I need some colour!

close-up, bird of paradise

It’s winter, so of course I’m feeling a little bit blah.  I often find it a real struggle to get inspired with so little colour around in my world this time of the year.  Luckily, the University just up the street has a fantastic greenhouse with all sorts of tropical plants.  It’s a great place to hide out from the winter and be creative.  Last week was one such opportunity, and I spent most of the time testing out my close-up filters.  I’ve had the filters for a couple of years now, but they don’t make it out of my kit nearly as much as I would have thought.  The greenhouse, however, is the perfect place for them.

On this most recent visit, my favourite flower, the hibiscus, was not in bloom, so I was forced to seek my colour fix in other places.  The brilliant orange of the bird of paradise drew my lens, and I spent most of my time trying to capture it in a unique and interesting way.  With a close-up filter on my 1.4 lens, my depth of field got razor thin – which can be absolutely magical…  except that even the slightest wobble with such a shallow depth of field would throw the focus completely out of whack.  It’s funny how wobbly you realize you are when you are trying to be perfectly still.  A smarter, more prepared photographer would have had a tripod along for cases such as this.  But not me!  I laugh in the face of preparation, and scoff at the mere … well, that’s not entirely true.  I do very much value being prepared, and my camera bag is constantly stocked with all of my other camera supplies…  I just never really think of that poor tripod until it’s too late.  So, again, this shoot was complicated by the fact that I had to focus on keeping myself as still as possible – not to avoid camera shake this time, but simply to keep the focus where I wanted it.

Despite my knack for providing extra challenges such as this for myself all the time, I’m quite happy with this shot.  It’s a lot more abstract than I usually shoot, but the vibrant colour is just what I need in the middle of this white winter, and I did eventually manage to get that petal curl perfectly in focus.  It will definitely fulfill my colour fix until my next trip to the greenhouse … or Mexico!


photo of the week: first snow

Another of my ongoing photo projects on my resolutions list this year actually began midway through last year.  I happen to have one of the best extended families in the world, but circumstances currently have me living 2 provinces away from them.  In an effort to keep in better communication with them, my Dad suggested that sending a photo in an email every once in a while would be a great excuse to keep in touch.  And so, the photo of the week(ish) was conceived.  I’m not always able to keep my once-a-week deadline, but it keeps me thinking of my family and finding something beautiful and interesting to share with them.  It works wonderfully for my creativity as well, forcing me to either go out and shoot something new, or dig through my archives and find something worthy of sharing.  This is certainly helping me to determine if a photo is worth the megabytes it occupies on my hard drive:  if it’s not good enough for me to show my family (or use as an example in one of my photo classes), why am I keeping it, really?  This is a hard lesson for a ‘collector’ such as myself to learn, but I’m getting there slowly, and if I ever have 2 or 3 free days to dedicate to the project, my image library can expect a major overhaul.

For the time being though, this week’s image is not new, but not entirely old either.  It was taken on our first snow of the winter, near the end of November.  This is my absolute favourite kind of snow, the huge fluffy flakes that drift lazily down to earth, blanketing everything so gently.  (And it usually occurs when temperatures are not so cold as to discourage the photographer or cause too much concern for the gear, which is equally awesome.)  In keeping with the spirit of the new year, I’m also trying something a little bit different with the editing.  Normally I am all about colour – I want my photos to be as bright and happy as possible.  But looking at this photo, it just didn’t seem right.  I loved the image, but because the rose was fairly wilted, the colour was rather yellowy (not something you want to make more vibrant!).  I converted the image to black and white in Photoshop and played the filters until the rose and background were the appropriate brightness.  Pure black and white didn’t quite fit my vision either, so I brought just a little bit of colour back into the flower and the leaves with a layer mask.  A selective sepia effect makes the touch of colour slightly less obvious (we don’t want to be too cliched now!) and a curves adjustment heightens the contrast.  Black and white images tend to draw attention to the forms created within the frame, and I just love the shape of the bowed rose here.  The fact that I caught a few drifting flakes in the frame is just fortuitous!

Today’s temperature is a balmy +2 degrees (so strange for mid-January!) … but I’m hoping for some more fluffy and inspiring snow in the future!