Tag Archives: flowers

When taking photos, move around your subject …

These two photos were taken at about the same time of day. Although they are two different flowers, they are near each other. Neither has been manipulated after taking except for cropping. Compare the effect of the two backgrounds.

move around for different backgrounds

move around for different backgrounds

Move around your subject, if you can. Be mindful of the background. Point and shoot cameras have such a deep depth of field that you may not be able to blur the background to minimize it. Depth of field refers to the area in focus in front of and behind the subject. Shallow depth of field blurs foreground and background to emphasize the subject and minimize distractions. (Although some people find the blur distracting. You can’t please everyone.) With deep depth of field, everything is in focus. However, try moving away and using zoom, and moving in close and using macro – both of these change the depth of field and the area of the background.

A skilled photo editor can do a lot in post production. I prefer to focus on taking photos. Look. See. Move. Take lots of pictures. Show only your best.


A macro is an extreme close-up. Macros can reveal details we might otherwise miss. Most macro shots involve putting the lens as close to the subject as one can get, which can create problems with depth of field and the shadow of the lens.

ladybug larve with aphids

This picture makes me think of Star Wars, as if this were a giant tank surrounded by smaller machines. But that’s the larva of a ladybug surrounded by aphids (plus drops of aphid milk).



I love this photo for the shape and color and for the tiny ‘berries’ I didn’t see at the time. This monkshood was one of many wild in a field in south-central Colorado. It is so poisonous that gardeners have to wear gloves if they work with it.





cloisonne bug (junebug)
Merri calls this junebug a cloisonné bug, an apt name, I think. Three or four of these graced a chamisa I’ve passed almost daily for 10+ years. I only saw them that one day.



I used a macro setting for all of these photos. However, you can use a zoom lens for an extreme close-up of a nearby subject.

Macro of water droplets on pansy.
You’ll notice the depth of field problem with the out-of-focus edge of this pansy. I like the nearly spherical droplets. Note the lens is reflected in the largest one, as is an adjacent lattice.

Bokeh and DOF

butterfly bokeh

Bokeh is the English spelling of a Japanese word. I pronounce it ‘bowkay.’ Most simply, bokeh refers to the blurring of areas of a photograph. Bokeh is a natural bi-product of depth-of-field (DOF), that aspect of photography that is so very different from vision.

As you move your eyes around the world, everything is always in focus. (For the sake of argument, ignore glasses, exhaustion, alcohol, and coffee.) But cameras have variable depth-of-field (DOF), in which objects some distance from the lens are in focus, but objects closer or farther – outside the DOF – are not in focus / are blurred. That depth – the distance from the lens – can be shallow (more of the foreground/background is likely to be blurred) or deep (more of the scene is likely to be in sharp focus).

Recognizing that all of the settings on a camera are interdependent, aperture – the size of the lens opening — controls depth-of-field. Simply put, with automatic settings, a bright scene is likely to be in focus nearer and farther. As the scene gets darker, automatic settings *may* increase the aperture (open the lens for more light), which reduces the depth-of-field. (The camera *may* instead slow the shutter to give more time for light to enter the lens or adjust the light sensitivity (ISO) of the sensor/chip.) 

You can assert some control over DOF if your camera has Aperture Priority (A or AP on the controls), but your camera may not have true DOF preview — or that may be hard to see — so remember the camera and the eye don’t see exactly the same scene.

Scene settings for Portrait (a head-and-shoulders icon) often reduce the DOF because someone thinks portraits look cooler if everything else is blurry.

Be aware that the macro (close-up) setting (usually a flower icon) has a very shallow depth-of-field. Further, a zoom lens affects DOF, dependent in part on your distance from the subject, as well as the distance between the subject and the background. All of the shots in this entry are zooms. (I think it’s a coincidence that all have yellow and most are flowers.)

Experiment by taking several photos from the same position while changing settings and by moving closer or farther and repeating your play. Move left and right, as well, because that may change the distance between the subject and objects in the background.

yellow flower on dark background

Bokeh and Depth of Field

Life Glows

 chocolate flower

This photo was an epiphany for me. Suddenly, I realized that flowers (and leaves) are translucent, not opaque. Further, I discovered the backside of flowers. In particular, this is a chocolate flower (also called green eyes). Those red veins are not visible on the face of the flower, only behind.

It doesn’t take much experience to discover that the best light of the day comes early and late. Light moves all day long. I watch for that intense light pushing through living things, setting them aglow. I feel honored to witness, let alone capture, a spotlight moment, such as these.

sunflower seedling




sacred datura

aspen sunset, Wyoming

I recommend viewing this slideshow fullscreen. (Click the slideshow to go to the Picasa photos, then click the Fullscreen button.)

Life Glows

Photos by mjh

April’s theme gives way to May’s: from poetry to photography. My goal for my birth month is to post a photo (or group) here every day – some old, some new.

Here is my most frequently seen photo on Flickr:

big brown spider

Photographed on my kitchen floor, this big, brown spider has been viewed 3,059 times on Flickr since 12/1/2007 (nearly 700 times in the past year). I really don’t know why. I have other pictures on Flickr of bugs (125) and spiders (16).

pasque flowerThis photo of a pasque flower is my second-most frequently viewed photo on Flickr, seen only 684 times. Mind you, I’m delighted any of my photos are seen once and thrilled by those few that are seen by two dozen people.

My Windows Live Photo Gallery consists of just over 38,500 photos since 2000 — exactly 10% more than one year ago (yup, I kept 10 photos per day, but shot many more). Over the next month, I’ll spare you most of the 38,500, but hope to find one you will enjoy. Let me know what you think or use the Ratings stars, Facebook Likes or Comments.

My photos appear in the following places: