Japanese iris

20 06 2018

Playing around with very dreamy and shallow depth-of-field in this shot of a Japanese iris (Iris ensata ‘Variegata’); Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm micro lens set at f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/100 sec

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WEB Purple iris

Love-in-a-mist and peonies

16 05 2017

Lovely love-in-a-mist (Nigella damscena) against a backdrop of a cluster of deep pink-red peonies

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Loveinamist and red peony web.jpg

Copper iris

16 05 2017

Copper iris (Iris fulva). I spent a blissful half hour photographing these irises under a tree canopy with the most beautiful background light filtering through—looking for the perfect bokeh (and waiting for the wind to behave)!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Orange iris 2 web

Beautiful afternoon light

25 07 2015

‘Towering Orange’ Cosmos—beautiful late afternoon light at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

OrangeCosmos lorez

Epidendrum ‘Miura Valley’ orchid blooms with palms

31 03 2015

A cluster of Epidendrum ‘Miura Valley’ orchid blooms against a backdrop of palms; the dappled afternoon light was so lovely in the background

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Orchid & Palms

In My Heaven…

27 07 2014

One of my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter songs is “In My Heaven.” When I’m photographing in a garden, I’m in MY heaven. This is a type of sunflower (don’t know the exact name). What attracted me to this shot was the juxtaposition of the flower stalk against the trees and the bright blue sky. A fairly wide aperture created the beautiful bokeh.

UPDATE: I think these just might be Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Sunflower Sky

Star of Persia (Allium christophe)

23 05 2013

While I’ve photographed this intriguing plant before, I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot it from ground level. All my images have been shot overhead. This bloom was a tiny wayward volunteer in Carolyn’s garden, growing in between stepping stones. Being able to shoot from this low vantage point provided some interesting images. The stamens look like little crowns in this shot. The afternoon light was dappled and provided a beautiful glow behind everything.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Star of Persia 2

Re-post: ‘Lady Jane’ tulip

21 04 2012

Originally posted 4.10.2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Re-post: Siberian iris

21 04 2012

Originally posted 4.23.2010

I played with depth of field while photographing this Siberian Iris this morning. I shot more than 30 images of this same flower, and found this one to be my favorite. While the flower is sharp, the background has a very shallow depth of field, making the bloom appear to float—love me some of that bokeh!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Geranium daffodil

2 04 2012

Narcissus ‘Geranium’, photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Same day, 2008: Spider on Chrysanthemum

20 10 2011

This is one of my all-time favorite spider + flower shots, taken on October 20, 2008, at my favorite local photo haunt—Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria, VA. With my Nikon D300 and Nikkor 105mm micro lens mounted on a tripod, I shot directly overhead (which puts the flower, spider and top of the bud on the same plane, focus-wise) and fairly wide open aperture-wise (which gives the flower that look of floating because of the out-of-focus background).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Columbine + today’s photography lesson

20 05 2011

I’m really enjoying experimenting with depth-of-field to create bokeh (pronounced “bo-kuh”) in my flower photography. Yes, you’ll sacrifice the foreground-to-background focus you’d get using smaller apertures, but sometimes a flower demands that effect—use selective focusing and let the other areas go soft.

I decide when I’m going to use larger apertures mostly based on what the background behind my subject looks like. If I’m shooting extremely close up on a flower, I want to capture all the details from front to back and since there wouldn’t be a strong background in those shots, I can use smaller apertures and get really sharp depth-of-field throughout. When the background behind a subject is less than desirable (many colors competing with my subject, sharp lines like grass blades and flower stems, etc.), I’ll try the larger aperture approach until I get that wonderful bokeh photographers strive for. Knocking the background out in some shots can create amazing blobs and streaks of color. Here, the background flowers (Poppies and Rose Campion, as I recall) go completely out of focus, giving this shot what I call the “Skittles” effect!

And now for your daily lecture: If you don’t have a tripod, save up your bucks and get a really good one and use it as often as you can. I’ve always had one and wasn’t religious about using it much until I got serious about my macro photography. Yes, it’s a burden to lug one around, but take a look at the carbon fiber models—they’re much lighter than others. I bought a Benro C-298EX tripod last year at a photography show for under $250 (a steal compared to what I paid for my first carbon fiber tripod when they first came out!) from Hunt’s Photo and Video (great retailer, by the way!). You can find almost all of the Benro models at great prices at Hunt’s Photo here. I don’t think they’re making this model anymore, but there are other Benro carbon fiber models to chose from and some are less expensive. Read the specs; if your camera is lightweight, you could get by with one of the lesser priced models. With this particular model, I can take the center column and switch it from vertical to horizontal for more flexibility. You can also spread the tripod legs independently and lock them in place in three stop increments.

Once you settle on your choice of tripod, add a good tripod head to it. I have some smaller and cheaper tripod heads, but after trying the Manfrotto 322RC2 joystick head, I was sold. It’s not quite as pricey as some of Manfrotto’s other tripod heads (Amazon has it for $129.95 here). When I’m photographing portraits and on-the-go shots, I don’t always use a tripod, but to get really good macro shots, you really should use a tripod. It will free your hands up to tidy up the area around your subject, move leaves/twigs/wayward grasses, etc., and you’ll have a hand free to hold a diffuser if you don’t have a trusty assistant with you!

Then again, a cheaper tripod is better than no tripod at all, I’d venture to say. So, if you can’t afford to splurge on a lightweight carbon fiber model with a really good quick-release ball head, use what you have and work your way up to it when you want to take your work to the next level. In case you’re wondering—no, I don’t get paid for these product endorsements—I just wanted to share some of the tools I use to get those shots!

Addendum: I could just buy one more Photoshop plug-in product (Alien Skin’s Bokeh 2) and take the easier way out (don’t think I haven’t considered it—I own everything else they make, almost). Now that I’ve watched their demo video, I’m getting the urge to order it. Watch the video—you’ll fall in love with this product just like I did!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Ah, that September light…

15 09 2010

Every fall, I am sadly aware that there will be less and less flowers blooming for me to capture (and in case you hadn’t noticed, it is a passion for me), but the light is always exquisite when I do find a subject to immortalize in pixels. I was drawn to this Mallow flower mostly because of the light behind it, which with a large aperture, morphed into this dreamy soft background with lovely bursts of chartreuse and the rusty browns that fall brings. I’m sure this flower is in the Mallow/Hibiscus family; I just don’t know what variety it is. The flowers are considerably smaller than a “standard” hibiscus, if that helps. Anyone?

Photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Skipper Butterfly on ‘Zowie’ Zinnia

7 09 2010

Photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Closeup of Globe Artichoke

31 07 2010

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle. If the buds or “globes” aren’t harvested, six-inch bluish-purple thistle-like flowers will form. This is an abstract closeup shot of two unopened buds and one flowering bud. Bees are especially drawn to the flowers.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Straw Flower

31 07 2010

I love the way the bokeh of the grasses makes the background looks so painterly. Serendipity!

© Cindy Dyer. All right reserved.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

30 07 2010

GREAT PHOTO TIP! Here’s a butterfly photography trick I learned from my friend Mary Ellen a few years ago. Wait until the butterfly has it proboscis inserted into a flower and it becomes completely distracted by the task at hand—then move in closer, staying as still as possible.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

10 07 2010

Some of you may have noticed that my photographic style is very graphic and sometimes minimalist—clean lines, stark composition, judicious use of light, pops of color, selective depth of field, and employing varying degrees of bokeh. Well, capturing a “plant portrait” of Queen Anne’s Lace (which I have avoided until now, believe it or not), isn’t easy—and it’s a hard flower to fit into my more graphic style. It’s a very delicate flower with hundreds of little flowering brachts spread over a wide, curving surface—making it hard to control the depth of field across the entire flower. I hung in there yesterday and experimented with it—resulting in a shot that I rather like—and that still suits my photographic bent!

Queen Anne’s Lace is sometimes called Wild Carrot—in fact, the carrots we eat were once cultivated from this plant. Lacy, flat-topped clusters bloom from May through October. It is a biennial plant, meaning it lives for just two years. Although many people consider it an invasive weed, many insects benefit from this wildflower—caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly (at right) eat the leaves, bees and other insects are drawn to the nectar, and other insects feed on the aphids that inhabit the flowers.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Siberian Iris

23 04 2010

I played with depth of field while photographing this Siberian Iris. I shot more than 30 images of this same flower, and found this one to be my favorite. While the flower is sharp, the background has a very shallow depth of field, making the bloom appear to float—love me some of that bokeh!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

My Passion(flower)

4 08 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I photographed this beauty in my garden this morning. I love the “bokeh” in this photo (especially the light coming into the back fence).

And I know you’re wondering what in the world “bokeh” is, why you should seek it out, and how you can create it in your photos, so check out the following links:

Here’s a simple explanation about what “bokeh” is on the Your Photo Tips site…

…plus more details on bokeh from The Online Photographer site

…very well researched and tested information (with lots of examples) from Rick Denny

…and finally, bokeh easily explained by Ken Rockwell.

WAIT! Learn how to create it in Photoshop using Layer Masks at Beyond Megapixels.

There are more than 500 known species and several hundred hybrids of passiflora. Most are vine-flowering, although some are shrubs, and a few are herbaceous. Just nine species are found in the U.S. and Southern Asia has the most native species–17. The most common species in the southeastern U.S. is the Maypop, Passiflora incarnata. Its edible fruit is sweet, yellow, the size of a chicken’s egg, and few pests bother it. It is the larval food of a number of butterfly species and important to local wildlife. Carpenter bees are important pollinators of maypops.

For more information on passion flowers:

Passiflora Online is a comprehensive website with growing tips, FAQs, plant ID, hybrid and species images, pollinators, and much more.

Plants in Motion has videos of a Passion Flower in bloom at also short clips of bees visiting the flowers.

Tradewinds Fruit has a great database of Passion Flower blossoms. Click on the “related species” section on the left of the site to see a wide variety of Passion Flower plants.