I always wonder what it must be like to live somewhere without seasons like we have here in New England. The world around me is changing in tiny increments with each passing day – suddenly the Sun is warm enough to melt the snow even when the temperature remains below the freezing point and it hasn’t dipped below the horizon when my cats start to beg me for dinner. I long for warm Spring afternoons and the smell of lilacs and magnolia and the hum of the bees as they go about their business. It is easy to think that May or June are the best months of the year – I’m a May baby so I am particular partial – but as I grow older, I have developed a particular appreciation for the month of March. It may not be Spring in full bloom here in the frozen North, but it brings with it the first hints of Spring just at the very point that we need it the most. Oh yes, and with it come the tulips.
Sure, not the outdoor bulbs that will arrive in April in May, but in one weeks time begins the annual Spring Flower shows at many of the local greenhouses in my area. Forced bulbs or no, they are the heart of Springtime in a barely heated room and a wash of color at a time when I think that I cannot bare to take a single more image of snow and ice. They are where I rediscover Springtime all over again every year.
Have I mentioned yet (I know that I have…) that butterflies are exasperating to try and photograph? Macro photography is tough with still objects because even the slightest movement of the photographer can upset your perfectly composed focus – I have learned this lesson over and over again over the last year. I have never been the most steady handed person and I’ve been working hard on my resolve to NOT MOVE while taking a shot. Do you see the butterflies in the wings (pun intended), waiting for their debut? Do you see them ever standing still?
Sometimes though, even the best interrupted plans are salvageable. After my recent shoot, I ended up with these two images:
As you can see, the two images are very similar. I much prefer the framing of the image on the left but the head of the butterfly in the image on the right is in better focus. What’s a photographer to do?
What I ended up doing was photo merging the two images together in Photoshop and using the majority of the first image with small adjustments from the second. I’m quite proud of the result.
I can (and will) whine endlessly about the low light of my day at the Butterfly Conservatory, but without it – I most definitely would not have had me aperture set to f/3.5 and I would never have gotten this shot. I choose to image that this is the way that butterflies see the world, a blur of color, each leaf a momentary resting place against the abyss of air above and below them.
I mean, really, have you looked at those bug eyes lately? Thankfully with my macro lens and a few butterflies that were willing to stand still for the shot, I have gotten a good chance to. Aperture is still a lot wider open than I would have liked for macro work, but that had a lot to do with the lack of having any sunlight in Massachusetts in February and trying for as high a shutter speed as I could manage to try and help the butterflies stand still. On flap of those beautiful wings and my shot was ruined.
When I walked into the butterfly conservatory, I knew that I was putting my photography skills to the test. It’s February and New England so of course the day was overcast (bright cloudy but overcast none the less) and I knew from experience that the greenhouse would diffuse the light even more. But it seemed like the perfect excuse to play around with my new macro lens and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity – even if it was a learning opportunity.
It was every bit as challenging as I thought that it might be. With my ISO set to 400, I couldn’t get above a shutter speed of 1/200 sec. on my largest aperture settings. Determined to tough it out on full manual even if I missed a shot here and there – I knew that I was facing a steep learning curve.
And I came home with some fascinating out of focus images. I found this one especially compelling – all of the elements were right – I loved the shape and the color! After playing around with textures in Photoshop, I came up with this cool effect. Sure it looks more like a photograph of the shadow of stained glass on a wall, or maybe street art – but I heart it none the less.
So the saying goes anyways. I think that the opposite is true of artists – the ones who find themselves interested in the smallest things often have the greatest mind, and loads of artistic talent. We (and by this I mean Americans) are trained as a society to think big – we want the biggest meals, the largest houses, the tank of an SUV. I feel like we are trained to see the mountain but ignore the beautiful tiny wildflowers that grow on it’s side. Being an artist is about breaking that mold – at least it has been for me. There is always a place for that mountain landscape, but it’s the artist that can capture the dew drop on a branch that really fascinates me.
I am the Queen of the Rorschach test – I see shapes in everything. Over the years I have photographed a tree that holds a striking resemblance to the snout of a pig, the side of a cemetery wall in New Orleans that has the clear outline of a camel grown out of moss and a cloud that might have actually been a cloaked flying ship (I prefer to hedge my bets on that one.) The fact that I know that this butterfly has developed this pattern as a defense mechanism against predators doesn’t really lessen my delight over this one, though. I like monsters!
I am having so, so much fun with my new macro lens. Still, after all of these recent photographs of candy, I needed something a bit…darker. The fun of these shots is that I took them in a fully lit room – you just use a fast enough shutter speed and it doesn’t matter how much light there is, everything but the candle and flame are going to appear dark. Plus, super fast shutter speeds do great things to fire – we all know this.