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Glowing In the Dark, or What to Photograph In the Dining Room

September 7, 2010
Glowing In the Dark, Calgary

Glowing In the Dark, Calgary

Things are busy, feels like no time to head out to the field. What to do? I know! Still life closeups of flowers can be fun.

Sure, flowers smell nice and look colorful, but from arm’s length they’re part of the normal world. How often do we take in their intricate details? Viewed up close, the familiar can become strange or fascinating… perhaps both. Sounds like a job for a photographer.

On the dining room table, some cut lilies in a vase made a perfect subject. My wife remarked on their strong aroma that filled the room, and the beauty of the petals. I nodded my head, but was thinking of the macro lens, a close-up perspective, and some unusual lighting.

I broke out my Canon 5D Mk II, put on the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro lens, and got it all set up on the tripod. As the evening light through the picture window grew dim, I turned down the dining room lights as well. A small flashlight provided some targeted glow while the rest of the normal vibrant colors receded into the shadows. Selecting a fairly wide aperture of f/4 provided a shallow depth of field and the stage was all set for the composition.

I had two final elements in my approach to developing the photo. First was to make 3 bracketed exposures to capture the full dynamic range, right from glowing highlights through to richly saturated shadows. I wanted a silky smooth look to go with the velvety feel of the dark, blurred colors… no digital noise, thanks very much! I used High Dynamic Range (HDR) software to process the bracketed exposures, giving me a super clean, rich master image which required very little extra steps to finish in PhotoShop.

My second major development decision was to crop in tight in a 6×6 aspect ratio. Once I was working the image towards its final state, I decided the extra details I had originally framed took away from the essence of the composition — the graceful curving pistil surrounded by flowing, colorful blurs that only suggested the rest of the structure of the flower. Other details in the full frame were distractions, not features, and the image was strengthened by removing them. Presto — “Glowing In the Dark”, a fun little composition to while away an evening.

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