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
Sometimes those of us who enjoy photographing the world up-close have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden is truly spectacular this year! One of my favorite views is of the arches filled with Vanda orchids of every color in the palm allée of the Tropical Greenhouse. The Garden really outdid itself with so many of the displays. I'm proud to have my 40 X 60 inch orchid photographs exhibited Krehbiel Gallery once again this year. Come step into a paradise of over 10,000 orchids in the midst of winter.
If you missed my articles on orchid photography last year, both here in my blog and the article I wrote for the Out of Chicago website, I have provided the links below. I hope they will help you get some great photographs in the show this year. My one recommendation I would add for this year's show is to pack a longer focal length lens in your bag. Many orchids are set back or up high, making them difficult to photograph unless you have a longer lens. I carry my 180mm macro and my 70-300mm along with my 100mm macro and all my Lensbaby gear. Yes, my pack gets a bit heavy, but I'd rather be prepared than sorry!
Enjoy the show and have fun photographing the beautiful and always fascinating orchids!
This June, I'll be teaching at the fourth annual Out of Chicago Conference! I hope you can join me for what will be an amazing experience, with classes, workshops and photowalks in the heart of Downtown Chicago! Save $50 until February 18 when you use the code "EARLYSUMMER" — register now at http://outofchicago.com/summer.
On Friday, I'll be leading an all-day workshop with Ben Hutchinson from Lensbaby - "Photographing the Flowers and Landscapes of the Chicago Botanic Garden"
What could be more fun than a day of shooting the flowers and the garden landscapes of a world class garden right here in Chicago - The Chicago Botanic Garden! Anne will guide you to the best places to photograph and help you master the techniques of flower photography. Ben, as our favorite Lensbaby rep, will help you master the use of these creative and fun lenses for both close up and landscape shooting. Bring your macro lenses, a tripod and we’ll have Lensbaby lenses available for you to try if you don’t own them. This workshop will include an online meeting prior to the conference when we’ll talk about flower photography basics and details of the day. Transportation will be provided.
On Saturday I have a class - "Lets Get Creative with Flower Photography"
Learn to see beyond the sharply focused image to the magic of seeing and photographing flowers in a whole new artistic way. This class will focus on how to use aperture and selective focus with both traditional macro lenses and creative lenses to create evocative and beautiful portraits of flowers. We will explore a whole new way of looking at flowers, learning to see and isolate beautiful, interesting and often unnoticed details. Learn about the magic of Lensbaby lenses to create beautiful blur and creative effects in photographing flowers. Anne will offer tips and techniques for using the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm and the Lensbaby optic swap system.
On Sunday my class is "The Art of Flower Photography"
This presentation will explore how to create flower images with impact and emotion. We will discuss the concept of learning to see flowers differently, to find the beauty in the small, often unnoticed details - the patterns, textures and unique personality each flower presents. We will explore the importance of good light, compositional ideas and how to deal with difficult backgrounds. Most importantly we’ll look at aperture to create both selective focus images as well as sharply focused images, helping you to create your own unique style of seeing and capturing flowers. Learn to see beyond the obvious, to develop the ability to see and photograph flowers more artistically.
I am honored to be one of seven speakers at Mike Moats fourth annual Macro Photo Conference. This year it is being held in Cleveland in October, 2017. I will be presenting alongside some great photographers, including Mike Moats, Charles Needle, John Gerlack, Jamie Konarski Davidson and Varina Patel. My program: "The Art of Flower Photography in a Botanical Garden." Here's what Mike writes about the conference:
Fourth Annual Macro Photo Conference 2017
This is a unique annual photo conference dedicated to macro photography. I’ve always wanted to design a program where professional photographers could come together and teach their skills in macro photography and post processing techniques to those who want to learn, and advance their macro photography to the next level.
This Macro Photo Conference will have plenty of how-to lectures and five hours of photographing with varying subject matter. The speakers will be available to help participants with composing subjects and technical aspects. So you need to bring your camera, macro lens, and tripod.
Speakers will have their books available, and will be happy to sign them for you.
Leading New England photo retailer Hunt’s Photo will be there selling lots of photo products. Tamron will have a tech rep on hand with lenses available for you to try out.
There will be a limit of 100 participants, and it should sell out quick. Last year we had participants from 23 different states.
I don't know about you but it's only December and I'm already experiencing cabin fever. It's been really cold here in Chicago. The Out of Chicago team has been busy organizing our second annual Winter Conference to be held at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL. Easy drive, easy parking - warm inside! We have an awesome lineup of presenters. Check out the conference and all our wonderful instructors and classes at outofchicago.com/winter.
I'll be presenting a program on "Capturing the Beauty of Flowers with Selective Focus and the Creative Magic of Lensbaby Lenses" - "Learn to see beyond the sharply focused image to the magic of seeing and photographing flowers in a whole new artistic way. This class will focus on how to use aperture and selective focus with both traditional macro lenses and creative lenses to create evocative and beautiful portraits of flowers. We will explore a whole new way of looking at flowers, learning to see and isolate beautiful, interesting and often unnoticed details. Learn about the magic of Lensbaby lenses to create beautiful blur and creative effects in photographing flowers. Anne will offer tips and techniques for using the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm, The Twist and the Lensbaby optic swap system."
A hands-on component has been added this year and this is going to be so much fun! Each instructor is leading their own session at the shootout. You’ll get a chance to shoot with each one of us during the Winter Shootout. Mine, you might have guessed, will be shooting flowers, and I'll have a variety of Lensbaby lenses there for you to try. Just bring you camera, a tripod and any macro lenses you own. We can practice some of the skills you learn in my class.
We'll end the evening with an inspirational talk by Mike Moats, followed by a fun social gathering. Join the instructors, attendees and Out of Chicago staff for a post-conference party at Bill’s Pizza, close to the conference center. We did this last year and everyone loved the chance to socialize and share ideas, eat delicious pizza and perhaps a beer or glass of wine! I hope you'll join us for a day of learning and fun!
I get very restless if I don't shoot flowers and botanical subjects almost every day. During the spring, summer and fall this is no problem. I head to the Chicago Botanic Garden, a mere 15 minutes from my home, and I have endless subjects to keep me happy. In winter it's a bit more challenging to find subjects. The three greenhouses at CBG are a place I often head for shooting tropical flowers, plants and desert succulents indoors. We are also lucky to have two amazing conservatories in the Chicago area - Lincoln Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Conservatory, both are within an hour of my home. Both conservatories have holiday flower shows and wonderful collections of plants and flowers to keep me happy throughout the cold Chicago winter. I also enjoy shooting orchids at various flower shops and orchid production houses in the area. I'll be talking about all these winter shooting opportunities over the next few months. In the Chicago area winter lasts from November through March, so that's a lot of months of indoor shooting.
Often I simply bring flowers home to photograph or enjoy photographing my own orchid collection. Last week I set up a little project of shooting an orchid I brought home on the plane from a Macro Shoot-Out I did with fellow macro photographer Mike Moats at the Out of New York Conference in October. I bought a variety of beautiful flowers from a lovely little flower shop in mid-town Manhattan. It wasn't practical to bring the other flowers home but I was determined to get that sweet orchid home safely because I knew it would continue to bloom for months. I carried it in my bag and it survived the trip in perfect condition. I have it on my kitchen window sill and have enjoyed watching it open fully and evolve. Orchid blooms can last a long time!
I shot the orchid in the natural light of my kitchen using every Lensbaby lens I own. I wanted to compare the results of each of the lenses shot at different apertures. I used a creamy beige-colored background I printed and mounted on a large board, placing it about a foot behind the orchid. I used my tripod, which I generally don't use when shooting with my Lensbabies, but it was actually simpler and more effective this way with my set up and the more limited light indoors. I also wanted to use Live View to zoom in and accurately focus on a part of the orchid. When I teach about using Lensbaby lenses the number one issue people seem to have is getting accurate focus on the part of the flower they want to draw the eye to. The Lensbaby lenses are all manual focus so it can be a bit challenging at first to master the focus. If you are having a problem, get on your tripod and focus through Live View. With practice, you will be get better and be able to focus more effectively off the tripod, especially when you have ample light. The tripod (and believe me, I have a love/hate relationship with tripods) really does help you slow down, compose carefully and get more keepers.
Here a few of the results of that shoot:
Lensbaby Composer Pro with Twist optic, 8 mm macro converter, f/2.8. Notice the sweet spot of focus is on the center orchid and the resulting beautiful twisty blur around the edges. The blurred effect of this lens is even more pronounced when working further back. It's a sharp lens in that sweet spot!
Composer Pro with Sweet 50 Optic, 8 mm macro converter, f/5.6. Notice how much more is in focus at that aperture. If you want blur, stay in those lower apertures.
Nice and close with the Velvet 56mm, f/4, (the Velvet focuses within 5 inches of your subject). f/4 gives me the focus I want but maintains that beautiful ethereal blur in the background.
Composer Pro with Soft Focus Optic, 16mm macro converter, f/4. The soft focus optic is no longer available for sale but I found this one on ebay. Love the softness of this optic! Velvet 56mm, f/2 - just a hint of focus on the middle flower and that characteristic dreamy blur. These are just a brief sampling of the 100+ images I experimented with. An afternoon with one orchid plant, all my Lensbabies = lots of fun and creative experimentation. Challenge yourself with a simple project to help you grow. This is what keeps photography fun! I'll be teaching a class about selective focus and the magic of Lensbaby lenses at the Out of Chicago Winter Conference, February 18th, and we will have hands-on time to play with a variety of Lensbabies the people at Lensbaby are providing for us. Maybe I'll bring this orchid, along with a lot of other beautiful flowers to shoot. Registration is already open to email subscribers to outofchicago.com and will open to the public in a few days. Watch here for more information! The folks at Lensbaby approached me this summer about partnering with them to spread the word about these wonderful, fun and creative lenses and, of course, I said YES!!!
I've just opened a gallery on my website called The Magic of Lensbaby. Given my great love of Lensbaby lenses - lenses that have become a bigger and bigger part of my flower photography - I wanted to have a place where I could showcase those images.
I started with Lensbaby about 3 1/2 years ago. At that time I was moving full speed ahead into developing a whole new way of looking at and photographing flowers. I started flower photography many years ago with the idea that everything in my portraits of flowers needed to be in sharp focus. There is nothing wrong with this approach and I still employ it today when I want to emphasize detail in flowers. Yet, during this time I felt stuck creatively. I felt a deep longing to grow, change and try new ways of shooting - to be more creative and free in my work. In the spring of 2013, I challenged myself with a project to shoot everything with selective focus. Most often, I chose to shoot at f 2.8, focusing on a curving line of a flower, a petal, a drop of dew to draw the eye to one particular part of the flower. It was the beginning of seeing flowers more abstractly. During that time I was experimenting with the Lensbaby Composer but still using my traditional macro lenses for most of my photography. It wasn't until the introduction of the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm in the spring of 2015 that I fell completely in love with Lensbaby. That lens had me smitten from the first image I took.
Lensbaby lenses are the perfect companion for this kind of creative, more abstract way of shooting. They have helped me to continue to grow as a flower photographer. Of the Lensbaby lenses I own, the Velvet 56mm remains my favorite because of the unmistakable ethereal glow it creates at the lower apertures. Nonetheless, the Composer Pro with the variety of optics I own, has taken a commanding position in my more recent work. Since macro photography is my passion, the Velvet 56mm, which focuses as close as 5 inches, and the Composer Pro with the macro converters and various optics allow me to work up-close with my subjects and create the beautiful effects these lenses are famous for.
Although flowers are my favorite subjects, I often pull out my Lensbaby lenses when photographing other botanical subjects, like this unfurling fern.
Or succulents, like this Desert Cabbage and the tiny flowers of the Red Velvet Echeveria. The Twist 60mm is my most recent purchase from Lensbaby and what a fun lens it is! It's the perfect lens for capturing the beauty of fall.
I will be focusing more on teaching about using Lensbabies in the 2017 Out of Chicago Conferences, so watch for more details soon. Meanwhile, if you are interested in trying Lensbaby lenses, my friend Gary Farber with Hunt's Photo and Video emailed me this morning that they are having a sale on all Lensbaby products. Check it out here at Hunt's or email Gary at email@example.com. Hmmmmm! What could I add to my collection? The holidays are coming, you know!
One week from today I'll be heading to New York City for what promises to be an amazing weekend of photography! It's not too late to register for this conference and you can get $100 off by using my special code: BELMONT100. I will be presenting my program "Flower Photography: The Art of Seeing and Capturing the Beauty of Flowers" on Saturday, 9:00-10:30 a.m., as well as doing a "Macro-Shoot Out" with fellow macro photographer, Mike Moats, Saturday 5:45-7:15 p.m. Mike and I will have a wide variety of subjects to photograph. I will have flowers with a variety of backgrounds and lighting to set up beautiful macro compositions.
The whole weekend is jam-packed with classes, photowalks and workshops covering many genres of photography. We will kick off the conference on Thursday night with a cruise around Manhattan at sunset, photographing the best views of the skyline and New York bridges before heading to the Statue of Liberty for sunset. Join us for that fun event and a weekend of great learning! Learn more about the details of the conference, where to stay, and register at ny.outofchicago.com.
Last week I was treated to an early tour of the brand new Regenstein Learning Campus at The Chicago Botanic Garden. The opening celebration for the campus is Saturday and Sunday, September 10 - 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drop in, take a tour and learn about all the wonderful things the new campus has to offer.
The indoor classrooms are amazing and will house many of the 1,500 classes offered by the Garden. I was particularly captivated by the preschool classroom I visited, so much so that I totally forgot to take a photo of the space! Go see for yourself what a wonderful program the Nature Preschool offers - a beautiful classroom full of thoughtfully-chosen toys to stimulate a child's learning and senses as well as a beautiful outdoor space to extend learning outdoors. Having been an early childhood educator for many years, I am delighted to see a nature-based program in our area. I would have jumped at the chance to send my own children there if the program had existed when they were little. More than ever it is important to instill in children a life-long love of nature and respect for the natural world. I worry that children today don't get enough time in nature, time to wonder and explore. The Garden has provided a perfect place for this to happen and I applaud them for their wonderful and varied programs for children.
The outdoor spaces will delight both children and adults alike. The rolling hills invite children of all ages to run and roll, the "runnel" water feature begs you take off your shoes and splash through the water, and the large hollow trees provide climbing and hiding spaces for children to stretch their muscles or quietly ponder the beauty of nature. Beautiful gardens and plantings are scattered throughout the campus.
I was very excited to see where the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit will be relocated next year. It has a perfect space adjacent to the building. Of course, it is a dirt pad right now but by next May the mesh enclosure, full of butterflies and beautiful plantings, will be all ready to open for it's 6th year.
So, stop in next weekend and see the wonderful new addition to the 385 acres of the beloved Garden. Check out the wonderful learning opportunities for all ages and, as the Garden says, begin to "Grow Your Life Story." Bravo to CBG!
Today my article "Photographing Flowers with Stories to Tell" is featured on the Out of Chicago website. Be sure to check out the Out of New York Conference website where I'll be presenting my program "Flower Photography: The Art of Seeing and Capturing the Beauty of Flowers." I will also be doing a macro shoot-out with fellow macro photographer Mike Moats at the conference center. Come join us to photograph all sorts of things up-close, including flowers, of course! The Out of New York Conference, October 14-16, features 30 incredibly talented photographers presenting a variety of programs, workshops and photowalks in street photographey, architectural photography, portrait photography, landscape and travel photography - just about anything your heart desires. We'll be out on the streets of New York shooting, not just in the conference center, and that's why we are called the "shootingest" photography conference on earth. Come join us for what promises to be another incredible conference put on by the Out of Chicago team.
Each summer I look forward to capturing the beauty of one of my favorite flowers - dahlias. Full of color, pattern and personality, dahlias are fun to photograph in a variety of ways. They have a long growing season, from early June until the first hard frost of the late fall. The dahlias at the Chicago Botanic Garden have been a bit more limited this year with the temporary closing of the Graham Bulb Garden for path renovation. The new brick path will be worth the wait but I certainly missed the many dahlias that are normally planted in this garden in the summer, not to mention access to the aquatic bulb garden where water lilies and lotuses are abundant. This is always my favorite area to photograph dahlias, as they grow near the path and are easy to get right up close to. Despite the temporary closing of the Bulb Garden, there are beautiful dahlias in the Circle Garden, the Crescent Garden, the English Walled Garden and the Enabling Garden to keep one busy with subjects to photograph. In addition, I always look forward to the Central States Dahlia Society Show. This year the show is on September 17-18 and is located in Regenstein Center. It will showcase hundreds of perfect dahlia blooms, beautiful to photograph despite being indoors with less than ideal lighting (prepare to raise your ISO and shoot at lower apertures due to the lighting; no tripods allowed in the tight, crowded space - this show draws a crowd). If you are a Lensbaby lover like I am, the dahlia show is the perfect place to shoot wide open with a Lensbaby lens.
Hands down, my favorite dahlia this summer was a variety called 'Sweet Dreams,' surrounding the fountain in the Circle Garden. The title itself so perfectly suited this soft pink dreamy beauty and begged for a softer focus portrait. The Lensbaby Velvet 56mm was the perfect lens to capture these beauties.
Another favorite dahlia in the Circle Garden was the spunky and colorful 'Half Pint.'
Photographing dahlias early in the morning after they have been watered or after a rain is definitely a bonus.
Also in the Circle Garden is this tiny treasure called 'Cherish' Dahlia, photographed with the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm. This dahlia is only about 2-3 inches in diameter. I fell in love with the patterns, colors and subtle lines of this dahlia. Dahlias are perfect flowers to photograph from many different angles - work that subject! The repeating patterns formed by the petals being beautiful subjects in themselves.
Lastly, another dahlia that captivated me was in the Enabling Garden - the 'Alauna Clair-Obscur.' With its wild and ruffled petals it appeared to be dancing and twirling.
I'll be photographing the dahlias throughout the fall up until that first hard freeze - a good two months more of beautiful flowers to capture. It's always a sad day for us flower photographers when the last flowers fade after that frost and I'm always particularly sad to see the dahlias do their last dance. They delight us and dance for us all summer long - such captivating and beautiful flowers!
For the past five summers I have made weekly visits to the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden to help document the butterfly collection in the exhibit. It is a morning each week I look forward to and greatly enjoy. I photograph as Patrick, the exhibit manager, tends to the butterflies and gets the exhibit ready to open and the horticulturists, Kay and Linda, work to keep the beautiful flower and plant collection in tip-top shape. With a collection of over 300 images of butterflies from previous years, it is challenging to keep working toward getting better and different shots of the butterflies. Some of the shots I capture are purely documentary in style, but I strive to find the more artistic and creative shots, as well. Those are always the icing on the cake for me. Butterflies are not easy to photograph, particularly when the they are more active and the light is challenging. I always hope for cooler overcast conditions so the light is even and subdued and the butterflies quiet and resting while warming their wings. I do all my butterfly photography hand-held and most with my 100mm macro lens. A tripod is too cumbersome for the exhibit space while the horticulturists are working (and is not allowed during visitor hours) and I have to be fast on my feet and quick to respond. Using a 100mm macro means that I am working close to the butterfly, so being quiet and gentle in my approach is important if I don't want to scare a butterfly off. Composing and determining an aperture that will get the butterfly and the flower it is perched on in focus but provide a pleasing background requires quick thinking about camera settings. All the while, I have to keep my eye on my shutter speed and ISO because I am hand-holding. Two years ago I came up with a list of 10 tips for photographing butterflies. Read about it in this post.
This year the butterflies in the exhibit have been varied and plentiful. The weather has been perfect for a successful and lush exhibit. If you enjoy butterfly photography and beautiful flower displays, a visit to the exhibit is a must.
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Julia Longwing Butterfly Paper Kite Butterfly
Backlit Paper Kite Butterfly Close-up
Great Mormon Butterfly Blue Clipper Close-Up In the following shots, I was experimenting with my Yongnuo Macro Ring Light. It is helpful in providing nice even light and darkening backgrounds. The ring light ensures sharp shots hand-held while keeping my ISO low.
Great Orange Tip Butterfly
Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly
Please join me with Photofocus host Levi Sim on Monday, July 18th for a Google+ live Lightroom Hangout "Fine Art Flowers with Anne Belmont." We kick off at 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Central, 9 a.m. Pacific to talk about flower photography and how I process my images. To learn more about the hangout and register, go to the Photofocus page. If you can't join us live, the hangout will be available on the Photofocus website to view at your leisure. Hope to see you online!