There is a great temptation in photography to shoot beautiful subjects when they are at their most appealing. Landscapes, women, babies, cars, sunsets, you name the subject and you'll find numerous photographs showing them at their best. The light, the sky, the pose, the backdrop, every detail will be in place to show the subject off off to dazzling effect.
It's even more so with flowers. In fact, though it's reasonably easy to find, say, good landscapes where the weather is grim and conventional beauty has been discarded in favour of the stern beauty of nature in the raw, just try and find a flower photograph with blooms past their best and I guarantee you'll struggle.
Painters have long known the different kind of beauty that can be seen in fading flowers, a muted attractiveness that is hinted at or remembered rather than displayed openly before your eyes. It was this effect that I sought when I photographed the tulips shown in today's photograph. But, it hasn't quite worked out as I wanted. Why? Well, if you are unfamiliar with what tulips look like at the peak of their perfection you might think that the flowers in this blue glass vase are just rather fine blooms that natural spread their petals in this rather attractive way. The fact the flowers are fading, are past their best, are naturally shedding their petals and are soon to be just stems isn't necessarily obvious, and even if it is, there remains a beauty that isn't particularly tinged with a feeling of imminent demise: there is still plenty of deep colour in the petals and little sense of the faded beauty that I sought to capture. So, I've kept the flowers and I'll try again when their petals develop brown edges and their decline looks a bit more terminal!
Addendum:Here are the same tulips two days later (Fading Tulips 2), the petals rather more wrinkled and curled,the colours more muted, a hint of brownness about them, but still not everything I envisaged. Having reflected further on the matter I've concluded that I chose the wrong colour tulips for this exercise. It would have been much better to use dark red or dark purple. In fact, any colour with less brilliance than yellow would have suited my purposes. A lesson learned. Perhaps next time...
A final shot (Fading Tulips 3), three days after the first one, and one day after the second. Still not quite there. It's definitely the basic colours of the tulip that's wrong for the photograph I'm seeking.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/4 sec
Exposure Compensation: -1.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off