First Tulips of the Season

I have an obsession with Tulips. I like the way they look, but they’re also easier to photograph than most flowers. Their flat profile makes it easier to keep the petals in sharp focus and they look really nice when light comes from behind or above. They come in a variety of colors, patterns, and even textures apparently, so I usually buy quite a few over the spring and summer seasons.

I usually see them in stores starting in March, but I noticed them in late February this year. I photograph them with my 90mm macro lens, but tried shooting without it while it was at a repair center for a firmware update. Trying a different lens made me realize how good my macro is. In either case, I shot all of the images with my D800 to flex its higher resolution.

My First Shot

I usually like to shoot outside because there’s enough light to shoot handheld with a relatively low ISO, it’s easy to move around and frame, and the grass / trees make for a great blurry background. But it’s cold, windy, and nothing is green right now, so I did my shots in my studio. My studio, by the way, is my dining room table with some posterboard and an off-camera flash. The image below is the best from the first bunch. I took more, but most were pretty “meh”. It was my first time this season and I was a bit rusty.

Still not a bad image at. I used a snoot to direct the light into the cup of the flower at an angle to simulate the backlight of the sun. I do like this image, but I wish I had the large front petal just a bit more sharp. I was too lazy to setup a tripod and I couldn’t keep crisp focus exactly where I wanted it. Not bad for my first try though.

A Flower Funeral

Tulips aren’t living very long right now where I live. There isn’t quite enough sunlight yet and they start dying after a few days. These images are the same tulip four days after I shot that first photo. By the time I had a chance to photograph it again, the color was fading and the petals were ready to fall off. The color had drained so much that they looked kind of cool so I brought them in for another shoot on their deathbed.

For these I set my flash up behind them with a softbox to create the white background. I used a tripod this time for accurate focus and proper exposure. These came out pretty cool. Even in death they have quite a lot of detail!

On the Fringe

A little over a week after my first Tulips kicked the bucket I happened to stop into Home Depot to pick up an item and I noticed flowers on my way to the register. There were more than I expected, including weird Tulip-looking flowers with pointy petals. It looked like a Tulip that someone had shredded. Turns out it was a Tulip I’d never seen before: a fringed Tulip. It was in a pot and it was only $6, so I eagerly grabbed it and brought it home.

I was really excited to photograph it until I remembered I had just sent my macro lens back to Tampon for a firmware update. Bummer. “No worries”, I thought, “I’ll use one of my regular zoom lenses that focus close. It won’t be as good as the macro, but it will be fine.”

Yeah. So there’s a reason macro lenses exist. The first is that they can get incredibly close, within inches. My zoom lens can’t get as close and can’t magnify as much, making it much more difficult to maneuver around in my dining room studio. I did end up with a few photos but the quality is nothing compared to the macro. The images just aren’t as sharp and the detail isn’t the same, but it was all I had so I tried to make the best of it.

The details are not as sharp as I like while also looking rough, which is a bit of a paradox. The blur isn’t nearly as nice either, but I had to capture these. I received my macro back a few days later, but these were dead by then. Being in a pot didn’t seem to help their longevity. Until next time Fringed Tulips!

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