Category Archives: Botanical

Dances with Flowers

In these extraordinary times, photography might seem less of a priority, however, mental well-being certainly isn’t and finding creative outlets has been vitally important to that well-being. In the UK, it’s spring and with appropriate irony, the weather has been exceptionally pleasant. The garden has provided the only access to the outdoors of late and fortunately it has been full of flowers.

This is an image inspired by some of the work of botanical photographer Polina Plotnikova and her dances with flowers series. It’s made using one of the oldest techniques in flash photography: rear-curtain sync. The approach takes a bit of trial and error, using a 5 second exposure to capture the motion of the flowers with the flash at the end to capture the image. The flashes are in two soft boxes to give a nice diffuse light.

No doubt different flower subjects will require slightly different approaches, so will have to see if this little project can be extended to make a series.

Nigella orientialis Study

Nigella orientalis seed heads make for a fascinating subject, reflecting light off their flat surfaces and with exquisite patterns. This is a follow-on study from an earlier project on a variety of seed heads, this time the focus is purely on this single species. Given the common name ‘transformer’ to reflect the transformation that takes place from flower to seed head.

This is a study inspired by the work of Karl Blossfeldt who included natural ageing, wilting and drying out as part of his isolated plant universe. Blossfeldt apparently would trim and tweak his specimens until they seemed, to him, to look their best. He often made extensive use of repetition to lead the viewer into a more perceptive appreciation of the image presenting his specimens in a way that emphasised their rhythmic forms to the extreme and the enabling the plants to take on new and exotic characteristics.

Part of the fun of making these images has been shooting them as JPEGs in-camera, making full use of FujiFilm’s Acros film simulation. Aside from the obvious difference of not having to do any post-processing, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding to create the final image at the time the shutter is pressed, much more akin to film.

Nigella orientalis, 2019
Nigella orientalis, 2019
Nigella orientalis, 2019
Nigella orientalis, 2019
Nigella orientalis, 2019
Nigella orientalis, 2019

Seed Heads

Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs of plants, flowers and seed heads are as appealing today, as they no doubt were when they were published in his books Urformen der Kunst and Wundergarten der Natur. While Henry Fox-Talbot’s calotypes and the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins and pioneered the use of botanical specimens as photographic subjects, Blossfeldt’s work was unique in its pioneering use macrophotography emphasising the patterns and textures of plants. 

Blossfeldt wrote in Urformen der Kunst that he never obtained his plants from florists and rarely from botanical gardens instead gathering them from along country lanes preferring plants often denigrated as weeds as he found their forms fascinated him the most. For this project, these seedbeds have come from our own garden, including some that might be considered weeds!

The images I’ve been taking of seed heads are all shot as jpegs, using FujiFilm’s Acros film simulation and in-camera processing that mainly entails boosting the shadow tones to around +2 and the highlight tones to +1 with a very slight warming of the resulting jpeg.

Out of Eden

We are incredibly fortunate when it comes to accessing plants for photography today. This is a series of images from the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, possibly one of the most remarkable collection of plants anywhere bringing the botanic gardens and palm houses built by Victorian plant hunters well and truly into the 21st century. I’m particularly interested in creating relatively minimalist images of plants that capture their variety of form and the way in which they interact with light. Eden offers scale when it comes to plants that is rarely available even in large botanic gardens and the shear number of plants makes finding photographic subjects much more feasible. The images in this portfolio are all from the rainforest biome with plants from four of the world’s rainforest environments: Tropical Islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America.