Originally published by me at Barking Dog Studio » Inside the Photo (see it there)

Essence of Spring

Inside the Photo

Springtime at home means a steady stream of macro sots of flowers, and I am rarely disappointed to find a new way to photograph something I have done before. A key of course is a sharp lens, I doubt you get real crisp shots with a zoom lens. This one is with my trusty nifty fifty 50mm f/1.4 — not strictly a macro lens.

You will want to use a spot focus mode so you can pinpoint where you want the sharpest focus (or if you hav better eyesight than mee. do a manual focus. I sometimes go to too open an aperture, you want wide open enough to blut the background (and perhaps pick up some bokeh), but sometimes if you are too wide open, you lose being able to focus on enough of the interesting pieces.

I caught this wild tulip– I am only 50% sure of my identification– but these lovely flowers return every year in the same spot, in a pile of rocks next to my yard fence. Its easy to blow out the whites in the petals. But what helped in this one, a lesson I learned in a workshop with Bill Frakes and Don Henderson, was to be conscious of putting a bright subject against a dark background.

It need not be black, but I saw that I had a background of dark green leaves, and the flower was lit by afternoon sun. In editing I cropped it some to put the 1/3 lines right at the center of the flower, but it was by raising the blacks level, and contrast, I saw that I could drop out the background completely to a solid black that made the flower really pop.

So when you are shooting macros or lit subjects, try thinking more deliberately about putting it against a contrasting color in the back, or at least trying a few angles to put different things in the background- even if you are using aperture to lose the derail in shallow depth of field.

I tend to also shoot multiple shots with slightly different focus points. I have had plenty of frustration where a great composition was ;ost because of my lousy selection of where to focus.

PS! I plan to be writing a bit more of these “inside the photo” posts as I am considering running a multi-week online photo seminar this summer, so keep your eyes peeled to cogdogblog.com for some lofty announcements. Also, I am composing this on my Barking Dog Studios photo site, but syndicating it to my main blog. I’m also considering running a seminar on running a syndication hub, especially if someone expresses interest.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. A beautiful image, like a start in a dark night. What I love most are the petals’ gently wrinkling edges.

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