Summer in Full Bloom

July 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

For many the summer might seem to be half over, but for me it feels like it has just begun. The first part of the summer was jam-packed with excitement and I am only now able to relax and have a little "vacation" time at home, which basically means catching up on the boat-load of images I've shot, shooting lots more, and posting a few blog posts about what's blooming at the Chicago Botanic Garden - lots!

June began with a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine with the Out of Chicago team to scout locations for an upcoming conference scheduled for October, 2017. Be watching for details on that exciting event - it will be awesome, I promise! What a gorgeous part of the country! We shot sunrise to sunset and even stars late at night - oh my, the stars were incredible!  Needless to say, not much sleep happened during that week, but lots of pictures and memories were made and a few lobster rolls consumed. The landscapes were spectacular but, of course, as a flower person, I was mesmerized by the endless field of lupines. Can't help myself!

Lupines of AcadiaLupines of Acadia

Then on to the Out of Chicago Summer Conference in Chicago at the end of June - an amazing success! 40+ presenters and 400 attendees, yet what makes this conference so amazing is the intimacy, the friendly and fun way the instructors and attendees interact and learn. It is truly the best conference around and you will hear many attendees and some pretty big-name presenters say the same thing. From Rick Sammon's inspirational opening talk to Scott Bourne's emotional and passionate closing talk and everything in between, it was an incredible experience. This is what Scott Bourne had this to say about his experience at Out of Chicago in a follow-up blog post on Photofocus. Pretty awesome, right?! We love our presenters!  I love being a part of the team and this year I was a presenter, as well. There is not much that tops sharing my passion for flower photography with others. I'll be presenting my "Macro Flower Photography: The Art of Seeing and Capturing the Beauty of Flowers" at the Out of New York Conference, October 14-16th. If you are interested in registering, the conference website is here.

  So, now I'm back to shooting at my beloved Chicago Botanic Garden after this busy start to the summer. I returned from a family trip to Boston a few days ago to find the Garden had exploded with blooms. The water lilies are gorgeous right now, which is what I'll post about right now, but all areas of the Garden are lush and full of spectacular subjects, including the butterflies in Butterflies and Blooms.

So a little about the water lilies. This year the water lilies are limited to the Heritage Garden. Normally there are many water lilies blooming in the Graham Bulb Garden aquatic area but this area is closed for the summer while they install new brick paths within that garden. Not to worry, the water lilies in the Heritage Garden have been abundant and beautiful and will provide plenty of subjects to photograph.

Remember a few tips while photographing water lilies:

  • Many of the water lilies don't fully open until mid-morning and they close mid-afternoon when light can still be harsh and contrasty. I only photograph water lilies on bright overcast days. This gives beautiful even light, intense color and nice reflections in the water. If your only choice is to shoot on a bright sunny day, try using a polarizer. It's best to wait for overcast light but a polarizer will help reduce glare on the lily pads, water and flowers. You may also be able to use a diffuser to soften the light on flowers that are closer to the edge.   
  • Take a zoom lens to be able to get in close. Many of the water lilies are set farther away in the aquatic pools so a macro lens will not be of much help unless you have a 180mm, and often even my 180mm doesn't have enough reach. I shoot water lilies almost exclusively with a 70-300mm lens, allowing me to get in close at the 300mm range. By moving in close, you simplify your composition, eliminating distracting details and creating an image with more impact and emotion. 
  • When composing a water lily, try to include a lily pad to anchor the flower and add visual interest. The lily pads are full of patterns and color and add a nice element to your composition. Also, when pulling back to include the whole flower, try to include the reflection of the flower in the water.
  • Experiment with different apertures, compositions and different angles, both high and low. Sometimes shooting from a slightly different angle will help darken the water and eliminate distractions in the water.
  • Although the horticulturists keep the displays of aquatic plants clean and pristine, occasionally you will have to clone out small leaves or debris floating in the water during your post processing.
  • The aquatic areas are full of dragonflies, damselflies and bees, so catching one in your composition is always a bonus.
  • There are always plenty of water lilies to capture but capturing a lotus in bloom requires some careful watching and timing. The lotuses are few and far between in blooms and once they bloom, they are only fresh-looking for about a day. Keep an eye on those buds and learn to predict when they will open!

Here are a few of the water lilies (and even a 'Red Russian' lotus) I've captured this week.

Water LilyWater Lily Water LilyWater Lily Water LilyWater Lily Water LilyWater Lily Water Lily with ReflectionWater Lily with Reflection 'Russian Red' Lotus'Russian Red' Lotus More posts about other blooms as well as the butterflies to come! it's a wonderful time to visit CBG!


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