Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis Paperback – Sep 19 2011
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"In this book Davis offers his knowledge and experience in the art of floral photography, presenting not only the results of his beautiful creations, but explanations of how each photograph was captured: the set up, the equipment and even the camera settings used for each brilliant image. The author takes you beyond the point of capture and discusses processing, both in a lab environment and digital post processing, as well as offers side-trips through history to learn a bit from the masters of art and photography, such as Van Gogh and O'Keeffe. Davis even goes so far as to share affordable and easy use studio setups which he has designed over the years. Using his techniques wonderfully artistic images can be created! For any photographer interested in floral photography - whether amateur or pro - this book will not only tutor them, but will inspire them."--San Francisco Book Review
About the Author
Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer. He is the best-selling author of more than 30 books, including The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), Creative Porraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal Press) and Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O'Reilly). Harold writes the popular Photoblog 2.0, www.photoblog2.com, and is a regular photography and Photoshop columnist for Photo.net, a photography site with more than one million members. Harold is a popular presenter on a wide range of digital photography and Photoshop topics. His workshops are sought after and often sold out. In addition to writing and photography, Harold has been a software engineer, an enterprise technology consultant, and an Internet company executive. Photographic adventures and assignments have taken him across the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountains in Alaska. He has photographed the World Trade Towers, hanging out of a small plane, followed in the footsteps of Seneca Ray Stoddard, a 19th-century photographer of the Adirondacks, and created human interest photo stories about the residents of Love Canal, an environmental disaster area. Harold is well known for his night photography and experimental ultra-long exposure techniques, use of vibrant, saturated colors in landscape compositions, and beautiful creative floral imagery. He is inspired by the flowers in his garden, hiking in the wilderness, and the work of great artists and photographers including M.C. Escher, Monet, van Gogh, and Edward Weston.
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This book covers the soup to nuts aspects of flower photography, including: what to capture, where to capture shots (outdoors or in studio), how to ensure shooting success, best ways to present your floral subjects (composition, focus, lighting - natural & artificial - and manipulation in the digital darkroom). It even throws in a smattering of how to simulate the style of famous artists and art movements that lend themselves to floral subjects. It is an artistic and practical field guide to flower photography.
Harold Davis is clearly an enthusiastic fan of flowers. For those who are interested, it's even possible to learn more about various species from the book. Hey, it's more exciting than you might think. Who knew I'd get a sex ed lesson in a photo book about flowers! But, it's like photographing any subject. The more you know about it the more you can do it justice in your images.
One last thing I'd like to point out is how beautifully Photographing Flowers is designed. I recently took a course on photo book design. So I'm very sensitive to the complexity of doing it well. The font is an ideal readable size & style, the layouts are clean (images complement text, the flow is logical & there's enough white space on each page), plus the color management is spot on (so many techniques photo books have muddy visuals - this one is clean, crisp and vibrant).
I'm already pulling out my lightbox, some cheap clamp on the back of a chair strobes, a reflector & gobo, my tripod & macro lens to see what I can come up with using this book as a reference and inspiration.
The book begins with an introduction to the world of flowers, including a discussion of some of the main families (although not, strangely enough, orchids). This is followed by a section on actually making flower photos, including discussions of equipment and exposure. Next is a section on flower sexuality. Davis concludes with a foray into post-processing of flower images.
The most arresting part of the book was the actual flower photographs. Every page spread has at least one beautiful photograph of one or more flowers. Particularly striking are the pictures of flowers taken on either a light table or in a light tent. The white of the environments is replaced by the white of the pages and the flowers snake through the text. I did wonder if these photographs would appear as lovely in a frame, without text, and I was inspired enough by the technique to resolve to try it at the first opportunity. Each of these photographs is well annotated and there is as much teaching in the captions as there is in the main text.
Although Davis covers all the bases of flower photography many of his hints are general in nature. For example, in discussing outdoor flower photography, he suggests using either a Plamp or a McClamp to keep the flower from moving. Having both of these devices in my arsenal, I knew that there was more to say about them, but Davis moved on without further mention. Similarly, in describing the use of flash, he discussed a preference for macro flash units, but didn't discuss the possibilities of regular units, or perhaps even using multiple units to shape the flowers.
The section on post processing was clearly aimed at the person who already knows how to use Photoshop. Techniques were suggested in terms that an experienced user would understand but not a beginner.
Some of the instruction in the book, like that on exposure, is clearly aimed at the beginner, while other information is aimed at a more advanced user. I think the principal benefit of this book will be as inspiration, although there is adequate instruction for the new flower photographer. I'm glad that Davis has finally decided to present us with this beautiful account of one of his favorite genre skills.
Some of the images look too sophisticated to be accomplished by amateurs, yet I was surprised by how attainable they are given practice. When I worked in film format, practice involved expensive mistakes. Film, paper, and darkroom time could all get very expensive. If you already own a digital camera, computer, scanner, and software, you will be able to experiment with almost everything (see next paragraph) discussed in the book. And the cost of mistakes is insignificant now!
Beginners will appreciate the exposure information. More advanced photographers will appreciate the information on darkroom manipulation, especially if they are currently using PhotoShop. I have been using Photoshop Elements, and have recently purchased Lightroom, but do not own PhotoShop. Too early to tell whether I will be limited by my software. I have not tried merging layers on multiple exposures of one image. Regardless, I would still recommend this book.
As both a photographer and a Master Gardener, I appreciate Harold's notations for not only the exposure and manipulations of the images but also for the names of the flowers photographed! A bonus! - and a pleasant surprise, as this has not been the case with other books on the subject.
The bulk of the book is organized into four parts, the largest being the section about taking the photograph. David introduces the reader to "The Worlds of Flower Photography" by explaining a bit about flower geography, commonality, and the unique aesthetic qualities of roses, poppies (his favorite), ranunculuses, and dahlias. This gives the reader some ideas of where to start. Of course, there is nothing wrong with starting in your back yard or neighborhood park, or with that bouquet you got for your birthday. Then Davis moves on to "Making Flower Photos", beginning with the various pieces of equipment that will allow you to get very close to your floral subjects with your SLR or DSLR: macro lenses, extension tubes, close-up filters, lens reversal, and more.
Davis explains how to use an exposure histogram, offers advice on exposure, focus and sharpness, composition, working with various kinds of natural light, using macro flash, and photographing flowers in studio. His advice is straightforward and essential. His example photos are eye-catching and sometimes present the same flower photographed differently, which is useful. He could have done better on a few topics, however, which is why I give this book 4 stars rather than 5. He doesn't explain how to use or choose close-up equipment or what each type of equipment does. More examples of dealing with natural light at different times of the day and under different conditions would be helpful, as would some expansion of the spare information on flash and studio lighting.
Davis provides a straightforward explanation of exposure principles as they relate specifically to flower photography, which is necessarily incomplete, but it impressed me, as explanations of exposure have become convoluted in recent years for reasons I can't explain. There is a short section called "Bee's Eye View" that offers tips for photographing the unique forms that flowers present. Davis tops it off with "Flowers in the Digital Darkroom", which focuses primarily on "special effects" such as enhancing color, producing a Georgia O'Keefe look, creating the illusion of transparency, and more along those lines. It also tells readers how to do automated focus stacking, which would be useful to anyone. Though I found "Photographing Flowers" lacking on a couple of points, the information that is here is clear and easily applied to your next photo project.
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