How Many Compositions?

pink-cactus-flower-6254Last year my night blooming cactus had seven blooms and exploded in pink and they opened on May 7th.  This year there is only one bloom and it finally opened last night.  With only one cactus flower this year, it would be a challenge to come up with several compositions (there will be a gallery at the end of the post and you may click on any of the images to see a larger view).  How many compositions?

I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. in order to photograph this one flower during the golden hour.  My alarm went off and I hit the snooze button and then hit it again.  A couple of minutes after hitting the snooze for the second time, I arose and looked out the window to see a complete overcast sky.  Not the light I was hoping for but it looked like mother nature would be providing a soft box for several hours.  With this in mind I went back to bed for about an hour.  Then outside I went with my camera, tripod, reflector and speedlight.


Pink cactus flower using only available light.

The first few images I made with only available light and was not satisfied.  My next thought was to use my speedlight off camera.  As I rarely use it, I do not have a wireless transmitter to trigger the flash off-camera  such as a Pocket Wizard.  Instead, I use an off-camera shoe cord that attaches to the hotshoe on my DSLR and to the speed light.  I know this is a bit technical, but thought it was important to share.  I didn’t like how those images turned out either.  So then it was time to attach my speedlight to my DSLR, turn the head to the side so that I could bounce the light from the flash off my gold reflector in order to create a warm sidelight.  pink-cactus-flower-9427 I held my gold reflector above and to the left of the cactus flower.  Success!  I learned how to do this while reading The Hot Show Diaries by Joe McNally.




As my cactus is in a terra-cotta pot, it can be moved to obtain different light and/or background.  We have a small area of grass in our backyard and wondered how it would look as a background.  The images (in the gallery below) certainly have a different feel to them.  Now that there was more room to move around the pot, more compositions were coming to mind.  Some of the images are quite close and only a portion of the flower is in the images.  By now the clouds were breaking up, but the sun still wasn’t able to breakthrough.  I went inside for about an hour until the sun was shining.  However, it was now too high and the light was harsh.  Time to move the cactus back into the shade.  Then using my reflector I was able to bounce light onto the cactus flower without using my speedlight.  The last two images in the gallery are the same composition, however, the light is different.  In the second to last image I held my gold reflector above and to the left of the cactus flower creating warm sidelight.  The final image the light is coming from behind the cactus flower without moving the pot.  Instead, I held my gold reflector above and behind the cactus flower to create backlight.  And the gray background?  That is the rock in our yard which normally doesn’t look gray, but with sidelight and backlight it looks much darker.  How many compositions?  There are 11 different compositions in the gallery below, but with the use of flash and holding my reflector in different positions, 13 images are shown.

A Rose Is Just A Rose – Or Is It?

Recently I posted Collection of Textured Images with several images with layer(s) of texture added during post processing.  Today I thought it would be fun to show the before and after version of an image processed this morning.  The image was taken a couple of weeks ago at Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale, AZ, during the golden hour before sunset.   The background was clean, but the color was blah.  This peach rose was not perfect as some of the edges were showing some dark spots.  Instead of passing and finding another specimen I chose to set up and take a shot.  My vision was to add texture and give it an antique look.  The early evening light was on the right and the left side was too much in shadow.  At this point I took out my reflector and used the gold/silver side to add just a touch of warm light to the left side of the rose.

Peach rose with basic post processing in Lightroom

Peach rose with basic post processing in Lightroom

This morning after some basic post processing in Lightroom, I then took the image into Photoshop Elements to add texture.  The original image didn’t have enough contrast which I could have changed in Lightroom, however, I chose to use a technique I learned a few years ago.  I made a duplicate layer of the original image and then converted that layer to black and white.  After adjusting the black and white layer I then changed the blending mode from normal to multiply and adjusted the opacity to 50%.  Then it was on to adding layers of texture.  Two layers of texture were added changing the blending mode and opacity level of each layer.  The image was a little dark so I then added a levels layer and tightened up the histogram.  At this point the image still didn’t have the look I had envisioned so another layer of texture was added.  However, the color tone of the rose was now too yellow.  To compensate for the color tone I added a blue photo filter layer, change the blending mode to soft light and the opacity to 50%.

I know for some of you this is a bit technical, but for those of you wondering my workflow, this is how the below image came to be.  A rose is just a rose – or is it?

Peach Rose with layers of textured added during post processing.

Peach Rose with layers of textured added during post processing.