Posted tagged ‘black and white’

The Best Camera

May 18, 2013

There’s an oft-repeated saying among photographers that the best camera is the one you have with you. In March, I went on a fabulous photo workshop in Charleston with two first-class photographers and teachers, Alan Sislen and Colleen Henderson.  I took along my new Nikon D600 and soon I’ll share some of the photos I took with it. But today’s post is about my other “best camera,” which now accompanies me everywhere, the one in my iPhone 5. Colleen taught us some pointers on great apps to use, and now I find myself reaching for the iPhone more often than ever. Here’s a good example of what you can do with it.

iPhone photos, Clematis 'Dawn,' Camera+, Over app

This trio of Clematis ‘Dawn’ was taken and “framed” with Camera+ and captioned in the Over app.

And another recent favorite:

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+, HandyPhoto, Over, Echevaria

Echevaria ‘Morning Light’ photographed in Camera+, edited with Handy Photo, and captioned in Over.

The phone takes really sharp closeups (no wonder, with an f-stop of 2.4). My favorite app for capture is Camera+, which gives me at least a 7 MB image to work with. That’s what I used on the first photo, adding the “border” with the same app and then importing the image to “Over” to add the text overlay. In the second photo, I actually did some cloning to remove spots on the Echevaria with another app called HandyPhoto. (This is an amazingly versatile app, although it is very large and I recommend using it on the iPad rather than the iPhone unless you have incredibly nimble fingers!)

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

Tree peonies at dusk around Dupont Circle

Even in low light, Camera+ does a great job capturing a wide range of tonal values. This was taken around 7 pm a week or so ago in downtown Washington DC. (Copyright added in Over; no copyright symbol on our keyboards yet!) And it works well with azaleas, provided you don’t ask it to capture loud pink hues up close.

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

A ‘Madame Butterfly’ azalea at LPI’s shop in Poolesville.

iPhone 5, Camera+, Over, azaleas

Part of my back yard, taken just around dinner a couple of weeks ago, when both the flowering dogwood and azaleas were (finally) in bloom

Like to experiment with black and white? My other often-used app is Hipstamatic, when I want to capture patterns and shapes, or color isn’t the most important aspect of the image.

iPhone 5 photos, Hipstamtatic app, black and white garden photos

A group of variegated Solomon’s Seal in my back yard.

With Hipstamatic, although the app itself isn’t all that expensive, you can spend a bunch of money adding “packs” to shoot with (the one above uses the “James W + BlackKeys B+W” pack).

Another advantage of working with these iPhone images, especially for gardeners, is that they take up so much less space on your hard drive than images captured with a DSLR. Particularly now that I have a D600, which takes 24MB images, my computer is slowing down and filling up really fast. To work on iPhone images, I usually download them to Dropbox, open them on my iPad if I want to add a caption or work with HandyPhoto, and then I can delete them or save them to my computer if I like them. Otherwise, they may end up on my Facebook page (or my company’s FB  page) and there it stops.

I’ll close with another favorite closeup, of a tree peony. I took this one in a client’s garden last month. The iPhone was the only camera I had with me (although I usually have my Canon G11 around, for some reason it wasn’t with me that day). So glad I had it.

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

Tree peony, courtesy of the “best camera” I had with me.

Seeing the Garden in Black and White

July 23, 2011

Recently a client asked me to photograph his wife’s garden for the purpose of surprising her with a few prints of it. Since this is the direction in which  I would like to head my efforts as I contemplate retiring from landscape design work, I was only too happy to oblige.

The garden (designed by his wife) is lovely, a shady paradise less than a block away from me. But after I processed about a dozen images for possible prints, he asked if I could convert some of them into black and white or sepia. I’d never done this before, and was skeptical. But what I found as I experimented with the images from their garden and others I’ve shot in the last couple of years opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about photographing gardens.

Here are two photos from a recent garden shoot (different garden), first the color and then the black and white version.

epimediums, ferns, plant combinations

Epimediums and ferns in an early spring garden image.

black and white garden images

Rendered in black and white, the image is more about shapes and textures.

Here’s another pair, from the same garden, with more contrast in the tonal range this time.

Euphorbia, plant combinations

Euphorbia and an unidentified broadleaved perennial (cimicifuga?) offer contrast in color, shape and texture.

black and white garden photographs, euphorbia

Greater dark and light variation in this image makes it more dramatic as a black and white photo than the previous example, I think. But somehow I like the ferns and epimedium shot more.

The last set from this garden is probably my favorite.

Asarum, Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

The client had asked for some photos of the variegated ginger, a slow-growing but spectacular groundcover for shade.

Asarum, black and white garden images

The same image converted to black and white.

This project sent me searching back through older images for some I could experiment on. Here’s a shot from last summer’s trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, not featured in my post on “The Luminous Lotus.”

Lotus flower, summer

A partially-opened lotus flower shot at Kenilworth Gardens in Washington DC last summer.

Ever so much more appealing, I think, in the black and white version – which surprised me.

Lotus, black and white garden photography

The same image in black and white.

In the second image, the veins on the lotus petals stand out more and the whole flower seems to float against a darker background – and the water drops on the leaf behind the flower really shine.

I’ll close with a hybrid – an image originally taken in color (as all of these were), converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, and then the underlying color layer ‘revealed’ through the use of a layer mask.

Magnolia Plantation

A red azalea against a wooden fence and live oak covered with Spanish moss at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston SC

A black and white version of the same image. Without the azalea in color, this would look dull. Trust me.

I vacillate between liking this final image and thinking it looks too gimmicky. But I thought I would include it because it shows something a little different from straight color and straight black and white.

Silver Efex Pro (now available in an upgraded version, which I don’t own) is a versatile program that can be used as a stand-alone or integrated into Lightroom and Photoshop. It offers more variants than you can imagine in terms of different “looks” for black and white images, including sepia, infrared, and a variety of custom effects you can create yourself. For what I do, I don’t envision using it more than occasionally, but I found it easy to use and more flexible than the black and white options available in Lightroom.


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