Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

They’re back, part 4

with 16 comments

Click for better viewing.

To show you how far the little colony of sunflower plants, Helianthus annuus, had advanced by April 19, here’s a photograph of one flower head that had already gone to seed and was beginning to dry out.

As point 8 in About My Techniques mentions, this is one of those photographs for which I used flash even in bright daylight. I chose to do that because the seed head was so dark compared to the clear sky behind it that I needed extra light to prevent the seeds from appearing too dark and devoid of detail. I used a small aperture of f/18 to keep many of the seeds in focus; with that small of an aperture, and with the flash of course having no effect beyond a few feet, the sky came out darker than my eyes actually saw it (and than you saw it in yesterday’s second post). Instead of using flash, I could have set my camera to expose for the dark seed head of the sunflower, but then the sky would have gotten overexposed and would have looked washed out. All things considered, the first approach seemed better. Besides, no photograph depicts a scene the way our eyes see it, so every photograph is an artifact. Happy artifact to you.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2012 at 12:54 PM

16 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. beautiful Steve!
    loved your journey to capture this.

    happy artifact to you too~


    May 4, 2012 at 2:13 PM

  2. Steve,
    As I was reading the description of your techniques, I was wondering about how you would “treat” the sky. Then, you explained it all very well.

    May I introduce you to a Canadian blogger who lovingly captures nature in her corner of Canada? En mon avis, les photos de Louise peuvent guérir “mal aux yeux”, qui est causé par une absence de la nature! http://petitbonheur-moicloulou.blogspot.ca/


    May 4, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    • Thanks for the recommendation. Quebec is such a different world from Texas: I see from the most recent entry in that blog that flowers and plants are just now emerging up there, whereas that’s been happening in Austin for more than three months. I also learned that vulcain is the French word for the kind of butterfly that English calls a red admiral. The bright red marks on the butterfly’s wings apparently reminded French speakers of the molten metal forged by the Roman god Vulcan.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2012 at 10:39 PM

  3. Thanks for sharing the technique of taking this photo, Steve.
    I often have dark flowers in shady corners with bright sky and have trouble working out how to photograph the flower. I think I’ve only ever used my flash once or twice and clearly have forgotten about its potential to light up a flower centre.


    May 4, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    • You’re welcome. You may want to experiment with the technique and see if it works well for the kinds of situations you encounter. One thing I might have added is that you can try different intensities of flash to see how much it takes to balance the light in the background. The advantage of digital cameras is that you can take varying exposures of the same view and then keep only the ones that worked out the best.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2012 at 10:44 PM

      • Thanks Steve.


        May 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM

  4. Nice artifact indeed!!!


    May 4, 2012 at 9:39 PM

  5. One thing I’ve learned to do here is search by the words in your description. “Artifact” brought me to the copper lilies, which are gorgeous – and I agree that the “artifacts” of light from the macro lens really added to that photo.

    I suppose… we could say that artifacts are facts of art.


    May 5, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    • Thanks for taking the time to do those searches. I imagine that all of us writers use certain words and phrases that become characteristic of us.

      I like your “artifacts are facts of art,” which inspires me to add “better artifacts than artifice.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2012 at 11:41 AM

  6. I like this. The contrast between the wilting petals and perky sepals reminds me of a late night reveller the next day, clothes in disarray but spirit soaring.

    • Now that’s an original description: “a late night reveller the next day, clothes in disarray but spirit soaring.” Thanks for suggesting the metaphor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2012 at 7:12 AM

  7. Van Gogh would have liked this one.


    May 6, 2012 at 8:49 PM

  8. […] the V formed by Montopolis Dr. and Grove Blvd. in east Austin. The dark spots in the background are dried seed heads of sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, and the little bits of pink are flowers of prairie agalinis, Agalinis […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: