What Doesn’t Make a Good Photo

One last set of photos from the Gardens, and then I’m off to travel a bit, walk a lot, take care of some business and maybe even more photos.

The weather has been in the 80s and wet. Spring didn’t happen, it exploded. Normally the flowers occur in stages, with crocus, daffodil, and magnolia in stage one; followed by the flowering fruit trees and tulips in stage two. This year, everything was up at once. Walking through the park was like walking into Nordstrom, between the two ladies with the perfume.

Before going to the park yesterday, I was browsing about when I discovered a weblog post where the author asked the question, What makes a great photo?. Several people had responded and the responses were published in the post. After reading it, as I was walking about taking pictures and later, as I was processing photos from my trip, I wondered why no one ever celebrates their less than perfect photo picture taking quirks. After all, if we all took photos like the experts recommend there would be no individuality. Prettier, more profound pictures, perhaps–but no individuality.

For instance, take the following picture. It’s of new leaves. Normally in the Spring, you take pictures of flowers, not leaves. But look at this picture: what are those things surrounding the leaves? That’s the first thing I thought when looking at the tree, what are those things around the leaves? I don’t remember seeing weird little things like that before. Have they always been there, and I hadn’t noticed them? Unique to this tree? Some kind of unhealthy, tuberous growth, which makes itself look green and innocent so it isn’t sprayed?

Quirk one: Nature works really hard, don’t waste the effort by focusing only on tulips.

tree leaves

This next violates probably a dozen rules of photography. There’s conflicting patterns all over, way too much detail and screams ‘busy’. Look at that tree? It doesn’t even have the decency to lose its last few leaves from fall. No, they’ll probably hang around until they’re pushed off by the new leaves.

And the trunk of the tree looks like it has an eye.

Quirk two: Go ahead and take a messy picture. Tell people to look for the fractal patterns. Sit back and snicker.

tree

Daffodils. I got your daffodils here.

Not a bad grouping, but I didn’t have the focus straight on, and so the flowers aren’t sharp. That’s violating the most cardinal rule: sharp photos. However, I liked the grouping–it’s like the flowers were having a chat.

Quirk: It’s a weblog, you can post fuzzy pictures. People will think they’re just tired from reading 342 feeds.

In this one, now, the fuzziness was intentional. It’s called bokeh.

Quirk Four: As long as your mistake has a Japanese name, it’s intentional.

Now this is a split corona daffodil. It’s it an absolutely beautiful flower. With flowers such as these, doesn’t matter what you do with the camera, it will look good. You could take pictures of the flower behind you by bending over and pointing the camera between your legs and the photo will look good.

Quirk five: Bend over, take pictures behind you by pointing the camera between your legs. Suggest you save this for wilderness pictures.

The next two photos are of the same type of flower. Now, typically you won’t publish more than one photo of the same subject. You’d pick your favorite, which shows a fine sense of discrimination by picking only the best rather than put up many.

Why am I repeating the flowers? I liked the first photo better, but I liked the pollen dribble on the second.

Quirk six: Flower drool.

The next photo is sharp enough, positioned correctly, and the light seems to be good. But it just sits there, limp. Why this picture then?

I liked the background. That’s my deep, dark secret for most of my plant and flower pictures: I find a background I like, and then I go look for something to plunk into the foreground to justify the shot.

Quirk seven: Backgrounds. Find a background, hope a deer walks in front of the lens.

This next picture, my god what was I thinking? It looks like Van Gogh decided to paint over a picture by Monet.

Quirk eight: create a photograph that looks like a combination of the work of Van Gogh and Monet.

Hey! We’ve seen this flowering tree before!

Have you ever noticed with flower photos how the photographer will place the flower in the last or first vertical third, and leave primarily blank space in the rest of the frame? This technique gives the photo sensitivity and mood?

This is a crass American photo: if one flower is good, two is better! If one SUV is good, two is better! If one 50 inch TV is good, two is better! If one…

Quirk nine: Nature abhors a vacuum.

Again, same tree. I love this tree. It’s one of my favorite trees.

Quirk ten: one can never have too many pictures of something we love. Next week: pictures of Peeps.

I’ll end with just ten quirks and the last few photos from the set. I not only captured my first butterfly of the year, but captured my first bee–throwing in a cardinal for good measure because you can get away with anything when you add a cardinal.

My leaf!

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11 Responses to What Doesn’t Make a Good Photo

  1. Rory says:

    I know diddley-squat about photography, so I found these very pleasing. (Oh, darn, I hope that wasn’t insulting.)

    And very funny. “As long as your mistake has a Japanese name, it’s intentional.” That is priceless!

  2. Ethan says:

    Thanks for passing these along. I love to see “seams”, as they’re very instructive.

  3. Norman Walsh says:

    All gorgeous. Happy spring! (It’s broken the fifty degree mark here a couple of days; Spring is still trying to shake off the snow, but She’s not really ready to come out just yet.)

  4. Jason Young says:

    throwing in a cardinal for good measure because you can get away with anything when you add a cardinal.

    That’s quite true, I was just scrolling, scanning, scrolling in the aggregator until I saw the cardinal – and then I paused and clicked and said “Great Cardinal”

    I almost missed the bee even. That’s a GREAT bee picture.

  5. Doug Alder says:

    A Van Gogh, Monet, Photography mashup – how 2.0 of you ;)

  6. The first shot looks to be of a ginkgo tree. One of the oldest living species of trees dating back more than a couple hundred million years. It is sort of a link between the ferns and conifers as far as I understand. So the answer is, yes, they are unique to that tree.

    Ginkgo’s are one of my favorites to photograph, although I never really capture them as well as I want to.

    There is a good site with more information than you ever wanted to know about the tree here:
    http://www.xs4all.nl/~kwanten/

    And I have a number of posts about it. Here is a typical leaf:
    http://zo-d.com/stuff/gardening/ginkgo-biloba-leaves.html

  7. ARJ says:

    Ah, Shelley, only you could make flower drool sexy ;-)

    *Sigh* it’s getting colder and darker here. Thanks for the little peeps of spring. Also, I love the conversing daffodils. I thought exactly the same the instant I saw the photo, before I had even read what you wrote about it.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I take pictures because they appeal to me. Yours are simply beautiful!

    Thank you for the smile!

    Rebecca

  9. Sorry for the spam.. :) But I think these flower pics are beautiful, and would be a perfect demo for my new service, http://www.britepic.com

    Let me know if you use BritePic and I’ll link you from britepic.com as a demo site!

    Either way, keep it up.

    – Philip

  10. Loren says:

    Adding a bird has always been one of my Cardinal rules in photographs.

  11. Shelley says:

    ooo, puns!

    Jack, thanks for the info. Led to a lot of useful and interesting info.

    ARJ, like my flower drool, eh?

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words on the pictures and the, hopefully, humor.

    Since I am actually, honestly, going to be apart from both email and weblogging (she says, as she works to pry her fingers from the keyboard), I must regretfully close comments.

    Enjoy the spring/fall.