Monday, January 23, 2012

Hydrangeas and high key

click photo to enlarge
My wife spotted one of the detached, dead flower heads of our giant hydrangea as we walked through the pergola the other day and, as she pointed it out to me, I made a mental note to examine it as a potential photographic subject. By the time I got round to retrieving it for that purpose the wind had blown it, tumbleweed-style, across the garden and it had suffered quite a bit of damage. Nonetheless I took it indoors and and placed it on a white background under a bright light, hoping to base an image around the cluster of lace-like petals. But, as is often the case, what I saw in my mind's eye didn't appear quite the way I imagined it when I came to look through the viewfinder. The multiplicity of groups of four petals was simply too much: a simpler composition was required.

I tried a shot of part of the flower head with the edge offering a ragged outline against a plain black or white background. However, whilst better it still didn't satisfy me. So I took to pulling off a few individual petal groups and examining them. The attraction, it seemed to me, lay in the delicate veins of each individual petal and the way they were grouped  in fours like the blades of a propeller. So I built this simple composition with three stems and set them on a white background with the light source behind and to the side to accentuate the key features.

My natural inclination is to aim for a "perfect" exposure or to under-expose. I have something of an aversion to over-exposure for reasons that I find hard to articulate. And yet, when I see a good "high key" shot with the main subject appearing out of a blazing white background I often like it. I have it in mind to try more of this kind of shot myself, and have done so very occasionally, as I did with this shell. Consequently I thought I'd try it again here. I haven't gone quite as far as with the shell - all the details are still showing - but it is much lighter and brighter than it would have been had I followed both my inclination and the light meter.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 0.3 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  +1.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off