Botanic Gardens, A Hidden Treasure
Spring is over and you are kicking yourself for not taking time to visit your local foothills to photograph the wildflowers.
You can not guess how many times this spring I heard myself saying, “I have things to do today…maybe we do a road trip tomorrow”. Then poof, the wildflowers are but a spring memory and all your photo friends have beautiful imagery of this years spring wildflowers and you have, well…………….. The chapter is not always written with this ending. This years spring in our region was less than prolific when it came to wildflowers and few of my fellow photo friends boasted beautiful spring wildflower imagery. Let’s stop for a minute and refocus on what is important, photography, right? Have you ever thought about visiting your local botanic gardens, or visiting a botanic gardens during your travels.
For us, botanic or botanical gardens are always on our list of places to visit during our travels. We have enjoyed many botanic gardens throughout California and a few in other states. We have found all to be accessible to both wheelchairs and scooters.
Many botanic gardens exhibit plant life from regions around the world and you may find flowers blooming during your visit any time of the year. Interesting enough the Agapanthus bloom to the right was taken at our local botanic garden in late August long after you would expect to see these.
Even the most common of blooms can be creatively developed into a special piece of art as can be seen in this image. This was a single image taken with a Canon 300mm f/4 with a 25 mm extension tube. In CS5 I used the zoom effect to create the blur movement and then copying the original layer with a hide all mask, then brushed in the two flowers in sharp focus.
During a recent family visit to the San Diego area we spent a morning at the San Diego Botanic Gardens. This was the largest gardens we have visited at nearly 37 acres. It boasts several different regions of plant species, a waterfall and a pond covered in pond lilies. The entire gardens, even though built on a hillside, was accessible with my electric wheelchair.
Photographing inside a botanic gardens is no different than setting up for any photographic opportunity. Light is everything. We don’t always have time in our schedule to re-visit a photo-opportunity, but if we do the rewards can be worth it. This Pond Lily image was taken during our return visit in the late afternoon. During our morning visit of the gardens we found the pond blanketed in Pond Lilies overwhelmed in sunlight. In the late afternoon foliage surrounding the pond provided filtered light that kept changing as the sun was setting. I watched and cycled the shutter as sunlight illuminated the pond lilies. I was too close with my 300mm f/4L lens to achieve a depth of field sufficient to capture the grandeur of the pair of lilies so I decided to focus stack the composition. I set up my Promote Control to focus stack 15 images at ISO 200, 1/250, f/5.6. With only 2 inches depth of field the 15 shots would provide me with more than enough depth of field to cover the framed composition. After loading all my images into Lightroom I could quickly see that this image belonged as a black & white that would set the lilies center stage in the composition. I used Helicon Focus by Helicon Soft, to stack the series of 15 images and then loaded the final image into onOne Software’s Perfect Black & White, to transformed this into a soft high contrast black & white showcasing the beautiful lilies being illuminated by the late afternoon sunlight.
As you can tell botanic gardens have a sweet spot in our hearts and we rarely miss an opportunity to photograph the beauties they hold. My equipment varies little. I use my 300mm f/4L Canon lens and a 25 mm extension tube, even adding an additional 12 mm tube attached to whatever body I happen to have at the time. I do however carry my 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift lens and using a 25mm extension tube can get me near 1:1 for those insect closeups.
So in your travels, take a few minutes to research local botanic gardens for an extra slice of opportunity to photograph and enjoy natures beauty.