Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Flowers Fotofilia-style

One of the things I’ve been doing with each of my “DSLR For Beginners” groups at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (and now also at the studio) is photographing flowers. No great surprise there you might think – after all, it’s the Botanical Gardens so you can hardly move for beautiful plants.

Except that for two of the year’s three terms it’s usually too dark to photograph very much of anything in the gardens between 7 and 9pm, which is when the classes are. So I’ve adapted an idea I found in the book, “Still Life” by Terry Hope which is a compilation of images by different photographers giving details of their particular approach to the subject.

Unfortunately, I confess I can’t remember the name of the photographer whose idea I have based my technique on (the book long since having been “borrowed” – that’ll teach me). However, I do remember exactly how he/she achieved their striking results.

A sheet of tracing paper was placed over a window frame, and so leaving an inch or two gap between pane and paper. Then a small hole was cut in the paper and the stalk of a flower (in this case a gerbera I think) was inserted into the hole. The flower was then photographed from indoors with a certain amount of the window light bounced back at the flower from inside to lift some of the shadow detail. The result was a black and white image of the flower seemingly suspended in mid-air with the stalk pleasingly fading off into the distance. Presumably this would have necessitated a long, tripod-mounted exposure.

I decided to adapt this for a classroom/studio environment where natural light wasn’t exactly in abundance. I used a studio flash fitted with a softbox to substitute for the window. In front of this I set up a frame with tracing paper stretched over it and once again, cut a small hole to insert the flower’s stalk through. Instead of a reflector, I set up a second studio flash (synched to the first and fitted with either a softbox or reflector brolly) in front of the flower at a lower power setting.

Tip: I find that flowers with a more translucent quality work best.

This simple set-up has become a regular and popular staple of my courses. Here are a few results…  

Hope you like them.



2 responses

  1. Jeff Boston

    Love the pictures David, must try the technique for myself.

    BTW, the book you mention is available on Amazon at…. wait for it… £63.00 new, but a more sensible price used starting at £18.00 plus postage, cheaper still could be the local library.


    January 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    • I know! I had quite a shock as I’m keen to replace it. Wish I knew who’d borrowed it! Grrr

      January 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

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