Show and Tell: High-Key Sunflower

In Learning Center, Show and Tell, Tips and tricks by jfischerLeave a Comment

High Resolution Image

Sometimes I will head out with the camera for hours on end and come home with only a few decent photos to show for it, and then there are times that I’ll stop by somewhere on the way home from work, or as a quick side stop from another location and I’ll have a dozen photos that seem to just pop once they’re processed. The origins of this photo are firmly in the second category. During the summer several friends contacted me insisting I had to go up to the giant field of sunflowers on the edge of town and get some photos. However time and other commitments prevented me from getting up there till the rows of commercial flowers were a bit past their prime.

Not wanting to let my poor timing for the Plan A photo opportunity deter me, I recalled there were a large number of wild sunflowers popping up along the edge of the field that the new Walmart Super-Center in town backed up to. Parking behind the new shopping center, I first fitted my 28mm f/1.8 lens for some wider angle shots of the sunflowers against the field behind, then switched to the 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens to the Canon XSi and moved closer for detailed photos of individual flowers. No matter how many times I go out and shoot with the 100mm, I never fail to be amazed by the sharpness of the resulting photos when I get done. When paired with the very shallow depth of field that can be achieved when opened up some incredibly beautiful and artistic photos can be taken with it.

This particular photo was taken with the lens set at f/4, giving just enough depth of field to get most of the flower in focus (the rear pedals are a bit soft, but I feel this only adds to the feeling of depth in the photo), and with the bright afternoon sun the shutter time was a brief 1/800sec. The stem and pedals were set further back from the plane of focus, allowing them to fade softly into the background.

Honestly, I don’t recall what this photo looked like before I processed it in this high-key monochrome look. Maybe I’ll look in my Lightroom catalog when I get home and update the post with a before & after image to show the difference if I remember to. I do remember deciding, after processing several photos in color, that this one might look good as a monochrome, to help bring out the subtle details in the pedals and center of the flower. Bright yellow does not show theses details very well, unlike the soft blue and gray hues after the conversion. Processing was done in Nik Color Efex Pro 2, starting with one of the high-key presets and adjusted and fine tuned. The subtle blue hue is actually rather difficult to pick up on unless the photo is set against a pure white background, and looks near white when printed and set in a simple black frame as I have done at home (11×14 print for sale with or without frame).

Oh, and as parting thought, to help show how a bit of processing along with changes in lens and camera settings can affect the look and feel of the photos taken at the same time and location, here are a few other photos taken from that short stop behind the Walmart:

Dreamy sunflower – 28mm f/2.5

Spot of color in the drab grass – 28mm f/4.5

Sunflower against the sky – 28mm f/3.5

Sunflower on White – 100mm f/5

Sunflower in Profile in Color  and as a Split Tone – 100mm f/5

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