Amazing beauty of orchids captured on photos (20.03.2016)
Text and photos: Ave Kruusel
Orchid is a houseplant that is gaining more and more popularity. There probably isn’t a home left where there is no orchid on a window shell. Obviously this plant makes you wish to capture it and share it with your friends, print on a wall or save it as your desktop wallpaper.
As there are always human beings who are hard to photograph, the same goes to plants. I have grown orchids for 20 years and tried to photograph them and I realised at some point that it is impossible to capture some flowers. When we talk about humans, there are excuses. The person is just not photogenic. It is a bit weird to say that about a flower and you just have to admit that the photographer is the one with a problem – he or she just doesn’t have the skills. Of course, there is nothing complicated in framing the flower in the middle of the frame and press the shutter. Having been grown this plant until it blossoms and knowing how hard this road has been, I cannot help but want to show the nature of this plant to others through a photo. I am pretty sure that a very good photo is able to pass on the smell of its flower as well
When you are preparing your orchid for a shoot, I first recommend you to explore it through a long shot. How to capture it? Is the flowering stem elegantly curved and creates mood on the photo? Are the leaves beautiful and illustrate the flower against the background? Maybe there are interesting aerating roots that would characterize the orchid being photographed? Noticing these things would accost the viewer of the photo and pass on the nature of this “model“.
On my first photo, the model is Phragmipedium caudatum x longifolium. Probably the first thing that catches your eye, is the long “moustache“ of the blossom. This plant actually has beautiful wide, long and waxy leaves but I decided to leave those out this time because these tended to cut the blossom visually. But if you would like to capture the leaves on the photo as well, you should make sure that these are not dusty or covered with dry prints of water drops. Because this would ruin the photo.
So, I decided on the flowering stem and the flower head. And I carefully attached the leaves to the rear leaves so these would not be in the way. I chose black as the background colour. You can use a non-transparent black fabric or paper to achieve that. For the crumples and everything else unnecessary to be left out of the photo, the plant should be positioned a little further away from the background. You should use a tripod because every little tremble affects the photo. A remote control unit is also a good idea. I have Nikon MC-DC2 for that. I used Nikon Df camera and Nikkor 105mm f2.8 macro lens. I also used Nikon SB-700 Speedlight. Since my camera does not have a built-in flash, I used radio transmitters to open the flash light.
I place the Speedlight quite close to the flower but not directed to the camera or so that it would light the background. I also use a diffuser in front of the Speedlight. I usually frame through the display of the camera. Like that, I can make sure that the whole flower head and flowering stem are within the frame. I focus manually. Autofocus needs to be powered off. Like that, you can be sure that your photo is going to be sharp and clear. It is also important to use the correct depth of field. If you would like to have most part of the flower/s and flowering stem sharp, I would not recommend to use open aperture (e.g. 2/8) On my photo, I used the aperture of f 4/5 and the camera was positioned 1 to 1.5 metres from the subject. ISO was 125 and exposure 1/100 sec. Since I take RAW files, I give my photos the final touch when post-processing them.
The other photo has been taken in natural light on the window where it grows. The model was Paphiopedilum primulinum. In this case, there is enough light and no need for extra light. All the other mentioned techniques remain the same. I still used the tripod and I measure the exposure from the flower so that it would not be too dark. You can also see other plants in the background but since they are blurry enough, they are not competing with the model and they help create a natural background. ISO 100; f 3/2; exposure 1/40 sec.