Thursday 24 October 2019

Textured Flowers

From the moment I picked up my first camera 14 years ago my favourite photography subject has always been flowers. I've been a very keen gardener for longer than I've been a photographer so I was naturally drawn to flower photography with a camera in my hand. Flowers are wonderful subjects to photograph. They're very patient and never complain if you don't get the shot right first time. "Don't worry. Have another go. I'm not going anywhere. Take your time"

There's nothing more relaxing than spending the day in beautiful surroundings on a hopefully still and slightly overcast day with a macro lens, tripod and a diffuser picking out flowers that are in perfect condition to photograph. I'll often photograph freehand but I prefer to use a tripod to get the composition and the focus spot on and then wait for an insect to land before shooting. In most gardens that doesn't take very long.

When I started in photography I had the ambition to be a flower and garden photographer. I built up a small portfolio of perfectly focused and sharp portraits of flowers and would submit them to stock libraries only to have them turned down. They were perfectly good photos but I eventually realised that they were simply record shots of flowers without any artistic merit or mood. Regardless of the disappointment I've carried on photographing flowers for the simple enjoyment of using a camera on a fine day in lovely surroundings.

In November 2018 I was searching Youtube for videos on flower photography and I came across the photography of Kathleen Clemons from the US. Her photographic style was something that I'd never seen before and it simply blew me away.

Echinops and Hoverfly - George Evans
Kathleen takes photographs of flowers in freehand often using Lensbaby lenses for creative effect and mixes her own painterly textures with them in post processing to create a soft painterly effect. Sharpness is usually focused on a few stamens or the leading edge of a flower to draw the eye to a small area of detail with the remaining image falling away into soft focus. Her work is simply beautiful.

Helenium - George Evans
I suddenly found a use for my library of old record shots of flowers that I'd collected over 14 years so I bought Kathleen's e-book detailing her technique with her painterly textures and started to create my own artwork. I've always admired artists with the talent to draw and paint, something which I've tried to do myself and have failed at miserably. I can now create digitally from photographs.

Hemerocallis - George Evans
I've spent nine months creating my own painterly flowers as artwork and enjoyed every minute. A photographer should never attempt to copy another photographers work but every photographer uses different gear, has a different eye for composition when shooting and their own post processing software and work flow. I hope that my images inspired and encouraged by Kathleen Clemons are sufficiently different to stand on their own.

Japanese Anenome - George Evans
An issue that I never considered in my sudden enthusiasm for textured flowers was that the whole of an image must be 100% the work of the photographer to enter club, national or international competitions. For a club photographer with Hoylake Photographic Society this was a bit of a blow so none of my work created during 2019 and shown in this blog post can be entered in competition but I'm in the process of creating my own painterly textures to use in future projects.

Helianthus and Cabbage White Butterfly - George Evans
My photography inspired by creative photographers visiting Hoylake Photographic Society over the years has been moving towards a more pictorial style. I've long been creating pictorial style images from landscapes, architecture and digital infrared which could be hung on a wall and enjoyed and this "Textured Flower" series of photographs fits that bill perfectly.

Tuesday 8 October 2019


In March 2018 I was invited to accompany a small group of Hoylake Photographic Society members on a week long trip to the Western Peninsula of Iceland. Our group of eight stayed at the Arnarstapi Center on a Bed and Breakfast basis with the intention of spending the week photographing this small area.

Western Peninsula

The backbone of the Peninsula is the imposing Snaefellsnes Glacier which dominated every landscape and the Snaefellsnes National Park with its endless lava field. An unforgiving yet beautiful landscape.

Snaefellsnes Glacier and Lava Field

Snaefellsnes Glacier

When planning for the trip I was unsure which camera to take with me. I took the full frame Sony A7mk2 camera with a Sony A6300 as a backup. Taking a backup camera was a good decision as the full frame camera failed to operate in the extremely cold conditions. Most of the colour shots on the trip were taken with the cheaper A6300 which worked flawlessly and produced the two images above.

The most difficult decision to make was whether to take my Sony A6000 720nm infrared camera. Infrared is normally associated with dreamy white landscape's filled with foliage but there isn't a tree to be seen on Iceland. What persuaded me to shoot in infrared was an article showcasing the Iceland infrared photographs of Andy Lee. I'm glad I took the camera as infrared enhanced the other worldly feel of this beautiful landscape (below) 

Snaefellsnes Glacier - 720nm Infrared
Black Church of Budir - 720nm Infrared
Hotel Budir - 720nm Infrared
The Black Church - 720nm Infrared
Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) - 720nm Infrared

I did as much photographing in infrared as the light would allow, switching cameras from colour to infrared to capture the same scenes and below is Mt. Kirkjufell in standard colour using the Sony A6300. It's a close run thing which version came out the best. 

We chose the Western Peninsula because it was off the main tourist route concentrated on the South coast but it was still impossible to capture the classic shot of Mt Kirkjufell with the Kirkjufellfoss waterfall in the foreground due to the large number of photographers with their tripods surrounding the falls so I had to be content with a tightly cropped image of the falls on their own.

Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) in standard colour

The week was far more tiring than I'd imagined. The group would eat a hearty breakfast. We'd then drive to a location and spend the daylight hours photographing in the biting cold before eating again at around 7pm. We would then continue shooting at night attempting to capture the Aurora before returning to Arnarstapi for midnight. Spending all day wrapped in three layers of clothing and attempting to operate a camera wearing gloves was extremely hard work and trying to concentrate in the cold wasn't easy.

Of course staying on the Western Peninsula meant plenty of opportunity for coastal shots. Being a volcanic island the dramatic looking volcanic beaches were covered in either black sand or black pebbles sometimes dusted in white snow.

Dritvic Black Pebble Beach
Dritvic Beach
Hellnar Fishing Village near Arnarstapi

During the week we were blessed with fine sunny weather except for one day of snow which covered the mountains before slowly melting away towards the end of our stay. The weather produced some glorious sunrises with the best shots to be had only 400 meters from our hotel at Arnarstapi. It was a case of rise at 6am, get the shot in the bag then a short walk to the warm restaurant for breakfast.

The Break of Day, Arnarstapi
Statue at Arnarstapi

It was a trip of a lifetime. A one off for me. Tiring, hard work, cold and the food and drink was expensive but the photographic opportunities of Iceland made it well worth the effort. My only disappointment was seeing the Aurora during four nights of our trip and not getting a shot worthy of processing. Night photography is a skill I've yet to learn.