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
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.
This one is clearly a dancer. I think she's doing the flamenco!
And perhaps another dancing pose.
This one was shot with the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm to create a soft, ethereal look to this tulip with its beautiful curving leaf.
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. 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.
And look at that unique curl of the leaf. What a great find! As they open they begin to reveal the "ice cream" within. I'm thinking vanilla, what about you?
I even stood in the rain with my umbrella to catch this one covered in raindrops. Just like an ice cream cone! And fully open...it's a bowl of ice cream! I adore these tulips! 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 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 lensbaby.com. My favorite lens, the Velvet 56mm, is on sale right now at lensbaby.com - $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!
One of my favorite events at the Chicago Botanic Garden is the week when the scores of crabapples burst into bloom. We are right at the peak of that bloom now. A walk around the Great Basin is a must this time of year. Start at the Lakeside Garden path near the English Walled Garden and enter a canopy of crabapples lining the path. Each year when I see this view, I feel like a young child entering a fairyland. It is a magical sight that fills me with awe.
This year I decided to try my Lensbaby Velvet 56mm to capture the mystical and ethereal feeling the trees evoke. I love the results! Today was quite sunny and the Velvet captured the sparkling flowers as if they were dancing in the sunlight.
If you continue on the path to the right toward the Arch Bridge, the canopy of beautiful blossoms continues.
Cross over the bridge to Evening Island and continue around the Lake Basin with beautiful views of the crabapples and their variation in color from white to pink to red. Beautiful views abound at every turn. This is one of my favorite views looking back toward Evening Island at the Serpentine Bridge.
There are other lovely garden views scattered around the Garden, as well.
And, yes, as a macro flower photographer I am always on the lookout for subjects to capture up close. This one was captured with my 180mm macro and look at the gorgeous background that lens creates.
And this with the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Twist optic. What a fun optic the Twist is!
If you live in the Chicago area, this is the time to visit the Garden. Not only are the crabapples at peak but there are still many beautiful tulips in bloom. I wish we could hold on to this time of year a bit longer - it is so fleeting but, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.
Spring is well on its way at the Chicago Botanic Garden! This week the staff has been busy planting all the gardens and pots with spring blooms. Each day new flowers are being added. The daffodils are in bloom, the magnolias are opening, a few early tulips are already in bloom and the rest of the tulips are not far behind. If temps stay warm and we continue to get some sunshine, it looks like many will begin to open next week and, as always, it will be a spectacular display of color. These past few days I have been photographing a small patch of pink tulips in the courtyard between the Sensory Garden and the Enabling Garden. These tulips were transferred there from the production greenhouses already in bloom. I fell in love with their soft, interesting petal variations and lovely leaves, many of them enveloping the buds in a hug.
This same type of tulip was planted in an indoor display in Regenstein last week and I enjoyed photographing them there while waiting for more blooms outdoors. These have since been replaced with other tulips and spring blooms.
Another patch of tulips that I have found blooming are in a raised bed at the south end of the Graham Bulb Garden, a colorful treat for the eyes. In this first image, I was much more interested in the graceful curve of the leaf than the flower itself.
This is just the beginning! In the coming weeks there will be tulips in bloom everywhere. Stay tuned for more updates! Happy spring and happy Easter weekend!
Spring is finally arriving! It has come slowly with fits and starts - some encouraging and much-welcomed days of warmth and sunshine, followed by cold, rain, grey skies and even some significant snow in March. The appearance of the crocuses blanketing the grassy hillside on Evening Island at the Chicago Botanic Garden this past week is a sure sign that we are well on our way. They were in full bloom this past weekend and will likely last through the week. It is always a breathtakingly beautiful sight and a welcome sign that spring has truly begun. I spent two days photographing them this weekend. There is ample space between the clusters of flowers to sit (take a garbage bag to sit on - trust me on this one!) and get low to the ground to photograph them. I use my 100mm macro as well as my Lensbaby lenses to capture these flowers in a variety of ways. When pulled back to include a cluster of flowers, I tend to shoot in a lower aperture to blur the brown grass. When getting in close for a macro shot of the inside of the flower I experiment with a range of apertures and have extension tubes handy if I want to get in extra close.
I will be presenting a program on "The Art of Flower Photography" at the Morton Arboretum Photographic Society on Monday, April 10th at 7 p.m. Guests are welcome. Please visit the MAPS website for more information.
We are still accepting registrations for the Out of Chicago Summer Conference, June 23-25. I will be conducting an all-day shoot at The Chicago Botanic Garden on Friday, a class "Let's Get Creative with Flower Photography" (all about Lensbaby) on Saturday as well as a flower shootout in the afternoon. On Sunday I teach a class "The Art of Flower Photography." Please join us for what is the best photography conference around - loads of fun, learning and hands-on shooting. Use the code "belmont100" to receive $100 off.
Enjoy some spring crocuses and stay tuned - I'm watching carefully for the emergence of tulips - we are getting close!
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.