September 17, 2009

Hydrangeas: Endless Summer and Limelight in Fall


Lately I have been working to improve my garden photography. I learned A LOT about photography and photoshop from Pioneer Woman (Thanks for the tip, Randi. If you like it, it must be good). Check out what she does to a thistle flower photo here. Inspired by Pioneer Woman, I went outside and took pictures of my hydrangeas with my camera on the manual setting. Wow, I felt brave. Then I worked the photos over in photoshop elements. Above is a shot of 'Limelight' hydrangea with ruddy fall peony foliage in the background.


Really good photographers take photos that don't need a lot of help in photoshop, but I'm just a newbie and will take all the help I can get. I bought photoshop elements at Costco for $50, thanks to a $30 off coupon. Sadly, I'm learning that $50 is a tiny, tiny amount in the world of photographic equipment (how does anyone afford those really great lenses?). I think it was a good investment. Pioneer Woman showed me an easy way to bump up the color and contrast. I tried it on the above picture of 'Blushing Bride' hydrangea, currently showcasing her fall colors.



I played with this photo of hydrangea and Japanese iris foliage, too. Pretty much all of my photos look better with different cropping and more color than they had originally. When I look at photos in garden magazines, I suspect that their colors have been enhanced as well. Catalog photos would be more helpful if they would lay off the color saturation a bit and give me a realistic photo of how the plant will appear in my garden, but I enjoy the super-saturated eye candy when it's dreary in January.


Here is a picture of 'Endless Summer' hydrangea blooms. My soil isn't acidic enough to turn the flowers blue unless I add a lot of acidic fertilizer, and I was lazy this year. But this pink is fun. In the warm light of evening, the color actually looks like this on the plant. My photo was kind of bland, though, so it was tweaked in photoshop.


Do you notice how this shot has a blurry background? I thought my lens just wasn't capable of that, but when I put the camera in manual, turned the f-stop down to 5.0 (its lowest setting), and turned the lens all the way to telephoto, I was able to create blurriness in the background. This never happened in automatic mode. Cool.


Here is another shot of 'Limelight' hydrangea. I used the rule of thirds to place the sharpest bloom cluster in the lower left corner of the frame, and really like the way it turned out. Who knows if it's very good, but it's more interesting than what I used to take. And I have decades to improve. By the time I'm old and feeble in a nursing home, I should have collected enough good photos of my garden to help me remember how beautiful it was (or how beautiful I hope it becomes, from my current perspective). Photography is fascinating, and a great companion hobby to gardening. What has helped your garden photography? I'm always open to tips.

17 comments:

  1. How interesting, VW. More so because I just read Barbara's blog. She recommended the book "Digital Photography--The Missing Manual: The Book That Should Have Been in the Box." by David Pogue.

    Beautiful photos. I love how digital photography is so risk-free. The delete button is always within reach. But when something turns out, Wow!

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  2. VW, You've done a fantastic job your "first" time out, so you'll probably improve by kangaroo leaps and bounds as you continue to practice. We do have to be careful with that colour saturation, though. I know I've been tempted by the lure of perfection.

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  3. Great photos VW! I've always meant to learn more about tweaking my photos in Photoshop but never managed the time. Maybe that will be a good winter project!

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  4. I like seeing the different effects that you can do with Photoshop. I looked at the Pioneer Woman's page with the thistle...wow, the tools you have even after taking the photo!! I am very gingerly trying to take my camera off the auto mode and see what differences I can achieve.

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  5. Beautiful photos. who said you are newbie in photography, well not anymore. i never use photo shop though but the experts do miracles with them. i am sure you will progress a lot experimenting with the camera and pics.

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  6. Nice photos.

    I use picassa 3 which comes with blogger. It does ok for me.

    I really must turn off intelligent auto and start experimenting.

    You're right about the cost of photography. Different lenses cost as much as the camera!!!

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  7. Lovely photos all. I sure do love your hydrangeas. The first shot with the peony foliage is a very nice contrast.

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  8. I think that you are doing a fabulous job. There are some amazing sites out there with so much info on them. I could spend all day just browsing. I love any photography book written by Scott Kelby, he is informative, without being overwhelming. Give him a try, I have learned so much from reading his books, and of course I LOVE! Pioneer Woman. She was my original inspiration.

    Jen

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  9. Isn't it exciting! I love learning how to shoot my camera and finally found a fuji forum with helpful folks. I really like the hydrangea shots...the pink is perfection...I do think I prefer it too the blue. Pioneer Woman's thistle shot is wonderful...thank you for the link. I'll check out her blog again. AND a big thank you for sharing your photos and the photoshop info. gail

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  10. Hi VW, thanks so much for these tips, and I think your photos are grand. Love the one with the rule of thirds, never heard that before. I always use auto on the old camera, but play around with the new Canon, trying different things. But have not been that happy with those manual results, yours look great! ;-)
    Frances

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  11. Your pictures are looking good! I am with you girl. I wish they would lay off of the color saturated photographs on plant catalogs, etc. So disappointing not to get the color of flower you thought you was buying.
    Hydrangeas are one of my favorite blooms and yours are so pretty.

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  12. Wow, I am glad I came here today. Your pictures are fabulous, very professional looking. I tend to leave my camera on automatic settings, and have not had the time to fool around with the colour, but I think that this would be a great winter project for me.

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  13. These pictures are great! I haven't done much out of auto mode although every so often I do try them out. I've been trying to figure out the blurry background thing, but it never looks like it should. Yours turned out really nice. I do need to invest in photoshop, good to know it's at Costco.

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  14. VW, You clearly have a natural talent for this! Looking forward to more, including your winter white garden.

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  15. Hi VW, the blooms are looking terrific on your blog! I'm sure they're gorgeous in person, as well;-) I usually take my photos on auto...and I crop and fix lighting issues using Picasa. It's simple to use but it would be better if I purchased a program so I'd have more options. I agree, over-saturation is not appropriate for showing how things really look. It can be fun, though...but we need to know when it is too much. I have fun and experiment. I keep saying I'm going to take a photography class but still haven't signed up for one. I'm satisfied with my photos, but know there are so many more ways that they could be improved.

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