Category Archives: Our Garden

Images taken in our Pennsylvania garden

Purple Crocus

150410_PurpleCrocus_ME by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF 180mm Macro 3.5L – Multiple Exposure

These purple crocuses came out two days after the white ones.  They do so every year.  The white crocuses come out with a few blooms first, followed by the rest a couple days later.  The purple crocuses seem to come out all at once.  I was lucky with a couple of nice warm days when the blooms emerged.  The last couple of days have been cold and rainy.  The crispness of the flowers are now gone.

For Lexie:  The way this image was achieved is different from the white crocus image in my post a few days ago.  Large telephoto lenses have a narrow depth of field.  My target here was to get enough depth of field to capture detail in the nearest petal, the center, and the farthest petal of the nearest bloom.  It took an aperture setting of f/16 to achieve this.  However, using this aperture also pulled in detail from the background flowers.  I then took an image with the widest aperture (f/3.5) of my lens which only captured the center of the nearest flower in focus.  The edges of the bloom and all the background blooms were not in focus.  To make sure the images would line up when I processed them, I used a tripod.

Back on my computer, I combined the f/3.5 and f/16 images into a multiple exposure using Photoshop’s layers.  The background layer was the sharp f/16 image.  The second layer was the f/3.5 image.  I added a layer mask to the second layer and “painted” through the nearest bloom of the f/16 flower.  I then lightened the sharp bloom and darkened the edges to get the final image.

The following is the f/16 SOC image as reference:

150410_PurpleCrocus_SOC by Karl Graf.

Siberian Iris – “In Your Face”

150409_SiberianIris_Macro by Karl Graf. Canon 5DMkIII, EF180mm Macro f/3.5L @ 180mm, f/32, 0.5 sec, ISO 200

These small 3/4 inch blooms are great targets for Macro photography.  In recent years I have not spent much time doing macros.  Macro’s in our garden usually require getting down on my hands and knees or on my stomach to get face to face with the object of interest.  I am not as flexible as I use to be and am reluctant to get down in that position.  But these jewels just begged me to do it … so I did.

For Lexie:  When I take an image, I always try to specify what my subject is.  My next step is to enhance the subject as much is possible.  Then I try to reduce any clutter that may distract from the subject.

For this image my subject was the “mouth” of the single blossom, not any surrounding petals.  To enhance the image I used a 180 mm telephoto macro lens focusing on the interior mouth of the bloom.  I used a very small aperture to make sure I got as much of the bloom in focus as I could.  In addition, I tilted the camera to get a more interesting perspective of the blossom.

The negative ramification of the small aperture was that I also picked up details surrounding the single bloom as clutter.  To eliminate the surrounding clutter, I darkened and desaturated the background in post processing.  In addition I added a blur to the mid-ground purple petals.

For reference, below is the SOC version of the image.

150409_SiberianIris_Macro_SOC by Karl Graf.

One More Day!

150408_One More Day! by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro @ 100mm, f/4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 800

One more day and this star magnolia bud will pop out to a full bloom.  I hope the weather will cooperate.  We are expecting moderate to heavy rain for the next few days.  It always seems to happen this way when these beautiful flowers bloom.  In one day, the rain will turn them into droopy brown edged flowers.  Last year, I did not even shoot the blooms because of the rain.

For Lexie:  I used a macro lens to get this close up.  The bud is about 3/4 inch long.  I needed to get close to fill the camera image frame.  I used a shallow depth of field to blur out the background evergreen bushes.  Note that the bud casing in front of the blossom is out of focus. This is the trade-off I was managing.  Also note that the shutter speed was high to freeze the bud in the wind.  In post processing, I used Photoshop and NIK Color Efex Pro plugin.  I used “tonal contrast” to pull out details in the bud and “darken/lighten center” to darken the edges and bring additional focus to the bud.

Spring Welcomes the “Huskies”

150407_Purple&Gold_Crocus by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF24-70 f/2.8L @ 58mm, f/11, 1/320 sec, ISO 800

These purple and gold (yellow) crocuses welcome the UW Huskies to Spring.  Purple and Gold are like Red to me.  When you see either … SHOOT!  These crocuses are the prelude of what more is to come soon.

For Lexie:  The weather conditions made taking this photo difficult.  The wind was blowing pretty hard, so the blooms were moving rapidly.  The sun was coming in and out of the clouds, so the exposure was also changing rapidly.  Waiting for the right combination of the sun going behind the clouds and the wind easing a little required a lot of patience.  It took me about 20 minutes to get the right combination.  In processing the image, I took a short cut and used one of NIK Color Efex Pro plugin presets to get the feeling that I was looking for.  Below is the original image straight out of the camera (SOC).  Which one do you like best?

150407_Purple&Gold_Crocus_SOC by Karl Graf.

Easter Emergence

150406_First Siberian Iris Blooms by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF24-70mm f2.8L @ 52mm, f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 800

These Siberian Iris blooms were nowhere to be seen the day before Easter.  I walked out in our garden on Easter afternoon and there they were!  It was an Easter gift.  These small blooms are one of my dear wife’s favorites.

For Lexie:  There was nothing really special in this RAW image.  There was a lot of clutter around the individual blooms.   I could not do much except to create a tight image to minimize the clutter.  See the following original image straight from the camera.

150406_First Siberian Iris Blooms2 by Karl Graf. However, I knew that I could do a little processing to improve the image.  This is what I did.  1) Added tonal contrast to pop out the blooms, 2) decreased the structure, brightness, and saturation around the blooms, 3) added a vignette blur around the blooms, 4) cloned out the two purple flowers at the top right of the image, and 5) did a little additional cropping.

Happy Easter and Here Comes Spring

150405_First Crocus Blooms by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro IS @ 100mm, f/8, 1/800 sec, ISO 400

Happy Easter to all.  The rising of these little white crocuses from the earth symbolize Easter for me.  These little 1/2 inch flowers beneath one of our flowering pears are always the first blooms in our garden each year.  We planted them twelve years ago, covered them with layers of bark each year, hoe the bark to break up the soil, and they still come up.  They are really the first sign of spring for us.

For Lexie – Taking and processing the image:  I laid on my belly to get an eye to eye view of this single crocus.  I positioned the bloom against the background of other crocuses to give it a little context.  Within the camera frame, I positioned the bloom in the bottom right power point using the “rule of thirds”.  The wind was blowing hard, so I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the bloom.  I compromised the depth of field setting at f/8 to get a relatively sharp image of the flower while blurring the background blooms.  I softened the image, highlighted the single bloom, and darkened the background in Photoshop to get the final image.

Spring Clean-up Time

150330_Spring Cleanup by . Fuji X-T1, XF18-135mm @ 110mm, f/11, 1/210 sec, ISO 400

Spring is officially here and I have a lot of Spring clean-up to do.  Our compost bins are full from last fall.  They also need a little rebuilding.  This will be another Spring project.  It was a bright cool day when I took this image.  Today is overcast, breezy and cold … so I felt that a B&W version would fit my mood.

Spring??? Maybe…

150326_First Crocus by . Fuji X-T1, XF18-135mm @ 135mm, f/7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 400

The snow has melted away from our last Winter storm.  This little crocus is the first harbinger of Spring … I hope.  It has been a long, long winter with a large snowfall on the last day of the Season.  I look forward to getting out in our yard to capture spring as it emerges.

When Will Spring Come?

150302_Chairs in Snow by . Fuji X-T1, XF18-135mm @ 59mm, f/8.0, 1/120 sec, ISO 1600

It is snowing again today and we are getting ready for another 8-10 inches in a couple of days.  Officially, Spring will come in less than three weeks.  When will it really come????

Even though I am tired of shoveling snow and chipping ice, I still appreciate the beauty of a snow covered landscape.  I hope to be able to get out and explore after the next snow fall.