“The meaning of life is that it stops.” Franz Kafka
Dead Center is Deadly says photographer Rick Sammon, referring to obeying the rules of composition. He strongly (obviously) suggests you don’t put objects in the center of the frame because it’s boring, and because there are so many other ways to do it.
Its might seem simple enough to find a young sunflower in her prime and take a photo, but even though the light is fading fast you should consider these rules of composition: the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, the rule of odds, negative space, filling the frame, balance, leading lines and symmetry.
Maybe take one shot using each rule, then mix and match until it either gets too bright, too dark, it rains or you get kicked out of wherever you are. Then take the RAW files home and edit them according to the rules of editing: white balance, exposure, noise reduction, etc, etc, etc.
I’ve heard rumors in back alleys and pool halls that there are people who take photos with their compact camera or phone and upload them as shot, but I’m sure they’re just rumors. Of course this is not fight club and breaking the rules will not result in a beating. Unless Rick Sammon sees your photos, then you’re in trouble.
“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” Vincent van Gogh
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” Alice Walker, The Color Purple
I saw these huge flowers this morning which I now believe are Hibiscus, also known as dinner plates. The light was fairly good and it seemed as calm as a lake in heaven, until I set up my tripod. Then they started to move.
I’m not sure why, I didn’t shoot down on them and tried my best to show their good side, but no matter what I did they swayed back and forth slowly like a drunk sailor (no offence to sailors or drunks). After about a half hour I was about to give up when I saw one on the fence.
The dictionary definition of being on the fence is to be uncommitted or undecided in a controversy. I believe the controversy here was whether or not to let me take some decent photos and the majority decision was not to. But she was wedged in tight and we both knew it.
There’s probably an important lesson to be learned here about resistance. Suzy Kassem said: “When you keep hitting walls of resistance in life, the universe is trying to tell you that you are going the wrong way.” On the other hand, Constance Friday said: “Resistance is a sign that shows you’re going the right way”
Next time I hold them in place or find one on a fence. For a fraction of a second I considered picking some and bringing them home but that would be wrong on too many levels. Karma is a bitch.
It was a beautiful morning as I headed to the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown to visit the sunflower baby from my post Great Expectations. I was excited to see her progress over the last week and a half and expected a beautiful flower smiling at the sun.
I knew exactly where she was because last time I parked right in front of a sign that said Thou Shalt Not Park Here. And as I got out with camera and tripod to wait for the light I saw total devastation, someone had cut all of them down and left nothing but stems.
My first thought, logically, was that The KKK took my baby away; they took her away, away from me. The KKK took my baby away, they took my girl, they took my baby away. Maybe because the Ramones were just on the radio as I pulled in, but it made sense.
As I stood there dumbfounded, a waitress walked up and explained that they cut them down to put on the tables as decorations, oh. So I asked her how I could see the miracle of a single flower clearly if they keep cutting them down.
She said it was probably a good idea to appreciate them while they’re here and pointed to a small patch of new ones in between the wheat. I realized she was right, took a few photos and tried my best to see the miracle.
I suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse as the sun lit her up, and just as my whole life was beginning to change I slipped in the wet grass and fell on my butt. The flowers and the waitress thought this was hysterical, and at that moment I had an epiphany. Change is as hard and as messy as a muddy, rock filled field.
So today the only thing that changed was my pants, but tomorrow is another day and I’ll try again. Robin Sharma said that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. I wish the waitress said that, it would have made my whole day.
On my way through the park this morning I saw what I now think are moonflowers, also known as white morning glories. According to Wikipedia, the flowers open in the evening and last through the night, remaining open until touched by the morning sun. These didn’t read that.
I took Scott Kelby’s and my own advice and did not shoot down on these beauties. Instead I set up my tripod and got myself to their level. I did ignore the park ranger’s advice telling me not to park where I did but I have my priorities.
I told them about the miracle of a single flower and how I hoped my whole life would change, but they seemed to be moving anyway in the very slight breeze. Forgetting to set my ISO higher I took a few shots at 1/40th of a second and they seemed pretty sharp.
Then, just to challenge myself I asked a tiny bee to pose on the pistil and stay still. To my surprise both the flower and the bee are almost tack sharp. You’ll have to take my word for it because the original photo is 6000 x 4000, I resized this one to 1000 x 667, and WordPress makes them even smaller for some reason.
Back in high school two of my friends ate a tremendous amount of morning glory seeds and ended up in the psych ward for three memorable days of climbing imaginary ladders and talking to the furniture.
I didn’t see any seed pods because I had to eventually move my car, but I suggest you don’t get any bad ideas. If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly…well, you know the rest.
The first really helpful book I read many years ago was The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. It’s very basic but he covers a lot of simple things that people often overlook.
One is not to shoot down on flowers. He claims that this will produce a boring shot because people are used to seeing flowers this way, so get down and dirty with them: “well, at least your knees anyway,” says the merry prankster.
He may be right, he may be crazy, but he overlooks a very important part of the photographer/flower interaction. If you look down on flowers they sense the condescension. How is that a problem you might ask?
Once they get the feeling that you think you’re better than them they will mess up your photos every time. Even on the calmest day, a day that’s as calm as a convent they will move just enough to blur the shot, especially closeups.
If you use a tripod and the self timer they have you by the stamens, because then they know exactly when to shake it off. It may sound crazy but I’ve seen it over and over again.
The Buddha allegedly said that if we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. You might want to mention that to them right from the beginning.
In her book Everyday Zen Charlotte Joko Beck talks about having great expectations and searching for paradise. “It seems to us that paradise is lost,” she says. She goes on to say: “We have, if not great expectations, some hope that sometime paradise is going to appear to us.”
She concludes that “There is no paradise lost, none to be found. You cannot avoid paradise you can only avoid seeing it.” OK great, chop wood, read about enlightenment, and take photos of flowers.
Despite knowing that this baby sunflower is perfect as it is (thank you Miss Beck), I have great expectations for her. I expect her to become trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful…oh wait a minute that’s something else.
To roughly paraphrase Charles Dickens from his book Great Expectations: “I expect her to know the delights of freedom.” I’ll be back to take her photo in about a week, when the wind is as calm as clam shells and the light is as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.
Note: those conditions do not happen every morning.
I like to get close to things, especially flowers, but from what I’ve read the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens leaves a lot to be desired. So I did some product testing with the 16-50mm kit lens that came with my camera.
This photo was shot in Aperture Priority at f/16, ISO 125, 1/80 sec and zoomed all the way out to 50mm. Fortunately it was as calm as clam shells and the light was as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.
I was only about 12 inches from the flower, maybe less, but many of my brain cells were lost during my Valium and Vodka years so I’m not sure. I think some were sharper with a shorter focal length but this was just an experiment and I like the composition of this one.
I will not win any macro awards with this lens and I will not be bringing home the macro trophy, which is a shame because it has a giant fly on it. But it’s good to know I can get decent shots with this lens if a lily ever crosses my path again, in good light with no wind, on a tripod from 12 inches away (more or less).