Circle Garden Bench in SummerCircle Garden Bench in Summer


Thank you for visiting my blog.  Much of this blog is dedicated to my passion for photographing the ever-changing palette at The Chicago Botanic Garden.  I am fortunate to live within a few miles of this magnificent garden and I spend several days a week walking, observing and photographing the beauty this 385-acre slice of heaven offers.  For me the beauty is in the details - the colors, the patterns, the tiny things that might otherwise be missed.  Photography in general, but particularly nature and macro photography, teaches you to slow down and look at the world up-close, to observe the mysteries and wonders Mother Nature provides us.  


"The contemplation of beauty causes the soul to grow wings."  ~ Plato

The Flower and Garden Photography Conference

February 27, 2018  •  Leave a Comment



I am excited to announce Out of Chicago's first ever Flower and Garden Photography Conference! We've been dreaming about this conference for a long time and it has finally become a reality. It's happening August 26-30th. Registration is open today and it is limited to 100 people so we expect it to sell out quickly. Join me with 9 other instructors to learn everything you could ever want to know about flower and garden photography. We've gathered a dynamic and enthusiastic group of instructors who can't wait to share their varied passions with you in five days of jam-packed learning and fun. Presentations, critique sessions, post-processing sessions and lots of socializing will happen at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Deerfield, IL. (hey, even happy hour is included) and we'll be taking small groups out all day for instructor-led shoots at the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden, a few miles from the hotel. Out of Chicago is known for its dynamic, fun and hands-on conferences where you get to spend lots of time with instructors - learning, interacting, shooting and sharing our passion for photography. I'll be doing the opening keynote to introduce you to one of my favorite places in the world, The Chicago Botanic Garden, as well as my approach to flower photography. I'll be teaching lots of Lensbaby during the conference, too. Be prepared for a creative, fun, energizing week of learning!  To get details, see our line-up of fantastic instructors and register visit

Use my special code to get $300 off your registration for the 5 day workshop: BELMONT 

(good until midnight Monday, March 5)

Photographing Orchids - Tips to Create Stunning Images in an Orchid Exhibit

February 25, 2018  •  2 Comments

If you enjoy photographing flowers in the warmth of the greenhouses during these cold winter months, The Orchid Show, “Asia in Bloom,” at the Chicago Botanic Garden is the perfect place to be. Regenstein Hall, the galleries and greenhouses have all been transformed into a magical and elaborate display of 10,000 orchids with a beautiful Asian theme. The show opened February 10 and runs until March 25 and is open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tripods are only allowed in the exhibit during “Photographer’s Hours,” Thursdays, 8:15 - 9:45 a.m. (best to purchase tickets online as these special hours will sell out and are limited).  Tickets are $10.00 for members/$12.00 for non-members.  To order tickets online or find more information about the show, please visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website:

100mm macro f4.5, handheld


For those of you who live in other parts of the country, many botanic gardens have wonderful orchid shows going on this time of year - Longwood Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, to name a few. Some conservatories, like Chicago's Lincoln Park Conservatory, have a dedicated orchid room, open all year. Even if you don’t have a local orchid show or conservatory, find a greenhouse or florist that supplies orchids and go there to shoot. In the Chicago area, we have Orchids by Hausermann in Villa Park, my favorite place to shoot and buy orchids. My neighborhood florist, Hlavacek Florist, has a wonderful orchid collection and they work with Chicago Botanic Garden to set up a beautiful display within the Orchid Show. I’ve gotten some of my best orchid photographs in these places because I can often move the orchids or stage them since they are in pots. Get permission first and I always buy an orchid or two as my thanks for letting me shoot. As you can imagine, orchids are taking over my house!


Image in CBG exhibit, The Orchid Show 2015-2017, shot at Orchids by Hausermann, 100mm macro f/9, tripod


Orchid shot at Hlavacek Florist, 100mm macro, f/32, tripod


Orchids are complex and exotic flowers and, in my opinion, one of the hardest flowers to photograph. They are worth the effort, however, as they are one of the most beloved and beautiful flowers. One of my favorite things about orchids is the stories they elicit - orchids can have such wonderful human or animal-like characteristics.


'Graceful Ballerina' 100mm macro with macro ring light, f20, handheld

Experiment with a range of apertures to create different effects with orchids. When my goal is to create an image with every part in sharp focus, I move in close and use a small aperture, going as high as f22 - f32, depending on the depth of the flower. Sharp close-ups of orchids require these higher apertures to get everything in focus. Many orchids are complex and have great depth and interesting details to capture. Apertures this high require the use of a tripod to avoid camera shake with slow shutter speeds. If you worry about lens diffraction, the loss of sharpness that can happen when shooting in the higher apertures, use focus stacking if that is of interest to you. I personally don’t use focus stacking or worry about diffraction - a few simple steps in post processing can bring detail back to the image. Keep in mind that shooting in higher apertures will bring forth more detail in your background, too. This is often why I move in close to simplify and eliminate as much background as possible. As with all flower photography, paying attention to your backgrounds is just as important as the flower itself.   

Image in CBG exhibit, The Orchid Show 2015-2017, 100mm macro f/22, tripod


180mm macro, f/32, tripod

My favorite way to shoot flowers of any kind is to use selective focus to produce a softer, dreamier image.   Using a wider aperture will help blur the distractions of the background and bring only one flower or part of a flower in focus.  There is enough light in many parts of the greenhouses to handhold your camera if using wider apertures. This is a great way to shoot when tripods are not allowed in the exhibit. I study the orchid carefully, looking for interesting details that catch my eye - a beautiful curve or a soft ruffle. Using selective focus to draw the eye is a powerful, creative and fun way to shoot. Decide what is most important to have in focus and experiment with a small range of apertures to see what effect is most pleasing. 

100mm macro, f/6.3, handheld


100mm macro, f/4.5, handheld

100mm macro, f/6.3, handheld


70-200mm lens shot at 200mm, f4.5, handheld. The compression of longer focal length lenses helps blur backgrounds.


To achieve a softer look I always reach for my Lensbaby lenses, particularly the Velvet 56mm and Velvet 85mm to create a beautiful, ethereal portrait of the orchids. The Lensbaby Velvet will give me a beautiful blurred background, as well, and images are often perfect straight out of camera.

Phalaenopsis OrchidsPhalaenopsis Orchids Lensbaby Velvet 85mm, f/4, handheld


Phalaenopsis OrchidPhalaenopsis Orchid Lensbaby Velvet 85mm f/4, tripod


Phalaenopsis OrchidsPhalaenopsis Orchids Lensbaby Velvet 56mm, f/4, handheld

Spathoglottis Ground OrchidSpathoglottis Ground Orchid Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Sweet 35 Optic, f/4, handheld - another fun lens system to shoot orchids. 


It may be challenging to find a good composition for an orchid or grouping of orchids. Many orchids grow in clusters or in close proximity to other orchids or plants, making it hard to isolate one orchid from others and eliminate distracting backgrounds. Take your time and experiment. Move around to find the best background. Look for darker foliage and backgrounds that might be further back.  Sometimes positioning yourself just a fraction of an inch in a different direction can make all the difference in eliminating distracting elements and spots of light. If you can’t control your background, cloning out areas or darkening areas in post processing will help. I prefer to get as much right in camera as possible, but the reality of photographing orchids is that you may have to do a bit of post processing magic to improve your image and eliminate distracting elements.

100mm macro, f/13, handheld. Distracting background darkened in layer in Photoshop.


100mm macro, f/4, handheld. Foliage in a distance paired with a lower aperture created a beautiful blurred background. 


Another trick I have found helpful in photographing orchids in exhibits is to use a macro ring light. I own the Yongnuo YN-14EX, which is compatible with my Canon camera. I consider myself a natural light photographer; I had never used or liked flash with flowers, so it was a big step for me to even give it a try. When shooting in dimly lit exhibit spaces where I can’t use a tripod, a macro ring light allows me to get sharp, well-lit images handheld. It also allows me to get in closer in a way I may not be able to do with a tripod in an exhibit. Sometimes I like the effect, sometimes I don’t, but it’s always in my bag to experiment with while shooting orchids. By powering up or powering down the flash I can control the amount of light in an effort to produce as natural-looking an image as possible.  It is also helpful for illuminating the deeper centers of orchids and in darkening the backgrounds. 

100mm macro with macro ring light, f/11, handheld. Note how the flash darkens the background.


100mm macro with macro ring light, f/5, handheld


Don’t forget to carry your diffuser and reflector. On a sunny day, the light in the greenhouses can be harsh and contrasty. The diffuser will soften the light and the reflector will bounce light into those inner recesses of the orchid. Remember, you always want the part of the orchid you are drawing the eye to to be well-illuminated.

100mm macro, f/11, handheld

Some of my orchid photographs that were on exhibit in the 2015-2017 Orchid Shows at CBG were captured with black backgrounds. For someone who prefers shooting with the backgrounds nature provides, this was a new way of shooting prompted by this commissioned project. It’s important to know that these were staged with potted orchids outside the exhibit. You are not allowed to use black backdrops or even slip a piece of black mat board behind the orchids in most orchid exhibits. Save that kind of shooting for home or a place that will allow you to move potted orchids.

100mm macro, f/32. Shot in my kitchen near window light. Orchid purchased at Orchids by Hausermann.

100mm macro, f/32. Shot at Orchids by Hausermann.


Give orchids a try and keep in mind that, as with anything, the more you practice and experiment, the better you will get. Have fun and enjoy the beauty of these exotic flowers!

Upcoming Conferences

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

LotusLotus 2018 is off to a very busy start! I've been busy planning and preparing for so many exciting events. Just a summary of some of the things to come:

I am honored to be a featured speaker at Hazel Meredith's Creative Photography Conference on May 19th and 20th in Southbridge, MA. I will be representing Lensbaby and my presentation will be "Unleash Your Creative Spirit: Creating Beautiful Flower Portraits with Lensbaby." We'll also have hands-on shooting with Lensbabies. To learn more about the conference, visit Hazel's website by clicking here and more about my talk here. Use my special discount code to get $50 off: anne50. The code expires on 2/28.

Although our Out of Chicago Winter Conference was cancelled due to a big blizzard the day before the conference, the following podcast with Out of Chicago's Chris Smith was a lead-in to the conference where I talk a bit about my presentation and thoughts on creativity. It was a huge disappointment that we had to cancel but it was done with everyone's safety in mind. I'll be doing this presentation at our Out of Chicago Summer Conference, June 22-24. Details will be coming soon on that conference at

Meanwhile, we are about to announce a very exciting new Out of Chicago conference, The Flower and Garden Photography Conference, August 26-30. This conference has been a dream of Chris Smith and mine for a long time and we've finally made it a reality. We are bringing an amazing line-up of instructors together to teach you everything you could want to know about flower and garden photography and we'll be shooting every day at the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden, my home away from home. If you aren't on the email list for, go sign up now so you will receive an email when registration opens for this event on Tuesday, February 27. We expect this event to sell out quickly since it is limited to 100 people. Check back here or on my social media sites for a special discount code you can use to get $300 off. Stay tuned for lots more info. I am so excited about this event! Here's a podcast Chris and I did to talk about the Chicago Botanic Garden and the event.

Stay tuned for more info and please don't hesitate to contact me through this website with questions. Keep shooting - The Orchid Show at Chicago Botanic Garden is amazing, the Spring Flower Show at both Lincoln Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Conservatory are open. Despite it still being winter, there are always ways to capture flowers year-round!




Post on Visual Wilderness: 6 Essential Principles for Stunning Flower Photography

January 27, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


Soft DahliaSoft Dahlia I am excited to announce that I am now a guest author for the wonderful learning community, Visual Wilderness. I am so honored that Jay and Varina Patel asked me to join their team of writers, so many of whom I greatly admire and follow. Visual Wilderness is an amazing site for learning about all aspects of nature and landscape photography. Subscribe to their newsletter and check out all the video learning experiences they offer. Follow the link to Part 1 and Part 2 of my article. Enjoy! I look forward to writing about many aspects of flower photography, Lensbaby, and creativity in the future.   

Creative Photography Conference, May 19-20, 2018, Southbridge, MA.

November 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I'm excited to be presenting at the Creative Photography Conference in Southbridge, MA., May 19-20, 2018. Thank you to Hazel Meredith for inviting me! More information about my presentation to come soon. Use my special discount code to get $50 off: anne50. The code expires on 2/28.  

A Trip to Longwood Gardens

October 31, 2017  •  2 Comments

Oh my goodness! I have been so lax in my blog posts this fall. I just realized I hadn't posted anything since August! It has indeed been a busy Fall/busy year, full of so many glorious things - frequent trips to Boston to spend time with family and my new granddaughter, conferences and speaking engagements, Lensbaby demos, as well as trying to honor my promise to myself that I faithfully carve out time for my own creative growth. It is so important as a teacher and an artist to take time for your own photography - a time to play, experiment and reenergize your creativity. That is exactly why I treated myself to three full days of blissful photographing at Longwood Garden near Philadelphia in late August. I love Longwood Gardens; you could not ask for a more beautiful garden full of wonderful subjects, friendly staff and incredible vistas at every turn. And thank you to two friends I treasure - Chung Kim and Mary Malinconico - who live relatively close to Longwood and met me to enjoy some shooting, too. 

I timed my trip so that the dahlias would be in their glory. At Chicago Botanic Garden we did not have our usual array of dahlias because the Garden took on a Brazilian theme and areas that usually have plentiful dahlias were planted with tropical plants this summer. As a result, I was especially eager to photograph one of my favorite flowers at Longwood and they did not disappoint.

One of my stops on the first day was the Flower Garden Walk, an area teeming with 1000's of dahlias.

                 Lensbaby Velvet 85mm 

DahliaDahlia                 Lensbaby Velvet 56mm Cheerful DahliaCheerful Dahlia                  Canon 100mm Macro Dahlia from BehindDahlia from Behind                  Lensbaby Velvet 56mm Glowing Velvety PetalsGlowing Velvety Petals                                                                  Lensbaby Velvet 85mm DahliaDahlia

As I was leaving Longwood after my first full day of shooting, a friendly volunteer stopped me to talk and ask about my photography. I told her how much I loved dahlias and she asked if I had visited the Trial Garden. Well, no, I hadn't gotten there that day but I had an hour until the Gardens closed, so I raced over. Oh my! Talk about dahlia heaven...rows and rows and rows of dahlias they were trying out for future planting! I had beautiful early evening light, so I got to work! I immediately knew where I was going to spend a good part of day two! It was there on the 2nd day that I ran into an Out of Chicago conference attendee, Helen Wagner, who happens to be a horticulturist at Longwood. Small world! Helen is one of those people you meet and can't help but love her immediately. 

I am so drawn to dahlias with interesting curls. They have so much more personality. Although a dahlia show judge would tell you this is imperfect and would not even be included in a dahlia competition, it is pure perfection to me! 

                                                                   Canon 100mm Macro Dahlia CurlsDahlia Curls                  Canon 100mm Macro Dahlia at Longwood GardensDahlia at Longwood Gardens                  Canon 100mm Macro Dahlia at Longwood GardensDahlia at Longwood Gardens                                        Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 50 Optic and Macro Converters

Dahlia Close-UpDahlia Close-Up Of course, the waterlilies at Longwood captured my attention, as well. They have a magnificent display! The light was challenging while I was there, often too strong for photographing flowers without being able to diffuse them. I typically only shoot aquatic flowers on bright overcast days. I found plenty of flowers in more shaded areas to keep me happy. Most of my waterlilies are shot with my Canon 70-300mm lens because they are farther away. 

'Texas Shell Pink' Waterlily - Longwood Gardens'Texas Shell Pink' Waterlily - Longwood Gardens Waterlily at Longwood GardenWaterlily at Longwood Garden Longwood Aquatic BeautyLongwood Aquatic Beauty 'Emily Grant Hutchings' Night Flowering Waterlily'Emily Grant Hutchings' Night Flowering Waterlily Trio of WaterliliesTrio of Waterlilies Lastly, in the Conservatory, which has endless subjects and is so large you can easily get lost, I spent a lot of time with the roses and ferns, two of my favorite subjects at any garden.

How perfect to find a rose with a heart in the center! 

                  Canon 100mm Macro

Heart of the RoseHeart of the Rose                  Canon 100mm Macro Soft and PinkSoft and Pink                                                                    Lensbaby Velvet 85mm Fern UnfurlingFern Unfurling

                                                                   Lensbaby Velvet 85mm

Ruffles of the Bird's Nest FernRuffles of the Bird's Nest Fern What a wonderful treat to spend 3 full days at such a beautiful garden! I intend to travel to Longwood more in the future and hopefully do some Out of Chicago workshops there. Stay tuned! 

Next up: The National Dahlia Show at Chicago Botanic Garden! Imagine a flower show with 1000's of dahlias, all posed for photographing!

In the Water with the Waterlilies - Garfield Park Conservatory

August 07, 2017  •  2 Comments

If you live in the Chicago area, we are so fortunate to have three wonderful places to photograph flowers and plant life. Of course, most people who know me know I spend a lot of time at Chicago Botanic Garden. It is just a few miles from my home and it has become my "home away from home" through my years of photographing flowers and botanicals. We also have two other gems in our area - Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory, places I spend a lot of time in the winter months. After spending this past Saturday at Garfield Park Conservatory for a unique and wonderful experience called "In the Water with the Waterlilies," I came to realize that Garfield is a wonderful place to photograph year-round and it has incredible and beautiful outdoor gardens to explore in the summer, gardens I didn't even know existed before. The large aquatic garden, teeming with water lilies and lotuses, is only one of those outdoor spaces to explore.

WaterlilyWaterlily "In the Water with the Waterlilies" was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of the summer for me. The program was led by Kathy Cahill, a Horticulturist and Aquatic Specialist at Garfield. I have known Kathy for a few years and she is one of the nicest, most generous souls I have ever met. Her love of plants is infectious and her willingness to share her knowledge and help others is generous. She is the best possible ambassador for GPC. All the horticulturists and staff at Garfield have impressed me with their friendliness - plain and simple, it's a happy place!

On Saturday we started our morning with breakfast foods, coffee and warm introductions. A huge thank you to Mattie Wilson who organized all the details of the morning, another gem at GPC. The group quickly became very friendly and interactive, which made the experience even more fun. The class was a small group of 10, composed of artists, photographers, scientists and water lily enthusiasts who simply wanted the experience of getting up close and personal with the waterlilies in the water. We learned a bit about the layout of the large pond, what to expect in the water (including the 3 resident Koi named "Noah," "Bubbles" and "Casper" (yes, Casper is white), and how to navigate around waterlilies. I learned an interesting thing I never realized in all my years of photographing waterlilies - a harmless dye is added to the water to darken it. It serves several purposes: controlling algae, making the pond appear deeper and more aesthetically pleasing, and protecting fish from predators. It's also great for us photographers, creating nice dark water to help highlight the real stars, the flowers.

Waterlily Close-UpWaterlily Close-Up Then, into the water we went! We spent about 1 1/2 hours in the water, free to roam within the two areas of the large pond, with Kathy's total trust and blessing to enjoy ourselves. And enjoy ourselves we did! There were literally 100's of waterlilies in the pond. You had to plan your route, as the water lilies are lush and densely planted and it was challenging getting through entwined stems and pads of the plants. What a thrill to be able to get right up close, to touch and smell the waterlilies. The water was about mid-thigh deep - I wore swim shorts, a quick drying swim shirt and water shoes. I went in with my camera and 100mm macro lens as well as a diffuser to block the strong sunlight.

'Nangkwag Muang Prai' Waterlily'Nangkwag Muang Prai' Waterlily The above waterlily was my favorite of the morning - 'Nangkwag Muang Prai,' also known as a "Summoning Lady" or "Waving Princess," referring to the foliage that looks like it is waving. I had never seen a water lily with foliage like this - stunningly beautiful!

The two artists in our group parked themselves with their paints and canvases near a Red Russian lotus that was beginning to open. This shot below was taken from the bridge looking down on the lotus from above. The bridge divides the two sections of the aquatic pond.

Opening LotusOpening Lotus


Up Close with the WaterliliesUp Close with the Waterlilies Below is the underside of a Victoria Waterlily pad. We had to be careful not to get too close to these magnificent pads - the thorns protect them from predators in the water.

Underside of a Waterlily PadUnderside of a Waterlily Pad What a wonderful day this was! I hope GPC will offer this experience again. I encourage you to visit Garfield and explore the many rooms inside the conservatory but also enjoy the outdoor spaces. It is truly a treasure of a place in Chicago!

Atlas Moths at the Chicago Botanic Garden

July 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

This is my 5th year photographing the butterflies at the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit for Chicago Botanic Garden. I dearly love this early morning time with the butterflies - a chance to capture their beauty and learn about these wonderful creatures, then share my images with the Garden. This year the exhibit has been moved to its permanent location at the Regenstein Learning Campus and it is better than ever. After being away for a couple of weeks I came back to a lush garden full of beautiful flowers and so many butterflies, as well as an incredible display of Atlas moths. When I was there on Wednesday, there were 6 Atlas moths in the serviceberry tree near the pupae emergence room. Since then, 4 more have emerged and been released, bringing the total to 10!

Female Atlas Moth

Atlas MothAtlas Moth Atlas moths belong to the Saturniidae family and are native to the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia.  They are the largest moth in the world in terms of wing surface and their wing span can reach 10-12 inches.  There are varying theories as to why the moth is called the Atlas moth - perhaps being named after the titan of Greek mythology, or because of their atlas or map-like wing patterns, or perhaps because in Cantonese the name translates into "snake's head moth," referring to the patterning of the curved forewing tip that resembles a snake's head with eye spot.

Mating Female and Male Atlas Moths - the male is the smaller moth on top

Atlas Moths MatingAtlas Moths Mating When the moths emerge from the cocoon they have no mouth parts and do not eat, relying only on their fat stores from the caterpillar stage.  Their sole purpose once they emerge is to reproduce. They live only 1 - 2 weeks.  The female secretes a pheromone to attract her mate.  The male Atlas uses his long feathery antennae, which are much larger than the female antennae, to detect the pheromones and find the female.  Once the eggs are laid, the moth dies.  The caterpillars emerge 10-14 days later and the cycle of life begins again - egg, caterpillar, pupa and moth.

Side View of a Female Atlas 

Atlas MothAtlas Moth Atlas MothAtlas Moth Close up of the female Atlas from a previous year - note the transparent triangular windows on the wings.

Atlas Moth - FemaleAtlas Moth - Female Atlas Moth - FemaleAtlas Moth - Female If you haven't been to Butterflies and Blooms yet this year, I highly recommend getting there soon to see these fascinating creatures before they are gone, along with lots of other butterflies and beautiful flowers. 

Lens Review for the Lensbaby Velvet 85mm

July 20, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Hello Friends! Lensbaby asked me to do a review of the Velvet 85mm for their blog and you can read it here.

So many people have been emailing me with questions about the difference between the Velvet 56mm and the Velvet 85mm. I hope this review will help you understand the differences. I personally would not want to choose between the two lenses. They are both in my bag all the time and used every time I am out on a shoot. Please don't hesitate to contact me through my website if you have questions I can help you with. 

A few images shot recently with the Velvet 85mm...

DahliaDahlia 'Firepot' Waterlily Dahlia'Firepot' Waterlily Dahlia Gooseneck LoosestrifeGooseneck Loosestrife

The New Lensbaby Velvet 85mm

June 28, 2017  •  5 Comments

Tulip at Tower Hill Botanic GardenTulip at Tower Hill Botanic Garden Yesterday Lensbaby finally launched the new Velvet 85mm lens. I was honored to be asked by Lensbaby to beta test the lens, so I have been shooting with it since the beginning of March. I was literally jumping up and down when the UPS man rang the doorbell and I immediately headed out to give this lens a whirl! Do you know how hard it is to shoot with a lens you are so excited about and not talk about it or share any images until launch day - for four full months?! Finally I can bring those images out of hiding and share them along with my enthusiasm for this lens with others. I'm already getting lots of questions, so hopefully this blog post will answer them.

First, some specs:

Manual Focus and Manual Aperture

Focal Length: 85mm

Aperture Range: f/1.8 - f/16

Minimum Focusing Distance: 9.5 inches (Macro 1:2)

Compatibility: APS-C and Full Frame - Canon DSLR, Nikon DSLR, Sony E, Sony Alpha, Fuji X, Micro 4/3, Pentax K, Samsung NX

Weight: 18.7 oz.

Like the Velvet 56mm (which many of you have heard me say is my favorite lens ever), the Velvet 85mm has that signature velvety, ethereal glow when shot in the lower apertures. The Velvet 85mm is being marketed primarily as a portrait lens. The added compression with the longer focal length and the beautiful bokeh makes it a perfect choice for portrait work, rivaling any great quality 85mm portrait lens.

That being said, it is also a great close-up lens capable of capturing detail along with that signature glow. I primarily use both the Velvets between f/2 and f/5.6 because I want that ethereal look to my images. Focusing at 9.5 inches means it won't get in quite as close as the Velvet 56mm, which focuses at 5 inches, but when you need to get closer, you can always use an extension tube to move in closer. Like the Velvet 56mm, it is perfect for flower photography. The area where it outperforms the Velvet 56mm in my opinion is when you do pull back a bit to include more background. What the Velvet 85mm does to backgrounds will make you swoon (see image above). There are no other words than to say that bokeh is delicious! Yes, the Velvet 56mm produces gorgeous backgrounds, too. If you have heard me talk about flower photography, I talk a lot about the importance of backgrounds. One of the reasons I love all Lensbaby lenses is the beautiful backgrounds they create straight out of camera, very little if any post processing needed. The Velvet 85mm takes that beautiful background a step further.  I will be curious to hear other reviews of the lens, but I also found it easier to focus than the Velvet 56mm. That may be due to the fact that I have an easier time focusing when pulled back a slight bit. I have found myself nailing the focus with very little struggle.  

So bottom line, I know I'm going to get asked, "which one is for me?" Well, in all honesty, being the Lensbaby addict that I am, I will use both equally. If you are a flower photographer who likes to work close to your subjects, the 56mm probably fits the bill. But, if you like doing portrait work or you like pulling back a little in photographing flowers and want that added compression, then the 85mm would be your baby. When I want to be up very close, I'll have the 56mm on, but when photographing groups of flowers (it was amazing with orchids), I'll have the 85mm on. And when I'm photographing my new granddaughter (I'm learning to love newborn photography), I'll reach for the 85mm.

I also encourage those with both the 56mm and the 85mm to do some magical landscapes with the lenses. I have never considered myself a landscape photographer but I began experimenting with both lenses this spring and it has opened a new door for me. I'm now constantly on the lookout for landscapes and small scenes to capture with a bit of magical glow.

And now I'm going to deluge you with a lot of images from the Velvet 85mm...Enjoy! 

  Tulipa 'Cash'Tulipa 'Cash' Shy TulipShy Tulipa 'Foxtrot' Crabapples in BloomCrabapples in Bloom Phalaenopsis OrchidsPhalaenopsis Orchids RoseRose RannunculusRannunculus FernFern Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' TulipTulip Bending in the WindBending in the Wind FernFern Unfolding Echinopsis 'Apricot Glow'Echinopsis 'Apricot Glow' A Peek InsideA Peek Inside Graceful FernGraceful Fern The lens is currently selling for $499.95. For more information or to preorder the lens, visit the Lensbaby website at Lens will be available for shipping on July 11. Please don't hesitate to email me through my website with any questions about the new lens. I'm always happy to talk flower photography or Lensbaby!


Some Tulip Favorites - A Feast for the Eyes!

May 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

This spring the tulips at Chicago Botanic Garden have been extraordinary. When I photograph flowers, I am on the lookout for interesting subjects with personality or character. Tulips have always been one of my favorite flowers to photograph. They are flowers full of personality, wonderful lines, curves and unique curls. Some years are better than others for finding interesting tulips. This year I feel like I hit the jackpot! Of the early tulips, these pink beauties were my favorites. I shared a post earlier with some of these tulips. They were not labeled so I don't know the name but they were so full of personality, I spent days photographing them. 

The graceful curving leaf wrapping itself around this bud made it a beautiful subject.

Graceful CurveGraceful Curve  This one is clearly a dancer. I think she's doing the flamenco!

Dancing TulipDancing Tulip And perhaps another dancing pose.

Tulip with an AttitudeTulip with an Attitude This one was shot with the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm to create a soft, ethereal look to this tulip with its beautiful curving leaf. 

Tulip StudyTulip Study  Another tulip I loved photographing was the Tulipa 'Akebono' in the beds outside the Graham Bulb Garden. The beautiful sherbet-like colors, popping red edge and the sweeping lines of the petals made these perfect to create more abstract compositions. 

Or pull back and show the graceful lines of these tulips. Tulipa 'Akebono'Tulipa 'Akebono' Tulipa 'Akebono'Tulipa 'Akebono' But my favorite tulip of all time made an appearance again this year in the Sensory Garden and I was thrilled - Tulipa 'Ice Cream." Talk about personality! This tulip is loaded with personality and looks good enough to eat when it fully opens. These are the latest of the tulips to bloom, in fact, they are still opening slowly but surely. They are spectacular at each stage, from bud to fully open. 

Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' And look at that unique curl of the leaf. What a great find! Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' As they open they begin to reveal the "ice cream" within. I'm thinking vanilla, what about you?

Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' I even stood in the rain with my umbrella to catch this one covered in raindrops. Just like an ice cream cone!  Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' And fully's a bowl of ice cream! I adore these tulips! Tulipa 'Ice Cream'Tulipa 'Ice Cream' Although many of the tulips have come and gone, there are still so many beautiful things to see at the Garden right now. Did you read my last post about the crabapples in bloom? They are still beautiful, but they won't last much longer before dropping all their petals like snow. Soon the spring gardens will make way for the summer gardens and there will be a whole new palette of color and beauty to capture. Can't wait for water lilies and dahlias! 


Lensbaby Blog Post

May 11, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Graceful CurveGraceful Curve                                                            Lensbaby Velvet 56mm

I was thrilled to be asked to write an article on flower photography for the Lensbaby blog. It is such a pleasure to share my enthusiasm for their wonderful lenses. Please enjoy the post at My favorite lens, the Velvet 56mm, is on sale right now at - $100 off. That's a great deal! After reading my post you'll understand why it is my all-time favorite lens. 

There is still time to join me at the Out of Chicago Summer Conference, June 23-25. I'll be presenting two programs and leading an all day workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Lensbaby reps will be there, too, and you can try Lensbabies all weekend, during my workshop, my flower shootout and for the photowalk Lensbaby is leading. You can read more about this wonderful conference and register here. Use the code "belmont100" to receive $100 off the conference. From Art Wolfe's opening talk on Friday to Rick Sammon's closing talk on Sunday, the weekend is jam-packed with learning and fun. 

It's been a beautiful spring at Chicago Botanic Garden. I've been photographing almost every day and will be sharing more images soon. Happy spring and get out and enjoy nature!