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!