Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is perfection overrated?

click photo to enlarge
Surfing the net a few days ago I came across a photographer's tips for taking good photographs of flowers. The very first sentence explained that to take a fine flower photograph you first had to find flawless flowers. That pulled me up short (and not only because of the alliteration!). If he'd said that to take photographs of the sort that are wanted by greeting card manufacturers, calendar designers, seed companies, etc, you must select perfect flowers, then I wouldn't have had a problem: these commercial concerns have a need for images of unblemished blooms that show no signs of age, disease or malformation. But, to assert that imperfect flowers cannot be the subject of a good photograph is nonsense.

Even a cursory knowledge of the history of painting reveals the deliberate and widespread use of flawed blooms by painters for the attractive, melancholic and symbolic qualities that they place before the viewer. And where the still life paintings of the seventeenth and subsequent centuries went in this regard, so too, in the past 160 years have many photographers. A while ago I posted such an image, showing a vase of hydrangeas that were well past their "best", but whose faded qualities attracted my meagre skills.

However, I have a feeling that today's photograph may well have been the sort that the photographer had in mind. It is about as close to perfect as I am able to get in terms of the blooms and the composition. These immaculate red tulips were in a churchyard, and I decided to use a long focal length to achieve sharp flowers at the centre of the shot, with those in front and behind out of focus. It's the sort of trick that photographers use to give a shot depth, and to focus the viewer's attention on a particular part of a composition. Oh, and you perhaps won't be surprised to find that we've selected this image for a few of our home-made birthday cards this year!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On