So, what's in bloom at Chicago Botanic Garden? The answer is EVERYTHING! We went from a chilly, rainy start to our summer to hot, hot, hot, so if you can stand the heat, there's lots to photograph at the Garden. Some of my favorites this time of year are the dahlias, the water lilies and the roses.
Some of the most beautiful dahlias are in the Circle Garden. I was photographing there this week with my friend, Chris Smith, and we were lucky to catch many of the dahlias after their early morning watering. This Firepot Waterlily Dahlia, being fully open, caught my attention. I love the intensity of the colors and the curls of the petals make it look like it is dancing. (Just a note - I learned from a dahlia expert last year while visiting the Dahlia Flower Show at CBG that once a dahlia opens fully like this, it is no longer competition-worthy. It was suggested I not photograph flowers in this state. Well, I happen to think they are beautiful when fully open, so no stopping me!)
A fitting name for this vibrant dahlia - Flamethrower Dahlia. I love the way the petals are edged in red.
The Karma Sangria Dahlias in the beds in front of the Visitor's Center are fun to shoot and in shade so you can shoot them any time of day. I thought they were more interesting subjects shot wide open at f2.8, focusing only on the front petal.
Water lilies are in full bloom in the Heritage Garden. They have been challenging to shoot this summer because most days we've had full sun with little cloud cover by the time they open mid-morning. I'm a bit of a purest when it comes to shooting water lilies. I usually wait for overcast days and don't even try on brighter days. My friend Chris convinced me to use a polarizing filter as the sun became too strong and was starting to cast harsh light and shadows on the petals. I have used a polarizer on water lilies before with mixed results. The polarizer helps to darken the water and eliminate reflections, as well. Chris was right, it does work as you can see in the first photo, but I do prefer the softer light of the remaining photos, all taken on a bright overcast day.
And, then there are the roses of the Garden. So beautiful and fun to photograph in all sorts of ways. I shoot roses in the early morning or in early evening's soft light. I always experiment with a variety of apertures, sometimes preferring to see the whole rose in focus, other times wanting a softer, more abstract and simplified portrait that emphasizes colors and sensuous curves. The first rose was shot at f8 so that only the very center of the rose is in focus, the outer petals drifting out of focus to convey the softness in the flower. The second portrait was wide open at f2.8, nothing sharply in focus. I always encourage beginning macro flower photographers to experiment with aperture. For me, each flower has a different story to tell and aperture helps me tell that story. Usually I know right away how I want to shoot a flower and what story I am looking to tell, but sometimes I need to experiment, get the images home on my computer to be able to choose. There is no right or wrong way to express your vision of a flower, whether you choose to shoot soft at f2.8 or sharply focused at f22 or even f32. Camera club judges may tell you everything has to be sharply focused to be a winning photograph but maybe that's not the story you want to tell. Let your style, your vision and your eye guide you.
Love and Peace Rose