Monday, June 3, 2013

Stages of blossoming in a magnolia tree, and flower photography aesthetics

Hoping to find subjects signifying the shift toward summer, I did some flower photos today. I'm saving my favorite shot for last, but first, please indulge me as I describe a fifteen minute project that preceded it. On one very large magnolia tree, I was interested to see about half a dozen distinct stages of blossom development - all at the same time. They are posted in the order that I found them, rather than order of development. In fact, these first five shots probably show the reverse of a normal progression. I hope you'll pardon some fanciful nomenclature.

First, we have the lint brush magnolia:

Next, a magnolia pet fur brush:

Here is a party-ready fake nose magnolia:

A soft-serve ice cream cone magnolia:

A candelabra bulb magnolia:

I had to find a different tree to catch a mature, open flower today, although within a very few days some of the children pictured above should be into this stage. I'm hoping to capture some of them in more pristine condition than this one:

On from the magnolias to day lilies. Photographing flowers and hoping for a little more than a record or identification shot calls for some use of imagination. I like to try to spot inherently beautiful specimens, but more important factors, for me, are finding attractive light, a complementary background, and just the right perspective and framing. Often it is difficult to make all of these things happen within one image. These are just quick attempts, but like most forms of practice, photo sketches can help to sharpen one's skills. Occasionally an image of this sort will even compete with carefully completed photographs, though that should not be an expectation for a typical outcome.

I like the way these different colored hydrangeas are arranged as if they hybridized on the spot.

This last is my favorite composition of the day. Although it's not a new approach by any means (I've played with this type of color contrast and foreground-background separation often enough before), it worked for me in a way that seems effective without being forced. I hope other viewers will have a similar reaction, but of course I want to know what you think.

All of the photos today were shot with a Canon 70-200 mm f/4L IS lens. For nine of the ten I zoomed to 200 mm. The penultimate shot (sharply focused hydrangea flowers and leaves) was done at 85 mm.



  1. What a wonderful selection of photos,with commentary that adds interest! I am eager to see the magnolia buds when they bloom.
    Are you in the range of the 17-year cicadas? I think you may be, and should have a field day when they appear, (pun intended!)

    1. Thank you! I've photographed some of the mature magnolias now, here:
      I haven't encountered any cicadas yet, but will be on the watch!


You may comment anonymously if you wish. Comments are moderated. Spam will be blocked or removed.