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Hydrangeas: Endless Summer and Limelight in Fall

Posted Sep 17 2009 11:04pm

Lately I have been working to improve my garden photography. I learned A LOT about photography and photoshop from Pioneer Woman (Thanks for the tip, Randi. If you like it, it must be good). Check out what she does to a thistle flower photo here. Inspired by Pioneer Woman, I went outside and took pictures of my hydrangeas with my camera on the manual setting. Wow, I felt brave. Then I worked the photos over in photoshop elements. Above is a shot of 'Limelight' hydrangea with ruddy fall peony foliage in the background.

Really good photographers take photos that don't need a lot of help in photoshop, but I'm just a newbie and will take all the help I can get. I bought photoshop elements at Costco for $50, thanks to a $30 off coupon. Sadly, I'm learning that $50 is a tiny, tiny amount in the world of photographic equipment (how does anyone afford those really great lenses?). I think it was a good investment. Pioneer Woman showed me an easy way to bump up the color and contrast. I tried it on the above picture of 'Blushing Bride' hydrangea, currently showcasing her fall colors.

I played with this photo of hydrangea and Japanese iris foliage, too. Pretty much all of my photos look better with different cropping and more color than they had originally. When I look at photos in garden magazines, I suspect that their colors have been enhanced as well. Catalog photos would be more helpful if they would lay off the color saturation a bit and give me a realistic photo of how the plant will appear in my garden, but I enjoy the super-saturated eye candy when it's dreary in January.

Here is a picture of 'Endless Summer' hydrangea blooms. My soil isn't acidic enough to turn the flowers blue unless I add a lot of acidic fertilizer, and I was lazy this year. But this pink is fun. In the warm light of evening, the color actually looks like this on the plant. My photo was kind of bland, though, so it was tweaked in photoshop.

Do you notice how this shot has a blurry background? I thought my lens just wasn't capable of that, but when I put the camera in manual, turned the f-stop down to 5.0 (its lowest setting), and turned the lens all the way to telephoto, I was able to create blurriness in the background. This never happened in automatic mode. Cool.

Here is another shot of 'Limelight' hydrangea. I used the rule of thirds to place the sharpest bloom cluster in the lower left corner of the frame, and really like the way it turned out. Who knows if it's very good, but it's more interesting than what I used to take. And I have decades to improve. By the time I'm old and feeble in a nursing home, I should have collected enough good photos of my garden to help me remember how beautiful it was (or how beautiful I hope it becomes, from my current perspective). Photography is fascinating, and a great companion hobby to gardening. What has helped your garden photography? I'm always open to tips.
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