the bottom of the camera. There are two kinds of quick-release mechanisms with different strengths and weaknesses. You should evaluate which you prefer before you purchase a tripod head. A spring-loaded mechanism is quicker to clamp and unclamp, and you can be more quickly certain that it is truly locked in place. A screw mechanism (which is my preference) takes a certain amount of wrist strength and requires double-checking to make sure the camera is securely locked in place, but allows for considerable variability in the plates that will work well with it, so this may be your best bet if you have plates and equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Better tripods are purchased with legs and tripod heads separately. While you can buy them together as a kit from many manufacturers, buying them separately gives you the advantage of being able to choose exactly what tripod head you want to go with a specific set of tripod legs. The tripod head attaches to a platform where the tripod legs meet using a screw thread, which is generally industry standard, and can often be set so that it won’t inadvertently unscrew (check your tripod manual for how to do this).

TRIPOD LEGS When considering carbon fiber tripod legs, there are a few areas of controversy. The first has to do with a tripod being a tripod, and whether to center column or not to center column. So, you may not believe that passions run high about this issue, but in tripod circles they do! The physics of the matter is that a tripod works best for the one thing that is its key role in life—namely, being a platform for stability—when it is, in fact, a tripod of three legs. So if you raise a center column from the three legs of a tripod, you are, in part, defeating the purpose of the tripod, and the higher you raise the center column, the less stability you have. The counter argument is that a center column is a relatively lightweight way to gain additional height and flexibility in a tripod. You don’t have to adjust the legs higher in order to raise your camera, and in some cases, depending on the center column mechanism, you can literally ratchet higher by controlled increments. Ah! But No-Center-Column-Enthusiasts (NCCEs) will tell you that it may be true that a center column gives you flexibility when raising the platform higher, but it is indubitably true that you cannot get close to the ground if you have a center column in place.

Wreath—Where I live in Northern California, the seasons hardly seem to change. I like to say that anyone who complains about the weather has too much time on their hands. That said, things were definitely feeling autumnal one day, and the local decorative maple trees were really showing their colors. I decided to photograph an autumn wreath with homage to the local flora, centering it around a succulent. This image was made using my light box (for more on the technique involved see pages 224–257). Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, nine exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

I am not making this stuff up, there’s been quite a bit of writing in the blogosphere about whether tripods should or should not have columns. Then again, in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the island nations of Lilliput and Blefuscu went to war over which end of a cooked egg should be opened first. Personally, I have tripods in my collection with center columns and without center columns (see the photo on page 102 for the tripods I use in garden photography), depending on the primary purpose of the tripod. I recommend that you find a good camera store and try out tripods both with and without center columns to see which you prefer. If you can’t get to a physical store, at least make sure you have return privileges for an expensive tripod you order online. One other choice when it comes to tripods has to do with how the legs lock in place. Some tripod legs use twist locks, which have the advantage of being able to tighten multiple legs at once, and the disadvantages of requiring wrist strength and sometimes being difficult to tell if they are positively locked. The other choice is locking levers. Unless wrist strength is a serious issue, my recommendation would be to stick with twist locks. As with any photographic hardware choice, there are proponents both ways, and it is up to you to decide what you like best.

TRIPOD HEADS Tripod heads are generally made of a tough metal like titanium or a titaniumaluminum alloy. As with anything used in the field, weight is a factor, as is stability and secure locking. The best general-purpose tripod head is a ball head. An alternative, the pan-tilt head, is more common on lower-end tripods. Note that pan-tilt heads with fluid motion are best used in videography, and can be quite expensive. The gimbal head is a specialized tripod head used for heavy lenses, for example, long telephoto lenses used in bird photography. Most tripod heads have an integrated clamp that the quick-release plate on the camera snaps or screws into. For optimum flexibility, you may want to equip your camera with an L-bracket. The L-bracket allows the camera to be mounted either horizontally or vertically. Generally, an L-bracket needs to be purchased for your specific camera model so that it does not interfere with camera functionality. I have an L-bracket for

each of my camera bodies, and wouldn’t dream of working without one. Alas, a strong but light L-bracket is not inexpensive. The key point of a tripod ball head—besides providing stability, weight, and securely locking down the camera—is to enable you to move the camera on the tripod seamlessly into whatever position you need in order to make the photograph.

USING THE TRIPOD IN THE GARDEN The first principle of tripod use is to develop and practice a sequence of movements that is intended to keep your camera safe from falls. Here is what I do every time I use a tripod, without fail: 1. I ensure the camera strap is attached to the camera, put the strap around my neck, and use the camera to roughly site where I will want to position the tripod. When I am satisfied with this information, I put the camera down in a safe position, usually in the camera bag. Every time I remove a camera or a lens from my camera bag, or place anything in the bag, I make sure to close the bag securely. 2. I place the tripod into roughly the position I’ve mapped out, extending the legs as necessary. A key component of this step is to make sure that the tripod is rock-steady, and not off balance. 3. I put the camera strap around my neck again. 4. I transfer the camera to the tripod using the quick-release plate on the camera and the clamp on the tripod head. With the camera strap still around my neck and attached to the camera, I verify that the setup is completely stable. 5. If I am in a precarious situation that does not give me total confidence in the stability of the setup, I actually leave the camera strap around my neck even though the camera is mounted on the tripod. But hopefully everything is stable, and I can use the quick-release buckles I have installed on the camera strap to detach the camera. I use a camera strap with quick-release buckles made by Lowepro to replace the generic strap that came with my camera, but there are many possible options. I have practiced this so often and it is so much a part of my photographic routine that I can do it in the pitch-black dark with my eyes closed. Come up with a routine that works for you and that keeps your gear safe, and use it every time. In my workshops, I have seen the consequences of folks not having a routine and rushing, and then accidentally losing thousands of dollars of gear.

Red Tulip, Giverny—The 135mm lens was heavy in my hands. I mounted the camera and lens on a tripod, placed the aperture wide open (at f/2.0), and with the stability of the camera on the tripod, I was able to frame exactly the image I wanted of this wet, red tulip in the gardens at Giverny with attractive out-of-focus bokeh in the background. Nikon D800, 135mm Zeiss Apo Sonnar, 1/1600 of a second at f/2.0 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

When it is possible, once the tripod and camera are securely in position, a good first step is to level the tripod platform. This can often be accomplished with the aid of a spirit level found on many tripod heads. It’s easier to get an image with the least distortion in apparent angles when the tripod plane is parallel to the ground. Of course, in small or awkward spaces such as are often found in a garden, sometimes hemmed in with rocks, delicate plantings, and the gnarled trunks of ancient trees, you may need to change the angle of the legs of the tripod and be creative about how you position it. Do make sure that the camera and tripod are stable. Also, keep in mind that a tripod works best in terms of keeping the camera steady for exposures when the legs are in a widely-spaced triangular configuration. You will also need to be careful not to actually touch the camera on the tripod when making the exposure, usually best accomplished by using a remote control.

White Cosmos at Giverny—On a rainy, overcast day at the gardens at Giverny, the challenge this image presented was that the cosmos were blowing wildly in the wind. With both the subject moving and my own motion, it was out of the question to hand hold the camera to get the flower blossom precisely sharp. In order to make an extreme wide-angle (15mm) image showing the context of the blossom in the garden, I needed to stabilize my camera on a tripod and wait for exactly the right moment. Nikon D800, 15mm Zeiss Distagon, 1/125 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Isuien Garden, Nara, Japan—Japanese gardens are often as much about the structures in the garden as they are about nature. A key point in many Japanese gardens is how the natural elements interact with structural and human elements. The point of the relatively small Isuien garden in Nara, Japan, is specifically to use elements that are extrinsic to the garden—such as structures and landscape—to enhance the garden itself. My photograph demonstrates this stylistic idea by including only the reflection of the temple in the pond (and not the temple itself), in addition to the stone footbridge and the reflections of nature. In other words, the temple is technically outside of the garden. But the garden has been designed so that views of the temple are important to it. Nikon D800, 125mm, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

I think optical viewfinders are great. But modern digital viewfinders can supply information you don’t have in an optical viewfinder. Regardless, if your camera is equipped with a flip screen that lets you view through your lens from a variety of angles, this can make photography in otherwise awkward positions much easier. Although spiked tripod feet are an option, I recommend that you stick with rubber footies, which are more protective of wood floors, garden flower beds, and the landscape generally. Please keep in mind that tripods can damage delicate garden beds and plantings. Many public gardens have restrictions regarding tripod use. Whether or not tripod use is allowed, the prime directive should be to do no damage to a garden. So take care where you put those tripod feet!

Focus and Depth of Field

Wheels within Wheels—To create this image of the inside of a poppy, I focused very carefully on the center of the poppy and used a wide-open aperture for low depth of field so the rest of the image went pleasantly out of focus. The quality of this lens together with the pinpoint, wide-open focus helped to create a very special bokeh. Nikon D300, 100mm Zeiss Makro Planar, 1/800 of a second at f/2.0 and ISO 200, hand held.

One of the key creative aspects of photography involves how much of an image is in focus. Generally, the first thing the viewer’s eye goes to in any image is bright colors. The second thing the viewer is drawn to are areas of an image that are sharp, and in focus. While conceptually being “sharp” is not quite the same thing as being “in focus,” there is a close relationship. Thus, sharpness and focus play an outsize role in photographic composition. Sharpness is, in fact, controlled by a large number of factors including the optical quality of your lens, the resolution of your camera, and atmospheric conditions, as well as focus. Given that you are in-place with a specific camera and lens, focus is one component of sharpness that is largely under your control. Returning for a second to the question of why focus is a vital component of the impact an image has, this is pretty intuitively clear. A single flower in focus, such as Red Tulip, Giverny, shown on page 107, is obviously a very different kind of image than the entirely in-focus Gerbera Petals, shown on page 115. You know the role focus plays, I know this, the world knows this (even if the world doesn’t know how important focus is). From the photographer’s viewpoint, the issue is learning how to control your camera so you can achieve the creative effects with focus that you pre-visualize. As always with photography, the two components that come together are understanding the theory, and understanding how that theory is implemented in your particular camera. In this section, I will explain the details of focus and depth of field from a conceptual viewpoint. It is up to you to integrate this with your specific camera, lenses, and your creative objectives. Focus is primarily controlled by: The camera position in relation to the subject The focus setting on your camera or lens The aperture setting of your lens (see pages 134–141 for more about aperture)


There’s a lot of verbiage out there regarding determining whether a subject is truly in focus. For example, an image where the subject appears to be completely in focus is sometimes called “tack sharp.” The inconvenient truth is that there is no such thing as being in focus. Focus, like much of life, is relative. To be in focus actually means to be relatively in focus. When you’re using a manual focusing ring, find the point where the given subject appears in focus. Then, move the ring a little in both directions (closer and farther away), to see where the subject becomes relatively less in focus. These relatively out-of-focus “boundaries” are used to obtain the best point of focus. While this working model of focus is a little difficult for folks who like to have hard and fast rules in their lives, it does provide a technique for effective manual focusing: The best way to manually focus is to use the focusing ring to find the place that is “in focus” and then go past it a little bit, so it is slightly out of focus again, and then come back to the focus point “from the other side.” When photographing in the garden with your camera on a tripod, it is pretty easy to use relative focusing with your manual focusing control to obtain the focus results that best serve your creative purpose.

SOFT FOCUS It is worth being very clear that not all good photographic imagery is about being in focus. Sometimes the photographer is trying to create an effect akin to Impressionism in painting. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including intentionally throwing the camera out of focus, or moving the camera while taking the photo, a technique known as In-Camera Motion (ICM), explained starting on page 192. As is well known, impressionistic effects can also be created in post-production. Attractive out-of-focus areas are sometimes sought after via selective focus, usually with a wide-open aperture, and termed bokeh ( ), with approbation.

Gerbera Petals—Looking at the petals of this African daisy through my macro lens, I thought that it formed an abstraction as much like a landscape with canyon walls as a flower. I knew that to convey this effect in an image, I would need maximum depth of field to create an image that was in-focus overall. So I stopped my lens to as small an aperture as it would go, to f/22. Since I was well into macro mode, photographing at 1:1, the camera’s EXIF data was recorded at an effective aperture of f/32 because the additional extension of the lens cut down the light reaching the sensor below what it would have been at a more “normal” focus point. Nikon D850, 150mm Irix macro, 2 seconds at an effective aperture of f/32 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Eschscholzia californica—Eschscholzia californica is otherwise known as the California poppy or the golden poppy. It’s native to the western United States and Mexico, and was named by the German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after his friend Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz during an early scientific-exploration voyage to California and the greater Pacific aboard the Russian ship Rurik, circa 1800. When photographing this petal with my lens wide open at f/1.8, there was absolutely no depth of field. To maintain focus even on the single petal, I realized that I needed to position the camera absolutely parallel to the flower petal. Nikon D850, 85mm Lensbaby Velvet macro, 1/320 of a second at f/1.8 and ISO 200, hand held.

There are also some equipment-related techniques that produce soft focus. Some specialty lenses, such as the Lensbaby Velvet series, produce a high-quality soft effect. This can also be accomplished in a more homemade way. I’ve been known to coat a filter with Vaseline and place it in front of the lens, and a sheer black stocking has been historically used in front of the lens to much the same effect.

CAMERA POSITION When the camera is precisely parallel to a flat subject, sharpness and focus are easy, and you don’t need any depth of field for the subject to be sharp (see pages 134–147 for more about understanding, setting, and using depth of field). Since depth of field doesn’t matter because the camera is parallel to a flat subject, you can photograph at the maximum aperture of your camera lens and the subject will still be in focus,

provided the focus has been correctly set. The reason that keeping the camera parallel to the subject creates an entirely in-focus image (provided focus has been correctly set) is a matter of simple geometry: With two parallel planes, each point in each parallel plane is the same distance as every other point. This is shown in Figure 7 below. Figure 7. Keeping the camera and subject parallel

The implication is that camera position is one of the most important factors in focus and sharpness, and is something that is usually under one’s control. Keeping the camera parallel to the subject is an often overlooked, powerful, and simple mechanism for obtaining “tack sharp” imagery. One point that needs to be clarified is what I mean by the camera being “parallel” to the subject. You can figure out what the subject is by some analysis of your creative idea. What part of the camera should be parallel to the subject? More precisely, the focal plane of the camera should be parallel to the subject for optimal sharpness. The focal plane is the capture media within the camera. In a film camera, this would be the film, and with a modern digital camera, it is the sensor. “Wait a minute!” you might well say, “Fine, but how do I know where this is on my camera?”

Almost every camera indicates the focal plane on the exterior of the camera where you can easily see it using a small symbol of a circle with a line through it like so: (see Figure 8 to the right). In this symbol the focal plane is represented by the straight line that is passing through the circle. Extend the line that goes through the circle the length of the camera, and this represents the plane that should be parallel to your subject. Oddly, many otherwise proficient photographers are not aware of the location of the focal plane symbol on their camera. Have a look around, I assure you that it is there somewhere! This is a surprisingly important and overlooked way to make photographs that are as in-focus and as sharp as possible. Garden photography is not street photography. In other words, you’re not in a situation where you are trying to capture myriad different people doing all kinds of weird things, for example, in an exotic bazaar in Tangier. For the most part, everything in a garden is still and in place. Plants and trees are rooted. Rocks are not going to move. The only variable may be the impact of the breeze and wind on plant motion.

Figure 8. The focal plane symbol shown on the top of one of my cameras. Can you find the focal plane indicator on your camera?

Morning at the Mas de Garrigue—In springtime, the walls of this fifteenth-century hunting lodge and fortified farm in the southwest of France is covered with decorative wisteria. Today, the Mas de Garrigue is a luxury bed and breakfast that I enjoy very much using as a workshop venue. I stumbled out in the early morning before the odor of croissants was even in the air and saw that the light was gorgeous. I grabbed my camera without waiting for my tripod, because I knew that the nice light was very transient. To make this photo showing the wisteria, I knew that I needed no depth to the photo beyond that represented by the plane of the wisteria vine. So I set my aperture nearly wide open (at f/5.6) so that I would be able to use a fast enough shutter speed to make the exposure hand held. Nikon D850, 45mm, 1/80 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 320, hand held.

In the garden, understanding and positioning the focal plane of the camera so that it is parallel to the key elements of your subject is the single most important factor for creating sharp, in-focus images.

TILT-SHIFT LENSES In the good old days, when photographers carried 120 lbs. on their backs and used a mule to transport their wet plates three weeks from civilization, most folks used view cameras. A view camera consists of a front plate with a lens, a back plate with ground glass for looking at an image upside down and placing the film holder, and a completely flexible bellows, connecting the front and back plates. A black cloth over the photographer’s head was required to block out the external light so the image on

the ground glass could be seen. Also, the photographer used a light-proof changing bag to remove exposed film from the sheet-film holders, and to add fresh film. If all this sounds like a total pain, trust me, it was! However, a view camera has something important going for it that most modern cameras lack. The bellows could be used to change the direction of the light hitting the capture medium. By changing the direction of the light, the perspective of the image is also changed. This becomes relevant and helpful in situations where the normal view of a subject seems unattractive and weird. For example, when you are looking up at a tall tree or building, and the lines of perspective do not seem to continue straight up, but rather diverge, often with apparent curvature. Using the bellows of a view camera, this perspective distortion can be corrected within limits by manipulating the angle of the bellows.

Columbine—I positioned this columbine from my garden in front of a black velvet cloth, suspending the flower using an improvised rig that included paper clips and dental floss. My thought looking at this columbine was that it resembled a sea creature in the blackness of the deep. To carry this visual metaphor forward, I needed the flower to be in end-to-end focus. As best I could, I positioned the camera parallel to the columbine and focused carefully. There were still some focus issues. When the “head” of the image was completely in focus, one or more of the “tails” fell out of focus. So I tweaked the tilt and shift controls on my lens to resolve these issues as much as possible. Nikon D850, 85mm Nikkor tilt-shift macro, 0.3 seconds at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

With a normal, modern camera, the lens is fixed and does not angle from side-to-side or up and down. A tilt-shift lens is a special-purpose lens designed to recreate, at least in part, the functionality of a bellows on a view camera. You can use the adjustable controls on a tilt-shift lens to tilt the lens up and down, and from side to side. In garden photography, a tilt-shift lens is an expensive, single-purpose tool that can sometimes be used to great advantage. Essentially, by carefully manipulating the tiltshift controls, you can rearrange the effective focal plane (see the Columbine photo on page 120–121) to create an image showing parallel lines, even though the lines are not apparently parallel in reality.

FOCAL LENGTH For a photographer, a lens is like a paintbrush. We see the world and are able to capture it through the optics of our lenses. All lenses are not created equal. One important characteristic of any lens is its focal length. A so-called “normal” lens has roughly the perspective of view of human vision. This translates on a full-frame sensor to roughly 50mm or 55mm. This discussion that follows about types of lenses assumes that the sensor is full-size. If you are working with a differently sized sensor, for information regarding the relationship between sensor size and focal length, please turn to page 351. Types of Lenses Lenses with a wider field of view than normal are shorter in length than normal lenses (i.e., less than 50mm). These are called wide-angle lenses. For example, a 28mm lens is a moderate wide-angle lens. Lenses with a narrower field of view than normal are longer in length than “normal” lenses (i.e., more than 50mm). These are called telephoto lenses. For example, a 135mm lens is a moderate telephoto lens.

Spadix of a White Calla Lily—The Laowa Probe macro lens is highly unusual in several respects. This lens sits on a long stalk like a bug’s eye. That makes it great if you are photographing something small and venomous up close like a scorpion or snake. In addition, the lens is that rarest of optics, a wide-angle (24mm) macro lens. This is not the world’s easiest lens to use effectively, and may be best optimized for video rather than still photography. As a still photographic lens, one downside is that it is not very bright—the maximum wide-open aperture is f/14. Also, focus, which is manual only, is very, very picky. When you get close with the lens, the only way I have found to use it is to put it on a focusing rail, using the rail to ratchet the camera to make the final focus adjustments. That said, the viewpoint from this lens is absolutely unique. It’s something like an ant’s-eye view: both detailed and close, and at the same time taking in the overall scene that is being photographed. For example, with the interior of the calla lily shown here, this ant’s-eye view presents the top of the calyx, the sex organ of the flower, very close up, and at the same time shows the inside of the bulb of the flower. Nikon D850, 24mm Venus Optics Laowa Probe macro, 12mm extension tube, 1/4 of a second at f/45 and ISO 64, tripod mounted, using a focusing rail.

Just as wide-angle lenses create a wider perspective than normal lenses, telephoto lenses bring the subject closer, thereby creating a narrower perspective. Zoom lenses are of variable focal length. So you could have a wide-angle zoom lens, a telephoto zoom lens, and even a zoom lens that goes from wide-angle to telephoto. My “walk-around” Nikkor 28-300mm lens is a good example in this last category, since it goes from 28mm wide-angle through a 300mm telephoto. This lens covers a

great deal of the focal-range territory, and when I have it with me, I don’t need much else. If you think about it, a 300mm telephoto lens brings you 6 times closer than a normalfield-of-view 50mm lens, because 300mm ÷ 50mm = 6. And, 28mm is almost twice as wide as the 50mm normal lens. The ability of a single lens to go from wide-angle to telephoto is quite remarkable, and was not common in the past before the rise of computer-aided optical design. Just to clarify, a zoom lens is not inherently either a telephoto lens or a wide-angle lens. To say that a lens “zooms” is another way of saying that the focal lengths of the lens vary. So a zoom lens is a variable-focal-length lens. A macro lens is a lens that focuses close, by most standard definitions, closer than 1:2, meaning that the subject is half life-size on the sensor, or larger. Some purists feel that true macro territory begins a 1:1, meaning the subject is rendered at life-size on the sensor. Be that as it may, “normal” lenses do not focus as close even as 1:2. Although telephoto and macro lenses are often confused, focusing close does not necessarily imply anything about focal length. You can have normal lenses that are macro lenses, and telephoto lenses that are macro lenses. It is also possible to have a wide-angle macro lens, but this is relatively rare for technical reasons having to do with optical engineering.

Backyard Garden in Rural France—When I photographed this casual backyard garden in rural France, I chose a moderate wide-angle focal length (32mm) to give a broad vista of the garden. I wanted to show both the bench and the wisteria vine, but at the same time, I wanted to avoid the curvature and distortion that would come with a wider-angle lens. Somewhere in the 28–32mm focal-length range is as wide as one can go without many viewers identifying artificial-seeming distortion. Nikon D850, 32mm, 1/8 of a second at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Giverny in the Spring—When photographing this view of one of Claude Monet’s lily ponds on a beautiful spring afternoon, I wanted to get the foreground flowers and the background bridge in focus. So I stopped the lens all the way down to the most closed aperture (f/22, which registered in the EXIF data as f/25). Then I focused on the spot that a back-of-the-envelope calculation indicated was the hyperfocal distance—roughly speaking, the tree trunk you can see in the midleft. By using this focusing technique, I was able to maximize the range of the image that was in focus, so you can clearly see both the tulips in the foreground and Monet’s wonderful green bridge in the background. Nikon D850, 36mm, 2 seconds at an effective aperture of f/25 and ISO 31, tripod mounted.

A good way to think about this is that a telephoto lens is like a telescope: it brings things closer. In contrast, a macro lens is like a microscope: it makes small things bigger. Fortunately, for those photographers among us who like telephoto-macro lenses, you can have both; in other words, a telephoto-macro lens that brings things closer and magnifies them. I like my telephoto-macro lens because it lets me get out of my own way. What I mean by this is, if you are photographing a closeup of the stamen of a flower with a normal-focal-length macro lens, the front element of the lens has to be almost touching the stamen. This can cause shadows and interfere with lighting. It may cause pollinators to stay away. Also, if the surface is reflective, as in a water drop (see pages 310–323), a normal macro lens will be close enough so that you can see its reflection in the water drop when you probably don’t want to be making a “lens selfie!” A telephoto-macro lens avoids this problem because the lens is further away while still magnifying the subject. This is also beneficial when trying to photograph critters up close that you don’t want to disturb (think: bees on flowers or dragonflies, see pages 324–339).

White Rose—To create this selective focus image to capture the beauty of a white rose, I carefully focused on the spiral center. Next, I made two exposures, one with the lens all the way stopped down to f/16 for maximum focus, and the other exposure wide open at f/1.8 for selective focus. Combining the two exposures in post-production, I used the f/16 exposure to create a sharply delineated center of the flower, and the f/1.8 exposure to make use the outer petals were sweetly soft. Nikon D850, 85mm Lensbaby Velvet macro, two exposures at ISO 64, one exposure at 1/100 of a second and f/1.8, and the second exposure at 3/10 of a second and f/16, both exposures tripod mounted.

Focal Length and Depth of Focus Smarty-arse photographers sometimes like to say that the best zoom lens is your two feet. In other words, you don’t really need a wide-angle lens to get a wider-field-ofview capture of a subject; all you need to do is back away from it, provided this doesn’t mean backing off a cliff. Conversely, you don’t need a telephoto lens, you can just run up to the subject, again provided there is no moat with piranhas between you and the subject. Obviously, there can be some physical objections to “zooming with one’s feet;” for example, backing up may mean falling off a bridge, and moving forward may not be practical. Zoom lenses, and having an arsenal of lenses of different focal lengths, can help photographers with pragmatic topographic problems. Besides specific issues of topography and location, you should be aware that different

focal-length lenses have different attributes in relationship to distortion and to the depth of field that can be placed in focus with the lens. Depth of field is explained in greater detail starting on page 134. Specifically, wide-angle lenses have an inherently great depth of field, meaning they make captures with more in focus from back-to-front. In contrast, telephoto lenses have a shallow depth of field, meaning that they make captures with less in focus from back-to-front. If you want an image with very selective focus—meaning some areas of the image are not in focus and one specific area is in focus—you are generally best off choosing a telephoto focal-length lens. If you are capturing a landscape where everything should be in focus, this is generally easier with a wide-angle lens. Of course, aperture also plays a role in depth of field and focus, as explained on page 134. An important point is that when you are focusing with a macro lens, depth of field is inherently very shallow. So a telephoto-macro lens focused close is a “doublewhammy” in terms of the shallowness of the depth of field. The more magnified the subject is, the less that is in focus from back-to-front. In fact, to get a macro of an entire flower completely in focus requires employing many of the tricks in the photographer’s book. One technique is using focus stacking, which employs multiple captures, each with a different focus point, combined together to create a greater range that is in focus. Focus stacking is explained on pages 303–309. When focusing close, even a minor adjustment can change everything. This means that macro photography is a discipline in which positioning the focal plane of the camera parallel to the floral subject is absolutely critical (see page 117). For more about macro photography techniques and best practices, turn to pages 280–284.

MANUAL AND AUTOFOCUS Most modern digital cameras use automatic focusing. And, as a consumer of cameras, you are probably encouraged to use autofocus. In particular, a fairly high percentage of the advertising for the latest and greatest digital camera gadgets have to do with how “smart” the autofocus is and how good it is at finding the right point of focus, whether the focus point is the face in a portrait or the front of a flower in garden photography. I have to tell you right now that I do not believe that autofocus can read your mind. That day may come, just as one day intelligent machines may rule the Earth, but that day isn’t here now. And as long as autofocus cannot read your mind, it will not know what you have previsualized for your image. This means that you should strongly consider manual focus as an option, depending on the situation.

There are a few places with some specific gear in which I might use autofocus, where the need for fast focusing is vitally important, for example in sports photography or when photographing birds. Normally garden photography does not present this kind of subject matter, as highspeed motion is not involved. I do believe that I have lost more photos to autofocus than autofocus has ever gained for me, because autofocus often focuses on the wrong spot. Many of the extremely high-quality prime lenses that I use (such as those made by Zeiss) are manual focus only. Regarding manual focus, not all modern lenses are capable of focusing manually. At best, some modern lenses focus manually badly. Maybe the machines are starting to take over the Earth!

Papaver—Every spring I plant poppies in my garden. I wait impatiently until my models are ready for photography. One beautiful flower in a pot caught my eye as it bobbed gently in the sunshine. Bringing the poppy inside, I decided that I wanted to make an extreme close-up. To make the image, I put the poppy blossom on a light box for back lighting and used my tilt-shift macro lens to focus carefully on the center of the flower. Nikon D850, 85mm Nikkor tilt-shift macro, 25 seconds at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Decorative Grasses—The sun was setting as a fiery red ball in a purple haze. To create this image, dramatically contrasting the large ball of the sun with decorative grasses in the foreground, I got down on the ground at the base of the grasses. Then, I carefully used manual focus to focus on the grasses. I used a wide-open aperture (f/7.1) to separate the grasses in the foreground from the sun in the background, and to help make the ball of the sun seem larger. Nikon D300, 70mm–200mm zoom with 2X teleconverter at 400mm, 1/320 of a second at f/7.1 and ISO 320, hand held.

Quite a few digitally designed lenses that do allow manual focus only give a head-nod to the possibility of focusing manually. In manual-focus mode, these lenses have a loose, short feeling to the focusing ring, and are designed to over-focus. Overfocusing means that the focus knob will continue past the infinity setting. This is designed to aid the motors in autofocus lenses, but feels sloppy and uncomfortable when you are manually focusing. In particular, when focusing manually, it can be hard to know where the infinity focus point is.

The takeaway for garden photography is that if you’re interested in the possibility of manually focusing, you should choose your lenses carefully with manual focus in mind, even if those lenses also autofocus. The best technique for manually focusing draws on the concept explained on page 114 that there is no such thing as being “in focus.” There are only degrees of relatively being in focus. To employ this concept in the real world, start by using the manual focus ring to focus closer than your subject. Next, rotate the focus ring so that your subject seems to be in focus. Once you have achieved apparent focus, use the focus ring to focus slightly beyond the subject so that the subject is no longer in focus. Finally, pull back so that the subject seems optimally in focus. It’s best to practice this technique with your camera on a steady tripod, because this removes the variable of the camera position from the focusing technique. Once you’ve got the hang of it with the camera on the tripod, you’ll be able to use this technique with the camera hand held also. Note that this discussion of manual focusing only relies on an optical viewfinder. If you are using a camera with a digital viewfinder, there are a number of additional tools that can be used in conjunction with best-practices visual, manual focusing. These include focus peaking and magnification in the viewfinder (check your camera manual for the specifics of how to use these features). There are situations in which I use a hybrid process where I start by focusing visually and then fine-tune things by using high magnification on the camera’s LCD screen. In fairness, as I have noted, there are kinds of photography involving subjects in highspeed motion that almost require the use of autofocus. In addition, recent cameras have improved autofocus greatly from the crude tool it was just a few years ago. Also, some folks have eyesight issues that make manual focus either difficult or impossible —so in this sense, having the ability to autofocus can make photography possible for people with low vision, which is a good thing. If you do choose to use autofocus, be aware that most cameras have numerous different autofocus modes. You’ll have to check out your camera manual and experiment to see which mode is best for you. As a general matter, on those rare instances when I use autofocus in garden photography, I prefer to use a mode that allows me to set the focus points using controls on the back of my camera, rather than a mode in which the “artificial intelligence” in the camera chooses the focal point for me.


Depth of field is defined as the range from back to front, or front to back, that is in focus. Therefore, depth of field is a distance. We say the depth of field is great or wide or large when the distance is larger, and we say the depth of field is small, short, or shallow when the distance is smaller. Depth of field is controlled by the size of the sensor, the focal length of the lens, and the aperture of the lens. With a given camera and lens (or focal length of the lens when using a zoom lens), the only variable setting is the aperture (you can’t change the size of the sensor of the camera you are using). Therefore, in the field and in garden photography, the practical study of depth of field is largely determined by aperture. Aperture and Depth of Field Most camera lenses have a diaphragm that controls the size of the opening of the lens that lets light into the sensor. As I explained on page 87, this opening is called the aperture. An f-number is the ratio of the focal length of the lens to the diameter of the aperture. An f-stop is 1/f-number written as f/f-number, for example f/16.

Diaphragm Blades—This photograph of refractions from sunlight generated by water drops in a garden was tightly focused on the refractions and exposed at close to the maximum aperture (f/5.6). The resulting image shows the refractions of the internal blades of the lens diaphragm in detail, but not the surrounding area of the garden. Nikon D300, 200mm Nikkor macro, 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Stamen—To photograph this lily stamen against a white, light-box background, I needed to magnify the stamen as much as possible. I used a macro lens with an extension tube, and a closeup filter—definitely heading into microscope territory. Once one is this close, minute shifts in the distance between the camera and the subject have a huge impact. So I stopped the lens down as far as possible (to f/32, recorded in the EXIF data as an effective aperture of f/40) for maximum depth of field. For more about macro photography in the garden, see page 303. Nikon D300, 200mm Nikkor macro, 36mm extension tube, Nikon 5T close-up filter (+1.5 diopters), 6 seconds at an effective aperture of f/40 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Aperture is referred to using f-stops. The larger the f-number, the smaller the opening in the lens, as you can see in the diagram of apertures shown in Figure 9, opposite. Since each full f-stop lets in half the light of the preceding full f-stop, an opening of f/22 is much smaller than an opening of f/2.8. A logarithmic relationship is involved because f-stops are defined using the diameter of a circle.

When a lens aperture is set as small as possible, the lens is said to be stopped down. When a lens is set to the maximum aperture, it is said to be wide open. Setting the aperture is one of the most important creative controls in photography because of the relationship of aperture to depth of field. Note that it is easy to set aperture when you are in manual exposure mode, or with many cameras in aperturepriority mode (check your camera manual for the exposure modes available to you and how to use them).

Figure 9. F-stops (shown in relative scale)

If you use an automatic exposure mode and do not affirmatively set your aperture, you should once more remember that your camera is not a mind reader, and realize that it is making this important creative decision for you. Please review the results on your LCD. You may need to make an adjustment to the camera’s choices depending upon how the exposure has come out. For example, even at a fixed aperture, such as f/8, the camera in aperture-priority mode is quite likely going to make an overall exposure for the garden scene in front of you. But your interest may be in the dark-shade areas or the strong, dappled

sunlight. A correct overall exposure will be wrong for these dark areas. To make a creative exposure for your areas of interest, while still using aperturepriority mode with the aperture constant at f/8, you can use an exposure adjustment control, available on most cameras, to make a brighter or darker exposure. Usually, the exposure adjustment control allows you to go up or down by EVs (exposure values), where ±1 EV halves or double the light. Note that the full f-stops shown in Figure 9 are each 1 EV apart from the next full f-stop. As a concrete example, suppose you are photographing a beautiful garden courtyard using aperture-priority metering at ISO 100 and f/8. The camera makes the exposure at 1/125 of a second. Looking at the results on the LCD, you see that things are much too bright. So you use the exposure compensation control at -2 EV. The next time you make the exposure, it is automatically at 1/500 of a second, because 1/500 of a second is 2 EVs darker than 1/125 of a second. Note that the third element in the exposure triangle, ISO, is less often varied than either shutter speed or aperture. In my camera, I turn off auto-ISO, so I do not allow ISO to be changed without my explicit control.

Bethesda Terrace—Bethesda Terrace, with its grand staircases and architectural features, is the only formal element in Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plan for Central Park in New York City. Constructed during the American Civil War, on the piazza below the terrace, the well-known Bethesda Fountain with the Angel of the Waters statue commemorates the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which opened in 1842 and supplied New York City with pure water for the first time. To capture this moonlit view of the Bethesda Terrace, I stood with my back to the fountain and positioned my camera and tripod facing the terrace. I chose the minimum aperture that put the front pillars of the terrace in focus with the moon still in focus (f/8)—the hyperfocal distance for this situation. Then I used the exposure triangle to calculate the other settings for my manual exposure. When choosing my exposure settings, I was careful to consider the motion of the moon. With shutter speed durations longer than about 30 seconds, the motion of the moon begins to be apparent. I wanted to keep the moon from seeming to move too much, so I worked my exposure to keep the shutter speed duration to 60 seconds. Nikon D810, 28mm, 60 seconds at f/8 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

However, if your camera is set to allow auto-ISO shifting in auto-exposure modes, ISO may, of course, be changed rather than shutter speed when you use an exposure adjustment. When you stop your lens down all the way, you have maximum depth of field, and when you open the lens up all the way, you get minimum depth of field. To repeat, the larger the f-number, the smaller the opening, therefore the more depth of field. The smaller the f-number, the larger the opening, therefore the shallower the depth of field. If you want something to be in selective focus, then you want to use a small f-number for a large opening and shallow depth of field. If you want an entire range of distances to be in focus, then you want a large f-number for a small opening and a wide depth of field. You don’t always need to go to extremes: you can also pick an f-number that produces an intermediate depth-of-field range. Depending upon the situation, this may be the best choice for an overall exposure. Once you understand depth of field, you can use the aperture to control how much of it you want in a given image. Perhaps you want the boxwood hedges to be in focus from front to back, but the ivycovered wall at the back of the garden and the daffodils in the foreground, not so much. In this case, you can set the aperture for the distance range of focus encompassed by the boxwood hedges. Of course, you will also need to focus on the subject, such as the boxwood hedges. While where in a depth-of-field range you choose to focus is not generally missioncritical, the best practice is to focus about a third of the way into the range. How do you tell what the depth-of-field range is in a given situation? The gold

standard is to make the image, load it up on a big monitor, and examine it up close and personal for focus. This doesn’t help much out in the field. In the field, there a number of aids to help you determine depth-of-field ranges at the time you make an image. These include: Aperture tables, which can be found in the manual for most lenses, and correlate distance, f-stop, and depth of field. Note that aftermarket aperture tables are also available, and can be found as mobile phone apps. To effectively use an aperture table or aperture app, you will need to measure the distances involved. Good lenses, particularly those designed for manual focus, have depth-offield markings on the lens barrel. At a given focus point, there are indications of the range of in-focus distances. Many cameras, particularly DSLRs, provide a depth-of-field preview button. Pressing the depth-of-field preview button stops the lens down to the actual aperture that will be used to make the exposure. It can be kind of dark to see anything, particularly at smaller apertures—but you are looking at the image as it will actually be made and once you learn how to compensate for the darkness, you can determine depth-of-field range visually. A camera with an LCD that displays a live-view video can show you depth of field in real-time based on the aperture you’ve chosen before you take the image.

Wet Poppy Bud—For reasons that may be obvious, my photo of a wet poppy bud is much beloved on the internet, on occasion in neighborhoods that seem naughty. Be that as it is—and I am always very unhappy to see one of my images used without my permission—I photographed this sweet, little Papaver nudicaule (Icelandic poppy) in the garden behind my house. It had been raining, but there was a hiatus in the squall where it was comparatively dry and the wind had stopped blowing for a moment—the calm between the storms. Getting the tripod into position without disturbing the water drops on the flower proved mighty tricky. I realized that I probably had only one exposure before the wind and the forces of gravity intervened. I was careful to make that one exposure with the aperture stopped down all the way (at f/36), so the entire poppy bud was in focus. After I clicked the shutter, the large water drop at the bottom of the bud fell. Plunk! In photography, as in life, timing can be everything. Nikon D70, 105mm Nikkor macro, 3 seconds at f/36 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Monet’s House at Giverny—With this wide-angle image (14mm on a 1.5 crop-factor camera, which is equivalent to 21mm on a full-frame camera), I wanted to capture the flower beds in focus while leaving artist Claude Monet’s house slightly out of focus. I used a moderate aperture (f/8) and focused on the front of the tulip beds to keep the flowers in focus while allowing the background to go softly out of focus. In post-production, I added a little “impressionistic” movement to the out-of-focus areas using Topaz Labs’s Glow Photoshop plug-in filter. Nikon D300, 12–24mm Nikkor zoom at 14mm, 1/125 of a second at f/8 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

INFINITY AND HYPERFOCAL DISTANCE In photography, infinity is defined as the distance beyond which everything is in focus at the maximum wide-open aperture of the lens with the focus setting adjusted all the way for distance. Infinity is marked on the lens barrel with a symbol like this: From the practical viewpoint of a garden photographer, when everything in your image is at infinity, then from a depth-of-field viewpoint, aperture does not matter for focus. You can choose any aperture that you or your camera would like, and the subject matter at infinity will still be in focus. It’s important to keep in mind that the way optics work in photography there can be a great deal of territory beyond infinity. So, if for a given lens infinity is 20 meters away at the maximum aperture for the lens (for example, f/2.8), when you focus on infinity, a subject that is 20 meters away is in focus, and so is everything further away than 20 meters, as shown in Figure 10 below. Figure 10. Focusing to infinity

What happens to infinity when you stop down the lens so that it is no longer at the maximum aperture, for example, to f/16? Great question! Obviously, if you are still focused on infinity, then everything at infinity and beyond is still in focus. But, of course, the additional depth of field buys you some additional focus range. Figure 11. Hyperfocal distance and infinity

When you stop a lens down to an aperture (such as f/16), the focus point where everything from that point onwards to infinity and beyond is in focus is called the hyperfocal distance. To get the maximum distance range in focus in a photograph that includes infinity—where the lens is not at the maximum aperture—the optimal strategy is to focus on the hyperfocal distance. This relationship is shown in Figure 11 to the left.

Monet’s Lily Pond at Giverny—I have been fortunate enough to visit Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France, many times, often with after-hours access as an artist so that there are very few people in the garden to wander into my photos. Monet’s gardens are extremely special to me because Monet’s painterly abstractions of his wonderful water garden are a large part of what drew me into my life as an artist and photographer. I regard a trip to the gardens at Giverny as a kind of pilgrimage. To make this photograph, I wanted to keep as much of the surface area of the pond and lilies in focus as possible, so I chose to stop my lens down to a small aperture (f/22) for maximum depth of field. Nikon D800, 105mm, 0.3 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Schwetzingen Palace Gardens—Wandering in an orchard that is part of the vast Schwetzingen Palace Gardens in Baden-Württemberg near Heidelberg, Germany, I saw that the sun was about to set. I quickly pulled out a camera that I used as a point-and-shoot (my Sony DSC-RX100 M6) to frame the setting sun in the crook of an apple tree. I had not a moment to lose! So I made the photo using automatic exposure and focus control. The camera chose an almost wide-open aperture (f/4), which works well in this situation. Sony DSC-RX100 M6, 18mm (48mm full-frame equivalent), 1/50 of a second at f/4 and ISO 800, hand held.

Determining hyperfocal distance involves a number of variables, and is lens-andaperture specific. Some lens documentation includes this information and it can also be found in some mobile phone apps, and, of course, by trial and error in the field. You don’t necessarily have to use hyperfocal distance by the numbers. Photography as a creative endeavor is open to folks who go by the “seat of their pants,” as well as literal rocket scientists. But, it’s a great idea to understand that the hyperfocal distance exists, and to approximate where it might be for focusing in situations where it is important.

The Garden in Black & White

When collectors are interested in my imagery of gardens, they often choose black and white prints. In addition, several of the garden photography assignments that I have had involve black and white photography. It’s clear that black and white is very important to certain kinds of garden photography. Why? For one thing, a black and white photograph is “art.” In the context of gardens, black and white has a long history of rendering the shapes, forms, and composition of the garden—along with the underlying idea of the garden plan—without the distraction of the seductive colors of floral beds.

THINKING IN BLACK & WHITE Up until fairly recently, photography was only black and white. Color was not an option. Nineteenth-century photographers, such as Eugène Atget (1857–1927) who worked near Paris, used the prowess of their monochromatic cameras to capture gardens around the world with a particular emphasis on the patterns and structure of formal French gardens. To some extent, this embrace of the static in garden photography was driven by technology: not only was photography monochromatic, shutters were also slow, so capturing anything in motion was non-trivial. As time went by, when color film was introduced, the great era of Kodachrome was on. Fast forward a few more decades, and the wet-film darkroom transitioned to digital. Not only is the default capture mode on most digital cameras or smartphones in color, to choose to render a garden image captured in color in black and white is an affirmative choice. In today’s world, to present an image in black and white is making a statement. The statements may well be: “Look at me, I am a work of art!” “I am special.” “I am the form and composition reduced to its essentials.” Of course, it also helps that black and white photography is simply beautiful. So we already know that a monochromatic garden image is intended to be special. By the way, what is the difference between monochrome, and black and white? A black and white image is literally rendered in tones of black, white, and gray. A monochrome image is, at least in theory, only a single color. The color could be black

and white, but it could also be virtually “toned”—for example, sepia-toned images are considered both monochromatic and black and white.

Monochromatic Ranunculus—I bought this beautiful, beguiling, blossom of a ranunculus at a local florist. Considering the pure whiteness of the petals, I knew I was going to make a monochromatic image. To make my photograph of this complex flower, I placed it on a black velvet background. The flower was carefully lit so that only the petals were illuminated. I shot a bracketed sequence of five photos, which I processed together to present an attractive dynamic range across the entire flower. Nikon D300, 85mm Nikkor tilt-shift macro, five exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 of a second to 1/6 of a second, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro.

Here’s an interesting thing: In the digital world almost all black and white images start as color captures, and are actually the same kind of color file as a color image. In other words, they are generally saved on a computer as RGB files, and usually best printed that way as well. The clear implication here is that not only are black and white images special, they are also an ideational construct. Meaning that for the most part, in the twenty-first century nobody is going to look at a contemporary black and white photo and say, “this is a real garden.”

Bench—The spectacular Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, is surrounded by a wall with a formal entrance gate. Like much of the garden, the gate is in oriental style, and draws one’s attention. Indeed, gates and portals are one of the key design features of this garden. So on my second visit to this garden with a workshop class, I found myself spending a great deal of time inspecting the main gate. But something that I could not put my finger on was interesting me, and it was not the formal gate. I gave it some time and then I realized that the bench against the wall had an almost meditative aspect. I photographed the bench hand held with simplicity in mind. Nikon D850, 50mm, 1/30 of a second at f/8 and ISO 500, hand held; converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.

Stones and Lichen (above) and Shingles (opposite)—About forty years ago, a sculptor by the name of Ken Cleaves started scouting rural Maine for an abandoned quarry that he could turn into a work of art. He found his dream location in mid-coast Maine about twenty miles inland from Camden. The quarry had been worked for granite until the 1930s, at which time it had become unprofitable and was abandoned. In addition to the partially-worked quarry, there were interesting topographic features, including several ponds, river frontage, and some great rocks lying around. Ken named his new kingdom “Shleppinghurst” and commenced unassisted to carve his dream garden by hand from the hardscrabble Maine terrain. For the first several decades, he eschewed motorized equipment. He built in stages, living the first few winters in a tar-roofed shack until he could construct something more comfortable. Ken’s ideal was simplicity apart from the modern world, sort of like a twenty-first century Thoreau. Shleppinghurst is not quite Walden Pond—Ken’s current house is comfortable and is connected to the internet—but a considered style of contemplative Zen can be seen and felt in every aspect of the garden, such as the rocks placed on a larger stone (opposite), and the handmade shake patterns on one of the outbuildings that Ken built using hand tools (above). Nikon D850, 300mm, 1/400 of a second (above) 1/100 of a second (opposite), both images at f/8 and ISO 400, hand held; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Thap Rua—In Vietnamese, Thap Rua means “Turtle Tower.” Turtle Tower is a structure in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, a garden island of peace in the bustle of downtown Hanoi. Apparently, back in pre-history, a powerful dragon, a magical sword, and the Golden Turtle God joined to protect Vietnam from a vicious Chinese invasion. Turtle Tower commemorates the achievement of a scrappy, small nation standing up successfully to aggression. Wandering downtown Hanoi with my camera on a foggy morning, I was struck by the quiet in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world. I took a moment to meditate and then made multiple exposures to take advantage of the wonderful diffused light and fog. It was clear to me before I made a single exposure that I was looking at a black and white image. Nikon D810, 230mm, five exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 1 second, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro.

To compensate for the remove that being an “artistic construction” makes, your black and white images should show considerable elegance. A black and white image that is inelegant or sloppy misses the point of rendering in monochrome. Here are some of the other aspects of image making that I look for when I previsualize a garden image in black and white, or consider whether to convert a color image to black and white: Is the subject matter essentially a single color? Is color important to the content of the image? Does the image lend itself to the principles of formal composition? Are the lines, angles, and shapes in the image important? Does the image make excellent use of shadows, and in some cases, contrast? Does simplicity work well with this image? Complex floral beds are often not simple subjects, and may not render well in black and white.

Old Tree Roots in a Temple Yard—On the grounds of the Shoren-in Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, are many ancient trees. This temple dates to the thirteenth century and the dignified, quiet gardens are intended to show the direct connection of Buddhism to the Earth. Wandering in this temple was a wonderfully peaceful experience. At twilight I had it practically to myself. The roots of the camphor tree shown are believed to be more than 800 years old. It seemed to me as I photographed the massive tree roots amid strategically placed rocks that it was a perfect subject for black and white. Nikon D800, 98mm, three exposures at shutter speeds at 2, 4, and 6 seconds, each exposure at f/32 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Perfect B&W.

Previsualizing in black and white is a learned skill. It’s not the same thing at all as being color blind. You need to look around at the world and consider the possibilities for how the colors can be rendered into grayscale. This is not always obvious. In the old days, a filter used at the time of exposure or on the enlarger could change the way the colors of the world appeared as black and white. In today’s digital world, virtual filters do the same thing—and these can be applied selectively, so different renderings of color to black and white can coexist within the same image. One useful tool in previsualizing exists in your camera. This is the possibility of either previewing or doing an in-camera monochromatic conversion. While an incamera monochromatic conversion is not likely to be very high quality, it can give you a spot-on idea of how likely black and white is to work in a specific photographic situation, showing you how the conversion from color would work in monochrome.

Tree and Reflection, Nara—Before Edo (now Tokyo) was the capital of Imperial Japan, Kyoto was the capital. And before Kyoto, the Imperial capital was Nara in the foothills of the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Within the formal gardens in Nara, it’s possible to visualize both the constraints of an ancient civilization and the wild and informal aspect of nature. I found this tree and it’s reflection in a pond in the Isuien Garden, which dates in its current design from the Meiji Restoration of the 1860s. Nikon D800, 180mm, four exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/40 of a second to 1/6 of a second, each exposure at f/10 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Figure 12. Black and white conversion workflow

CONVERTING TO BLACK & WHITE With rare exceptions, there’s no such thing as a black and white capture. (The Leica M Monochrom is the exception that proves the rule since it only makes black and white photos.) When you go out to make a photograph, provided you are photographing in RAW, as I do strongly suggest for quality, there is only the single or multiple RAW files, and these files are the same; they are neither color nor black and white. Furthermore, after you are through with the conversion process to black and white in post, the file structure of the black and white image is still the same as a color file— namely, it is an RGB file, ready for reproduction on the web and fine-art printing, and a CMYK file prepared for offset reproduction. Figure 12 to the left shows the best practices for most black and white conversions. As I mentioned, a RAW file is inherently neither color nor black and white. You start with either a single RAW capture or multiple RAW captures for extended dynamic range (see pages 169–189). Using RAW conversion, multi-RAW conversion, HDR, or hand-HDR, the file is converted to color. Note that most RAW conversion programs, such as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and

Lightroom Classic, provide a mechanism for direct conversion to black and white without passing through the color conversion stage. I do not recommend this, as these black and white conversions provide neither quality nor flexibility.

Secret Garden—In the gardens of the Château de Hautefort, an impressive castle in the Dordogne département of southwestern France, reconstructed in the seventeenth century and embellished with a very well-known jardin à la française. Wandering through this spectacular garden, I came upon a window in a wall of ivy, framing a round door across an open flower bed. The roundness of the opening in the ivy seemed to echo the round door, and the round globe sculpture in the mid-ground, so I emphasized the effect along with the general archaism of the image by adding rounded corners and converting to sepia-toned black and white. Nikon D800, 116mm, four exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/5 of a second to 2 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop and Perfect B&W.

Prague Architectural Study—I wandered in the Schönborn Garden on the heights above Prague in the Czech Republic. At the border of the garden, my lodging was on the grounds of the great historic Strahov Monastery. So perhaps the thinking of the monks who lived there over the ages influenced me, along with their homemade beer. In any case, I decided to make a series of rectilinear architectural studies in the Prague area. This garden path struck me as the perfect subject; with its contrasting light and shadow, it seemed made for black and white. Nikon D810, 150mm, 1/500 of a second at f/14 and ISO 320, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Even if you know you want to present your image in black and white, it makes sense to process your image to color, sometimes exaggerating contrast and saturation. The result may not be a great color image, but the added information in the color file gives black and white conversion programs a great deal to work with. This is a particularly important technique if you intend to do differential and selective black and white conversions, so that not all portions of the image are converted in the same way. Once you have processed the image to color, the next step is to convert the image to black and white. I recommend using a program, such as Adobe Photoshop, that allows you to use layers and layer masks to selectively convert different portions of an image. This workflow produces a black and white layer stack where each layer in the stack is created using different black and white conversion settings, techniques, or plug-ins. The layer masks associated with each layer control which areas of the photo are converted by which method.

High-quality conversion tools that are often used include: Lightroom Classic Black & White presets Photoshop Black & White adjustment layers Nik Silver Efex Pro from DxO Topaz B&W Effects from Topaz Labs Perfect B&W from On1 Once you are happy with your black and white conversion layer stack, the stack should be archived. Next, merge down the layers and save a master file for your black and white image. The best practice is to save the master file in a wide gamut; for example, as a ProPhoto RGB TIFF or PSD file. Finally, additional files are created depending upon how you will be using the image. Usually I create and archive a single file for each purpose; for example, a JPEG file for posting on the internet, and a TIFF file profiled for each specific paper type that I am using for fine-art printing.

Within the Bamboo Forest—The Sagano Bamboo Forest in the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan, is a popular tourist destination, and often the venue for weddings. This beautiful and ancient bamboo forest is surrounded by gardens, temples, and tourist attractions. Listening to the bamboo’s rustle in the wind is like no other sound, although it does take a bit of doing to find a secluded location where the sounds of the forest come through. As forest gardens go, this one is sparse, unsentimental, and uncluttered. How Zen! It is kind of amazing that the Sagano Bamboo Forest has become so popular. Approaching the Bamboo Forest as a photographer, I decided to ignore the crowds and render the simple-Zen elegance of the bamboo trees, which came though for me loud and clear when I used black and white. Nikon D800, 92mm, 13 seconds at f/22 and ISO 50, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Pagoda—Kofuku-ji is a Buddhist temple pagoda within the great park in Nara, Japan. The origins of the compound date to 669 CE, and it was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples of Japan. To me, as I wandered in old imperial Nara, this way of life seemed lost in the mists of time, and I rendered the pagoda in black and white using my iPhone to create a sense of soft nostalgia and poignancy. iPhone 5, converted to black and white using Snapseed.

Alhambra—When Washington Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra in 1832, the great Moorish palace in Granada, Spain, was crumbling and in ruins. Besides neglect, earthquakes and the conquests of armies under Napoleon took their toll. Irving’s fantastic mixture of travel sketches, legends, myths, and narrative of actual historical events caught the public imagination, and became one of the great best sellers of the nineteenth century, and of travel literature of all times. Today, of course, the Alhambra is a deservedly renowned tourist attraction with its highly decorated and symmetrical gardens. The courtyard shown in this image is in the Palacios Nazaríes section of the citadel. I used black and white to emphasize the symmetry of the architecture and the elegance of the lines with this courtyard and pool. Nikon D810, 15mm Zeiss Distagon, 1/20 of a second at f/11 and ISO 400, hand held; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Protea—I photographed this protea flower on a light box (see pages 224–257 for more about light box photography) to create a solid white background. The color version of this image is also attractive. But it seemed to me that the hub-and-spoke arrangement of the long, thin pollen presenters, circling the perianth, floral bracts, and involucral receptacles made an elegant wheellike shape. The outlines of this shape are clearest without the distraction of color, so I presented the image in black and white. Nikon D850, 85mm Zeiss Otus, 3 seconds at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Amaryllis Unfurling—Waking up early one morning, I found a potted amaryllis flower beginning to unfurl. I knew I had to capture the delicate internal curves of this graceful flower. I wanted to echo the softness of the floral curvature in the way I made the photo, so I used a Lensbaby Velvet at three different apertures. The portion of the image that appears most in focus was captured at f/16. The three versions were combined using Photoshop layers and layer masks. Wide open, the Lensbaby is used for selective focus. Stopped all the way down (to f/16), the Lensbaby Velvet creates an antique, classical kind of image. It seemed to me that this was best reproduced in black and white to echo the archaic image style. Nikon D850, 85mm Lensbaby Velvet macro, 24mm extension tube, three exposures: the first exposure at 1/50 of a second and f/1.6, the second at 1/13 of a second and f/4, and the third at 1 second and f/16; all exposures at ISO 64, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.

Mallow—Wandering in Blake Garden in Kensington, California, with my camera gear, I came across this attractive mallow blossom. As I photographed it, I was clear that the interest lies in the geometry of the folds of the petals, not in the coloration of the flower. I emphasized the geometry by converting the image to monochrome. Nikon D810, 200mm Nikkor macro, 1/400 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Extending Dynamic Range

Hunedoara Castle—This Transylvanian Gothic-Renaissance castle in Romania is one of the world’s largest castles. It wonderfully combines scale, creepiness, turrets, and a bridge across the moat. All that is missing is a dragon nestling on the turret. As you can see in this image, the moat has been turned into a kind-of garden with a path along the remaining waterway. In making this image, I was confronted with a dynamic range problem. There’s a vast dynamic distance between the garden areas in the moat and the bright sky with the sunburst. I exposed for the brighter areas in the sky and rescued the too-dark foreground using multi-RAW processing. With the version that brought up the dark foreground layered on top of the version processed for the sky, I applied a gradient to blend the two together. Nikon D810, 186mm rectilinear fisheye, 1/20 of a second at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; multi-RAW processed in ACR and Photoshop.

Dynamic range means the variation between lightest light and darkest dark in a photograph. The idea of dynamic range also implies greater variation within the tonal values of an image, because having a greater range means there is more possible distance between each intermediate tonal value. To extend the dynamic range means to extend (that is, to increase) the difference between the most light areas and the most dark areas, as well as to possibly increase contrast across the range of tonalities. Therefore, dynamic range is related to contrast. The greater the dynamic range, the more possible contrast—although increasing contrast is not necessarily an effect of increasing the dynamic range. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to use it. It is a creative choice. In fact, subtle—rather than harsh—contrast is one very good use of extended dynamic range. Keep in mind that the dynamic range in any given photograph depends on many variables, including the sensor and lens on the camera-side, and the inherent contrast in the lighting on the subject-side. On the hardware-side, the larger the sensor in your camera, the more inherent dynamic range you will have.

Palace of Fontainebleau—The gardens at the famous Palace of Fontainebleau were redesigned by André Le Nôtre (see pages 26–33) from earlier Renaissance gardens dating to the early 1500s. Fontainebleau is one of the largest royal châteaux, and it is rightfully famous in many aspects. For example, the boudoir of Queen Marie Antoinette was extraordinarily lavish, and this was Napoleon’s favorite home, and notoriously he changed the bedroom of King Louis XVI to his throne room. How was that for “cancel culture”? No discussion of Fontainebleau is complete without some explanation of the famous carp ponds. These carp ponds cover many acres and the denizens are far older than people. Some of these fish are huge and were alive during the French Revolution. No kidding! No guillotine for them! They may be old, but these fish are always hungry. Throw a few day-old baguettes in and watch the boiling flurry as they pounce on the carbs (these fish are not on a keto diet!). You also don’t want to leave your hand in there when the carp are in a feeding frame of mind. Coming upon the main carp pond as I approached the chateau, I saw that I had a dynamic range issue. An overall exposure for the scene including the clouds, water, chateau, and promenade of trees, would leave the entire image looking somewhat blanched and blown-out. I made my best guess at the exposure, and planned to use multi-RAW processing in post-production to pull down the bright areas and lighten the dark areas. Nikon D300, 18mm, 1/250 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held; multi-RAW processed in Photoshop.

Software plays a role also. It’s not generally known that there is no such thing as a RAW file per se. Instead, every hardware manufacturer has their own proprietary version of a RAW file, such as Nikon NEF, Canon CR2, and Sony ARW files. If you are interested, Adobe’s Digital Negative (DNG) file format, while crossplatform in terms of camera manufacturers, includes a secret-sauce area for the proprietary conversion formulations of each manufacturer. The quality of this software that converts from the RAW data provided by the sensor to a specific RAW file is also very important. If you have an essentially monotonal, low-contrast image with the same light and dark values mostly across the image, then extending the dynamic range is not going to seem very important. On the other hand, if you have conditions that are typical in garden photography, such as areas with bright sunshine and dark shadows all in one photograph, then extending the dynamic range is very important to getting good results. The techniques for extending dynamic range involve both photography and postproduction. If you make only one image and are photographing with RAW files—but, note that my suggestion in garden photography is to always shoot bracketed exposure sequences for multiple images whenever possible—then extending the dynamic range involves multiply processing a RAW file, called multi-RAW processing. If you are able to photograph in bracketed exposure sequences, particularly with the

camera on a tripod, then you have two forms of high-dynamic range (HDR) postproduction available to you for extending the dynamic range. The most commonly applied form of HDR processing is what is often called automated HDR. In this scenario, software such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Nik HDR Efex Pro, and Aurora HDR, uses presets that you can customize to automatically combine the sequence of exposures made using bracketed photography. In contrast, hand-HDR involves blending bracketed images made at different exposures using layers and layer masks in Photoshop or another software program that can be used to manage layers. Hand-HDR gives you far more control than automated HDR, and it can avoid the unnatural, over-the-top look of some HDR software. However, it can be difficult and time-consuming to successfully accomplish, particularly in a complex photograph with many details and varied lighting. There’s nothing to stop you from mixing and matching automated HDR and handHDR. A single finished image of mine often includes layers that were created using automated HDR hand-HDR, and/or even multi-RAW processed layers.

MULTI-RAW PROCESSING The underlying mechanism for multi-RAW processing is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. That’s not to say that implementing the mechanism is always easy, because sometimes it is tricky. Stepping back for a second, consider the dynamic range inherent in various image file formats. If you take a look at a JPEG file, there is very little inherent dynamic range because this file has already been processed and locked in from the original RAW file by the camera’s software. This is not a problem if you have taken one exposure, and the one exposure has everything you want exposed properly. A RAW file is a very different animal than a JPEG and has not yet been processed into a final form. In this sense, a RAW file is analogous to a film negative that has the potentiality to be printed (i.e., processed) in many different ways. Specifically, a 8 8 RAW file probably has a dynamic range of 2 (2 = 256) different exposures from lightest to darkest.

Bridge and Labyrinth—Labyrinths are an important decorative feature of many traditional gardens. This rather untraditional labyrinth, at Lands End in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, is an art installation created by Eduardo Aguilera, and subsequently maintained by local well wishers. I carefully framed this image to combine the labyrinth in the foreground with the Golden Gate Bridge behind it. To process this image, I combined a version of the darker foreground and a version of the lighter sky using multi-RAW processing in ACR and Photoshop. Nikon D200, 10.5mm rectilinear fisheye, 1/40 of a second at f/3.2 and ISO 100, hand held.

Dawn in the High Fields—Early morning light coming through the shoji screens woke me where I lay on my futon on the floor in a rustic ryokan in Japan. Looking out, I saw that the traditionally farmed high fields and valleys below were filled with lingering mist and clouds in the early morning. The warmth of my futon was very attractive, but this was no time to hesitate. I threw on some clothes, gathered my camera and tripod, and headed out. While sunrise was visible on the distant mountains, its fingers had barely touched the water mill and rice paddies. I knew that I would have to make multiple exposures to get the image that I previsualized. So I put my camera on the tripod and bracketed shutter speeds. Later, the hot communal bath in the ryokan soaked away the chill in my bones. Still later, I combined the exposures in Photoshop to develop the image you see here. Nikon D800, 35mm, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 1/2 of a second, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

All these exposure values are accessible in RAW conversion software, such as Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). They are not all usable for a variety of reasons—for example, so dark they are completely black no matter what you do, or so very bright that they are completely white no matter what you do. In addition, when processing using values other than those toward the middle of the exposure range, you risk adding noise and other defects to the image. That said, any RAW file has a great many potential exposures waiting to be discovered, and a far wider potential dynamic range than a JPEG file. Multi-RAW processing is particularly valuable in situations where you cannot possibly effectively bracket exposures. For example, if the scene has swiftly moving cars or even clouds. While multiple exposures of subject-matter motion can produce interesting effects, these images are never realistic. To create a realistic photograph, your only option is to make a single exposure, and the only technique for substantially extending dynamic range is to use multi-RAW processing. If you are making one exposure with multi-RAW processing in mind, the question that comes up is whether to expose for light areas or dark areas. Conventional wisdom says to go light, because technically speaking, there is more data in files that are slightly lighter. However, I recommend exposing for darker areas, and in particular, making sure that any highlight areas you care about are exposed to show detail by nominally underexposing. True, this practice “loses data,” and also risks adding noise to shadow areas, but blown-out highlights are the one thing you absolutely cannot recover from using multi-RAW processing. If the data is not there, it’s not there. Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, all exposures will be spot-on and we will never have to recover from anything, but obviously most photographs are not taken in this perfect world. Figure 13. Multi-RAW processing workflow

Multi-RAW processing means making multiple versions of a single RAW file, with each version at a different exposure, and then combining the multiple versions. To combine multiple conversions by hand, you will need a program that allows you to work with layers and layer masks. Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard choice with this toolset. However, there are some other possibilities including GIMP on the Linux platform. Software suites from vendors such as On1 and Topaz Labs offer their own versions of layering. As an example, suppose you have a RAW file that is photographed at roughly the proper exposure for a landscape. But the sky is too bright, and the mountains in the foreground are too dark. One version is processed from the RAW file that underexposes the sky by two f-stops (4X) and looks right for the sky, and another version is processed for the mountains that overexposes by two f-stops (4X) and looks right for the mountains. Then the tools in Photoshop or comparable software are used to combine the two versions with the underexposed version for the sky and the overexposed version for the mountains. This process is shown in Figure 13 to the left.

Parc de Sceaux—In this André Le Nôtre–designed garden, I photographed a long vista of trees with the idea of enticing the viewer to stare down the aisle toward the vanishing point, and then gradually look back toward the camera’s position along the row of tree trunks. This image presented an obvious dynamic range problem because the foreground was a great deal darker than the sky. So with my camera on the tripod, I made a bracketed sequence of eight exposures. Combining these exposures manually would have been a true headache, considering all the details in the small branches. I used an automated HDR program (Nik HDR Efex Pro) to combine the images and to correct any alignment issues caused by branches shifting in the slight breeze. Nikon D300, 40mm, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 6 seconds, each exposure at f/29 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Willows, Giverny—With lilies and willows, how can you miss? Since the water with the lilies was much darker than the willow tree, I knew that I would have to extend the dynamic range using automated- and hand-HDR. I photographed a bracketed sequence starting with the shortest exposure (1/10 of a second) for the sky, and then continued bracketing the shutter speed by roughly 1 EV until I got to the longest exposure (2 seconds) for the darkest part of the water. With the images “in the can,” I first tried combining them using an automatic HDR program. The results were effective, but a little “brassy” for my taste. So I used layers, layer masks, the Gradient tool, and the Brush tool in Photoshop to make a blend that suited my eye better. As a final step, I added the “brassy” HDR version back on top as a layer at 20% opacity. Nikon D800, 52mm, five exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/29 and ISO 64, hand held.

To put this a little more generally, to use multi-RAW processing with an overbright sky and a dark foreground, often the case in a garden, you process one version light and one darker and use layers, layer masks, and the Gradient tool and Brush tool to combine both versions. A too-bright sky and a too-dark foreground is more common than not in a garden and is also, perhaps, the simplest scenario for multi-RAW processing. Keep in mind that you are not limited to two versions from a single RAW file, and that different process versions of a single RAW file can be used for specific areas of an image, such as a single flower or rock, not an overall gradient area like the sky. As you learn about the potential of RAW files, you will see that a single RAW image that is multi-processed can take you almost anywhere your imagination and pre-visualization can lead you.

HIGH-DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR) I like to tell folks in my workshops that it is okay to take many photos, because “film is so expensive.” The point of this quip is that each digital capture does not bear the expense of film and processing, the way film used to. I am not trying to encourage you to photograph everything wildly. From an artistic point of view, I encourage selectivity and restraint. However, the real expense in field photography is getting to the right place at the right time in the right lighting. Once all these stars align, it makes sense to make every capture that you think you might ultimately be able to use in digital postproduction, even if many of these are never destined to emerge as solo imagery. In line with this thinking, bracketing exposures, where this is feasible, is to be desired. Even if you don’t blend multiple captures together in post-production as I explain in this section and later in this book, having a full spectrum of exposures from way-under to way-over is a way to insure that you will get the “right” creative exposure. Keep in mind that motion of the subject or camera presents a problem for HDR. While it still makes sense to bracket for the reasons I just mentioned—namely, you are more likely to get the right exposure if you have choices—extensive motion can present a problem. This is because when there is motion, an object such as a tree branch or a flower has shifted position in the wind. So in your several bracketed captures, the tree branch or flower is in different positions. Attempting to combine these different exposures can cause artifacts or an unattractive blur. Go ahead and give it a try, even if there has been motion. This can lead to unusual and attractive effects, and there are some software techniques for dealing with this

kind of artifact. However, don’t be surprised if HDR does not work well in this circumstance. But, there’s no harm in trying and you might discover something new! How to Bracket Exposures It’s best to use a sturdy tripod for bracketing exposures (see pages 96–111 for more about tripods). That way, even if your subject is moving, your camera is not. As advice, this falls in the category of knowing what you can control, knowing what you can’t control, and controlling the things you can. Exposures can be bracketed in most cameras using automatic bracket programming or manually. Often, automatic bracketed sequences are implemented using Burst mode, which fires one exposure after another without need for human intervention. The exact capability of programmed bracketing and Burst mode, and how to set them, will depend upon your camera, so you need to check your camera manual. There are pluses and minuses to using automatic bracketing as opposed to bracketing manually. On the plus-side for bracketing manually, you have complete control of the range and exposure spacing and can see the exposures on the LCD as they are made. On the minus-side, manually exposing means that you need to gently touch the camera, which can lead to camera motion, and you also need to pay attention. I kid you not—I have sometimes literally forgotten where I am in the middle of a long manual-exposure bracket sequence. It’s best practice to vary exposures in a bracketed sequence by ±1 EV, and to vary the shutter speed, not the aperture, and not the ISO. Aperture is not varied because changing the aperture can change the depth of field between captures, and ISO is not varied because this can add noise to an image. So the way I usually bracket exposures is to change the shutter speed dial by 1 EV each time—for example, 1/30, 1/60, and 1/125 of a second. The way my current camera (Nikon D850) is set, this means three clicks of the secondary control dial. As a positive for automatic bracketing accompanied by Burst mode, you don’t need to touch the camera during the bracketing sequence. On the other hand, Burst mode can make an obnoxious racket in a quiet garden, and you are limited by the automatic bracketing program that your camera features. In my experience, this limitation is real: With most advanced cameras, you can program bracket mode to vary shutter speed by 1 EV, but there is a limit to the number of exposures you can make. With my Nikon D850, this limit is nine exposures (the correct exposure and four exposures in either direction from the correct exposure). Many cameras don’t allow even nine exposures in a bracketed sequence.

I often prefer to photograph a bracketed sequence that is greater than nine exposures, and I like to be able to decide which portions of the exposure range are important. For example, in a garden bracketed sequence, I may want to concentrate the bracketed exposures on the dark shade, and feel that one or two exposures do just fine for the lighter areas.

Oronelle Bridge—The Oronelle Bridge was built by the Romans in Galicia, Spain, and is along the Camino Portuguese pilgrimage trail. Built thousands of years ago, thanks to Roman engineering this bridge is still in use. Photographing the bridge in the early morning, I wanted to tackle two different issues: the bridge and the background were a great deal darker than the foreground, and I wanted to give the water in the foreground a smooth, soft effect, echoing the softness of the green water plants. To make a really long exposure for the comparatively bright foreground, I added a 4X neutral density filter that I carry in my pilgrim camera kit, and a polarizing filter (in addition to the polarizing effect, this filter inherently reduces incoming light). The polarizer has an inherent neutral density effect of about 2X. This led to a combined exposure reduction of about 8X, allowing me to make quite a long exposure for the foreground (4 minutes), and get the pleasant blurred water that I was looking for. I exposed for the bridge without the filters at 1 minute. I combined the two exposures in Photoshop using a layer mask and the Gradient tool. Nikon D850, 58mm, two exposures, one exposure at 1 minute, and the second at 4 minutes using a 4X neutral density filter and a polarizer; each exposure at f/29 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

California Oak—While photographing near the Old Borges Ranch near Mount Diablo during California’s all-too-brief, very green spring, I came upon this oak tree up the slope of the mountain from me. I realized that the sky and sun were a great deal brighter than the oak tree itself. I photographed a bracketed sequence of exposures, stopping down all the way (to f/22) to create the starburst effect around the sun. This effect is caused by the blades in the lens diaphragm under certain lighting conditions when the lens is fully stopped down. I used automated HDR in Photoshop to combine the exposures. Nikon D850, 8–15mm zoom fisheye at 8mm circular fisheye setting, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

There is one situation in which Burst mode and programmed bracketing is definitely the way to go. If you are hand-holding an exposure sequence, perhaps because tripods are not allowed (an all-too frequent occurrence in public gardens), then you should definitely use Burst mode and automatic bracketing. Automatic HDR software can realign images where there has been some motion between the captures, and generally does a pretty good job of this, depending on the hardware you are using and the amount of motion. This camera technique works best in situations where each exposure is written quickly to the memory card, so the quality of your memory cards and the software in your camera are important. Note that once a sequence of exposures have been autoaligned, generally there is some transformation of the overall image, so you will not

as easily be able to use hand-HDR or multi-RAW processing layers on top of an automated HDR image of bracketed exposures that have been auto-aligned. The suggestion of bracketing by 1EV leaves a great deal of overlap between exposures. I’ve noted the vast exposure range within a single RAW file, and that this exposure range is substantially greater than 1 EV. This overlap in the range of bracketed exposures works to your advantage because HDR imagery that is closer together in EVs (such as having exposures 1 EV apart) is much “smoother” and less jarring than imagery made where there is a great exposure difference between the captures. Having redundant information is always good in digital photography, and the correct approach for smooth-looking HDR photographs is to take advantage of this plethora of information. Automated HDR If you already use and are comfortable with Lightroom or Photoshop, these are probably sufficient for automated HDR. There are also a number of quality thirdparty applications that are standalone HDR processors and also run as plug-ins in Lightroom or Photoshop. These applications notably include Aurora, Nik HDR Efex Pro, and Photomatix Pro. My own personal workflow is to examine imagery in Adobe Bridge. I then directly import a bracketed sequence into Nik HDR Efex Pro, and generate one or more automated HDR versions of the sequence. This HDR version is then blended by hand into versions that I have manually processed through ACR into Photoshop. I explain this workflow in the context of high-key flower imagery photographed on a light box, starting on page 250. Figure 14. Automated HDR process

The key points are to experiment with automated HDR software, see what you like, and adopt a consistent workflow that suits you. Usually, the more exposures you have in a bracketed sequence, the better and smoother the final results will be. Also, as I have mentioned, each exposure should be fairly close in EV to the previous one. The best practice is to bracket exposures with a 1 EV differential. The general automated HDR process is shown in Figure 14 to the left. A bracketed exposure sequence is loaded into the software. Using the HDR software, you next choose a preset, which varies depending on the program. With the preset in place, you can then toggle controls, such as exposure and white balance, to make adjustments. Finally, when you are satisfied with the preview results, you click OK to generate a file with the blended exposures. The file that is generated must then be saved to your local hard drive.

Dahlia Bath—Photographing in an ornate garden with no tripod at hand (because tripods were not allowed), I came across this decorative bird bath with a sweet dahlia blossom floating in it. (No, I did not put it there!) As I thought about the image I wanted to make, I pre-visualized the bath and bright flower against a relatively dark background. I also knew that I wanted the flower and the bath to be entirely in focus. So I focused on the flower (it was fairly close to me) and boosted my ISO (to 1250) so that I could expose all-the-way stopped down (at an effective aperture of f/25) for maximum depth of field. I shot the image hand held at the correct exposure according to the camera, 1/125 of a second. In post-production, I prepared two versions from the RAW file. First, I created an extremely dark exposure for the background. Next, I made a much lighter version—essentially at the values that the camera told me was the “correct” exposure—for the bird bath. I combined the two versions processed from the single RAW file using a layer mask and the Brush tool, so that the bath was presented brightly against a dark background. Nikon D850, 70mm, 1/125 of a second at f/25 and ISO 1250, hand held; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Door, Trapani—Trapani is a dusty, decaying seaport and provincial capital on the western edge of Sicily, Italy. The major industries are fishing, salt farming, and tourism. It’s an important ferry port with routes to the Egadi Islands, Malta, Sardinia, Tunisia, and other North African ports. This city of about 70,000 people has a rich history that dates back to antiquity when it was established as a port by the Greeks. The Carthaginians conquered Trapani, but were forced to surrender it to Rome following the First Punic War. Subsequent rulers included Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantium, Arabs, and the Normans. The city flourished under Norman rule, and was an important port during the crusades. The rich fortunes of this city during the Crusader era are

reflected in grand architecture, amid the dusty and crumbling buildings of the present day. This ornate doorway shows the past grandeur of Trapani. The inner courtyard and garden, as an architectural style, reflect the Arabic influence. The combination of the well-lit door, the dark internal passage, and the bright garden presented an exposure problem that I could only resolve using a sequence of bracketed exposures with my camera on a tripod. Nikon D850, 50mm, nine exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Hand-HDR As I’ve noted, the general workflow for hand-HDR requires working with layers and layer masks, so you can blend the layers together. You can do this using Photoshop (as well as some other programs that are designed to work with layers). It is worth being very clear that Lightroom, while in many ways is an extraordinarily capable program, is not designed for working with layers, and therefore cannot be used to accomplish hand-HDR processing. Photoshop is the premiere program designed for working with layers, although several other programs such as Photoshop Elements, Luminar, and the On1 and Topaz software suites have added basic layerprocessing capabilities. My general workflow for hand-HDR processing is shown in Figure 15 to the right. With a bracketed sequence of exposures, I move from darkest at the bottom of the layer stack to lightest at the top of the layer stack, or in some cases the other way around depending upon the image: A hand-HDR image that is primarily high-key will be processed starting with the lightest layer on the bottom, whereas an image photographed on black will be processed with the darkest layer on the bottom. It sometimes also makes sense to start from the “middle”—at the “correct” exposure— and work your way out in both directions. The layers in a hand-HDR layer stack are combined into a layer stack using layer masks, the Gradient tool, and the Brush tool. An optional automated HDR layer can also be added at the top of the stack. Next, the hand-HDR layered image should be archived, and then merged down to achieve the final image. Figure 15. Hand-HDR process

Berlin Canal—Berlin’s Tiergarten Park is one of the largest urban public gardens in Germany. A railroad runs along one side of the Tiergarten, crossing the bridge shown in this image. Shortly after sunrise on a warm August day, I wandered the perimeter of the Tiergarten with a friend. A very short distance from the center of downtown Berlin, I found this railroad bridge, which I used to frame the view of the canal with houseboats adjacent to the Tiergarten. As I composed the image, I realized that there was an intense divergence of lights and darks in the image before me. The canal seen through the bridge was very lightly lit, whereas the bridge itself cast a very dark shadow on the water. To resolve this issue, I bracketed a sequence of seven exposures from the lightest light of the canal to the darkest dark of the water. When I later looked at the captures on my computer, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exposures for the foreground had a long enough shutter speed duration to show blurring in the motion of the water, an effect that enhances the image. Nikon D850, 52mm, seven exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/6 of a second to 10 seconds, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Castelo de Marvão—On a frigid November afternoon, I visited the eagle-nest border town of Marvão, Portugal. In the cold and windy fog, I seemed to be the only visitor in town. The sun was setting early in November, so as soon as I checked into my guest room at a converted convent called a pousada, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed out into the damp, cold late afternoon. High above the Iberian plane, facing the Spanish border, Marvão has been a refuge for the besieged for time out of mind. During the Roman era, star-crossed lovers fled the wrath of the Roman armies and settled on these heights. Their descendents added successive fortifications leading to the impregnable castle you see in the photograph, which protects the nearby small, whitewashed village. On the ramparts of the castle it was getting even colder and the wind was picking up. I made my way to the top tower of the castle, and in the last light of sunset watched the fog break and the sky show golden-hour colors. I made a sequence of exposure-bracketed photos with my camera on the tripod. Quickly, the scene faded to black with only some lights from the town. Grateful for my headlamp, warm clothes, and the prospect of a hot dinner, I headed back to the pousada. Nikon D810, 32mm, ten exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 8 seconds at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Impressionistic Photography

Impressionistic photography involves using a camera in ways that were not intended for the making of images that purport to show the “real” world. I don’t know about you, but I am always in favor of experimenting with tools in ways that they are not normally intended to be used, so I am completely in favor of playing with alternative camera techniques in the garden. Perhaps this can be taken too far. For example, one popular technique on social media involves tossing a camera in the air mid-exposure and catching it again. Fortunately, there are many impressionistic camera techniques that do not involve risking your expensive gear.

IN-CAMERA MOTION In-camera motion (ICM) is probably one of the best-known techniques for using your camera to create impressionistic images. The somewhat extreme technique of tossing the camera is an instance of ICM, but quality ICM images usually involve more thoughtfulness and control, and less risk. The key issue with motion is the duration of the shutter speed. Trial and error may be the best way to ascertain this, but do keep in mind that motion means subject motion, camera motion, and the relationship of those two vectors. In other words, the faster the subject and the camera move, the shorter the duration of time you need to render an impressionistic effect. In this regard, too much time creates an unrecognizable mess, much as an oil painting can become overtly murky if you stir in too many different paints while things are still wet. The goal is usually to add a significant motion blur while still keeping the subject recognizable. To reiterate, the appropriate shutter speed will depend upon the amount of camera motion and subject motion, as well as lighting conditions.

Against the Wall—Walking the paths along the banks of the Seine River in Paris, France, one passes the canonical rows of poplar trees. As I wandered beside the Seine on a wonderful glowing day of intermittent sunshine and clouds, I decided to try a creative approach to photographing this row of trees against a wall. Using in-camera motion, I hand held the camera and panned slightly up and down over the duration of an intermediate shutter speed (0.3 seconds). It turns out that the direction you move the camera in ICM exposures is critical. Typically, with a vertical subject such as trees, you want to go up and down. In ICM, too much indecision and mixed camera directions (up and down, sideways, and around) leads to confusing imagery that has no real subject and looks mushy. As I tried experimenting, what turned out was that I needed a “Goldilocks” shutter speed: not too long, and not too short. An exposure time of 0.3 seconds was just right because it added an impressionistic effect to the trees while leaving them recognizable. Note also that I needed to stop the camera all the way down (to f/22) and lower the ISO (to ISO 50) in order to get an exposure as long as 0.3 seconds, considering the lighting conditions. For an even longer exposure, I would have needed to use a neutral density filter or wait for the light to fade. Nikon D800, 28mm, 0.3 seconds at f/22 and ISO 50, hand held.

When I was starting out with in-camera motion, I figured that exposure times would have to be pretty long, possibly in the minutes. Actually, this ain’t so. Most of the time, a surprisingly short-duration shutter speed does the trick. My successful ICM images generally, but not always, range in shutter speeds between 1/8 of a second and 3 seconds. Any shorter than 1/8 of a second and you don’t have time to make the

camera move noticeably. Any longer than 3 or 4 seconds, and things just become a blur. Besides the duration of the shutter speed, the kind of camera motion is also important. Putting the camera on a tripod enables a steady motion in one direction or another, which may (or may not) be the effect you were looking for. The nature of the subject matter plays a role here as well. For example, I find that tree trunks respond particularly well to an up-and-down motion. A more horizontal subject might work better with panning from left to right. Impressionism in the garden is a visual effect with a significant and important heritage. Using in-camera motion is a great way to create this effect. However, this is a camera technique that involves a tremendous amount of trial and error, with emphasis on the error side of things. I urge you to take the time to experiment with this and get a handle on what it feels like to move the camera during an exposure. You will make mistakes and get messy, to paraphrase Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus fame. In the end, you’ll have a lot of duds, but the few good ones will really be something to celebrate!

Luxembourg Gardens—When Parisian denizens in the 5th or 6th arrondissements of Paris, France, the so-called “Latin Quarter,” come out to play, they often head for the fabulous Luxembourg Gardens. These gardens were created beginning in 1612 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henri IV of France, for a new home she constructed, the Luxembourg Palace. Today, the Luxembourg Palace is where the French Senate meets, and the French Senate owns the Luxembourg Gardens. Within the gardens, those lucky Parisian denizens find lawns, tree-lined promenades, manicured flower beds, the picturesque Medici fountain, model sailboats on a circular pond, a puppet show, bocci courts, and trees in organized rows. When I am in Paris, I often stay close by the borders of the Luxembourg Gardens. Much as I enjoy strolling the gardens with my camera, sometimes the mischievous anarchist within me emerges and I long to deconstruct the all-too organized principles of the French garden. One day, this dissonant feeling struck me within the chestnut tree arbors of the Luxembourg. I put the camera on the tripod and made a one second exposure, using ICM to wiggle the tripod ball head slightly. By the way, this is in contradiction to my previous suggestion about trees and moving the camera up and down (see page 192); I was feeling anarchistic. On reviewing the image in my LCD and checking the exposure histogram, it seemed fine for the trees but definitely too dark for the trunks and pathways in the deep shadow. So I made a second exposure for the darker areas at two seconds, again wiggling the camera on the ball head anarchistically (Vive la révolution!). I combined the two exposures in post-production using Photoshop, a layer, layer mask, and the Gradient tool. Nikon D850, 44mm, two exposures, one at 1 second and the other at 2 seconds, both exposures at f/22 and ISO 31, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Iris in Motion—The first thing you should know about this image is that the title isn’t quite true. The iris wasn’t in motion. Strictly speaking, the camera wasn’t in motion either. I made this image using the zoom on the zoom lens. The zoom lens I used ran from 70–200mm, the 35mm

equivalent of 105–300mm (see page 351 for more about focal-length equivalency and sensor size). First, I stopped the lens down to the smallest aperture (f/32) so there would be enough depth of field so the entire flower would be in focus. Next, I started experimenting with exposure length and smoothly moving the zoom knob. If you try this kind of exposure on your own, you’ll find that it works best if you are as smooth as possible in changing the focal length on the zoom lens, and also it needs some fixed stops so that not all focal-length exposure times are the same. The formula I used for this image was two seconds at 200mm, five seconds smoothly zooming down from 200mm to 70mm, and then three seconds panning up and down on the tripod at 70mm. Nikon D300, 70–200mm zoom lens, various focal lengths, circular polarizer, 10 seconds at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Gaillardia in Flight—Actually, nothing is in flight here except the photographer’s fancy. My idea in this image was to create a blur effect with areas of sharpness (the centers of the flowers) appearing through the blur. The blur effect was created during the longest exposure (1 second) where I gently let the camera swing using the pan-rotation knob on my tripod. Two shorterduration exposures (1/6 and 1/2 of a second) were used to create sharper captures, and then the three exposures were combined in post-production. Nikon D300, 100mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, three exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/6 of a second to 1 second, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

SUBJECT MOTION In the previous section on in-camera motion (starting on page 192), I lumped together camera motion and subject motion, because one often finds situations where both are involved in impressionistic photography. In contrast, techniques that use only subject motion involve keeping the camera still. This means using a tripod. (For more about tripods, see pages 96–111.) With camera motion locked down, you can focus only on subject motion with more control, which can produce stunning imagery in the garden of subject matter like flowing water, and flowers bending in the breeze. As with the more general ICM, the key to getting subject-motion photographs correctly will depend upon shutter speed. The good news here is that you will likely have quite a few chances to get it right. Unlike ICM, where the camera may be moving quite randomly and erratically, the camera is set in place. If a wave is coming on, or a flower is blowing the wind, this motion is likely to be repetitive. So you can try an exposure at a given shutter speed, see how it works, and adjust accordingly. It’s a good idea to keep in mind the geometric relationship between the focal plane of the camera (see page 117), and the motion of the subject. The closer this relationship is to parallel, the greater the motion will seem, and the shorter duration shutter speed you’ll need to generate a motion blur. While ICM images using in-camera motion are often spontaneous and unplanned, I have found that subject-motion photography does benefit from pre-visualization and planning. It’s a great idea to practice this kind of photography in a controlled situation, for example, with a friend who can push the stalk of a flower back and forth for you at different speeds. If you do practice, you will find that you get the hang of it after a while, and have added an important tool to your quiver of photographic techniques.

Wind—California’s springtime is short, but sweet. In the coastal range following winter rain, the hills turn green and bloom with a wonderful floral carpet. All too soon, these hills will turn to the canonical golden-brown hue and stay that way until the next rainy season. During the brief flower season, I drove past a hillside covered with flowers, backed up and parked the car, then grabbed my gear. I decided to capture a bee’s eye view of the wonderful California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). The problem was that the lupines surrounding my golden poppies were blowing around vigorously in a stiff wind. For that matter, the poppies were also in motion. As they say (whoever “they” are), if you are given lemons, make lemonade. I decided to use the subject motion as a feature rather than a bug. I got down on my belly and set up the camera very low on the tripod. Next, I chose a fairly wide-open aperture (f/5.6) and an intermediate shutter speed (1/125 of a second). I focused on the poppy. These settings isolated the California poppy against the in-motion blue lupines in the fore- and background. Note that getting the focus right in this kind of image takes skill, as well as a great deal of trial and error. Generally, I make many attempts for this kind of image, and only a few of the exposures come out well. Nikon D70, 130mm, 1/125 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

OUT OF FOCUS One of the more off-beat ways to create an impressionistic effect in the camera is to throw the camera out of focus. How much “impressionism” this will create depends upon the lens, the distance from your subject, and the aperture you use. What’s really important here is to keep depth of field in mind (see pages 129–147). While we are on the topic of out-of-focus images, it is worth noting that there are lenses specially designed to generate partially or completely out-of-focus images. The leading manufacturer of these kinds of optics is the American manufacturer Lensbaby, based in Portland, Oregon. Considering that there is a company that has based its entire product line around being out of focus, perhaps this is an effect that you should consider. Conventional wisdom is that photographs should be sharp and in-focus, but who needs conventional wisdom? It is worth noting that there are ways of generating a soft or out-of-focus effect besides literally throwing the lens out of focus. These other techniques include placing a smeared filter in front of the lens, and the classic Hollywood stocking, stretched over the outer optic of the lens.

Giverny Impressionism—In his 60s, impressionist painter Claude Monet developed bilateral agerelated cataracts. He traveled to London in 1913 to consult a famous ophthalmologist, and eventually underwent cataract surgery. The results of this surgery were suboptimal, and Monet complained that “reds were getting muddy,” colors overall were duller, and that he needed to wear a very broad-brimmed straw hat outdoors, or the sun would badly hurt his eyes. It is believed that many of the broader-stroked later Monet images owe some of their technique to his failing eyesight. Failing eyesight or not, many of these paintings are, of course, gorgeous. In making this image at Monet’s lily pond in his garden in Giverny, France, I decided to start with the idea of being myopic, as actually I am (I have worn glasses for most of my life). If a camera is myopic, then it must be out of focus, so I used a wide-open aperture (f/5.6), and manually focused the lens as close as possible (to about one foot) while the subject (the lily pond) was at infinity. In post-production, I added a slight texture to amplify the effect, along with the notion of brush strokes. Nikon D300, Lensbaby Composer, 1/1600 of a second, wide-open aperture ring, and ISO 200, hand held.

CREATIVE EXPOSURES Sometimes it’s right to do wrong. (Don’t tell my kids I said so.) A creative exposure in the controlled and best sense can be contrasted to the correct or “proper” exposure. In this case, the creative exposure is correcting by a mere 1 or 2 EVs the assumption of the camera about which area in an image is important. So, this kind of creative exposure is merely doing right by correcting automation, and I think we should

always correct automation when we can, before it can correct us! In contrast to the controlled creative exposure, a really “wrong” creative exposure is one that makes no sense at all, and may appear wildly over- or underexposed (3 or 4 EV will usually do this). Sometimes this kind of off-the-wall exposure can actually create a really interesting image—for example, the almost black image where one element such as a chiaroscuro flower stands out against the background, or an exposure where wildly going over makes the underlying patterns in the image visible. There’s no percentage in doing the normal and expected thing, if you want to make interesting art. I urge you to be fanciful and from time-to-time try wildly “wrong” exposures just to see what effect they might make.

Field of Tulips—The day was bright but overcast with high scudding clouds. I stood near the stairs to the front entrance to Claude Monet’s house at Giverny, France, and studied the pattern of pink tulips and blue forget-me-nots. When it came time to process this photo in the digital darkroom, I really didn’t have a whole lot of interest in a standard “documentary” photo of this colorful flower bed. But I did think the pattern of the contrast was fascinating. So I took a flyer on an overexposure, in this case by 3 EVs 3 or 2 or 8 times. You can see the strip of RAW exposures to the left, from the “correct” exposure showing the scene on the bottom, to the wildly overexposed one at the top that I used to create my vision on the right, with a little help from post-production. Nikon D300, 26mm, 8 seconds at f/25 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

IN-CAMERA MULTIPLE EXPOSURES In-camera multiple exposure works by combining exposures in the camera. In the good old days, the combined images were exposed on film. Today, an in-camera combined image is generated and saved without needing post-production or Photoshop. If you move the camera very slightly between exposures in a multiple exposure, it is possible to fairly easily create a nice impressionistic effect. This in-camera multiple exposure technique is particularly appropriate in garden photography for “breaking up” rows of orderly plantings, such as flower beds, if your vision is more artistic rather than documentary. Thinking about in-camera multiple exposing is actually a kind of in-camera motion photography. But in normal ICM, the movement is smooth, whereas with in-camera multiple exposing you can decide exactly what “positions” to include in your compositions. It therefore often makes sense to compose in-camera multiple exposures in something like an overlapping grid. In this schematic, one starts by pointing the camera in the lower left, moves right with two exposures, then up to the next row and to the left, and so on. Different cameras have very different capabilities with in-camera multiple exposing, and some do not allow it at all. You will need to check your camera manual to see what your camera does in this department. The good news is that in-camera multiple exposing can pretty much be replicated in post-production using a series of individual exposures if you can’t do it in the camera; although, of course, this is more work. If your camera does permit in-camera multiple exposing, you will generally find this option on the Shooting menu. (Different cameras have different names for the “Shooting menu,” so check your camera manual.) Often, you have the option to turn in-camera multiple exposure on for a single sequence, or on indefinitely. If you choose to turn it on for more than one sequence, be sure to turn it off when you are

through “being creative.”

Flower Impressionismo—As someone who has spent a lot of their life fooling around with cameras, lenses, and flowers, I can attest to the benefits of pure, aimless experimentation. This image is a result of one afternoon spent doing the photographic equivalent of doodling with the small flowers growing along my garden fence. This image combines several fairly extreme close-up views of Jade flowers, taken with a lens designed to promote blurring (the Lensbaby). There were multiple captures, meaning that incamera multiple exposures were used to combine the captures. In addition, I added a touch of a painterly texture in post-production. Nikon D300, Lensbaby Composer, 24mm extension tube, 1/5000 of a second, wide-open aperture ring, and ISO 200, hand held; in-camera multiple exposures.

Impressionist Flowerscape—In a rather orderly garden in suburban Denver, Colorado, I was challenged by a client to create an impressionistic image without using Photoshop. In other words, the charge was to create disorder from order just using my camera! To make this somewhat impressionistic image, I visualized the garden in front of me as a ninecell, three-by-three grid. I turned on in-camera multiple exposures, and started at the leftmost, bottom cell. I made only slight movements of the camera between the exposures. I went left to right, then up a row and right to left, then up for the final top row, and went left to right, for my total of nine individual captures that made up my multiple exposure. Right away I presented my impressionist “master piece” to the client on my camera’s LCD screen. The client professed amazement and then decided to try it themselves on their own camera. I suggest you try this technique, too, with the warning that it often takes many tries to get a good image. Nikon D300, 22mm, 2 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, hand held; in-camera multiple exposures.

Next, you will need to choose the number of image captures that will go into the multiple exposure, for example, a number between 2 and 10. Other options that your camera may provide include keeping the intermediate captures (a good idea, although it does take up more space on your memory card), and what in-camera blending mode you want to use. I suggest sticking with Normal, but Overlay and Lighten can also produce interesting results. Using in-camera multiple exposing is a great way to add a very cool impressionistic effect to your photos. This technique also can be useful in other ways for subjects that involve controlled or regular motion, but that is a story for a different day. So go ahead! Check it out. See what your camera can do. I have spent some very happy times image making with in-camera multiple exposures, and I think you will, too.

GARDENS OF THE MIND In the physical, real world, garden designers have a long tradition of playing visual “mind games.” In some gardens, outside topographic features are brought in to be part of the garden (see page 110 for an example of this in the context of Japanese garden design). French gardens often employ windows and secret viewing nooks to give the wanderer a sense of private intimacy (see page 159 for an example). It is also not unheard of to use a mirror to extend apparent space. Another common way to extend the spacial design physically is to use trompe l’oeil painting. Trompe l’oeil, which means “fool the eye,” uses realistic painting and optical illusion to create a kind of garden of the mind with physical attributes that do not actually exist (the photo on the facing page is a good example). So if you can build it in the real world, “ten will get you one” that similar ideas also apply virtually. Photography combined with Photoshop is a great place to construct

illusions. Most folks are pretty aware that if you can visualize it, you can build it in post-production. Tools like Photoshop are simply amazing! When I look back at the work of artists like Jerry Uelsmann, I am astounded by the level of technical virtuosity that it took to create imaginative images via manual compositing in the wet darkroom. So many of my images combine photographic techniques with post-production tools including Photoshop. I have come to regard this process as “digital painting,” using photographs as my source material. When the resulting image is botanical in nature, I think of the composition as a “garden of the mind.” I would encourage you to experiment with post-production techniques and to combine Photoshop and other software with your photographic virtuosity. Coming up with an idea, planning it, photographing it, and putting it together in post-production provides great satisfaction. I do encourage organization and planning, but if you’d rather be more loose about it, that’s fine. Just keep having fun and experimenting. In the next part of this book, Taking the Garden Up Close and Inside, I’ll show you the details of how to plan and use photography and Photoshop in combination to create transparent flowers, botanical images on black, hyper-focal images, and more!

Trompe l’Oeil Garage—Wandering my neighborhood in Berkeley, California, I came across this most-excellent example of a garden extended via a trompe l’oeil painting of a colonnade on the front of a garage door. Nikon D850, 48mm, six exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/800 of a second to 1/5 of a second, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 400, tripod mounted.

Bouquet for Phyllis—When you are creating a virtual garden or bouquet, one thing I like to teach in my workshops is that every image needs an internal structure. You can think of this internal structure as a kind of scaffolding, which is often not consciously seen in the final result. In the case of this bouquet that I created with my wife Phyllis in mind, the structure resembles trees and branches, or flowers literally on stalks like in a bouquet. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/13 of a second to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Quince by Moon—The image is a complete confection made of several parts. I found a flowering quince in a deserted and desolate lot in an undesirable part of town. Who planted it? How did it get there? I brought a branch home and photographed it in my studio. I then put it together with a number of dreamlike elements using post-production tools. Composite image: Flowering Quince—Nikon D800, 35mm Zeiss Distagon, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/25 of a second to 2.5 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; Moon—Nikon D300, 200mm, 1/60 of a second at f/8 and ISO 320, hand held; scanned texture for background. All elements combined in Photoshop.

Petal Panorama—This image started with a petal from a bougainvillea vine. I photographed the petal on a light box and worked in Photoshop to create the panorama that you see. Nikon D200, 200mm Nikkor macro, 36mm extension tube, 0.8 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod

mounted; image composited with itself in Photoshop.

X-Ray Flower Medley Fusion—Working with radiologist and physicist Dr. Julian Köpke, I used an x-ray machine to generate a monochrome x-ray capture of these roses and ranunculuses. Next, we photographed the same flowers on a light box. I combined the x-ray with the photograph to create this “fusion” image. Fusion image: DICOM medical x-ray file with light box photo overlay.

Dawn Chorus Unbound—Fantasy author Philip Pullman once said that “reason is a good servant, but a bad master.” While an image like Dawn Chorus Unbound, and the other images in this “Gardens of the Mind” section, use a substantial toolset of photography and software in their creation, they also require a sense of play and being open to creative serendipity. I want viewers to experience the fabric of reality a little differently. What is real and what is not? The answer is not always so apparent. Nikon D200, 70mm, 1/8 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; image composited in Photoshop.

Gaillardia-gami—Originally, my idea in photographing this Gaillardia on a light box was to create an image analogous to a digital photogram. After photographing the image, I played with it using color channels in the LAB color space in Photoshop. Using several of these variations, I constructed a composition that I think of as kind of digital origami because it is “folded” virtually. This led to my title: Gaillardia-gami, short for Gaillardia origami. Nikon D200, 105mm Nikkor macro, 36mm extension tube, 1.3 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; image composited with itself in Photoshop.

Study in Petals with Protea Center—Petal picking is a family process in our house. I gather everyone around the light box, and we gently pick and sort flower petals for me to use in my collages. With this digital collage, I started with a central protea on my light box, and arranged petals around the protea to create the shape of a mandala—or, if you prefer, a virtual flower. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop. The image on page 218 has been converted to a black background using the version shot on the light box, and an L-channel conversion in Photoshop’s LAB color space.

Paul Klee in Wabi-Sabi’s Garden—Paul Klee has been one of my favorite artists for many years. I think it is tremendous the way he manages to add whimsy and fantasy to finished art that somehow miraculously seems well organized. How does he do it? Wabi-sabi, the Japanese ideal of beauty through decay, comes together here with a light box composition that is an homage to Paul Klee. Flowers that are no longer pristine but still beautiful are arranged in a fantastical garden, while an out-of-scale moth hovers in the breeze. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Taking the Garden Close-Up and Inside

The Art of Transparency

Ansel Adams wrote that once he had mastered photography of the grand landscape, he “gained the freedom to see with more sensitive eyes the full landscape of our environment, a landscape that included scissors and thread, grains of sand, leaf details, the human face, and a single rose.” From my viewpoint, the entire universe can be encompassed by tiny objects, and there is as much to study in small things as in large things, inside as well as outside. In the previous part of Creative Garden Photography, I explored techniques for photography of gardens writ large. In this part, photographic subjects get smaller: We look at the world close-up and personal, and explore techniques for bringing the outside garden inside. To start with, I’ll show you how to create high-key floral compositions for transparency using a light box.

Pale Garden—In Pale Garden, on the light box I used the idea of a garden of flowers with individual stalks. This is a fairly common style of light box composition, but in Pale Garden, I emphasized the translucency of the petals by choosing more of the high-key exposures when I made my blends in post-production. In doing this, I pre-visualized an image where the final appearance would be reminiscent of stained glass. To accomplish this result, I laid the tulips with stems and the dark orange clivia on the light box before I added the blue clematis, and the frilly Iris ensata ‘Azuma-kagami.’ Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, nine exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/50 of a second to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/14 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

HOW LIGHT BOX PHOTOGRAPHY WORKS What happens to the background if you take a pure white card, and place a floral arrangement on the card, back light the setup, and photograph straight down on the card? (See page 72 for information about backlighting.) You might want to try this as an illustrative experiment. The answer you’ll find, if you expose for the flowers using the camera’s idea of the correct exposure, is that the white background will turn gray. This is as it should be— you could alternatively expose for the white background, and the flowers would then turn black in silhouette—and this also happens when you photograph the same flowers on a light box rather than a white card. But, of course, gray isn’t very attractive as a background, and white is. So one of the primary purposes of light box photography combined with high-key HDR postproduction is to generate an image of floral or other subject matter on a very white background. Another somewhat more difficult way to accomplish the same goal would be to control separate lighting of the white background and the floral subject. Note that a botanical image on a white background can easily be added to many kinds of textured backgrounds in post-production. The other reason for light box photography is to create the illusion of transparency. There is no such thing as complete transparency. An image that is 100% transparent is by definition invisible. Therefore, what we are interested in is actually translucency— defined as partial transparency. In the light box process, translucency in varying degrees is achieved using the variety of bracketed exposures that were made with the image on the light box. You have precise control over how much of each backlit petal you want to show in the final image. This means that a light box image can look very different in the end than the same composition appears to the naked eye on the light box. One other factor comes into play: translucency itself is an optical illusion generated

by chiaroscuro. As Renaissance painters including Leonardo da Vinci discovered, the illusion of depth in painting is obtained using contrasts of lights and darks. This technique is known as chiaroscuro. It also works with photography. Chiaroscuro is one of the most important aspects of light box post-production.

Star Magnolia—The Magnolia stellata, named for its star-like shape, is one of my favorite flowers. It grows abundantly and almost wild in the early spring near where I live. In this close-up light box image, I aimed to show the translucency of the petals on a single blossom, and enhanced the chiaroscuro effect by “painting” in the branch below the petals. Nikon D850, 85mm tilt-shift macro, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/80 of a second to 0.3 seconds, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

Duet of Daffodils—I love daffodils, one of my favorite flowers, and a harbinger of spring. When I see the daffodils poking their green shoots up, and then blooming, I know warmer weather is on the way. My idea in creating this image of a pair of daffodils was to echo the aesthetics of a Dutch watercolor painting. After photographing the daffodils on a light box, and merging down the layers in post-production, I used a flatbed scanner to digitize an old and yellowed piece of paper. Then, I placed the daffodil image, layered above the scanned paper in Photoshop to create a visual background. Nikon D300, 85mm tilt-shift macro, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/13 of a second to 1 second, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

In summary, the light box process for floral transparency is intended to create a pure white background, control the relative density of translucency in individual flower petals, and use the optical power of chiaroscuro to maximize the translucent effects. These goals can be accomplished using the following general steps: Set up your light box in a nice stable place (usually on the floor) where you have plenty of room to work, and can control ambient light directed on the light box. For more about what kind of light box to use, see the next section. Gather tools such as scissors and pruning shears, along with the flowers that you will be using to make your composition. My favorite kinds of flowers for transparency can probably only be grown oneself because of how quickly the blossoms fade after clipping, for instance, many species of papaver. However, I also often buy flowers at a florist or local supermarket

—and there is no shame in doing so! At least some of the flowers you select should have translucent petals that look good when they are backlit. Arrange the flowers to create an attractive composition on the light box. For more about light box arrangements, see pages 237–241. With the camera on the tripod, as parallel as possible to the composition on the light box, create a bracketed series of increasingly light exposures. This is a high-key bracketed HDR sequence (for more about high-key photography on a light box, see pages 242–249). When you are satisfied with the bracketed sequence, copy the images from your camera to the computer, and process the layer stack that has been created in Photoshop. Finish the image in post-production to your taste using many tools, including backgrounds, textures, filters, and LAB inversions. Each of these general steps in the process of creating a transparent floral image using a light box is explained in more detail below.

WHAT KIND OF LIGHT BOX WORKS BEST? I’ve heard it said that you can’t be too rich or too skinny. While these are very debatable principles, I do feel that you can’t have a light box that is too big. If I could, I would have a light box that is room sized. As a matter of common sense, it is hard to create large tableaus or panoramas on a small light box. That said, the size of a usable light box is to some degree limited by simple geometry. If you are photographing more-or-less straight down on a light box, as you should so you can be parallel with your subject, then there’s a limit to the distance you can get above the light box (without employing extraordinary implements like a derrick and gantry!). Note that wide-angle lenses are impractical because they distort the subject on the light box and also “scoop in” subject matter that is beyond the borders of the light box. This means that the best light box should be sized so that you can photograph straight down on it using a “normal” roughly 50mm focal-length lens and tripod, and still manage to look through the camera on the tripod (a step ladder and a flip LCD screen will help with this). For my money, a roughly 26" x 36" or an A1-sized light box works best. But, don’t worry if your light box doesn’t meet these somewhat gargantuan dimensions. Smaller light boxes have virtues, too. For example, they are more portable. I’ve made many very lovely images on much smaller light boxes. When I first started photographing flowers on a light box for transparency, I used a slide sorting table originally from the film days with dimensions of about 26" x 36"

and lit with daylight fluorescent tubes. These days, I more commonly use an A1-size LED light panel. Another, less expensive option if you are a handy person, is to build your own light box. As a starting place, you’ll find a link to a bill of materials and plan on my website at

Flowers that Remain Behind—When I give a workshop about light box flower techniques, generally we use this as an excuse for overwhelming the workshop room with masses of flowers. There are always flowers that remain behind after the workshop is over, like those shown here. I used the mass of flowers to create a single blanket-like appearance that is unusual for my compositions, since there’s no clear underlying structure. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Bounty of the Garden—With this panoramic high-key HDR image photographed on a light box, the poppies, peonies, and campanulas all came from my personal garden. Nikon D800, 55mm Zeiss Otus, seven exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

You might think that the color temperature of the light box is very important. However, it is surprising but true that the color temperature of the light source used in a light box doesn’t matter very much. You can always correct color temperature in post-production, provided you are photographing using RAW files. Another technique is to use your camera to measure the color temperature of your light source, and then adjust the white balance in your camera to the fixed kelvin number that you have determined (check your camera manual to see if your camera has these capabilities, and to find out how to adjust this setting). As the saying goes, the best camera to use is the one you have with you. In much the same spirit, the best light box to use is the one that you have handy. I’ve seen some excellent light box work from some improvised light boxes. So don’t let the quality of your light box stop you from experimenting with this exciting technique.

Study in Iris—In this image of irises with a texturized background, I wanted to create the illusion of flowers bending in a breeze. So I positioned all the iris blossoms and stems leaning in one direction, much as they would if they were in a field in the wind. Nikon D800, 55mm Zeiss Otus, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Flowers of Spring’s Desire—With this composition of a number of different-colored tulips, white iris, daffodils, and a few purple lobelias added on top for accent, my idea was to create an entire garden structure in a single photographic image. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

ARRANGING FLOWERS ON A LIGHT BOX It’s truly said that the one thing you cannot change in photography is the basic composition of your image. With digital, this isn’t entirely true, but there is still a great deal of truth to it. It is always easier to get something right in the camera if you can. The way your subject matter is composed is probably the single most important aspect of “seeing” photographically. In this spirit, I wholeheartedly believe that the most important aspect of light box photography of flowers for transparency is the arrangement of the flowers. It is certainly not possible to teach floral arranging in a few paragraphs, so I suggest that you see if there is a florist you can learn from, or perhaps there is a course in Ikebana —Japanese floral arrangement—that you can attend. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that a floral arrangement for photography should have directionality. In other words, some important aspect of the flowers, blossoms, and petals should be “looking” at the camera, or at least in an unified direction. Another crucial aspect of an effective floral composition for transparency is structure. Most good floral light box compositions are organized, even if the organizational structure is not always clear at first glance. Believe me! There are only so many times you can throw petals on a light box and pretend you are Jackson Pollock and get a good composition out of it. So if you start with an organizational principle in mind, you are likely to end up with a better image. Two of the most frequently used and effective organizational principles for photographing flowers for transparency are the bouquet or stem view (see an example on page 210), and the circular mandala (see and example on page 219). In the stem view, the organizational principle is one or more flower stems or stalks coming up into the blossom part of the arrangement, with the blossoms apparently attached to the stems. An extension of the stem bouquet is to create and entire “small garden” with the stalks extending to the bottom of the frame (see pages 236–237 for an example). Traditionally, mandalas are thought of in art as meditation pieces. They are circular compositions of blossoms, often around an important central element. “Mandala” is

the Sanskrit word for “circle.” One or two blossoms by themselves can make a very effective image, and is of course the simplest of organizational principles. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the hardest to pull off! A clear pattern—it may or may not be repeating—where one petal touches another without an obvious white background is another kind of structure that I enjoy creating in my floral work (see pages 242–243 for an example). From time to time, I like to use iconography from various artistic traditions as the basis for the structure of my floral composition. Do not be surprised if you can see a Celtic knot or a hieroglyph as the underlying form to which I have added the decorative aspects of flowers. To summarize, I suggest eschewing the “Jackson Pollock” approach of simply throwing petals at a light box, and starting with one of the five following structural approaches to your light box composition: The “bouquet” approach, sometimes implemented as stems and garden.

Clematis on Black—A sweet, light purple Bee’s Jubilee Clematis vine grows across the top of my garden gate. The very translucent blossoms from this vine are great fun to photograph, and I do so every spring when it is flowering. For this version, I inverted the original light box photo to create a black background using the techniques explained starting on page 258.

Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, four exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

The circular mandala. The single blossom, see facing page (under the right circumstances this can be extended to two or three blossoms). Recognizable iconography that makes visual sense as a glyph. A patterned image where petals are “cheek to jowl” next to each other, possibly in a repetitive arrangement. This doesn’t mean simply piling petals on top of each other. As I’ve noted, floral arrangement is the key aspect of photographing flowers on a light box. This means that it is worth taking the time to learn and practice floral arrangements, whether these arrangements are in a vase or on a light box. Playing with flowers is so much fun! Light box arrangements often mimic in two-dimensions the three-dimensional presentation that works best in vases, sometimes with the blossoms turned more toward the camera than in a real-life bouquet. You should give thought to previsualization and your image and how this is going to be supported by the underlying structure before you even put a single petal on the light box. Time spent in contemplation will pay dividends in the quality of the work that is created.

Flying Dragon—I completely adore the idea and visuals of that mythical creature, the dragon. My thought with this petal composition was to recreate the iconography of a flying Chinese dragon. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/20 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Try to set aside a serene place to do your light box arrangements, and look at this fun process as very much a form of meditation. I find that I do my best light box work while listening to music that I enjoy. If you get the arrangement substantially “wrong,” and it just doesn’t look right to you, nothing you do in photography or postproduction will make it right. Get the arrangement flowing, feel satisfied with it yourself, and the rest is simply managing a technical craft, sometimes with a bit of your own special sauce.

LIGHT BOX PHOTOGRAPHY The idea behind light box photography is to create an HDR bracketed sequence of images, where all that matters is the high-key portion of the sequence (for general information about how to create HDR bracketed sequences, see pages 179–191). There are two ways to think about high-key bracketed sequences. The first is the most important. Different petals have different thicknesses, and therefore different degrees of translucency and opacity. To capture all of these different degrees of translucency —which are never seen all at the same time by the human eye—requires multiple different exposures. You can think of this as one exposure for each of the different degrees of translucency, with a systematic process of bracketing exposures by 1 EV certain to get each of the different translucent densities. In effect, the purpose of exposure bracketing is to end up with a deconstructed layer set, with each layer representing a different translucency value. The second way to think about a high-key exposure bracket is that the intended previsualization is a bright image, with a great deal of white in it. So, of course, one is photographing for brightness and lightness, and erring on the side of overexposure. Remember that photographing straight down on a backlit white card creates a gray, not white, photo. As I mentioned before, a wonderful consequence of high-key bracketed photography on a light box is that it is possible to create a bright, white background—which otherwise would not be possible without using specialized lighting techniques.

Hydrangea Blossoms—The hydrangea is often thought of as an old-fashioned flower beloved of grandmothers, aunties, and boomers. But there’s been a revolution in hydrangea hybridization in the last few years. Some of these hydrangea flowers are stylish, modern, and magnificent! If you’ve ever looked at a hydrangea blossom up close, you’ll see that each apparent flower is made up of myriad small petal constructions, each with its own core. To make this image, I snipped the almost microscopic inner hydrangea flowers off the larger blossom, arranged them on a light box in a repetitive pattern, and photographed them with a macro lens. Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Poppies and Mallows—I was excited to have a beautiful crop of Papaver rhoeas (corn poppies) from my garden, which made a gorgeous combination with purple blossoms from a nearby mallow shrub. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/13 of a second to 4 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Looking at the exposure issues involved in floral light box photography leads naturally to a discussion of exposure histograms. As you may know, your camera will show you the exposure histogram for a subject before you make a capture, or after you have captured a photograph. Once you learn to read them, exposure histograms tend to be a more accurate measure of the validity of an exposure than the reproduction of the scene on your camera’s LCD. An exposure histogram is a bar graph of the values from dark to light in the subject that you are photographing. If everything in front of the camera is dark black, then the exposure histogram will show a spike on the left side—and nothing else. In contrast, if you are photographing a completely white, bright subject, then the exposure histogram will spike on the right side. It is sometimes believed that you don’t want an exposure that’s biased to either side of the histogram, and certainly not “pinned” to either the dark or light side. This concept of the “correct” or proper exposure suggests that the best exposures are something like a parabola, centered or near centered around the midpoint of the histogram between dark and light. I like to think of my way of exposing a bracketed sequence of HDR photos for the light box as more like that of Luke from the Star Wars series, where it is important to go over to the light and to avoid the dark side. To put this in the context of the exposure histogram, in light box work there is absolutely no reason to care about anything to the left of the center. We simply don’t need the dark values. All we need are the values of the subject at a correct exposure (and sometimes we don’t really even need those), heading over to the light side. This relationship is shown in Figure 16 below, where a nominal histogram for a “proper” exposure is indicated by a parabola with the maximum on the midpoint, and the red-circled portion are the only exposure values that we actually care about. You can go ahead and photograph the darker values if you want, but with a backlit subject on a light box, you almost certainly won’t be using them in the final blend. Figure 16. Exposure histogram showing high-key areas

Translucency of Rosa—In creating this image, my idea was to use something close to a repetitive pattern. Note that a purple clematis blossom (see page 239 for a close-up of this flower) anchors the center of the frame. Extraordinarily translucent old-fashioned white roses provide a top layer over the clematis and more opaque roses. An inverted version of this image is shown on page 262. Nikon D810, 55mm Zeiss Otus, nine exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 15 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

In a practical context, here’s how I use this information about exposures, exposure histograms, and bracketed HDR sequences to make my light box imagery. First, I gauge the proper exposure based on an overall reading from my camera’s light meter. Next, I generate a bracketed sequence of images, using either manual exposure or the camera’s bracketing feature. Each exposure should be +1 EV brighter than the previous exposure, with the bracket made using shutter speed as the variable in the exposure triangle that is varying (see page 85 for more about the exposure triangle). The idea is to keep bracketing until you have essentially a white image with almost no more visual information remaining. Often this requires somewhere between eight and twelve bracketed images with a ±1 EV difference between them. Note that I do not always use all the images that I capture to create the final version of the image. Also, once you have the gauge of the exposure range that is needed to go from the “correct” exposure to all white, of course it does not matter which “direction” you do the sequence in. So you could certainly alternate, and start with one sequence going from the “correct” exposure to all white, with the next exposure sequence going from all white to the “correct” exposure. Finally, another important variable involves the ambient or other light that you use to front light your floral subjects. Obviously, you have to be careful with front lighting: the more front lighting there is, the less back lighting, and the less of a translucent effect that you will get. But many floral compositions do work better with just a touch of front lighting, and that may modify the breadth of the exposure sequence that you will need—usually by compacting the entire dynamic range. Photography of a floral subject backlit using a light box is far more of a low-tech art or craft than a science. However, this is really a fun kind of photography to experiment with, and as you do experiment, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. I urge you to play with floral compositions, make many exposures, process the exposures as I explain in the next section, and have fun learning to do this with your own unique style!

Low Geostationary and Decaying Orbits around the Clematis Inversion—Even though this image was tedious and time-consuming to make, it was great fun! I started with the clematis in the center, then added jade blossoms around it to create a sense of circular orbit, perhaps inspired by the music I was listening to as I made this composition, English composer Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets. Nikon D810, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/40 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

POST-PRODUCTION OF HIGH-KEY HDR IMAGES Photographing a composition on a light box for high-key HDR can be thought of as an act of radical deconstruction: each of the different exposures captures a different value of petal translucency. The art and craft of putting the deconstructed photographs back together in post-production means recombining the deconstructed images, in an act of imaginative reconstruction. The goal is to create a harmonious whole. This means using the dynamic values of specific petal translucencies in the final result without over-writing those desired results with the darker values of the same petals that were captured at a darker point of the bracketed exposure sequence. The process is diagrammed in Figure 17 below. In practice, this is simpler than the theory makes it sound. My first step is to start by running the bracketed high-key HDR sequence through an automated HDR program (see pages 183–186 for more about automated HDR). The

result of this process is a file that you should set aside for now. The automated HDR file will primarily be used to add dynamic range and structure to the centers of flowers, and does not usually work very well for translucent and soft petals. The HDR background may also be somewhat gray rather than straight white. To create the main layer stack as shown in Figure 17, start with the lightest image on the bottom of the stack and work your way up. Next, add each subsequently darker exposure as a new layer to the layer stack you are creating. As each layer is added, it is masked out (in Photoshop, using a Hide All black layer mask). The specific areas of petal translucency that you are interested in are painted in on each layer using the Brush tool. Figure 17. Post-production process for high-key HDR images

Note that there are alternative possibilities that modify this workflow. For example, all the exposures could be exported in one “fell swoop” from Lightroom to Photoshop

as a layer stack. You still have to make sure that the layers are in the right order— from white at the bottom of the layer stack to the darkest exposure at the top of the layer stack—and you still have to paint in the areas of each exposure that you specifically want using the Brush tool. I liken the resulting layer stack to a wedding cake: there’s much more of what you want toward the bottom, brighter part of the stack, and very little of the upper, darker layers are actually painted in. You do want to be careful not to “paint over” the wonderful translucent, luminous colors on the bottom of the layer stack with darker exposures that are moving toward opaque.

Sunflower and Friends—I love sunflowers to the end of time, but they are not the world’s most translucent flowers. They still look great on a light box, particularly in this composition where I combined the yellow sunflowers with the color-complimentary purple-blue iris in a bouquet-like composition. Nikon D810, 55mm Zeiss Otus, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/4 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

It is at least theoretically possible to use a single RAW capture that has been sliced, diced, and recombined with successively lighter exposures for the same kind of postprocessing as with a bracketed exposure sequence (for more about multi-RAW processing a single image file, see pages 169–178). However, I have found in my own

practice that a single exposure, while it tries my patience less at the time of photography, rarely yields results as good as a high-key multiple exposure. In fact, most of the time, I feel that the more exposures in the bracketed high-key sequence, ultimately the better. Once I am happy with my layer stack created from the bracketed exposures, I then add a little of the reserved automated HDR blend, usually into the centers of the flowers to increase sharpness and tonal range in contrast to the more light, luminous, and diaphanous petals. When the entire layer stack is pleasing, it should be archived before merging the layers down. That way, if you want to make changes in the future, you won’t have to start from scratch.

Flowers Are—Surely, whatever else you can say about flowers—“flowers are naughty, flowers are nice”—flowers are there. The attractiveness of flowers to us is what draws us to them, and leads us to propagate them. Hence, the survival of more flowers, and there you are. . . . Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Et chorus sinit ire cum flores—Roughly speaking, my image title translates from the Latin to “Let’s take flowers with us and dance!” The thought stems from my somewhat gloomy meditation on the state of the world. Finally I said to myself, “what the hey, so long as I can take flowers, photograph them, and make images, something is okay in my world!” Nikon D810, 55mm Zeiss Otus, 18 total exposures consisting of two panels of 9 exposures each; the two panels combined to make a panorama; each panel with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 15 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Once you’ve merged down the layers, you can create further effects using postproduction software. These include (but are not limited to): Painting directly on petals to use chiaroscuro to emphasize translucency and depth. Using filters and plug-ins, such as those from the Nik Collection of software from DxO, and Topaz Labs. Adding textures and backgrounds. Inverting the image using the LAB color space to swap whites for black, and blacks for white. The LAB color inversion process is explained starting on page 258.

Transparency—The Papaver rhoeas, commonly known as the corn poppy, is one of my favorites. This is a beautiful translucent papaver, perfect for light box photography. The blossoms are very ephemeral, so photography must be done shortly after the flower blooms. This was one of my first successful light box images, made after a great deal of experimentation. It’s been used in numerous publications, as a wrap-around book cover, a poster, and more. For the inverted version on black, turn to pages 258–259. Nikon D850, 85mm tilt-shift macro, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

INVERSIONS IN POST-PRODUCTION Exchanging a white background of a floral light box image for a black background using the LAB color space in Photoshop is a kind of “twofer”—two for the price of one. I already have the image on white, and now in a few simple steps I can have the image on black. The way this works is pretty simple. I’ll show you the mechanics in a minute. But before we get to the mechanics, there are a few things you’ll need to understand. Understanding LAB Color First, a “color space” is a definition and model of the way that colors are referenced and displayed for reproduction on a monitor or for printing. The most commonly used color spaces are RGB—which is universally used on the internet and on display monitors—and CMYK, which is used to reproduce images in offset printing for books, such as this one. In RGB, the letters RGB stand for the three channels of the color space—Red, Green, and Blue. In CMYK, the letters are short for the four channels, Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y), and Black (K).

Transparency on Black—This Papaver rhoeas composition presented on a black background is an LAB L-channel inversion of the light box image on a white background shown on pages 256– 257. Nikon D850, 85mm tilt-shift macro, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

LAB is an alternative color space first specified by a 1930s consortium of physicists specializing in color. There are a number of attractive aspects to the LAB color space, particularly that it is the widest gamut color space, meaning that more colors can be defined under LAB than under RGB or CMYK. Leaving aside other interesting and useful aspects of LAB color, the twofer inversion uses a few particular properties of LAB. The first is that the structure of LAB specifically separates grayscale information, which is entirely contained in the L (Lightness) channel, from the color information, which is contained in the A and B channels. Neither RGB nor CMYK easily implement this separation of grayscale. In addition, the color channels in LAB are color opponent. This means that each channel contains all the values of a color—and its opposite. So the L channel goes all the way from completely light (white) to completely dark (black). Using the L-channel, swapping channel values—which is also called inversion, or inverting a channel—swaps whites for blacks, and blacks for whites. This is the mechanism I use for my twofer.

Left: Schizanthus grahamii and Iceberg Roses and Right: Ghost Flowers—The idea for this composition started when I noticed some ‘Iceberg’ white roses growing in a corner of my garden. The lovely white-on-white shapes of these flowers appealed to me very much, but I knew that this very white-on-white aspect would cause photographic difficulties. Every light box composition needs underlying structure (see page 237). To create a structure for my Iceberg roses, I laid a stem of Schizanthus grahamii on the light box. Schizanthus is sometimes called the “butterfly flower” because the vibrant but small purple blossoms attract butterflies and are shaped themselves like a colorful butterfly. Using high-key HDR photography and post-production, I carefully laid-on the layers, emphasizing those layers at the high-key end of the dynamic spectrum, so that the final image would show tonal separation without too much unattractive gray. Once I was pleased with the delicate look of this composition on white, I decided to try an LAB L-channel inversion to see what it would look like on black. This worked quite well because the limited grayscale in the flowers themselves translated to a limited grayscale once the L-channel had been flipped. The inverted version, shown opposite, is slightly spooky compared to the version on white (hence the image title), but an interesting image in its own right.

Both: Nikon D300, 40mm macro, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/100 of a second to 1 second, each exposure at f/10 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Translucency of Rosa on Black—The original version of this image, photographed on a light box, is shown on page 246–247. This LAB L-channel inversion maintains the compositional structure of the original version, and adds some dramatic flair, while perhaps loosing some subtlety. I have had collectors interested in prints of both versions of this image. Which do you prefer? Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, nine exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 15 seconds, each exposure at f/21 and ISO 125, tripod mounted.

There’s one important caveat to make plain before we get started. How well this works depends upon the particular characteristics of the image. Since all white values and all black values are swapped, if an image on white has a great deal of white in the floral parts of the image, those white areas will become gray or even black. I’ll show you one possible way to deal with this issue toward the end of this section (see page 267). If you want to create an inverted image so that something like the original image appears on a black background, it may require considerable work masking in Photoshop. But for many images where the floral portions do not contain extreme light values, an LAB inversion can work perfectly as a very low-effort twofer. Inverting a White Background to Black Here are the steps to convert a light box image on a white background to an image on a black background using Photoshop: 1. Convert the image to the LAB color space, either by choosing Image Mode LAB color or by selecting Edit Convert to Profile, and then choosing LAB color from the Profile drop-down list. 2. Make sure the Channels panel is open. 3. In the Channels panel, select only the L (Lightness) channel and using the Eyeball, make sure all channels are visible. 4. Choose Image Adjustments Invert. The image will swap blacks and whites, and appear on a black background. The appearance of the floral arrangement will vary depending on the grayscale values within the flowers, and you may need to do further Photoshop work in these areas. 5. Returning to the Channels panel, make sure all three LAB channels are selected. This is really important because otherwise you will be selecting only one channel and not the entire image. 6. Return the image to the RGB color space by choosing Image



Queen Anne’s Lace—Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, makes wonderful lacy subject matter, but is usually captured as dark against light. To reverse the conventional iconography of this plant, I photographed this subject on a light box, then inverted the L-channel in LAB color. To add an effect that resembles the work of the great naturalist-photographer Karl Blossfeldt, I also added a sepia tint and border in post-production. Keep in mind that L-channel inversions can do more than simply swap blacks and whites. This is an effect that is worth experimenting with to create a wide range of imagery—often glowing spectacularly—that cannot be made in any other way. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, 0.4 seconds at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; sepia tint and border added in post-production.

Orchid Rockrose—I photographed this Cistus purpureus (orchid rockrose) close up on a light box using a telephoto macro lens (the Nikkor 200mm f/4) and an extension tube to get even closer than the macro lens would let me. After I processed the image, it seemed to me that the flower would look great on a black background. So using the L-channel in the LAB color space, I applied a Inversion adjustment. This worked fairly well for the background, which became black. However, there was quite a bit of gray in the flower itself and it seemed dull to me. So I applied a Curves adjustment to the Lightness channel (see text above for the details). This not only brought out the special colors in the rockrose, I was also able to mask the effect to add an attractive white glow behind the flower. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 24mm extension tube, 1 second at f/11 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

That’s all there is to it! What an easy twofer. Many of my floral arrangements that appear on black were originally photographed on a white light box background, and

are very appealing. You should understand that this process produces images on black that differ radically from flowers originally photographed with a black background. Working with a black background, as opposed to converting to black in post-production, will be explored in the next section staring on page 272. Brightening Images after Inversion As I noted when I explained the idea behind LAB L-channel inversion, there is a potential fly in the ointment: swapping black for white, and white for black, changes grayscale values in the floral subject as well as the white light-box background. This can be adjusted in Photoshop. As you likely know, there are always myriad ways to accomplish any goal in Photoshop. Here’s an easy technique for fixing problematic gray in a light box image where an L-channel inversion has been applied to convert the image so that it has a black background: 1. With the image still in the LAB color space, duplicate the Background layer and make sure the Background layer is selected in the Layers panel. 2. Choose Image 18 below opens.


Curves. The Curves dialog shown in Figure

Figure 18. The Curves Adjustment dialog. Make sure Lightness is selected from the Channel dropdown list.

1. 3. Make sure the L-channel is selected from the Channels drop-down list. 2. 4. The main part of the Curves adjustment window looks like a graph with a grid. Using your mouse pointer, grab the White Point handle at the upperright corner of the grid and pull it radically to the left across the top, as shown in Figure 19 below. This is an unusual and exaggerated move in the Curves dialog, intended to make everything across the entire image whiter.

3. 5. Click OK to accept this over-the-top Curves adjustment. The duplicate layer of the image now should be largely white without the gray problem. The remaining issue may be that your flower is also too light now. This can easily be fixed; carry on!

Figure 19. Curves dialog: Drag the White Point handle to the left, across the top of the grid window, to make everything whiter.

Curled Epiphany—To create the photo composition you see opposite, I started with the light box composition shown on pages 252–253. First, I rotated the horizontal image to make it vertical. Next, in LAB color, I checked out both the LAB three-channel inversion and the L-channel inversion. The L-channel inversion is the one shown “on top” with the LAB three-channel inversion added using a virtual curl. Having gone this far, I was definitely in a surrealist state of mind. So I got out my macro gear, found a pushpin on a corkboard in my office, and made an extreme close-up of it. If you look closely, you’ll see that the three push pins in this image are different versions of one photo rotated, and they are also larger in scale than they would be in “real life.” Finally, once you have push pins, you need something to pin them into. So I added my composition to a textured background that seemed to me rather wall-like, and used a warp transformation in Photoshop to create the curl. Three images combined in post-production: Floral Inversions using the image shown on pages 252–253, Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted. Push pin: Nikon D850, 85mm tilt-shift macro, 36mm extension tube, three exposures on a black background at shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 1/2 of a second, all exposures at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64, tripod mounted. Background, wall in Galicia, Spain: Nikon D850, 55mm, 1/250 of a second at f/8 and ISO 64, hand held.

1. 6. Add a Hide All black layer mask to the curve-adjusted duplicate layer. 2. 7. Using the Brush tool loaded with white, with the black Hide All layer mask

selected in the Layers panel, paint on the image window to reveal and restore the flower back to its original charismatic and colorful glory. 3. 8. When you are satisfied with your adjustment, archive a copy of the image with the two layers before merging the layers down and converting the image back to RGB.

Spiral Arm of the Petal Galaxy—One of my favorite underlying structures for light box photography is the circular mandala. Of course, with any idea I like to see how far I can take the thing. There is nothing like experimenting! With this image, I started using a palette of Alstromeria petals that my family helped me pick and sort. I arranged and photographed the circular structure you see in the center of this spiral, and made a high-key HDR bracketed sequence just of the central mandala. Next, I created an expanding spiral as a separate image with an empty space at its center. This spiral, too, became the subject of a bracketed HDR sequence. I processed and combined the two bracketed sequences for a fractal-like effect. Next, I inverted the LAB L-channel to put the image on a black background. The colors in the petals became a little washed out, so I gave them a boost using the Curves adjustment technique explained starting on page 267. Nikon D850, 55mm Zeiss Otus, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Photography on Black

Low-key HDR photography on a black or dark background can be a very effective technique to create stunning imagery, particularly when a single blossom is the star. This technique should not be confused with post-production LAB L-channel inversion (see pages 264–270). However, when presented with an image of a flower on a black background, it may take a bit of analysis and thought to understand whether the image was, in fact, created via low-key HDR photography or in a postproduction black-for-white swap. To step back for a moment and consider photography on black, it’s easy to see that this is analogous to photography on white—except that we are interested in the dark, low-key dynamic values, rather than the white and high-key values.

THE FLOWER AS DIVA Often when I am approaching a flower, what I really want to do with my camera is make the flower a “star.” No distractions, no bit players, cameo roles, or anything else. It’s all about my flower subject as diva, and I don’t want anything to get in the way of this. If you want to portray a flower as a diva, there’s nothing else that works quite as well as capturing your diva against a black background. In practice, low-key HDR photography on black is a very useful technique in the studio where you can use any background you would like and light the foreground appropriately. This technique can also work miracles in the field in certain situations. In a garden, you can bring a dark cloth with you to use as a background. Alternatively, it sometimes works to use a naturally dark background. You can then emphasize and add to the background darkness using the photographic and postproduction techniques I’ll explain here. Speaking of backgrounds, just as white is not always white, black is not always black. A black textured card with a flower in the foreground photographed under uniform lighting conditions will be rendered as dark gray. If you really want black, and are using a background, it’s best to use a light-absorbing material. There are some specialty black paints that can be used for this purpose in

studio constructions, but the simplest approach is to use black velvet fabric. Black velvet, particularly high-quality silk material with only a little synthetic content, works best. This kind of fabric can be found in specialty fabric stores or ordered online.

Falling in Love—I grew this Papaver rhoeas ‘Falling in Love,’ a double variety of poppy, in our garden, and cut the flower to photograph it in my studio. I put the flower in a glass flute to keep it upright, and placed the flute on a black velvet background. The flower was lit using controlled ambient sunlight from behind and to one side. I used a large piece of gauze across a frame to soften the incoming sunlight. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, three exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/2 of a second to 2.5 seconds, each exposure at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Camellia japonica—I photographed this iconic Camellia japonica on its bush at a local horticultural nursery. It was in fairly dark shade. I used a low-key HDR sequence of photographs, and processed the photo in post-production as described in the text to eliminate detail other than the flower, and to make it appear as if it were posed on a completely black background. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, four exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/25 of a second to 1/100 of a second, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

LOW-KEY PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FIELD AND STUDIO In the studio or in the field, these steps for creating a low-key bracketed HDR sequence mirror those used for creating a high-key HDR sequence (pages 250–257), but go in the opposite exposure direction. With the camera on a tripod, to create a low-key HDR bracketed sequence, I perform the following steps: 1. I gauge the proper exposure based on an overall reading from my camera’s light meter. 2. I generate a bracketed sequence of images, using either manual exposure or the camera’s bracketing feature. Each exposure should be -1 EV darker than the previous exposure, with the bracket using shutter speed as the variable in the exposure triangle that is varying.

3. I keep bracketing until I have a dark image with no more information left. This dark image will become the background for my flower on black. Usually, the process requires somewhere between six and eight bracketed images with a ±1 EV difference between them. On page 246, I explained how to decode exposure histograms, and that for a light box image, one was only interested in the bright, right side of the exposure histogram. Working with a low-key HDR bracketed sequence presents the opposite exposure histogram experience. As you can see in Figure 20 below, with a flower on a dark or black background, such as the Camellia japonica (opposite) we are only interested in the left, dark side of the histogram. Figure 20. Exposure histogram showing low-key areas

As a studio technique, the quality of the image created using low-key HDR bracketing will depend not only on the dark background, but also on the quality of the light on the primary floral subject. The importance of light and lighting remains true when you take low-key bracketed HDR photography into the garden, but surprisingly you can get a completely dark, black background using this technique, even when the actual background is not black (the Camellia japonica on page 274 is an example). While a black velvet cloth in the garden as a background is probably the best practice,

this may not be possible for any number of practical reasons, including the wind, inability to position or hold the cloth up, and garden regulations. Of course, you simply might not have a black cloth with you (when I visit a garden, I often pack a black velvet cloth in my kit).

LOW-KEY HDR POST-PRODUCTION The post-production process of recombining a low-key HDR bracketed sequence of photographs into a final image is very similar to the process I explained for combining a high-key HDR sequence (see pages 250–257)—except that we start with the darkest value rather than the lightest, and add subject matter to the black background rather than a white background. This process is shown in Figure 21 below. The first step is to start by running the bracketed high-key HDR sequence through an automated HDR program (see pages 183–186 for more about automated HDR). The result of this process is a file that you should set aside for now. The automated HDR file might be used to add dynamic range and structure to the centers of the floral subject, but may also not be necessary for the rest of the low-key HDR process. Figure 21. Post-production process for low-key HDR images

Gloriosa Lily—The setup I used was to place this flower on a mirror in my studio. A black velvet cloth was wrapped around and above the mirror to create a solid-black background. The gloriosa lily is a very beautiful but very poisonous flower. It’s native to Zimbabwe, and a single flower is toxic enough to kill many people if it were ground up and put in their Mai Tais, sans paper umbrella. Keeping the attractive danger of the gloriosa lily in mind, I wanted my image to convey a sense of the danger in this flower as well as its beauty. So I intentionally framed my photograph so the composition echoed the iconography of a skull and crossbones, while still portraying intense floral attractiveness. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, four sets of focus-stacked exposures, each set consisting of six exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/200 of a second to 1/15 of a second, each exposure at f/4.2 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Papaver Pod—Opium is made from the seeds of a Papaver somniferum pod just like this one. The pod contains hundreds or thousands of seeds. These seeds are ground into a paste, often using a hand mortar and pestle. The paste is turned into opium. If you are wondering, I grew this opium poppy in my garden. It is perfectly legal in the United States to grow opium poppies for decorative purposes. I assure you, decoration was the only thing on my mind. I was not thinking about opium at all. In fact, the top view of this poppy pod most reminded me of a sea creature, perhaps some kind of star fish or anemone. In making the image and processing it, I tried to convey this sense of an otherworldly, oceanic creature. Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 24mm extension tube, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1 to 15 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

To create the main layer stack as shown in Figure 21 on page 276, start with the darkest image at the bottom of the stack. Next, add each subsequently lighter exposure as a new layer to the layer stack you are creating. As each layer is added, it is masked out (in Photoshop, using a Hide All black layer mask). The specific areas of the flower that you want to show against the black background are painted in using the Brush tool. Make sure that the layers are in the right order—from black at the bottom of the layer stack to the lightest exposure at the top of the layer stack—and paint in the areas of each exposure that you affirmatively want using the Brush tool, taking special care

about the edges of the flower against the black background. It is at least theoretically possible to use a single RAW capture to recombine successively darker exposures for the same kind of post-processing as with a bracketed exposure sequence (for more about multi-RAW processing a single image file, see pages 169–178), and I have found that using this technique with a well-lit floral subject on a dark background can sometimes lead to good results. Once I am happy with my layer stack created from the bracketed exposures, I then decide whether or not to add a little of the reserved automated HDR blend. This usually depends upon whether I am interested in preserving petal softness (in which case, I will not use the automated HDR blend), or I am more interested in an ultrareal, hard-edged effect (in which case, the HDR blend is just what the doctor ordered). As is usual with a Photoshop layer stack, as a matter of workflow, you should preserve and archive the stack before you merge it down to create your final image. Whether in the studio or in the field, light and lighting are always, of course, the most important elements in creating stunning floral imagery. But, assuming that lighting is in place, the ability to generate an apparently black background using low-key HDR bracketed photography, and using a cloth or a naturally dark background, adds a hugely important tool to the arsenal of the flower photographer.

Macro Photography

Close-up and macro photography is important when capturing the essence of a garden. How else can you show the inner structure of botanicals, and the relationship of these structures to the entire flower, and thereby reveal so much about the larger world around us? But as you get closer and closer, and more into the macro realm of the infinitesimal, gear gets complex and technicalities can begin to seem overwhelming. As with any kind of photography, macro work has its own language, tools, and trade-offs that you will need to make. It’s true that macro photography can take a great deal of patience. I’m here to tell you that once you get going with macro photography, it’s really worth the effort and is a great deal of fun. Macro photography enables the photographer to reveal the natural world in a way that is different than that of any other kind of photography. It’s really worth mastering macro photography so that you can add spectacular close-ups to your photographic portfolio and library. The key technical—and sometimes contradictory—issues in macro photography are magnification, focus, depth of field, and sharpness. Camera position is also incredibly important because in a macro photograph, even slight shifts in position make for very big changes in the final image. One of the best ideas for getting a macro photo in focus is to make sure the focal plane of your camera is parallel to the subject. See pages 117–120 for information about how to use your camera’s focal plane to best position the camera in relation to the subject. As a starting place with macro photography, it’s a good idea to consider magnification. How close do you want to go? The answer to this question will drive the gear that you will need to fulfill your vision. Clearly, when you want to get close to a subject, you need optics—such as a macro lens—that can take you close (see the gear section starting on page 285). However, the more magnified your subject is, the more possibilities there are for vibration and losing sharpness. Focus becomes increasingly narrow, and therefore difficult. For my money, autofocus with a macro lens is somewhat silly—I don’t find it works well,

and it just adds weight and cost to the lens—but, of course, you can experiment with a number of macro lenses that do have an autofocus feature; there are always trade-offs, and the choice is yours.

Tulip like Stained Glass—At a local farmer’s market, I found some hothouse tulips grown by an organic farm. These tulips were nearly unopened, and it was hard to know what they would look like when the blossoms matured. I put the tulips in a vase with water and waited. After a few days, the blossoms opened and the pale pink of the outside colors turned reddish. The inside of these tulips came alive when placed on a light box, and I photographed them up close and personal at greater than 1:1 magnification to emphasize the translucent stained-glass effect. Two sets of exposures—one set focused on the petals, and one set focused on the stamen—for a focus-stacked image. Each exposure set using Nikon D850, 100mm Laowa Ultra Macro, 24mm extension tube, 4 seconds at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Depth of field brings with it some optical problems due to refraction when your lens is stopped down to its smallest aperture. The technical issues related to refraction at a small aperture with macro lenses are mostly resolved when you use very high-quality (and high-cost) glass. While the highest-quality glass works well stopped down, most lenses are not optimal at their smallest aperture. Remember, the craft of photography is a craft of trade-offs. If you are using lenses that are not ideal for close-ups, then you may need to use a moderate aperture such as f/8 and techniques such as focus stacking (see page 303) to get a macro image entirely in focus.

Think, for a moment, about the kind of image that really conveys apparent sharpness. Often a photo where a single element is precisely in focus can seem sharper than an image where an entire flower is in focus. This has to do with a property of human vision: we see contrast better than we see something that is uniform. The takeaway is that you should carefully consider the macro image you have previsualized, the gear you are using and its capabilities, and what the best point of focus is for your subject and your gear. Sometimes you will only want partial focus, and in those cases where you want edge-to-edge focus, this may only be accomplished using multiple captures with several different focus points (a capsule description of focus stacking). Not so incidentally, as you know, you cannot have a photograph without light and lighting (see page 56). Small increments in the position and quality of light are incredibly important to macro and close-up photography. One reason for this is because when your world is magnified so that you are focusing on a very small area, any changes that impact that small area have a magnified effect. Whether you are making macro photos in the garden and have relatively little control over lighting, or are working in a studio with total lighting control, pay special attention to light when it comes to your close-up and macro photos. It may, indeed, make sense to add some auxiliary or fill lighting (see pages 340–343).

Kiss from a Rose—At the request of a client, I developed a set of techniques involving lighting, photography, and post-production to create a “Georgia O’Keeffe” effect. Kiss from a Rose was

created using a telephoto-macro lens with an extension tube between the lens and the camera. It is perhaps one of my most successful Georgia O’Keeffe–like images, in the sense that it is often mistaken for an actual O’Keeffe painting. I am flattered by the misattribution, because O’Keeffe is one of my favorite painters of floral subjects, but also somewhat amused at how often the internet can get things wrong—a case in point being to mistake my photograph of a red rose for an oil painting by O’Keefe. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 24mm extension tube, three exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/2 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Degrees of Translucency—On a light box, I created a composition that included tulips, irises, rockroses, old-fashioned white roses, and the central Matilija poppy, Romneya coulteri. The Matalija poppy grows on a bush or a shrub, and is the only poppy that is native to the range between Mexico and California. Normally, most of my light box compositions are not macro photos. They are usually captured within the focusing capabilities of a normal prime lens (as explained on pages 242–249). In this case, I was so entranced by the central Matilija poppy that I decided to work with it as my main element. This is an instance of a close-up photo that does not use a macro lens. I used an extension tube to add close-focusing capability to my exquisite 85mm moderate-telephoto Zeiss glass. Nikon D800, 85mm Zeiss Otus, 36mm extension tube, seven exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/25 of a second to 3 seconds, each exposure at f/16 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Let’s get started! For me, macro photography is a whole new country and landscape. I never know what I am going to see through my viewfinder or on my LCD when I point it at a floral macro subject, and I love making macro photos of flowers every single time.

MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR Really sharp macro photography is most often made using a macro lens. When you want to get really close, it’s time to add auxiliary tools to the macro lens, either between the lens and the camera or as a filter on the lens. Of course, you can make close-up and macro photographs without investing in an expensive macro lens. This is done by adding an extension tube or an auxiliary closeup lens to the lens you are already using. I’ll get into how extension tubes and auxiliary close-up lenses work in a moment, but first let’s go over a couple of other comments and some information about macro lenses. Here, let me add a plug for my good friend, the tripod. In photography that is not related to macros and close-ups, there can be discussions and disagreements about whether the best technique is to use a tripod, and many photographers of subject matter at intermediate to long distances—landscapes, architecture, weddings, and so on—seldom use a tripod, and more power to them. However, there is very little room for dissension when it comes to the importance of the tripod in macro work. Every now and then, I make a hand-held macro photo, although you won’t see very many examples of that in this book. But the fact of magnification, and the increased amplification of any camera motion, means that even in these days of image stabilization and relatively high ISO photography, a good tripod is an essential tool for macro photography. For more about tripods, turn to pages 96–111. Since I use a tripod for most macro work, I am really uninterested in image stabilization in my macro lenses.

Speaking of stability, with the camera on a tripod, it is important in macro work to make sure that the camera does not “harm” the situation by adding vibrations (you can think of this as the Hippocratic oath for cameras!). There are two steps you should take. The first is to make sure that vibration reduction is turned off when you are working on a tripod. Next, if you are using a mirrorless camera, mirror related vibration is not an issue because you don’t have a mirror. But if you are using a more conventional DSLR, it does indeed have a mirror, and the mirror coming up before your exposure can add motion to an exposure with a negative impact. So if you are using a DSLR, either use mirror lockup before you make your exposure, or turn on Live View mode so you are making your exposure after looking at the LCD screen. When using Live View, the optical viewfinder and mirror system are not engaged. Macro Lenses Personally, I don’t collect antique cars or watches, and I don’t collect shoes. But you can think of me as the “Imelda Marcos” of macro lenses. If it’s a macro lens and it fits my camera, I want it! Since quite a few of my macro photographs generate nice licensing fees, my sweet spouse puts up with my habit. That said, I realize that the purchase of a specialty macro lens is a major investment if you have not previously done macro or close-up photography. It makes a great deal of sense to try before you buy. Good macro lenses can be rented. I always believe in trying before buying. By definition, a macro lens focuses close, usually at least to half life-size on the sensor, so that a macro lens should be able to achieve a 1:2 magnification ratio on its own. As far as I’m concerned, a macro lens of roughly normal focal length (e.g., about 50mm on a full-frame camera), should be able to go closer, achieving a 1:1 magnification ratio. In other words, the subject in front of the camera, such as the core of a flower, should appear in actual life-size on the sensor.

Romanesco Broccoli—Photographing gardens isn’t all about flowers. There are many kinds of gardens, some focused on vegetables, herbs, and other edibles (as described on page 34). When photographing this head of beautiful broccoli, I decided to see what it would look like at nearmicroscopic level. I added an extension tube and an auxiliary close-up lens to my already mighty 85mm tilt-shift macro, and focused on the spiral florets in this remarkably structured plant. Nikon D810, 85mm tilt-shift macro, five exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 5 seconds to 25 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

The maximum magnification ratio that a macro lens can achieve is a key part of the specifications for any macro lens. If you are considering purchasing a macro lens, you should definitely pay attention to this. As a principle of classical optical design, the greater the focal length of a macro lens, the less the potential magnification ratio. To put this another way, a telephoto-macro lens will usually have a smaller magnification ratio than a normal-focal-length macro. For example, a typical 200mm macro lens has a maximum 1:2 magnification ratio, whereas a 50mm macro lens might have a 1:1 magnification ratio. To review the difference between focal length and magnification (a telephoto lens is not necessarily a macro lens, and vice versa), turn to pages 122–127. The category of the telephoto-macro lens refers to macro lenses that range in focal length from moderate telephoto (85mm) to true telephoto (such as 180mm or 200mm).

While a longer macro lens may not focus as close, it does have some advantages: the lens is farther away from the subject matter so it is less prone to cast a shadow on the subject and less likely to be reflected by the subject. Last but not least, if the subject is wingy and stingy, it is less likely to notice you if you are further away. Like any telephoto lens, a telephoto-macro provides lower depth of field than a widerangle lens. This is really a wonderful feature when you want to isolate subjects that are in focus when the background is not. But it’s definitely problematic for achieving an image that is in focus in its entirety. Since we’re on the subject of telephoto-macro lenses, I should note that these are likely to be both expensive and heavy. As far as I’m concerned, they’re so worth it! But that’s not the point I was getting to. Many telephoto-macro lenses, particularly those closer to the 200mm focal length, come with a tripod collar. If you’re using a standard tripod mount such as the Swiss-Arca, you can add a plate to the tripod collar. This means that the center of gravity for the camera plus heavy macro lens will be shifted forward, which makes for a much sturdier tripod setup that is less subject to incidental vibrations. An important aspect of macro lens design concerns whether the front elements move forward when you focus close. It’s a great feature to have a macro lens where the front elements do not move as you focus (this is particularly important for telephotomacro lenses). Having the front element fixed means that you’ve taken one variable out of the focusing paradigm. Focusing for extreme close-ups is difficult enough without having the distance from the front of the lens to the subject change every time you shift the focus. But lenses that have a high-magnification ratio often do have a front element that moves outward when the lens focuses closer. Did I mention that the craft of photography is one of trade-offs?

Red Anemone—The red anemones in my garden were just coming into bloom. These flowers are named after the mythological Greek spirits of the wind because of how nicely they bob around in a breeze. I decided to photograph this wonderful red anemone on my light box, making sure I could control focus well enough to get the petals and anemone core in focus down to the details of the yellow pollen specks on the stamens. Nikon D850, 85mm macro, 25mm extension tube, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 4 seconds to 2 minutes, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Summer Experiment—My idea with a series of extremely close-up photographs of dandelions was to use flowers out of focus behind the dandelion subject to add fields of color. I also wanted to experiment with a variety of depth of field and points of focus. So with this image, I made two exposures, one at f/7.1 to be essentially completely out of focus and soft, and the other at f/11 to capture the seedpod completely in focus. I merged the two images in post-production using layers, a layer mask, and the Brush tool in Photoshop. Keep in mind that creating an image like this often involves experimentation, serendipity, and trial and error. You’ll want to overshoot in the sense of making more photographic captures than are ever used in the post-production process to create the final image. Nikon D810, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, +4 diopter auxiliary close-up lens; two exposures: one exposure at 1/6 of a second at f/11, and the second exposure at 1/15 of a second at f/7.1; each exposure at ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Extension Tubes and Bellows Extension tubes are hollow rings that fit between a lens and the camera. A bellows also fits between the lens and the camera, but has variable length via a folding mechanism like an accordion on a rail with ratchet knobs. You can only use extension tubes and bellows with cameras where the lens can be removed. Extension tubes and bellows let lenses focus closer than their normal minimum focusing distance. This has the effect of magnifying the subject. Since there are no additional optics involved, you can usually expect good optical results when using this gear, often on par with the optical quality of the lens that is being modified. Since they have no moving parts, no optics, and very minimal electronics, extension tubes are inexpensive. On the other hand, a good bellows can be very costly. I recommend extension tubes as the best way to get closer in two different contexts: An extension tube is an easy and inexpensive way to get closer with a lens that you already have, such as the “kit” lens that came with your camera. This means that you can get hold of an extension tube and experiment with macro photography without any kind of huge investment in gear. If you are already working with a macro lens, you can use an extension tube to go way, way closer than the macro lens’s capabilities. For example, depending upon the macro lens and the extension tube length, a macro lens that would go as close as a 1:1 magnification might easily go to 3:1 or 4:1 with an extension tube. In other words, an extension tube is an easy and inexpensive way to extend the closeup capabilities of whatever gear you are now using. The only downsides are that once you add the extension tube, you can no longer focus to infinity, and that adding a longer tube to the barrel of the lens cuts down the light that hits the sensor, therefore

lowering the effective aperture. If you are working primarily in the studio, the advantages of a bellows over extension tubes—that you can vary the length of bellows continuously—may make up for the added expense and complexity. When I am making macro photos, I usually keep a set of extension tubes for my Nikon-mount cameras and lenses handy. You can easily find extension tubes to fit your camera and lens mount regardless of brand. The extension tube set that I keep handy has 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm tubes. These tubes have electronic couplings for my lenses, but the electronics aren’t really essential. They would work just fine without any electronic coupling. The only real requirement is that the extension tube fits firmly onto the camera body, and that the lens fits into the extension tube. I use this set of three tubes whenever I need to get closer. I can even combine them to make a longer extension when I want to get really close; for example, combining my 36mm and 12mm tubes would create a 48mm extension. Keep in mind that when you get really, really close, optics can get weird, and not all extension tube combinations will work with all macro lenses at every focus point. Just like the early days of photography—now that I think of it, just like all photography—macro work often has to be done by experimentation, trial, and error.

Dawn Chorus—On a beautiful but all-too-early weekend morning, the family circus comprised of

our four kids erupted in full swing. Still in my pajamas, I sidled out to the garden, camera and tripod in hand. This beautiful Papaver rhoeas ‘Dawn Chorus’ beckoned to me in the morning light as I listened to the faint echoes of family cacophony. As I set up the photo on my tripod, my understanding spouse headed my way with a warm cup of coffee. Nikon D200, 105mm macro, 1.3 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Jet Engine—I clipped this fuchsia from my garden, and placed it on a light box in my studio. To get down to the level of the bud, I used a special tray designed for macro photography, the Low Pod Mount from Kirk Enterprise. This mount is a kind of tray with a handle and a tripod thread. A ball head attaches to the tripod thread, and then, of course, the camera goes onto the ball head. Using this unique Low Pod Mount is a great and easy way to create low-to-the-ground macro close-ups. With everything set up, I stopped my macro lens down (to f/32) and focused on the stamen. The result, to my mind, resembles a kind of floral jet engine. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 8 seconds at f/32 and ISO 100, Low Pod mounted.

Close-Up Filters A close-up filter, also called an auxiliary close-up lens, uses the filter thread to screw into the front of the primary camera lens. Compared to an extension tube, this arrangement has the advantage that it works whether or not your camera has interchangeable lenses. In other words, you don’t have to be able to take the lens off your camera to be able to screw a filter on the end of the lens. The disadvantages of close-up filters are that they add another optic onto the original

glass, which can lead to optical degradation, and that a filter will only fit on its specific thread size. Because you will be making photos through the close-up filter (as well as the primary lens), it is important to buy well-made close-up filters. There are no guarantees in life about this kind of thing. Essentially, you will need to try close-up filters with your lenses and see how well they work. If you buy a close-up filter from a premium brand, such as Canon, Leica, Nikon, or Zeiss, it is likely to be well-made optically (as well as quite expensive). You can also get some good optical glass that is much less expensive from companies that do not also make cameras, such as the German company B&W Schneider. Filter size—the thread size for a given filter—is specified using the diameter of the lens in millimeters. For example, 62mm is a common thread size. You will usually find the thread size printed on the barrel of the lens. If you can’t find it on the lens itself, check the documentation that came with the lens. To a limited degree, it is possible to extend the functionality of a close-up filter of one thread size to another thread size by using step-up and step-down rings. It may be more practical and less expensive to use these rings rather than buying a set of closeup filters for every lens. Cokin, LEE, and other companies make lens filter kits that use adapters to attach to a universal filter holder that can then be used with many types of filters on most of your lenses. Close-up filter strength is measured in diopters, just like reading glasses. Common magnifications are +1, +2, and +4. You can stack these filters together with an additive effect, although this may result in a loss of optical quality. I keep close-up filters for my most commonly used macro lenses handy, and when I really want to get microscopic, I combine a close-up filter with a macro lens and an extension tube. This can basically get you to the cellular world, but once again, you’ll have to experiment and see which combination of lens, close-up filter, and extension tube works well. Focusing Rails When you need to focus precisely with a macro subject, it is often best to use a focusing rail. The idea here is that focusing is achieved by first setting a fixed point of focus using the focusing knob on a macro lens. The camera with macro lens is then moved carefully back and forth to achieve focus, rather than using the focusing knob. The focusing rail is a tool that enables precise movement of the camera via a measured, ratcheted track, rather than imprecise and

sloppy motion. When I use a focusing rail, I first attach the rail to my tripod head, using a standard connection. Next, I clamp the Swiss-Arca plate on the camera onto the focusing rail. With the macro lens set to a fixed point of focus, I then use one knob on the focusing rail to advance the camera toward and away from the subject until it is in focus. Another knob on the focusing rail is used to lock the focus down once the camera on the focusing rail is in the correct position. Using a focusing rail can make macro focusing much easier by giving a controlled, geared way to move the camera. Essentially, the focusing rail is like a little cog railway track, with the camera and macro setup being the train. One application that absolutely requires a focusing rail is automated focus stacking (see pages 303–309). In this process, you need to precisely measure the in-focus exposures from front to back (or back to front) of the subject. The distance markings on the bed of the focusing rail allow you to accurately position the camera where it needs to be to make exposures that are focus slices from front to back.

Dahlia Central Spiral—When I looked at this beautiful dahlia, I saw a very attractive spiral core. My previsualization of the image was to contrast a hard-edged flower center with the soft petals that surround it. I made two exposures, one fully stopped down for the center of the flower (at f/22), and the other at an intermediate depth of field (f/5.6) to capture the soft pink petals. I combined the two images using layers, a layer mask, and the Brush tool in Photoshop. Nikon D800, 100mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, two exposures: one with a shutter speed of 4 seconds at f/22, and the other with a shutter speed of 1/4 of a second at f/5.6; each exposure at ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Grass—I climbed the Coastal Trail above Muir Beach to a perch high above the Pacific Ocean in the Marin Headlands in California. As the sun set, my eye fell on some grass moving in the wind. This kind of field macro photograph is tricky because the subject is often in motion in the wind, focus is critical, and the level of magnification, combining a macro lens and an extension tube, makes it imperative to use a fast shutter speed. I ignored the comparative brightness of the sunset sky, lowered my exposure so that the background would go dark, and raised my ISO so that I could use a reasonably fast shutter speed (1/250 of a second) because there was a stiff wind coming in off the Pacific Ocean. Bracing myself, I waited for a pause in the wind, and made the exposure. Nikon D300, 105mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 1/250 of a second at f/13 and ISO 400, hand held.

SPECIALTY GEAR Macro photography has traditionally been home turf for inventions, gadgets, and gizmos that are a delight to tinkerers and experimenters. Here are some of the specialty items in my tool chest that actually get used (as opposed to tested and tried

once!). A lens reversal ring is a totally cool, simple, and inexpensive gizmo that has a camera mount on one end and a filter thread on the other. The idea is that you take your macro lens off the camera, attach the lens mount of the lens reversal ring to the camera, and then screw in the macro lens reversed, back to front. As with close-up filters, the thread size should be the diameter in millimeters of the lens, which can usually be found on the lens barrel. This way, the back end of the macro lens is facing the subject. With the right macro lens, such as the Nikkor 105mm, reversing the lens creates a very high magnification optical device. This is an inexpensive and high-optical quality way to go, with the only downside being that it is a specialty situation since it doesn’t work with all macro lenses, and can only focus very, very close (when you put a lens on a lens reversal ring, it no longer has a focusing range to infinity). American optical manufacturer Lensbaby makes two wonderful specialty macro lenses, the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm, f/1.6, and the Lensbaby Velvet 85mm, f/1.8. These lenses are available in most camera lens mounts. They are manual focus and you set the aperture using a manual ring on the lens rather than using camera electronics. The idea behind the Lensbaby Velvet macro lenses is that when they are wide open they provide a very selective focus on the center of the image. Stopped down, the look is much more reminiscent of an old-fashioned manual photograph from before the modern era. My favorite is the Velvet 85mm. I often use it with a moderate extension tube to create extremely close-up and extremely selective macros that highlight the interiors of flowers (see page 128 for an example). Venus Optics, a Chinese company, markets a number of specialty lenses under the Laowa brand. These are innovative and relatively inexpensive lenses. A number of the lenses provide magnification far beyond 1:1. The Laowa 24mm f/14 Macro Probe is a very unusual lens both because it is a wide-angle macro and because it comes on a long “stalk.” The stalk, or probe, gives you an ant’s-eye view of the world, and perhaps can be used to safely photograph creatures of the “wingy, stingy—nope!” variety (for an example, turn to page 123). Extreme-Macro Lenses One specialty kind of macro lens you should probably know about is designed particularly for extreme macros, usually in the range of 2.5x to 5x magnification.

These lenses do not focus to infinity. Generally, they are not equipped with focusing knobs. They are really designed for one special purpose: to provide a microscopic level of closeness. To use one of these extreme-macro lenses, a focusing rail is almost a necessity, because these lenses are usually focused by moving the entire camera back and forth rather than by using a focusing knob. Often the plane that is in focus is so “thin” that the resulting image requires focus stacking. Two somewhat confusing lens specifications that you should pay attention to if you are interested in these special-purpose lenses are working distance and minimum focusing distance. The minimum focusing distance is defined as the closest distance at which the lens and camera can focus, from the subject to the focal plane (see page 118 for how to find your camera’s focal plane). The working distance is the distance from the focal plane on your camera to the front element of the lens, subtracted from the minimum focusing distance. If this seems overly confusing, perhaps it is unnecessarily so. What you really need to know is that the working distance is the distance between the subject and the front element of your lens, when the specialty macro is focused as close as it can be. This will generally be a very short measurement, such as 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50mm). With this very technical kind of photography, the working distance is all you will have to light the subject and make sure the camera doesn’t cast its own shadow on the subject.

Bougainvillea—Bougainvilleas, named after French admiral and explorer Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville, were originally from Brazil. Bougainville was a contemporary of James Cook, who is rather more famous in the English-speaking world. It may not be widely known that Bougainville circumnavigated the globe in a scientific expedition in 1763. He also fought in the American Revolutionary War against Britain, and founded the first settlement on the Falkland Islands. In addition to the wonderful flower, he also had an island in Papua New Guinea named after him. The plants with their beautiful colors have been delightfully propagated around the world. What many people don’t know is that the colors come from the bract, not the flower. The bract is a specialized leaf structure that hosts the rather uninspiring flowers (you can see them as white silhouettes in this image). To photograph this bougainvillea bract, I put it on a black background, suspending it with tiny wires that I later retouched out. I lit the bract evenly from both sides, then brought out the transparency of portions of the leaf with a small LED spotlight positioned behind the leaf. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 1.6 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Unbearable Lightness of Iris—I positioned this beautiful iris on a white background and used diffused light to bring out the patterns in the petals. To make sure all the petals were in focus, I stacked three images shot at different depths, all stopped down for maximum depth of field (at f/22). Nikon D300, 100mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, three exposures at different focal points combined in Photoshop, each exposure for 1 second at f/22 and ISO 100, mounted on a focusing rail and using a tripod.

MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE GARDEN When I am photographing at home in my own garden and I see a flower that I want to photograph using a macro rig, usually I will carefully snip the flower. Then I can take it into my studio, place it on a background or light box, pull out all the tools in my macro rig, control the lighting, and photograph the flower to my heart’s content. Obviously, macro photography under these controlled conditions has many advantages. However, in the field or in someone else’s garden, cutting flowers may neither be allowed nor practical. In this case, I like to be prepared with a minimum macro photography rig, and also prepared to deal with the issue of subject motion. As a moving subject renders precise macro photography very difficult, if not impossible, subject motion is a crucial issue. Besides looking for sheltered corners in a garden, I sometimes control motion using a clamp. The Plamp and the McClamp are

two brands of clamps designed to gently hold flowers in place in the field. Another approach to wind avoidance is to place a simple cardboard barrier on all four sides of the floral subject. Besides camera, tripod, macro lens, extension tube set, and motion control barriers and clamps, my field macro kit often includes a black velvet cloth for a background, and some form of auxiliary lighting to use to fill in shadows. For fill lighting with macro subjects, I use either a reflective disk or a macro LED light (see page 340 for more information). That’s pretty much all I bring to the garden for macro photography. Serendipity and inventiveness are also often called for. Since one is often on the ground, clothing you don’t mind getting wet and dirty is a good idea. Knee pads can be a comfort. A low stool for sitting on might also be very welcome.

FOCUS STACKING With HDR photography (see pages 179–191), the idea is that one can extend the dynamic range of a post-processed photo by adding separate captures that combine various exposure values. Focus stacking—sometimes called high-focal-range photography (HFR)—uses a comparable idea to combine different focal points to create a final post-processed image that is more in focus than a single image would be. Keep in mind that focus stacking works best, and should only be considered, when the subject isn’t moving. Sure, some kinds of auto-alignment can help when there’s been a slight bit of subject creep, but you really don’t want to contemplate focus stacking when the subject is wobbling around in the breeze or crawling toward you. Focus stacking is a technique for static subjects, and often best employed—and less frustrating—in controlled situations such as a studio. As with HDR, there are two approaches to making the captures that go into a focus stack. One approach is ad hoc, informal, and casual. The idea is to analyze a subject and make captures based on the obvious focal points, which can then be combined using layers, masking, and hand painting into a final image. An example of this is the image Tulip like Stained Glass on page 281. With this photo, I made two sets of captures on the light box: one focused on the central stigma, and one set focused on the petals. It was easy to combine the two focus points in Photoshop by masking in the central stigma.

Passion Flower—The flowers on the Passaflora vine, passion flowers, are beautiful, variegated, and a great macro subject. To photograph this specimen clipped from my garden, I placed it on a light box. My idea was to emphasize the corona filaments to create a composition from a semicircular part of the flower so that it could resemble eyelashes or perhaps a partially rising sun. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 3 seconds at an effective aperture of f/40 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Flower Petals—With flowers close up, the more you look, the more you see. What a wild world of beauty and diversity it is! There are shapes, colors, and forms in the microcosm that rival—and even sometimes exceed—the world at large in light, rhythm, and harmony. I was very excited one morning to find this unusual variegated iris poking its head up in my garden. In addition to the colors, I found the curvilinear shapes particularly pleasing. Complimenting the directionality of the petals, a series of embossed lines edged toward the center of the flower. In nature, these lines serve to guide pollinators to the right place. In art and photography, they serve an aesthetic function. I decided to photograph the iris using backlighting on a light box. My idea was to capture the colors of the graceful iris while paying particular attention to the flow and natural beauty of the petals and curves. Nikon D810, 200mm macro, three exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/2 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/36 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

The other, more common focus-stacking technique is to divide the focus distances up into segments using measurements, and to rigorously make a capture at each focus distance. The resulting set of captures are then fed through focus-stacking software, such as you’ll find in Photoshop, or in specialty software, including Helicon Focus.

Automated focus stacking doesn’t require a whole lot of creative thinking. It does require patience and adherence to process. The results can be superb, particularly with extreme-macros. Generally, a minimum of ten focus points need to be captured for good results (there is no maximum number of focus points!). Things get really complex and fun when you combine focus stacking with HDR exposure brackets. So think about dividing the distance from the front of the camera lens to your subject into ten segments. Mostly, a focusing rail with its precise measurements is required for getting this right. It’s worth noting that one potential benefit of focus stacking is that one can use a much wider aperture and still have an entirely sharp image. Using a moderate aperture can alleviate problems with optical lens refraction, as well as make possible shorter duration shutter speeds. As an example, check out Gloriosa Lily on page 277. Focus Stacking in Photoshop Experienced extreme-macro photographers tend to prefer using specialized software, such as Helicon Focus, for focus stacking. However, basic focus stacking works well and can be easily accomplished using Photoshop. Here’s how: 1. In Photoshop, open your intended focus-stack images. Using the Layers panel, place each individual photo as a layer into a single layer stack. 2. Multi-select all the layers in the layer stack by holding down the shift key and clicking on the layers on the Layers panel. 3. Choose Edit

Auto-Align Layers.

4. In the Auto-Align Layers dialog, select Auto, and then click OK. If there was a slight variation in the alignment of the layers—probable because of the varying focal points—Photoshop will fix this. 5. Choose Edit

Auto-Blend Layers.

6. In the Auto-Blend Layers dialog, select the Stack Images radio button, and then click OK. Photoshop will create a mask for each layer so that only the elements in each layer that are in focus are visible. 7. Choose Layer Flatten Image to merge your layers down into a single hyperfocal photo. You can now process the image like you would any other normal image.

Matilija Poppy and Mallows—Mallows are a humble but lovely flower that were the main ingredient in marshmallows before everything became synthetic. That’s why “mallow” is embedded in the word “marshmallow.” Thinking about round forms and shapes, I arranged these purple mallow blossoms, cut from a shrub in our garden, in a circular pattern on my light box. Then, I filled in the center of the composition using a large white Matilija poppy. The Matilija poppy is a shrub poppy that is native to California. You can find it growing in 5–6 foot tall swaying patches in people’s gardens and along the roadside. These dessert-plate-sized poppies have translucent white petals, and are excellent subjects for techniques that emphasize translucency, such as the high-key HDR exposures used here. Nikon D810, 135mm Zeiss Apo Sonnar, 24mm extension tube, nine exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/20 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Photographing Water Drops

One of my favorite macro subjects in the garden is water drops. If you see a water drop and look closely at it, you’ll find magic, beauty, and perhaps even the ineffable. Water drops are worlds of their own. They follow optical rules of their own. Inside these spheres you will find a play of light, focus, shadows, and colors. On the outer edge of the water drop, its “skin” plays with reflection and transparency. The reflection of the outer world is a distortion and refraction of our real world, but one that is recognizable. Making a great water drop photo often involves figuring out how the outer-edge skin will relate to the interior world, and how the reflection of the outside world relates back to each of these elements. I like to conceptualize water drop images where there is a holistic harmony between all three elements.

Good Morning Sun—When I am observing in my garden in the early morning before the sun comes up, sometimes I think what a miracle it is that the sun sets and rises each and every day. There’s that moment when there is already ambient light and color in the sky against the eastern horizon line, and then, slowly at first, and with increasing speed, the bright burst of the sun clears the line of sight and lights the day with its bright colors. The world can be captured, as William Blake put it, in a grain of sand, and also in a water drop. One morning as I waited with my camera on tripod in my garden for the sun to rise, I decided to explore the day coming alive via a single drop of dew on the leaf shown here. Quickly moving, the sun reflected in the water drop combined with the small aperture of my lens (f/32), creating a natural starburst effect. It’s great to be able to celebrate the return of the sun each and every day, whether writ large in a landscape or in a single drop of water. Nikon D70, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 1/15 of a second at f/32 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Isopogon formosus—Commonly known as the Rose Cone flower, the Isopogon formosus is a small shrub native to western Australia. Until it is in bloom, this member of the Proteaceae family has a dry, desert look about it. It isn’t until the wild flowers start to grow like buttons at the end of the evergreen-spiked branches that you begin to see how special the Isopogon formosus is. I love the curves and swirls in the intricate and delicate structures at the end of the pistils. Bright water drops reflecting sunlight shimmered on this Isopogon formosus flower growing in my garden. The flower appeared against a dark background and I decided to balance out the exposure by bracketing three captures, one at 1/15 of a second for the background, and two “darker” exposures at 1/30 and 1/16 of a second for the center of the flower and the water drops. Nikon D300, 40mm macro, three exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to

1/60 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

APPROACHING WATER DROP PHOTOGRAPHY When I approach a water drop, I think of the water drop as a jewel that encapsulates its own universe. Therefore, a field of water drops (when one is lucky enough to find them) is a field of universes, with each wet gem its own world. It’s important to keep in mind that water drops are small, fragile, and constantly in motion. Outdoors in the garden, which is where I like to photograph water drops, they are subject to wind, and the vagaries of motion that can happen when I inadvertently brush my tripod leg against a connected part of the plant holding the water drop. Light in the world around the water drop is constantly changing, and these changes are amplified by the optical distortion inherent in the spherical nature of a water drop. You don’t find water drops all the time! Great water drops are rare indeed. The best water drops come after a rain storm, or are formed by the natural action of a heavy morning dew. But wind and evaporation from the rising temperatures following sunrise can quickly decimate even the most robust-seeming water drops. If you can call a water drop robust, which I don’t think you really can! Perhaps contrary to one’s expectations, water drops from a hose, sprinkler, or spray bottle are quite different from “natural” water drops—although it may take quite a bit of observation to see the difference. All in all, the water drop in the garden is a paradoxical subject. On the one hand, like any garden subject, garden water drops must be approached with serenity and in a meditative frame of mind. On the other, this is an unexpectedly rare and ephemeral subject, and when I see great water drops in my garden and photographic conditions are right, I know this is a subject that isn’t readily available very often, and that any given water drop may disappear before I can look at it twice in a small gust of wind. I try to keep both challenging aspects of water drops and photography in my mind when I head into my garden, and despite the challenges, this remains one of my favorite and most rewarding kinds of photography.

REFLECTIONS AND REFRACTIONS A reflection is a mirror image in which left and right are reversed. A refraction is a curvature or distortion within a reflection, caused because the speed of light changes as it enters a water drop (or other optical medium). As a subset of physics, optical science is largely about the way refractions and reflections inter-operate and bend the curves of light that form our vision of the world. One of the fun things about water drop photography is that the photographer

gets to make images that illustrate fundamental optical science in a very real-world kind of way. This is playing with light! Most water drops are dome shaped, or even spherical. This means that they reflect an extremely broad view of the world around them, just as a fisheye lens does. The more refraction in the reflection, the less realistic the view of the world. In my opinion, the best water drop photography has elements within the water drop, both of reflection and refraction. In addition, refractions can manifest themselves as lens artifacts in the process of water drop photography, for example, as shown in the image to the right. Keep in mind that the extent of reflection and the degree of refraction varies with extremely small shifts in the camera’s position. This is a function of the fundamental law of reflection, that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection (see page 80). The most interesting natural water drop photos involve mixing reflections and refractions in unexpected ways, so I always try to be mindful of my camera’s position, and that very slight changes can make a very big difference when making these kind of images. One final point about water drop reflections is that reflectivity combined with the wide-angle nature of a spherical water drop means that you and your camera are very likely to be in your photograph. Unless it is your intention to create a “selfie”—and this is usually not, or never, what I want to do!—you need to take care to avoid being the central attraction in a water drop photo. A telephoto-macro lens (see page 127) can help with this because it makes it much easier to get close to your subject without also being reflected in it.

Morning Grass—It rained hard overnight. In the morning, the sky was clearer with high scudding clouds. I went out early with my camera on tripod and crawled on my belly in the wet grass. As the sun came up, with my camera on the tripod, I made an exposure almost wide open (at f/5) for shallow depth of field. My lens was pointed at the rising sun coming through the water drops. You can see the lens rendering of the sun on the upper right of the image, along with refractions generated by the sunlight passing through the lens diaphragm. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 1/640 of a second at f/5 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Getting the Drop—This almost microscopically small water drop—shown here magnified many times life-size—formed at the end of a small blade of grass. The weight from the water drop weighed down the blade of grass. I stopped my lens down for maximum depth of field (to f/36), so that both the water drop and the reflection of my garden within the drop would be in focus. If you look carefully at the drop, you can see a slew of other water drops on nearby flowers. The drop stayed attached to the grass long enough for a small spider to attach a filament. But things never stay the same for long. The only thing constant in life is change. Right after I made my photo, the water drop fell off its perch, and dispersed into the wind with water evaporating into the oncoming day, and the thin spider silk filament snapped. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, +4 diopter close-up filter, 1/5 of a second at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

SPIDER WEB STUDIO The biggest challenge in garden water drop photography involves the fact that water drops are constantly changing and in motion. Extreme close-up magnification compounds the problem of motion. Making things worse from a technical perspective, usually I want to stop down the lens for maximum depth of field. This implies a longer-duration shutter speed, during which I need my water drop subject to keep very still to remain sharp. The other possible technical approach to this problem—using a macro flash setup for primary lighting—brings a different set of issues, since the strobe will replace the refractions and reflections inherent in the water drop with its own—often blinding and unattractive—flash of light. Meditating on this technical challenge one day in my garden, I glanced down and happened to see water drops clinging to a spider web in a sheltered corner of a rock wall. In fact, the water drops on the spider web seemed quite stable and out of the wind. Furthermore, there was space beneath the web for me to insert a flower, which could be reflected and refracted by the much more stable water drops. Over time, I have had a number of “spider web studios.” I sometimes encourage their creation by bringing dead insects as thanks and tribute over to small spider webs in the making. I look for these webs in parts of my garden where they will not be overly vulnerable to the wind, and where there is an easy way to add my floral “models” in a position where they will show well in their photographic “open call.”

Sunny Side Up—As I peered through my viewfinder at the water drops on a spider web, I was excited to see an entire flower refracted in the nearest drop. The focus was extremely shallow, even with my camera stopped all the way down for maximum depth of field (at f/36). So I decided to focus on the center of the refracted flower. If you look carefully, you’ll see that this area is in focus and appears sharp; however, there’s a softness to the refractions in the other water drops on the spider web. The flower beneath the web is completely out of focus and appears only as a bokeh-blurred background. By the way, this image is also a kind-of “selfie,” as little as I like to admit it. Magnified, the reflection above the central flower shows the photographer (that’s me!) with tripod and camera, upside down. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, +4 diopter close-up filter, 1/20 of a second at f/36 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Spider Web Bokeh—The weather in the coastal range of the California Hills near my home in Berkeley was overcast with a low, clinging fog. It felt like being in the middle of a cloud. This is rare and wonderful weather for the natural water drop photographer because water droplets cling to everything. The fog creates a myriad of natural jewels, particularly clinging to anything that is sticky, such as a spider web. It’s a veritable paradise photographing delicate plants and spider webs when gentle droplets stay put. This mostly occurs in the autumn, when spiders abound in the garden. My idea in making this photo was to emphasize the out-of-focus patterns in the light reflecting from the droplets on this spider web. This attractive bokeh was emphasized by setting my macro lens to its maximum wide-open aperture (f/2). I carefully focused on the water drop refractions you see near the center of the image. Nikon D810, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/4000 of a second at f/2 and ISO 200, hand held.

Should you not choose to encourage spiders in your garden, it would be understandable. However, if you are interested in natural water drop photography, I encourage you to look for situations—such as spider webs—where the natural fragility and propensity to constant motion of the water drop is restrained by the environment.

Interstitial—It rained hard overnight, and before dawn I rose with my camera to go out exploring. Heading out, my boots made squelching noises as I walked my neighborhood in the pre-dawn darkness. Soon, the rising sun illuminated colored, autumnal leaves in a kind of pocket behind a spider web covered with water drops. The sunlight reflected from the colored leaves backlit the water drops and filled them with colorful refractions. Once again, this was a “get down and wet and messy to make the image” situation. Hunkering in the mud, I lay on the ground, and positioned my tripod and camera. Peering through the optical viewfinder as I adjusted, and the image gradually came into focus, I was excited to see an array of bright, prismatic colors created by the water drops. I held my breath, hoping that nothing would move, and made six different captures at a range of exposure values, so that when it came to post-production, I would be sure to have the entire dynamic range of this incredible but miniature scene. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 66mm of combined extension tubes, six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 2 to 15 seconds, each exposure at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Photographing Little Critters

Personally, I believe that plants, bushes, grasses, and trees in the landscape and the garden are living beings, and sentient. True, the kind of sentience is no doubt very different than ours, and the way time flows for a flower is probably very different than it does for us. My opinion remains that flowers and trees do at some level think and also communicate with one another, even if we don’t understand the mode of communication. You may—or may not—agree with me about how the life force manifests in flora. But when it comes to living beings in a garden, there is little doubt that insects and other critters coexist in these realms with us. Some kinds of garden photography includes portraiture of these small denizens of our special places.

GETTING CLOSE One of the biggest challenges with garden photography of little critters is getting close enough—both in terms of the telephoto so that your presence doesn’t scare the creature, and in terms of the magnification, so that you can enlarge interesting details. A telephoto-macro lens (see page 127) may be just what the doctor ordered if this kind of photography interests you. When I first started photographing denizens as part of my garden photography, I learned that insects, hummingbirds, and other small flying critters tend to be somewhat obsessive-compulsive. I’m not really talking about a psychiatric diagnosis, just their habits. Many are, as the saying goes, “creatures of habit.” Should you happen to disturb one of your diminutive models on its perch, it’s a very good tactic to expect it to return to the same place. Carry on, stay very still, and wait at least ten minutes. More than half the time, the winged little critter will return to exactly the same position and posture. This time around, since you are ready and the camera is already focused with the exposure set (hopefully!), you have a better chance of making your photograph. Speaking of staying still, perhaps the best approach to getting close to small critters is to learn to meld with your environment. This means that you should avoid abrupt motions. Staying quiet is also important. Don’t listen to music with earbuds. Small

garden critters have hearing that is far better than ours. Dress in colors that blend into the environment, perhaps in dark green or black for a shady area. In my experience, hummingbirds and butterflies seem to be happier around me in the sunshine when I am wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt. I think perhaps I have become like a flower. But perhaps that’s just me!

Dragonfly Wing—After a rainy afternoon, the weather cleared. I went out to the garden to photograph water drops. I put my camera on my tripod, added a telephoto-macro lens (200mm on a 1.5 crop-factor sensor, for a focal-length equivalency of 300mm), then added an extension tube and a close-up filter, so I could get really close to the water drops. At its closest focus, this setup rendered results that were many magnifications of life-size. As I was photographing, a dragonfly settled in my garden and was very still for a short while. Since I was already set up, I was able to make a close-up photo of the dragonfly’s wings, backlit by the late afternoon sun. At this high magnification, the dragonfly’s wing reminds me of either an architectural construction or stained glass. It is truly a miracle of nature to see the well-wrought details in very small living things. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, +4 diopter close-up filter, 2 seconds at f/36 and ISO 320, tripod mounted.

Taking Off—In bright sunlight, I saw an attractive moth land on a Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Fortunately, my telephoto-macro lens was already on the camera, and I was able to take a quick photo at a fast shutter speed (1/1600 of a second) before the fickle, pollen-gathering moth took off again to visit another flower. I used a near-wide-open aperture (f/4.2) to create an image with low depth of field so that only the peripatetic moth was in focus. Nikon D810, 200mm macro, 1/1600 of a second at f/4.2 and ISO 200, hand held.

There are a few small garden critters that are potentially dangerous. I don’t think most of us object very much to bees—unless one has an allergy—and the world’s gardens do depend on them. I, myself, think of bees as warm, furry, sweet creatures. But take a look at the wasp shown on page 338. This is definitely a creature built for war and offense, more than defense or self-protection. At high magnification as in my photo, the wasp is definitely an object of fear, as it should be. The very idea of this creature is to be as aggressive as possible, or at least look that way. The only reason we are, for the most part, not incredibly endangered has to do with scale and our relative sizes. So, I have come to repeat to myself at times, “wingy, stingy—nope!” It’s not that I won’t photograph such creatures, but I would prefer to do so with common sense. Wasps and bees—for that matter, all cold-blooded creatures—are sluggish and not very dangerous when they are cold. Early in the morning is a good time to photograph a critter that might otherwise sting you. Of course, a telephoto lens is also a good idea. With wingy-stingy creatures, perhaps the longer the better. If this concept of getting a macro photo of a toxic creature with lesser risk interests you, take a look at the probe macro lens described on page 299.

Red Dragonfly—One summer morning, I was playing in the garden with my kids. We looked around and all of a sudden noticed this attractive red dragonfly had landed on a dried stalk. I ran inside to my studio and grabbed my camera and a telephoto-macro lens. Fortunately, the dragonfly waited patiently for me and was still there. He didn’t respond, however, when I asked for a model release! I quickly made a few hand-held exposures at a moderately-high ISO (ISO 640), which enabled me to use a relatively fast shutter speed (f/9), and still have enough depth of field so the dragonfly was in focus, with some nice bokeh in the background. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 1/320 of a second at f/9 and ISO 640, hand held.

STOPPING MOTION One issue with winged creatures in the garden is learning how to work with motion. As I’ve suggested, habits of insects tend to repeat, so if you wait quietly, there is a chance of photographing your intended subject in repose in a location that the critter has previously occupied. But watchful waiting may be neither possible nor desirable, for example, if the light is rapidly shifting, or when it is significantly windy. Furthermore, sometimes the best photograph of a garden critter shows that critter doing something, such as flying or sticking out its tongue like the hummingbird shown on page 337. To stop the motion of a creature that is, well, in motion there are really only two practical approaches from a technical perspective: Use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the motion. How short the duration of time needs to be to “freeze” motion depends on a number of variables, including the speed and direction of the creature, distance from the creature, the focal length of the lens used (greater focal lengths require faster shutter speeds to not add motion blur), and the mount of the magnification (if the photograph is a macro). Boosting the shutter speed to “stop” motion may require compromises on the other two legs of the exposure triangle, for example, boosting the ISO, or using a more wide-open aperture (see page 85 for more about the exposure triangle). Use a high-speed strobe to stop the motion of the creature. In particular, a macro-high-speed strobe setup, like the one described on page 347, can work well for this. Note that when you light a subject using a flash, the effective duration of the exposure is not controlled by the length that the shutter is open. Rather, the effective duration is managed by the high-speed burst of light put out by the flash units. This can be so brief (about 1/10,000 of a second) as to be essentially instantaneous. While flash has the drawback of potentially scaring fauna, a well-designed flash arrangement, possibly using a blind, may be the only practical way to get great photos of certain

kinds of high-speed subjects.

FOCUSING AND CRITTERS When you are making a photo of a critter in motion, this may be a good place to use autofocus. Whether you are choosing the focus points in an autofocus setup or manually focusing, it’s worth thinking about where the focus should be. Generally, focus with animals works the same way as in a human portrait. When you look at someone, the eyes are a “window” into the soul. That’s why making eye contact is so important. When you look into someone’s eyes, you may feel you know them. So when I am making portraits, I almost always focus on the eyes. This holds true even when the eyes are insect-like and a bit beady. Apart from a garden-gnome sculpture, you probably won’t go wrong when focusing on a critter if you try for the eyes. Keep in mind that on a macro scale, even a critter’s eyes can have considerable depth. The best focus point is the pupil of the eye. One technique that I have found hugely invaluable relies on the property of insects in the garden being creatures of habit, as I have previously mentioned. You can take advantage of this general characteristic by projecting where the creature is likely to return to, and pre-focusing on that spot. The pre-focus may not be exact, but it will often get you close and give you a good head start. A great deal of insect photography in the garden is done with fairly-wide-open aperture and low depth of field. This means that focus is really critical to this kind of image making. If garden critters are your thing, then it’s worth spending some time practicing focus when it comes to macro subjects in motion.

Dragonfly 4—Commissioned as part of a series of book cover photos for a publishing client, I started by photographing a specimen dragonfly on a light box. The actual specimen was nearly monochromatic without much variation in dynamic range, so I was able to make the photograph with a single capture. This led to the problem that the assignment specification called for a colorful image, and what I had was nearly black and white. Photoshop to the rescue! Using some of my favorite Photoshop tools—primarily cross-processing with LAB channel inversions and adjustments—I worked through many layers and versions to create the final dragonfly you see here. Ultimately, it was one of the accepted images in the series of book covers for my client. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 2 seconds at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Bee the Light—Wandering around in nearby Blake Garden, I noticed a grist of bees buzzing and swarming around a bed of lowlying Bellflowers (Campanulas). I got down on my belly and aimed my Lensbaby macro up at one of the bees so that the flower behind the bee was spotlit and backlit by bright sunshine. To take maximum advantage of the Lensbaby’s ability to “halo” light, I exposed wide open (at f/1.8) while focused and centered on the bee’s wings. Nikon D850, 85mm Lensbaby Velvet macro, 1/1600 of a second at f/1.8 and ISO 64, hand held.

Ladybug—When my son Julian was little, I helped him plant “his” portion of the garden. Julian’s taste ran toward roses with thorns, and big, spiky succulent things. Toward the end of the season when Julian and I were out tending the garden, we saw this ladybug landing on the biggest, spikiest thing in Julian’s garden. I ran inside, grabbed a camera with a Lensbaby and macro attachments, and made this close-up portrait of the ladybug. A garden is healthy when there are many ladybugs, because ladybugs eat pests, such as aphids. One always has to applaud the economy of nature’s design in pesticide-free natural gardening. In this spirit, whenever I see a ladybug in a garden, I try to make its portrait. Nikon D70, Lensbaby Composer with auxiliary close-up filter, 1/400 of a second, no aperture disk (wide-open) and ISO 200, hand held.

Lurker—Locusts are in the grasshopper family and have formed plagues since prehistory. In addition to the often-mentioned biblical “plague of locusts,” locusts are carved on ancient Egyptian tombs, and described in The Iliad and the Qur’an. Fundamentally, as grasshoppers these insects are harmless and solitary. However, under specific conditions—usually drought followed by rapid vegetation growth—serotonin released in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes where the solitary insects become gregarious and migratory, unleashing the proverbial plague. A swarm of locusts can decimate and strip a field in minutes, and can powerfully fly from one agricultural area to another, causing multiple famines in human history. Who knows what lurks in the fields and botanicals near us? I had no idea that this presumably harmless locust lurked within a flower in my garden until I trained my telephoto-macro lens on the flower. Nikon D200, 200mm macro, 1/60 of a second at f/20 and ISO 100, hand held.

Eyes of Newt—This red-bellied newt (Taricha rivularis) is a salamander species native to the California coastal ranges. I found this little fellow near a grove of redwood trees in Tilden Park, not too far from my home. Sunning himself, he paused for a close-up portrait before ambling off on all four legs into the trees. By the way, the skin on this species of newt contains strong toxins, so handling him (even if I had been so inclined) would have been inadvisable. Nikon D70, 200mm macro, 1/250 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200, hand held.

Froggy & Me—This frog held still for me for a brief moment next to a decorative pond at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine. After I made the exposure, froggy leapt back into his pond with a splash! Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/1000 of a second at f/8 and ISO 800, hand held.

Hummingbird Tongue—Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are the bird species of the smallest size (the bee hummingbird weighs less than two grams, or 0.07 ounces). They are called hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their wings, which flap at a high frequency that is audible to humans. They hover in midair with wings flapping at rates that vary from about 12 to 80 beats a second. Their top speeds can reach an excess of 50 mph (80 km/h) in a dive. Hummingbirds have the highest mass-specific metabolic rate of any warm-blooded animal. To conserve energy when there is no food or at night when they are not foraging, they go into torpor, which is a state similar to hibernation with a metabolic rate about 1/15 of normal. During the day, when there is food, hummingbirds are almost constantly eating, flitting from one food source to another. Contrary to what you might expect, hummingbirds don’t suck nectar from flowers as if their tongues were straws. They lap flower nectar up repeatedly by flicking their tongues—which are very long in proportion to their bodies—in and out. This hummingbird-tongue action is kind of dog-like, and I never would have known about it if I hadn’t pointed my telephoto lens and snapped a photo when this hummingbird was in the process of beginning to lap at a flower. Nikon D200, 70–200mm Nikkor zoom at 200mm with a 2X teleconverter for an effective focal length of 600mm on a 1.5 crop-factor camera, 1/80 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 100, hand held.

Wasp—It was a cold spring morning and our furnace was out of order. When I got up in the morning and surveyed the living room, I found a mostly somnolent wasp slowly pacing across the ceiling. Looking at this creature, it is an amazing fighting machine on its scale. I would not want to be a very small critter in its path. Surely, the wasp as a species is well weaponized. So my takeaway from viewing the wasp on the ceiling is that a chill in the air helps when you want to photograph an aggressively armored creature. When it’s relatively cold, they move slowly enough for a long exposure (in this case 3/5 of a second), and are also not as fierce. To make this photo, I hastily improvised a chair with cardboard box on top so I could reach the ceiling with my camera and tripod. Perched precariously on this rickety foundation, I dialed up my exposure and gently squeezed the shutter release. Nikon D70, 105mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 0.6 seconds at f/32 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Dragonfly in the Garden—It rained heavily in the afternoon. After the rain stopped, I went out in near dusk to photograph water drops on an iris bed. I mounted my camera on the tripod with a telephoto-macro lens and an extension tube to photograph the flowers with water drops close-up. Turning around, I saw this dragonfly almost close enough to touch. My motion spooked the critter and he flew off. Since garden creatures very often return to the same place multiple times, I got ready for the return of the dragonfly. I pointed my camera and lens right at the spot that he had occupied before, set the depth of field to an intermediate value (f/14) so the dragonfly would be in focus but the background would be slightly soft, stayed stock still, and waited. After a few minutes, my friend the dragonfly returned, posed long enough for me to make the exposure, and then flew off again. Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, 1/5 of a second at f/14 and ISO 320, tripod


Auxiliary Lighting

I think Mother Nature is great! Often there is no more spectacular way to light a landscape or a garden than that offered by Mama Nature. But even sometimes the best of the best—e.g., natural lighting—needs a bit of a boost. It’s unusual to completely artificially light a garden. But, of course, once things move into the studio, it’s a different ball game, and you can light your floral subjects as you choose.

CONTINUOUS VERSUS STROBE For overall lighting, there are two approaches: continuous lighting versus burst lighting. Burst lighting uses flashes, which are also called strobes. Here’s the thing: With continuous lighting you can see what you are doing in real time, but with burst lighting there is a delay before you know the results. With the development of LED light sources, continuous lighting has come a long way, and should be considered for applications where it would not have worked even a few years ago. Some newer LED photo lights even provide a fast, high-intensity burst mode in addition to continuous light. However, LED lighting is not as capable at stopping high-speed motion as a strobe. With a correctly set strobe, the length of the exposure usually doesn’t matter. Motion is stopped by the duration of the burst of light from the strobe. This can be as short as 1/10,000 of a second. Specially equipped strobes do even better, and have stopped speeding bullets for photographs. This gear can be used for high-speed subjects such as hummingbirds in flight. Since the duration of the exposure doesn’t matter when you are using a strobe as the primary lighting, the key point is to synchronize the camera with the strobe. This is generally done by setting the camera’s synch speed as indicated in your camera’s documentation (often 1/160 of a second), and using this speed as the basis for a manual exposure. Exposure will then be determined using aperture and ISO. Actual synchronization with external strobe units is accomplished using a Commander function on the camera or a radio-control device positioned on the camera’s flash shoe.

If you get the idea from this discussion that an overall flash is generally best used not directly on the camera, you have got the right idea. A flash positioned in the normal position, right above the lens, produces strong, harsh, and ugly lighting.

Yum!—When I saw this Icelandic poppy (Papaver nudicaule) beginning to open, I was immediately reminded of a mouth and tongue. I put the flower in a small glass flute, and transferred the flute to a white seamless-paper background. I used two LED panels, one on either side of the camera, diffused to make the light a bit softer. This bright flower photo makes me chuckle when I see it, always a good thing! Nikon D810, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1/2 of a second at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Espalier—In the mottled shade of a rural French garden, I saw this vine espaliered on an old stone wall. I liked the way the new orange-red leaves made a colorful contrast against the mottled blue of the stone and lichen. I used a hand-held off-camera flash to light the wall uniformly, with the idea of not distracting with shadows from the pattern of the vine on the stone. Nikon D800, 135mm Zeiss Apo Sonar, 1/160 of a second at f/4 and ISO 100, hand held.

Anything you can do to get the flash unit off the physical camera unit and away from the lens so it is angled toward the subject is a good thing. This can be accomplished using brackets, hand holding the flash unit, or by attaching the flash unit to a lighting stand and radio controlling it. Of course, two are better than one: Lighting angled from two sides tends to produce a more attractive effect than one single strong light. Consider for a second the total amount of light output by a continuous light versus an intense but brief amount of light output by a strobe. The point is that at a given exposure, the two total quantities of light should be the same. In other words, if a longer duration of exposure with a continuous light is something that you can see, the strength of a lightning-length flash of light must make up for its comparatively short duration.

MODIFYING LIGHT Both continuous lighting and strobe lighting do not have to be “all or nothing.” You can use auxiliary lighting to “fill” shadows that are dark, and bring up exposure values. I feel I must point out that a great deal of the functionality of fill lighting can also be easily accomplished in modern times using post-production techniques such as multi-RAW processing (page 169–178) and hand-HDR (page 187–191). Another way that you can use auxiliary lighting to improve overall lighting without completely lighting the scene is to throw a “key light” on a specific part of your subject. With portraiture, a key light is often directed at a person’s face. In a garden, you might choose to use key lighting to highlight a particular floral specimen. Whether continuous or strobe, lights are usually modified in a variety of ways. Diffusers such as umbrellas are sometimes called scrims. To direct light in a specific space or direction, a custom-made stencil called a gobo is sometimes used. Not all additional lighting involves technology and gadgets. A hand-held reflector— material that is used to reflect light onto a subject—can be a very valuable piece of lighting gear. This can vary in size greatly, from a large panel to a small portable disk that can be used in field macro photography. A reflector can be as simple as a piece of white cardboard. More intense reflection can be generated using cloth reflectors made of metallic material. A silver metallic sends relatively cool light onto the subject, whereas a gold metallic reflector sends warmer light onto the subject. I often carry a small disk in my field kit when I am photographing gardens. When taken out of its carrying case, this disk expands into a reflector with one silver side and one gold side. A portable scrim is a piece of translucent material in a frame that can be mounted on a stand, or hand held, to soften and diffuse harsh light, such as that coming from the midday sun.

MACRO LIGHTING TOOLS Taking auxiliary lighting tools into the studio, in the context of close-up and flower macro photography, you have a small stage where you are the lighting director with complete control over the lighting, and a number of specialized tools designed for this very purpose. Today’s macro lighting tools include: Small LED lights mounted like antennae on a fixture that either fits on your camera or attaches to a lighting stand.

Collection—Part of gardening is what we collect from the gardens. This arrangement on black velvet fabric has dried flowers from our garden, lichen, a blue feather I found in the garden, shells, and so on. To make the image, I first carefully arranged the objects. My studio was lit with ambient sunlight coming from a northwest-facing window. I used two reflector cards on the side opposite the direction of the light to make sure there were no shadows on the collection, and to add warmth to the composition. Nikon D850, 50mm Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1 second at f/22 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Old-Fashioned Rose—The folds in the beautiful old-fashioned rose appealed to me, but when I lit it directly, the colors seemed to fade and the composition became less interesting. So I let the rose settle into the shadows of ambient lighting. During the 1/2 second exposure, I used a spot LED flashlight to selectively light the flower. I took care to move the flashlight quickly enough during the exposure so that it was not “caught” in the photograph. Nikon D850, 150mm Irix macro, 1/2 of a second at f/32 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Light cubes that use cloth diffusers to create a uniform light on an internal small stage. Ring lights that are a circular strobe mounted around the front element of the lens. Small macro strobe units that clamp onto a ring that screws into the lens filter thread. These units are synchronized with the camera and each other, and can also be mounted on external light stands (or hand held). An example is the Nikon R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System (a photo made using this system is shown on page 81). Specialty lenses, such as the Laowa Macro Probe described on page 299, which come with their own built-in LED ring lights. In the case of the Laowa Macro Probe, the ring light is powered externally using a USB power source, such as a battery pack for a portable phone. Since the business end of the Macro Probe is both waterproof and designed to be put into small, dark holes, having an integrated LED light is very helpful—and sometimes essential, for example, when the Probe lens is poked down a small, dark hole. In the studio, as absolute director, you can use any tools you want, from ambient light to modifiers, to total studio lighting creations—and also specialty macro lighting tools. To some extent, the specialty macro lighting tools I have described are intended for field use as much, or more, than in the studio. Keep in mind that if you are using artificial light in the field, your subject will appear differently than it does under natural light before you turn the light source on. This may sound obvious, but it can come as a shock when photos made using strobes do not appear at all similar to the scene as it appears to the eye. In the studio or in the field, it is worth taking the time to experiment with and learn to use auxiliary lighting tools in addition to, or instead of, ambient light. You won’t always use these tools—after all, it is hard to beat Mother Nature—but when you need to add something special to the lighting of a flower macro, you will be glad that using lighting gear is part of your repertoire.

Notes, Resources & Index

Notes & Resources

WHERE TO GO FOR MORE INFORMATION Creative Garden Photography explores many different aspects of photography, not all of which can be covered in the depth that is deserved in a single volume. Learning to become fluent in Adobe software, specifically Lightroom Classic and Photoshop in the context of photography, is a major endeavor. I tell workshop students that the best approach to learning this software will depend on how they like to learn things. For some folks, a course at a local community college might be a great way to learn Lightroom and Photoshop. If you are the kind of person who learns from books, you might want to check out my books The Photoshop Darkroom (Focal Press, 2009) and The Photoshop Darkroom 2 (Focal Press, 2011). The section on black and white photography in this book relies on and is greatly expanded in two books of mine, The Photographers Black & White Handbook (Monicelli Press, 2017), and Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition (Rocky Nook, 2019). You can find most of








If you are interested in further exploring my ideas about photographing flowers for transparency on a light box, you’ll find information in webinars I present and in the FAQs on my website at A number of my online courses and live webinars can be found at Also, recordings of previous talks and webinars can be found on my YouTube channel, aptly named Harold Davis Photography.

CONTACTING HAROLD DAVIS My website is This website has FAQs, learning resources, photos (of course!), and a great deal of information about gardens, photography, and travel (and about yours truly!). You might be interested in my photography blog,, and my

workshops page, You can subscribe to my






If you are interested in following me on photographic social media, you can find me on Flickr, and on Instagram I am @haroldldavis. I appreciate hearing from readers who are interested in my books and my work. Write to me at [email protected]

SOFTWARE IN CREATIVE GARDEN PHOTOGRAPHY Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), Bridge, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop are products of Adobe Systems Incorporated. You can find them at, and they are available in a monthly subscription as a “photographer’s bundle” or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud product. Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, and Silver Efex Pro are available from DxO, Perfect B&W is a product of On1, Inc.,, and runs either as part of the On1 Photo RAW suite, or as a plug-in within Lightroom Classic or Photoshop. Topaz B&W Effects, found at, is a great black and white conversion tool, and runs as part of the Topaz Suite or as a plug-in within Lightroom Classic or Photoshop.

RECOMMENDED IPHONE APPS I have included a number of iPhone photographs in this book. I do feel that the best camera to use is the one you have with you, and most of us usually do have our phones with us. If you are interested in iPhoneography, below are the apps that I most often use to process my garden images: Image Blender—I use this straightforward app to blend and combine two different versions of the same image. Snapseed—This is my “go-to” iPhone app for all kinds of processing, including sharpening, HDR, black and white conversion, and more. Waterlogue—This great and easy-to-use app creates a watercolor look from any photo.

GARDEN RESOURCES I have nothing against buying cut flowers from a florist or another source, such as a

supermarket. Indeed, I do this all the time! However, for some kinds of flower photography, the only workable approach is to grow the flowers oneself so that one has colorful, fresh, and unusual specimens to work with. It’s a good idea to work with a local horticultural nursery to get started in this endeavor. Here are some specialized companies that are good sources for flowering plants: Annie’s Annuals & Perennials: A great source for rare and unusual flowering seedlings, Jackson & Perkins: Over one hundred years old, and a great source for roses, Olallie Daylily Gardens: There’s no place like Olallie for daylilies and irises, Swan Island Dahlias: A magnificent source for dahlias, White Flower Farm: High-quality flowering plants for all climates,

SENSOR SIZE MATTERS I have included technical caption data with the photos in this book because I believe that one of the best ways to learn photography is to study images and figure out how they were made.

ABOUT EXIF DATA Sensor size information in the technical captions primarily comes from the EXIF data automatically compiled by the camera and transferred to the computer when my RAW files are processed. EXIF data as recorded in a RAW file is quite accurate for the aperture (f-stop) and ISO used on each exposure, with the caveat that the aperture recorded is sometimes the effective aperture. For example, the effective aperture using a macro lens focused close can be a smaller opening than the lens nominally will stop down to. This explains why a lens may have a minimum aperture of f/22, but be recorded at an effective aperture of, for example, f/45, when using an extension tube. Of course, the reduction in aperture also reduces the light hitting the sensor. Shutter speeds are recorded accurately for single exposures. They are a little more problematic in the case of HDR blends, where the EXIF data is either left blank, or records the data of the first exposure in the blend. With the HDR photos shown in this book, I either noted the shutter speeds at the time I made the images, or went back to the RAW files and checked out the shutter speeds by inspecting the individual files. In summary, leaving the issue of effective apertures aside, the technical information

in the captions is primarily drawn from the EXIF data recorded by the camera, occasionally supplemented by my own observations and notes.

FOCAL LENGTH With the focal length of the lens used, when the focal length is recorded in the EXIF data, it is accurate, but what the focal length means depends upon the sensor size of the camera. Not all sensors are the same size. The smaller the sensor, the closer a given focal-length lens brings you to your subject. For example, if a sensor has half the area of another sensor, then a specific focal-length lens will bring you twice as close on a camera with the smaller sensor. Since different cameras have different-sized sensors, it is not always possible to have a uniform vocabulary of lens focal lengths. Thus, people compare focal lengths to their 35mm film equivalent by adjusting for the sensor size. To make the comparison with 35mm film focal lengths, you need to know the ratio of your sensor to a frame of 35mm film, which is called the focal-length equivalency. For reference, a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera is considered “normal.” This is roughly comparable to the central angle of view of a human eye, which is between 40–60 degrees. Lenses that are shorter than 50mm on a full-frame camera are considered wide angle, and lenses that are longer and bring things closer are telephotos. To compute the comparable focal lengths on your own camera if your sensor has a different sensor size than mine, you need to know the focal-length equivalency factor of your sensor. You can check your camera manual for this information. Additionally, some cameras that are not full frame report their focal-length data using full-frame focal-length equivalencies, rather than the actual focal lengths (the Sony RX100 is an example).

CAMERAS AND LENSES I noted the camera I used as part of the technical capture data. The Nikon D850, D810, and D800 cameras, which were used for the bulk of the images in this book, are all full-frame cameras. The Nikon D300, D200, and D70 cameras, which were used for some of the photos, all have a 1.5 focal-length equivalency. In other words, a 28mm focal length on a Nikon D300 would be equivalent to a 42mm focal length on a full-frame camera, such as the Nikon D850. Note that when there is no specific brand given for the lens in a technical caption, it is probably a Nikkor (a Nikon lens). Furthermore, if only a focal length is given, the lens is almost certainly my “walking-around” Nikkor AF-S Zoom 28–300mm F/3.5–

5.6 on the full-frame Nikon DSLRs (D850, D810, and D800). The comparable lens I used in the past for the 1.5 crop-factor Nikons (D300, D200, and D70) was the Nikkor Zoom 18–200mm.

Study in Scarlet—I used a bracketed sequence to photograph these two different types of red flowers, anemones and poppies, in a vase on a white seamless-paper background. Nikon D810, 55mm Zeiss Otus, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/25 of a second to 5 seconds, each exposure at f/13 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

List of Figures & Garden Locations

LIST OF FIGURES 1 Effective light intensity 2 Front lighting 3 Side lighting 4 Backlighting 5 Fundamental Law of Reflection 6 The exposure triangle 7 Keeping the camera and subject parallel 8 Focal plane symbol 9 F-stops in proportion 10 Focusing to infinity 11 Hyperfocal distance and infinity 12 Black and white conversion workflow 13 Multi-RAW processing workflow 14 Automated HDR process 15 Hand-HDR process 16 Exposure histogram showing high-key areas 17 Post-production process for high-key HDR images 18 Curves Adjustment dialog 19 Curves dialog, White Point handle 20 Exposure histogram showing low-key areas 21 Post-production process for low-key HDR images

LOCATIONS OF GARDENS PHOTOGRAPHED Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Seal Harbor, Maine, USA 1, 46–47, 150–151, 185 Alhambra, Granada, Spain 164

Blake Garden, Kensington, California, USA 34–35 Botanishcer Garten der Universität, Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany 62–63 Castelo Marvão, Marvão, Portugal 190–191 Central Park, New York, New York, USA 138–139 Camino Portuguese, Galicia, Spain 42–43, 181 Château de Hauteforte Garden, Dordogne, France 159 Fontainebleau Gardens, Fontainebleau, France 170–171 Giverny (Monet’s garden), Giverny, France 2–3, 50–51, 88–89, 98–99, 107, 108–109, 126–127, 142–143, 144–145, 178, 200–201, 202–203 Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji), Green Gulch, California, USA 56–57, 73 Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco, California, USA 69 Hunedoara Castle, Hunedoara, Romania 168–169 Huyler Garden, Camden, Maine, USA 76–77 Isuien Garden, Nara, Japan 110–111, 157 Kofuku-ji, Nara, Japan 163 Kumano Sanzen Temple garden, Nachi, Japan 38, 101 Lands End, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, USA 173 Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France 31, 194–195 Mas de Garrigue, Calvignac, France 119 Monasterio de la Magdalena, Sarria, Spain 25 Old Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek, California, USA 182 Parc de Sceaux, Bourg-la-Reine, France 12–13, 18–19, 27, 32, 54–55, 176–177 Sagano Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan 162 San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy 92–93 Schönborn Garden, Prague, Czech Republic 160 Schwetzingen Palace Garden, Baden-Württemberg, Germany 45, 70–71, 146–147 Shleppinghurst, Lincolnville, Maine, USA 152, 153 Shukubo Ekoin, Mount Koya, Japan 90–91

Shoren-In Temple Garden, Kyoto, Japan 21, 156 Takahara, Wakayama, Japan 174–175 Thap Rua, Hanoi, Vietnam 154–155 Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany 188–189 Torre do Rio, Caldas de Reis, Spain 86–87 Trapani, Sicily, Italy 186 Villandry, Loire Valley, France 28–29, 30


BOTANICAL TERMS Anther: The portion of the stamen that provides pollen. Filament: The stalk in the stamen holding up the anther. Genus: A family of plants in the Linnaean taxonomy, containing one or more species. Ovary: Contains one or more ovules in a placental membrane; each ovule contains an egg that when fertilized becomes a seed. Pistil: Female sexual organ of a flower, usually comprised of a stigma, style, and ovary. Pollen: Carries sperm cells during the process of their movement between a stamen to the pistil of a flower. Species: A basic unit of classification, and a taxonomic rank. Members of a species are often defined by whether they can reproduce with each other. Stamen: Male sexual organ of a flower, usually comprised of an anther and a filament. Most flowers have multiple stamens. Stigma: Sticky portion of the pistil used to receive pollen; where seeds germinate. Style: Within the pistil, the stalk connected to the ovary that supports the stigma. Taxonomy: A hierarchical scheme for grouping and categorizing; the Linnaean taxonomy established a biological classification system for organisms that is a way of ordering plants, including flowers.

PHOTOGRAPHIC TERMS Adobe Camera Raw (ACR): Used to convert RAW files into files that Photoshop can open. Ambient light: The available, or existing, light that naturally surrounds a scene. Aperture: The size of the opening in the iris of a lens. Lens apertures are designated by f-numbers. The smaller the f-number, the bigger the opening, and the less depth of field. Blending mode: Determines how two layers in Photoshop will combine. Bracketing: Shooting many exposures at a range of settings. It often works better to bracket shutter speed rather than aperture. Brush tool: Used to paint on a layer or layer mask in Photoshop. Channel: In Photoshop, a channel is a grayscale representation of color (or black) information. In RGB color there are three channels: Red, Green, and Blue. Chiaroscuro: Moody lighting that shows contrasts between shadows and brightness. Close-up filter: A piece of optical glass that screws into the front of a lens and provides magnification. CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The four-color color model used for most offset

printing. Color space: A color space, sometimes called a color model, is the mechanism used to display the colors we see in the world, in print, or on a monitor. CMYK, LAB, and RGB are examples of color spaces. Composite: Multiple images that are combined to create a new composition. Curve: An adjustment used to make precise color corrections. Depth of field: The field in front of and behind a subject that is in focus. Diffraction: Bending of light rays; unwanted diffraction can cause loss of optical sharpness, particularly at small apertures. DSLR: Digital single lens reflex camera. Dynamic range: The difference between the lightest tonal values and the darkest tonal values in a photo. Effective aperture: The aperture recorded by EXIF data as opposed to the aperture set on the camera. In close focus, the effective aperture is often a smaller opening than the set aperture. EV (Exposure Value): Denotes any combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO that yields the same exposure. –1 EV means halving the exposure, and +1 EV means doubling the exposure. Exposure: The amount of light hitting the camera sensor. Also the camera settings used to capture this incoming light. Exposure histogram: A bar graph displayed on a camera or computer that shows the distribution of lights and darks in a photo. Extension tube: A hollow ring that fits between a lens and the DSLR, used to achieve closer focusing. f-number, f-stop: The size of the aperture, written f/n, where n is the f-number. The smaller the fnumber, the larger the opening in the lens; the larger the f-number, the smaller the opening in the lens. Focal length: Roughly, the distance from the end of the lens to the sensor. The sensor’s position is also called the focal plane. The location of the focal plane (the distance from which focal length is measured) is indicated on most camera bodies with a special symbol: . The horizontal line in the symbol indicates the position of the focal plane, used for determining the focal length when it is needed precisely. Focus stacking: Extending the field of focus beyond that possible in a photo by combining multiple photos, each photographed at a different point of focus. Gradient: A gradual blend, often used when working with layer masks in Photoshop. Grayscale: Used to render images in a single color from white to black; in Photoshop a grayscale image has only one channel. Hand-HDR: The process of creating an HDR image from multiple photos at different exposures without using automatic software to combine the photos. HDR: Extending the dynamic range in an image using techniques including multi-RAW processing, hand-HDR, and automated HDR software. High key: Brightly lit photos that are predominantly white, often with an intentionally “overexposed” effect. Histogram: A graph that represents a distribution of values; an exposure histogram is used to display the distribution of lights and darks in an image. Hyperfocal distance: The closest distance at which a lens at a given aperture can be focused while

keeping objects at infinity in focus. Image stabilization: Also called vibration reduction, this is a high-tech system in a lens or camera that attempts to compensate for, and reduce, camera motion. In-camera multiple exposure: Exposures made on a single captured frame in the camera, and blended in the camera. Infinity (∞): The distance from the camera that is far enough away so that any object at that distance or beyond will be in focus when the lens is set to infinity, regardless of aperture. Inversion: A Photoshop adjustment that inverts the color in a channel or channels. ISO: Scale used to set a camera’s sensitivity to light. JPEG: A compressed file format for photos that have been processed from an original RAW image. LAB color: A color model consisting of three channels. See page 258. Layer: Photoshop documents are composed of layers stacked on top of each other. Layer mask: Masks are used to selectively reveal or hide layers in Photoshop. Lensbaby: A special purpose lens with a flexible barrel that allows you to adjust the “sweet spot” (area in focus). Low key: Dimly lit photos that are predominantly black, often with an intentionally “underexposed” effect. Macro lens: A lens that is specially designed for close focusing; often a macro lens focuses close enough to enable a 1:1 magnification ratio, so that the image on the sensor is as large as the image in real life. Magnification ratio: The correspondence of an object and its actual size on the sensor. Monochrome, monochromatic: A monochrome image is presented as nominally consisting of tones from white to black; however, “black and white” images can be tinted or toned, and usually vary from straight grayscale. Multi-RAW processing: Combining two or more different versions processed from the same RAW file to extend the dynamic range and create a more pleasing final image. Open up, open wide: To open up a lens, or to set the lens wide open, means to set the aperture to a large opening, denoted with a small f-number. Overexpose: An overexposed photo appears too bright; the exposure histogram is bunched toward the right side. Pre-visualization: Understanding, or seeing in one’s “mind’s eye,” before making an exposure how an image will come out after capture and processing. Proper exposure: A proper, or correct, exposure is an exposure that is theoretically correct for a given subject based on overall or average light readings. With a proper exposure, the histogram is often thought of as a bell-shaped curve in the middle of the graph. Sometimes compared and contrasted with a “creative” exposure, which is used for creative purposes, but may appear too dark or bright in some or all portions of an image. RAW: A digital RAW file is a complete record of the data captured by the sensor. The details of RAW file formats vary among camera manufacturers. RGB: Red, Green, and Blue; a three-color color model, used for displaying photos on the web and on computer monitors. Sensitivity: Set using an ISO number; determines the sensitivity of the sensor to light. Shutter speed: Shutter speed is not a speed. Rather, it is the duration of time that the shutter is open. This interval of time controls how objects in motion are rendered.

Stop down: To stop down a lens means to set the aperture to a small opening; denoted with a larger f-number. Tinting: Adding color to a monochromatic image. Tonal range: The range of color and light and dark values in an image. Toning: In the chemical darkroom, toner such as sepia or selenium was added for visual effect; in the digital darkroom, toning simulates the impact of chemical toning. Underexpose: An underexposed photo appears too dark; the exposure histogram is bunched toward the left side. X-Ray: Radiation shorter in wavelength than visible light.

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