Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Annual Asiastic lily show returns

That cloud of dust you might have seen as you opened this blog page just now probably comes from the extended inactivity here.

Today's post is about a valuable component of the gardens at my home, one that I look forward to each June -- the annual blooms of my hybrid large-petaled Asiatic lilies. I have two colors of these flowers in my garden -- pastel yellow and/or gold, and pink. This year, the first blooms opened two days before Father's Day; they are still blooming, but some petals have fallen, and I know they won't stay that way much longer. Central Indiana has threats of thunderstorms today, so it could well happen that in the morning, there won't be much left of them.

I suppose one can say that if you've photographed a floral species once, you shouldn't need to do it again. I've never agreed with that, which is why I enjoy photographing crocus, tulips and lilies each spring ... and any other flower or foliage I find interesting any other time of the year.

What is challenging is trying to find a new way to capture the flowers I've photographed previously. It gets more difficult each time, but I usually can find at least one view, approach or perspective that's "new" -- to me, anyway. And because some of those flowers are right outside the door of my house, it's not like I'm losing a huge chunk of time doing it!

The photo leading off the post, a "profile" shot of the yellow version of the lilies, is one such approach I settled on this year. I also got a profile shot of the pink version; it appears below. For most shots, I kept my f/stop at 11 to ensure sharpness through most of the petal range. For the composition leading off the post, I took images at three different f/stops, looking to gauge how the loss of depth of field would impact the image. The one I use in this post was shot at f/7.1. In this case, I like the way the front portion of the image is blurred. (If you're interested, the shutter speed was 1/320, the ISO 100).

I've seen far too many floral shots where photographers used too shallow of a DOF, probably thinking it would enhance the background bokeh. While they do succeed in doing that, some, if not  most, of the floral petal also is thrown out of focus; the shooter forgets that when you get a camera that close to a subject, the range of focal sharpness diminishes substantially, which in turn means a shooter needs to stop down considerably if he/she hopes to get maximum sharpness throughout the petal range.

One thing I changed with this year's shoot is the lens on my Canon 7D. I turned to my walk-around lens, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, instead of the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro that I've used in the past. Both lenses have excellent glass, but I've tired of the Sigma's lumbering and long-hunting auto-focus (from what I've read, Sigma has addressed this complaint -- expressed by a lot of owners -- in a recent upgrade of the 105mm macro, which I hope is true). I found the results satisfying, and I'll certainly consider the 24-70mm again for such shots and reserve the Sigma only for when I need maximum macro resources, which hasn't been a lot in recent years.

Next year at this time -- and perhaps sooner, with luck -- I will have a new lily to enjoy. It's another long-leafed hybrid; the long petals are mostly red, but the bloom's center is dark blue (almost magenta). I'm looking forward to those. I planted bulbs for those about three weeks ago, and a couple of them have sprouted foliage already. I just don't know if they will develop buds and show blooms yet this season.

This post also includes images of a variegated hollyhock that is growing along an alley and behind the garage of my next-door neighbor.