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Flower Photography As Art: Pleasing Blurs

I began my entry into serious wildflower photography about 10 years ago. Then, my focus was on capturing all of the identifiable parts of the flower so that I could properly identify and classify the plant.

Field of Sunflowers pan blur: ISO 100, f5.0, 1/160, 165mm

Thistle pan blur; ISO 800, 2.0, f22, 57mm

Sunflower macro blur: ISO 400, 1/60, f3.2, 60mm

Quickly, I learned I needed to also photograph leaves, seeds, stems, the environment and so on if I wanted to identify some of the trickier species; leading me on quests to learn more about wildflowers and plants than I ever could have anticipated. Much to my dismay, there is no one definitive resource which includes all wildflowers. Luckily I live near one of the largest universities in Texas with experts who are usually ready to lend assistance when I can provide them with proper photos.

Today, I still place high importance on the ability to identify any flower that is the subject of one of my photographs. However, I have relaxed and begun to explore the application of different techniques to flower photography. This has produced some results which serve to satisfy my need for creativity.

Pink pelargonium pan blur: ISO 250, 1/6, f32, 70mm

Fields of flowers provide me with options. First, I can work on a tripod using a very small aperture to create an image that is sharp throughout (remember to focus 1/3 of the way into the frame). These images may contain buildings or fences and sky as well as flowers.

Second, I can use a tripod or handhold the camera and pan to create pleasing blurs.  I have found that shutter priority mode with shutter speeds in the 1/15 to 1/2 second range work well but other times, such as in the sunflower image, 1/160 second exposure produced a pleasing blur. Note that not all blurs are pleasing. Design elements are still at play in blurs. Color, form, and balance are especially important. Look for color combinations or patterns. Pay attention to background, envisioning how the blur will render elements found there. Flower photography can be great fun and creative! I’d like to hear from you about your panning experiences.