Photographing Orchids

January 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I know my blog posts have been few and far between this fall and winter but my 365 project photographing patterns and textures has kept me quite occupied each and every day.  It has been challenging to find subjects to shoot during this bitterly cold winter we are having, but I am enjoying the project immensely and it has spurred so much growth for me. More on that later.  Starved for flowers to shoot this time of year I have developed an interest in photographing orchids, which are full of interesting patterns and textures and readily available this time of year.  There are a number of places in our area to shoot orchids - the Tropical Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lincoln Park Conservatory and, best yet, Hausermann's, a huge supplier of orchids in Villa Park, just south of O'Hare airport. Last week I visited Hausermann's with my photo friend, Tony Reynes, and we had a wonderful time shooting many different orchids from all over the store.  It is a huge greenhouse with 1000's of orchids of every variety.  Their prices are reasonable if you want to purchase orchids to bring home to shoot and enjoy, as well.

In 3 weeks the big Orchid Show will open at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  It runs from February 15 - March 16 and promises to be a spectacular display of orchids.  Regenstein Center, the Greenhouses and Greenhouse Gallery will all be filled with 10,000 beautiful and unusual orchids.  The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and admission is $8 for members/$10 nonmembers. For more information on the show visit the CBG website http://www.chicagobotanic.org/orchid.  The Garden is also offering a two session class on February 20 and 27, Photographing Orchids, taught by Linda Oyama Bryan. Check it out at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/school/botanical_arts.  (Just a note - the greenhouses will have very limited public access from Jan 27th until the opening of the show while staff is busy setting up.)

Orchids are difficult to photograph for a number of reasons.  Indoors the lighting can be challenging - glass greenhouses can have bright contrasty light and orchid shows are often in darker rooms with limited light. Because they grow in clusters and in close proximity to other orchids or flowers, it is hard to isolate the orchid from others and eliminate distracting backgrounds.  If I choose to shoot orchids with every part in sharp focus, I use a very small aperture, going as high as f25 depending on how much I need in focus.  Apertures this high require a tripod which is not always easy to maneuver in a small space or greenhouse.  Using a black backdrop is ideal but not always appropriate when photographing orchids outside of home.  A flash, powered down and held off camera can be helpful in both illuminating the inner structure of the orchid and darkening the background.  It is often hard to find a good composition for an orchid or grouping of orchids.  Take your time and experiment.  As with anything, the more you practice and experiment, the better you will get.

Here is a favorite from a recent trip to the Lincoln Park Conservatory - a Lady Slipper Orchid. 

In this second image of the same orchid, I darkened the background in post processing which accentuates the orchid but, unfortunately, makes it feel like it is floating, but I do like the drama it creates.

This is an orchid grouping taken recently in the Tropical Greenhouse at CBG.

Phalaenopsis OrchidsPhalaenopsis Orchids An orchid close-up using a shallower depth of field and hand held at CBG

Some beauties I captured at Hausermann's this week..

I bought this orchid at Hausermann's and brought it home to shoot. I love that the grouping shows orchids in all stages of development, from tightly

closed bud to fully open flowers.

It is beautiful to shoot orchids with a very shallow depth of field, as well. I stopped at the Butterfly House, part of the Missouri Botanical Garden, during a recent trip to Missouri and photographed this Japanese Tree Orchid in such a way.

Lastly, here's a wild and crazy close-up of a Lady Slipper

 

 


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