I paint flowers so they will not dieFrida Kahlo
Maybe that’s why so many of us love to photograph them too? While a flower is transient, our images capture the memory of it forever.
When I think of a soft photo I tend to think ‘soft focus’. But this week Bren challenges us to combine clarity with softness. Studying her always lovely images I realised that the main way she achieves this is through the use of vignettes. I’d already been inspired by her to experiment more with these, and now this challenge gives me the perfect opportunity to do so in more depth.
As anyone who follows this blog will know, I’ve recently been in Colombia. One day while there we visited a beautiful finca called Romelia, high in the hills of the central coffee region, whose elderly owner (a delightful gentleman) has developed a stunning collection of orchids. He has amassed more than 840 species and over 8000 individual plants! I decided these would be the perfect subjects for my experiments.
Our guide at the farm, Felipe, showed us some orchids so tiny (little more than the size of a full stop!) that we would never have spotted them on our own. These were far too small for photos, even macros, but the showier flowers were just perfect. These included the orchid adopted as the country’s national flower, cattleya trianae. This is more commonly known as a ‘May lily’ and named for Colombian naturalist Jose Jeronimo Triana.
I edited all of the following images in Photoshop Elements, using the Nik Color Efex plug-in for my vignettes as it offers more flexibility than the default Elements vignettes. In some cases I used two vignettes, one to darken the edges and one to further blur them. In others I opted for a light vignette rather than dark.
Before vignetting I boosted the contrast and increased the brightness of some. Many orchids love the shade but that can result in less impactful photos. Another favourite Color Efex filter, ‘Sunlight’, adds both sparkle and a slight softness to images, and I used that on my feature photo and on the May Lily below. Finally, I experiment with the ‘Diffusion’ filter. That is mainly intended for use on portraits, but I discovered that worked just as well for flowers!
Incidentally, Finca Romelia also offers accommodation in simple but beautiful rooms. If ever we return to Colombia I’d be tempted to book a stay, to be able to enjoy this peaceful location for longer!
and by the way
The cattleya trianae orchid, Colombia’s national flower
I visited Colombia in February 2023