Macro Photography of My Neighbor’s Flowers

Last Saturday morning, August 18, 2012, before I had finished typing in my way-too-long part 3 post about my first photo walk in downtown Austin, I went out and took some more photos. I went for my usual Saturday morning walk around my neighborhood, and brought my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with me.

The weatherman was predicting “a very good chance for rain showers”, and when they say anything that bold in Austin in August, you will take notice, as we rarely get any worthwhile rain in Austin during the month of August. There were a thin veil of clouds, but they didn’t look like rain clouds yet, so I put on my weatherproof 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens with circular polarizer, and headed out about 9:15 AM.

The photo above, and the photo directly below are of some strange (to me), yet beautiful flowered plants that are in the front shrub bed right outside of our front door.

I put on the circular polarizer mainly to cut down on glare, if it did happen to shower. It would also decrease the amount of light coming through the lens, so it would force me to use a more wide open aperture. This 12-50mm lens doesn’t have a very wide open aperture, and you will never hear or read about anyone praising the “beautiful bokeh” that this lens can produce. (Bokeh is the “blurriness” of the out-of-focus areas behind the main subject in the photo.)

I got more than I bargained for. The first 3 photos that I’ve already shown had a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second or slower. It was also somewhat windy. Flowers wagging in the wind and slow shutter speeds don’t work together to make sharp photos. When I put the lens into macro mode to photograph a flower moving around, I always took at least 3 photos, and would later decide which one of the three was the sharpest when I was post processing them on my computer. Some of the flowers at the end of this post I took 6 or 7 photos – hoping to get one good one out of the bunch.

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Now when I left the house, I had the intention of shooting anything with a pattern or color that would catch my intention. I did take several photos of the usual neighborhood stuff: cars, a U-Haul trailer, yard decorations, playground equipment, street signs, fire hydrants, trees, cactus, and of course, flowers.

It wasn’t until I post processed the RAW files on my computer this evening that I realized just how many macro photos that I had taken of flowers, and I decided to put together this post where all of the photos are macro photos of flowers.

The 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens is very easy to put into the macro mode, but when you do, the focal length is fixed at 43mm, which is equivalent to 86mm on a full-frame camera. Every photo in this post was taken with the lens in macro mode, and the largest aperture opening in ANY of these photos is f/6.0. The aperture of this next photo was f/8.0.

When shooting macro photography, and focusing on very close objects, there isn’t much depth of field in the photograph. To attempt to get the maximum amount of front-to-back in focus, the photographer will use a small aperture (high f-stop number). That causes the shutter to stay open longer to get an equivalent exposure. That’s not a problem if the camera is on a tripod.

The photo above is the blossom on a prickly-pear cactus.

Now, I was not set-up to do it “correctly”.  I was handholding my camera, as I didn’t bring a tripod on this walk. I couldn’t keep the shutter open very long without causing motion blur in the photo. Besides, the flowers were swaying around in the wind, and that alone doesn’t allow for slow shutter speeds. Faster shutter speeds make the aperture open up wider, and this lens doesn’t open up wide.

Also, I had put on a circular polarizer onto the front of my lens. That cuts down the amount of light coming into the lens by about 1 and 1/3 stops, which again makes the shutter to stay open longer and/or the aperture to be opened up wider.

So, I pretty much had a “dark” lens opened up about as wide as its aperture could open, the shutter speed was still pretty slow (for most of these photos), I was hand-holding the camera, and the flowers were wagging around in the wind.

The photo above was taken when I was on a sidewalk on a high ledge and I could see over the wooden fence around someone’s yard. The blue behind the flower in that photo is their swimming pool.

What I did have working in my favor is the excellent in-body image stabilization of this Olympus camera. In addition, the size of the sensor is much smaller than a full-frame camera, so at the same aperture settings, this little camera will produce a deeper depth-of-field than a full-frame camera such as my Canon 5D Mark II.

It never did rain on me. I never even felt a sprinkle. But less than an hour after I got back to our house, it did start to rain. We got a little more than 0.75” (2cm) in about 2 hours. It rained again that night, as we had a total of 1.25” in less than 12 hours. Very unusual, and very welcome. I’m sure that all of these flowers enjoyed every single drop that came their way!

2 thoughts on “Macro Photography of My Neighbor’s Flowers”

  1. I like that strange pink flower – really cool – I have never seen those myself. I really like that blue flower – beautiful light. I used to have a cactus like that yellow flower but something happened to it and it expired. Have to get another I think. Believe it or not, it survives my winters,

    PS I will be sending you a pic via email later. Because it has my friend’s kids in it I don’t want to post to the web.

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