flowers

Hummingbird shares a flower

Hummingbird shares a flower

Hummingbird in Cloudcroft, New Mexico

While I was in Cloudcroft, New Mexico on a rural land photography assignment, I took notice of these very unusual flowers that I thought looked like rocket popsicles that a hummingbird was having breakfast at.  I had my excellent new Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro SP lens on my Nikon D750.  There was no way to track this fast moving bird through the air.  How to get this shot then?  Pre-focus on a flower you hope the hummingbird will land on, and wait.  I studied the bird's flying patterns a bit, noticing it kept coming back to this particular flower.  I approached slowly, very slowly, and then froze waiting for the hummingbird to return.  The focus point is not perfect, and I wish the hummingbird had chosen a prettier flower to drink nectar from, but I like the bokeh enough to share this photo with you.

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Flowers Like Rocket Popsicles in Cloudcroft New Mexico

Flowers Like Rocket Popsicles in Cloudcroft New Mexico

On a recent overnight photo shoot trip to Cloudcroft, New Mexico the excellent true bed & breakfast I stayed at, The Crofting Inn, had this wonderful flower garden.  Being still totally enamored with my recent purchase of the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Macro lens, I am always looking for opportunities to use it.  These flowers on their own would have been beautiful to photograph, but the color of the bokeh really makes this macro flora image.  Then upon further exam, I thought these flowers looked like the classic rocket popsicles I used to enjoy on hot summer days growing up!  Tell me what you think in the comments below.

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Old Town Albuquerque New Mexico Macro Flower Photography

Old Town Albuquerque New Mexico Macro Flower Photography

Last week I invested in getting a macro lens, the new Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro SP.  For those of you with really good memories, you will have realized this is my third Tamron lens in the past 9 months.  Tamron is just simply producing the best lenses available for Nikon right now.  I had the Nikon 105mm VR Micro (they use micro not macro in the name) lens from 2009 until about 2013 and loved it.  It was such a fun lens to shoot with, as making macro shots always had a sense of wonder at showing a hidden world the naked eye cannot see.  It had very creamy bokeh and was very, very sharp.  I also loved it for portraits and just as my walking around lens.

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Nikon D750 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson in Albuquerque New Mexico with Karen

Nikon D750 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson in Albuquerque New Mexico with Karen

Karen has taken three 1-on-1 DSLR photography lessons with me at the JCP Home Studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico as she had a big family reunion coming up in Taos she wanted to be able to make great candid photos of, as well as group photos.  She has a Nikon D750, the same camera I have!  So it was very easy to show her all the custom settings I use myself on my own Nikon.  The first 2-hour lesson was focused on teaching her my 5-step process for shooing in manual mode and getting a sharp and well exposed photo in any shooting conditions.

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Photography Tip - do not photograph flowers in harsh light

Assuming you have a good subject, then light and background are the two make or break factors for any photograph.  Both flower photos above have complimentary backgrounds.  However, only one of them works due to the light.  The top flower photo was made in harsh light.  Even with a large amount of digital editing to try and recover detail in the flower, it was not possible.  In contrast, the bottom flower required very little editing as it was photographed in good, soft light.  

No matter how pretty the flower may be, if it is not photographed in good light, then it will turn out looking ugly in a photograph.  Look for soft light for flowers.  This can be done by photographing flowers in shade and basically avoiding the strong mid-day sunlight times.  Early morning or late evening are often prime times for this kind of light.  Then remember to make sure the background is good too!

Sakura Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo Japan means Spring has arrived

Inokashira Park with sakura cherry blossoms in full bloom - Olympus 5060 digital cameraIt is the first day of spring, which in Florida does not have as much meaning as there is never really any winter so it's not a date to look forward to like it is in most parts of the world.  This is expecially true in Tokyo, where the end of March brought my favorite (and millions of others' favorite) time of year, cherry blossom season.  Sakura (the Japanese word, also a popular name for girls) bloom for about two weeks.  If things time out right, that means getting two weekends to enjoy the pinkish white blossoms.  Above is Inokashera Park, a place to see sakura in a more natural setting from land or water.  Many couples go out on small boats, but the legend of the pond is that any couple that does is then doomed to breakup!

The old & new of the Shinjuku area of Tokyo Japan with a river lined with cherry blossoms.This photo is from my neighborhood in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo and highlights the contrast of the ultra-modern, the traditional and the natural world all in one, which is why of all places I lived abroad, Shinjuku was the only one I felt a real connection with.  On this weekday, I had the cement river walkway all to myself.

Overlooking a pond in Shinjuku Gyoen during cherry blossom season

The pond and overlook temple above are in Shinjuku Gyoen, perhaps the most esteemed place to go to see sakura.  This park was within walking distance from my apartment and my favorite place to escape the city while still being in the heart of the city.  

Cosmos Flowers of Tachikawa Japan

Cosmos of Tachikawa Japan with bokeh - my personal favorite flower photo~These photographs are some of my own early DSLR photography work.  All were taken with the Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D lens (save the portrait).  At this time I did not exactly know what I was doing all the time.  I was still stunned by the bokeh produced by the 50mm prime.

This selected collection of cosmos flowers were all made on the same afternoon at a place called "Cosmos Hill" in a park in Tachikawa, Japan.  The above photo is available as an iPhone wallpaper.  Since it was my first time out really with the sole purpose of photographing flowers with my first DSLR, I remember it clearly.  I was most certainly not the only one with the idea to go photograph these cosmos as there was a veritable line of photographers, like paparazzi at the Oscars, all photographing them too.  It was also one of my first times to really use my new 50mm f/1.8D lens.  I was not getting great results with my Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 (it was soon sold!) so after I put on the 50mm, it stayed on the rest of the afternoon.

red cosmos blooming in Tachikawa Japan - Nikon D80 Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D @ f/1.8 ISO 200 1/1,250th -0.33 EVI did not really know any better at the time to not shoot wide open (largest aperture) at f/1.8 so as to produce sharper images.  I was still just in the process of teaching myself how to become a more serious photographer.  I was still dazzled anytime I made a shot with bokeh in it, and the 50mm @ f/1.8 produces tons of bokeh.  When I went home to look at the shots they seemed unreal to me, which in fact, they are.  This is also what I think makes a photograph a photograph, showing something that cannot be seen at standing eye-level.  The human eye cannot see bokeh, therefore making a photograph with bokeh will tend to interest one's eye more.

Cosmos Hill Tachikawa Japan - Nikon D80 Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D @ f/2 ISO 200 1/4,000th -0.33 EVI even used the 50mm lens to make landscapes at a large aperture.  At the time this may have been more of a happy accident (see above) than a previsualized shallow DoF sea of flowers shot.  Such is the way things go when teaching oneself photography.  Mistakes still teach me to this day new things about photography, since I did not intend to do them, the results are sometimes pleasantly surprising and the next time I make sure to do it on purpose!

Yours truly, circa October 2008 in Tachikawa, Japan in front of Cosmos HillI have included the above portrait of me to show you how little things change for me over time, in this case 2.5+ years.  I literally wore that exact same shirt today (coincidentally), and also the same sunglasses and watch.  I am very loyal to my wardrobe and do not add, and certainly do not remove, items from it lightly.