Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Flower Photography DVD Released!

We are very proud to announce our new Flower Photography Artistry DVD!
Shot at Longwood Gardens, PA, one of the nation's premier public gardens.
 Please order from our online store

Also, I have just discovered and am using Flypaper Textures and Fly Edges!
This is the best collection I've seen, very subtle, allowing multiple layers to be used at
various opacities to create personal and unique interpretations.
Highly Recommended!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Flower Photography DVD!

I've been off of the blogoshere for a while. I've had worst problems in my life than too much work, and that's been the case. We leave for Iceland for a workshop in a few days, and since it's a land with no real indigenous flowers, I'll be gone from here for another few weeks. However, we just finished shooting our next DVD at Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA. We shot during the two hottest days of the year, but managed to put in two long and very productive days, illustrating various flower photography techniques. Actually, a great deal of the DVD is on photography field techniques with 5 specifically targeted instructional videos. The DVD (still untitled) should be on the market in 2-3 months, if not sooner. If interested in being notified when the new DVD is available, please send an email to The blog image is a ten exposure multiple, loosely moving the camera through the flower during the exposure sequence. Subject selection is critical, in general, but with abstract interpretations, it is a bit more critical. This subject, which actually blooms at night, was just beginning to open, as it was later in the day, creating a star pattern. As with all special in camera effects, it's a good practice to shoot several to many compositions, as each shot will be different and it gives a number of interpretations to choose from. Afterwards, nik's Silver Efex Pro was used to make the image B&W, then Viviza was used to completely darken the background.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Through the back door

We have this great azalea bush right outside of my office sliding doors, and there was one dandelion in pretty good shape. So, this morning, I slipped out to grab some shots. It's pretty cool when a great situation is so close.....(I was working in pj's). After trying several lens combinations (200mm macro with extension, 105mm with extension, and 300mm with extension), the 300mm f/4 lens w/ 27mm of extension gave me the completely detail-less background. I was able to stop down to f/8 to get good sharpness in the middle of the subject, yet maintain the completely soft, colorful background. The pink is a solid block of azaleas in open shade and the green is grass in bright sun. The distance of the green to the pink created a quasi color gradient. I thought of adding a texture, but felt that the pristine, clean, bright, and colorful nature of this image was good as it was.

ok......on second thought.....I dropped in AlienSkin's Snap Art impasto filter and painted the effect out of the sharp spores in the center of the subject.......sorry....I couldn't resist

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Cowen Technique - aka Spin-Zoom

This may not be new, but it was new to me when I noticed a private workshop client moving the camera in a unique way and coming up with some very cool abstract interpretations. I noticed that Matt was zooming while twisting the camera. After a few attempts on my own, I liked what was happening and added this technique to my bag of tricks! Quite simply, while hand holding the camera, twist the camera while zooming in or out (it depends). In this blog image, I zoomed out quickly during a very short exposure (1/4sec). It took about 6 exposures to get to where I was in the ballpark of what I was looking for, then shot a few more. What made this a bit challenging was that the subject area was a small patch of very low to the ground flowers and it was bright overcast. Rather than digging out my Singh Ray VariND, I found that rapidly twisting and turning the camera during the short exposure worked well and created more of a sense of motion. This file is raw, meaning that it was saved as a jpeg for posting without any digital optimization. Shot with Nikon D3X and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.
Thank, Matt, for this very creative technique!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lensbaby Texture Overlay

I was taken to these flowers by a conservatory employee, who was very excited about the photo possibilities. So, I get there and the flowers were creeping up a wired trellis and was very busy and unorganized. After I thanked her profusely, she left. I planned on leaving via a different doorway so that she wouldn't see me and possibly be offended. But, as I walked around the area I was thinking of how to treat this subject to make it simpler and more visually palatable. My first move to choose to shoot the lensbaby w/ a wide aperture to completely blur the background, yet achieve some selective focus, and lowering the prominence of the wires. This simplified the image, but it still wasn't quite where I wanted it to be. One of the "secrets" to texture overlays is to pick the right one to compliment the subject. The "chipped" part of the texture worked well on the left 2/3 of the frame, and the sharpest flowers in the scene advanced against the cool background. Also, compositionally, visual movement was created by three twigs flowing diagonally from right to left.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Himalayan blue poppy

Still having fun with Totally Rad's Dirty Pictures texture plugin.
I thought that this mid eastern wall pattern would work well over the Himalayan blue poppy, kind of giving it a sense of place. The depth in this was created by painting out the texture from the orange center.
Back to Longwood Gardens in the morning!

LWG flowers/texture overlay

Just messing around with Totally Rad's Dirty Picture texture series one more time before getting to work. On this image, I thought it looked a bit better to leave the texture affecting the entire image rather than painting the effect out of the flowers, as in the previous entry. The graphic texture and dramatic foreground/background color contrast adds a sense of 3 dimensionality.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Textured backgrounds Plugin

I got a hold of a great texture overlaying plugin called, ironically, Dirty Pictures by Totally Rad Software, recommended by John Barclay. This image was made at Longwood Gardens a few days ago. The pristine flowers and solid blue background were the attraction. A 300mm lens was used with a short extension tube, which created a seamless, solid blue background. The texture was added via Dirty Pictures (great name) and easily painted out in the flowers to give some separation and a sense of depth.
Click on the sidebar icon to either download a free trial or to purchase this plugin and/or others!
Pretty fun stuff!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blue Poppy

Originally uploaded by ttsweet
The display of Himalayan blue poppies is an annual event at Longwood Gardens, PA. Having shot these flowers many times, I tried something a little different this year. The new Lensbaby soft focus optic is tremendous, rendering a very different look, especially in how it creates a marbled background, even with busy backgrounds. I used the widest soft focus aperture ring, so I had to choose where to focus for greatest acceptable sharpness. I focused on the orange middle, letting the outer bright tip to go a bit soft. I used Nik's Viveza 2 to saturate the middle and to darken the background.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Summer flowers

This is a 10 multiple exposure image. I'm using auto focus on the yellow center and moving the camera minimally between exposures. Rather than hand holding the camera and moving fluidly from exposure to exposure, the camera remained on the tripod. I loosened the tripod collar on the Nikkor 200mm micro lens and twisted the camera/lens in very small increments (as long as the auto focus point remained inside the yellow) to get this image. Of equal importance, actually more important, is the background. Backgrounds can make or break an image. The flowers are in the shade and the background is in bright sun. When out of focus, bright grasses become bright, complimentary backgrounds, as in this case. I also shot at a more open aperture in order to focus attention on the bright yellow center. In post process, Saturation and contrast in the yellow were increased using nik's Viveza.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Telephoto tulips

Originally uploaded by ttsweet
This image is an example of using a 300mm lens at it's minimum focusing distance: wide open @ 4.5'. The relatively close focusing distance is what accounts for the very shallow depth of field and selective focus. Long lenses compress scenes like this, where the red is literally in a different garden across the grounds, creating a soft color palette around the sharp part of the flower. Also, worthy of note is that you really don't need to make sure the out of focusness is only behind the subject. The large out of focus flower to the lower right is in front of the main subject, but appears as soft as the background flowers. What is important is that there be some distance between the sharp flower and the others (in back of and in front of the subject). Even though I use an unaltered 300mm f/4 lens for this shot, I'll mostly add attachments, such as extension tubes, close up diopter, and teleconverter, depending on what I'm looking to do. NOTE: When shooting wide open, I use autofocus to find an edge. This ensures even minimal sharpness.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Light on White

I've always been reluctant to use flash on flowers, especially white flowers. But, with the advent of Nikon's R1C1 macro studio "Creative Lighting System (CLS), I was amazed at how well it worked here. With the lower power flashes and the ability to dial back the power, hand held macro flash photography gives the photographer the ability to work in areas where "no tripod has gone before..."
Two flashes used, the secondary dialed back one stop less than the primary flash. Shot at a great outdoor arboretum on Whidbey Island, WA, and was used on a Nikon advertising campaign for the R1C1.

White Rose

Originally uploaded by ttsweet
Here's an image made with only window light. No software, no adjustments, filters, nor reflector disk. Just soft, warm natural light with good subject placement to get modeling light with no dark areas.
This image appeared on the 2007 Nikon calendar.

Monday, March 1, 2010

African Blue Poppy & Topaz Adjust 4

This very cool effect is made using the new Topaz Adjust 4!
The African Blue Poppy was optimized using the
Painting:Venice filter preset, then adjusting further
using the manual settings.
There are many other filter options!

If you want to check out or purchase Topaz Adjust 4, go here:

Special deal March 1- March 15 ONLY!!

Coupon Code - NEWADJUST

$10 discount on Adjust 4
20% discount on Adjust-Bundle upgrade

Pretty cool stuff!!

Watch your backs...

I was having a difficult time finding a shot on this particular day. I don't know. Things just weren't clicking.
Then out of nowhere, this shows up. The flowers had a natural vertical configuration and the stems were not decayed. The green acted as a natural color balancing agent to the pink tulips. All I had to do was to get the bright concrete floor out of the background. It didn't do much maneuvering to get some faded red and dark green in the background. Then slightly twisting the camera created the diagonal movement from bottom right to top left.

Textured Glass

This image was shot in my very modest home macro/flower studio, which consists of a table, small background, and 2 RPS studio lights. This image has been displayed by Nikon at PhotoExpo and PhotoWest a few times. The lens is stopped all the way down, but the background flowers are very soft, however, there is detail apparent. Seems ironic. Very simple. There's a piece of subtle textured glass between the first flower and the rest of them, which would render the soft background regardless of aperture. Using f/22 insured that the foreground flower would be razor sharp, especially in the stamen.

Soft focus flowers

Originally uploaded by ttsweet
This was shot hand held using the new Lensbaby Soft Focus optic w/ the default aperture ring. What I find remarkable here is how the soft focus optic renders the flower centers very sharp, but also has the soft focus glow. Not as apparent here is marbled background, which is also indicative of using this optic.

Iceland poppy and Texture Blend

iceland poppy
Originally uploaded by ttsweet
A textured red wall and a lensbaby was used to create this composition. The textured wall fills in the background color and the opacity was adjusted to bring out the texture in the bottom flower petal.

This Texture Blending action is available from

Then go to the Artistic heading. It's the only action under the heading.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Helicon tulip

Helicon tulip
Originally uploaded by ttsweet
After adding a few more spreads to my book (no title, yet), there wasn't enough time to get out to catch a sunset, so after buying some fresh tulips at the market, had a little time to make this image using Helicon focus (10 images), Nik's Viveza, and Nik Color efex Pro Vignette blur filter.