Posted tagged ‘tulips’

Warming up Some Tulips

January 25, 2013

In case you don’t live in the DC area, it’s winter here now. The days are shorter, the light goes faster, and there are only so many trips I can make to the National Arboretum or client gardens in search of new images. Today we even had some light snow, but too late in the afternoon to make venturing out with my camera feasible. (Maybe tomorrow.)

So recently I’ve been experimenting with some techniques in Photoshop to add a little warmth and light to some older photos in my way-too-large image library. (Nothing like a 300 MB PSD file to clog up your operating system’s speed, right?) Here’s a 2009 photo  of three tulips, taken in my dining room, where I didn’t have to worry about wind but where the light conditions  and background were less than optimal.

Textures in Photoshop

Three pink tulips with a blah background (i.e., my dining room walls).

And here’s the “after” shot:

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

‘Tulips Sea and Skies’ is now one of the images I use for custom note cards. (Without the annoying copyright line, of course)

How did I do it? With the help of two “texture” files from Flypaper Textures, called ‘Sakura Skies’ and ‘Tempest Seas.’

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

The two textures I used from Flypaper Texture’s “Spring Painterly” pack to get to the finished image.

In Photoshop CS5 (I just upgraded to CS6 but this technique should work with almost any version of the program, or in Photoshop Elements as well), I used ‘Skies’ as the first layer over the background image, set the blending mode to ‘Darken’ and reduced the opacity of that layer to 80%. (I then used a layer mask to make the edges of the tulips a little clearer.)

Then I added the ‘Tempest Seas’ texture file as another layer, changed the blend mode to Overlay, and set the opacity to 70%. With a final Curves layer adjustment to darken some of the lighter areas and lighten the tulips, I was finished. (For a good online tutorial on blending, click here.)

These texture packs I bought aren’t cheap, although with a little looking around you may find some discount codes to lower the purchase price. But they are very high quality, large images (400 px square at 300 dpi) that have enough variety in each one that you can move them around until you get the effect you want.

If you look online, you may also find some free textures to use, including on Flickr – but be careful to check what rights have been reserved or requests made of potential downloading before proceeding. You can also make your own by taking photos of skies, water, grasses, crumpled paper, or anything else that you think might work. This is all about experimenting, and it’s very much a matter of personal taste.

I’ll close with another image of mine, from the Arboretum last fall, where I thought the use of some textures enhanced the overall effect (the textures are Heather and Necropolis, again from Flypaper Textures).

Flypaper Textures, textures in Photoshop

An image of the Capitol Columns with wildflower plantings, enhanced with texture overlays.

Red, White & Blooming at the White House

April 23, 2011

In mid-April, some friends with an extra ticket to the White House Spring Garden Tour asked if I’d like to join them. I was thrilled – I’ve never been on the White House grounds before, Congress had just come to its senses (well, at least partially) and averted a government shut-down, and I was longing for a jolt of spring. I had no idea how much we’d get to see but I chose my Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens for the D300 and we headed downtown.

White House Spring Garden tour

The ticket and our guide to the gardens!

The White House Grounds (according to our brochure) are “the oldest continually maintained landscape in the United States” and are open to the public twice a year, for Spring and Fall Garden Tours. Over the years, the grounds have been “enhanced” by a series of landscape architects “to seem idealistically natural” (again the brochure).  I can’t say that everything I saw quite fit with that concept (for example, on a large hill in the center of the South Lawn I saw a group of massive Camellia japonicas in bloom – beautiful, but hardly “natural” looking).  Here and there, usually on the periphery of the more formal areas, however, were stands of trees in bloom or leafing out that looked more like a woodland grove if you averted your eyes from the buildings behind them.

White House Gardens

Blooming redbuds and magnolias near the Northern Red Oak planted by President Eisenhower greet visitors as they enter the South Lawn area from East Executive Park.

The tour  sent us through paths along the South Lawn, and up towards the South Portico, where on the porch a military band was serenading the crowds. I was more entranced by the neatly clipped wisteria growing up the side of the Portico and along its beautiful ornate iron railings.

White House, South Portico

Wisteria growing up the side of the South Portico porch. See the bandleader on the left side of the porch? And check out the patriotic color scheme of the red tulips and blue hyacinths against the white building.

White House Gardens, wisteria

Couldn't take my eyes off this wisteria. Look closely - it's about to bloom! If only this tour had been a week later - with lots of sun in the meantime.

Moving away from the South Portico, we caught glimpses of the Rose Garden and the Oval Office as we headed down for a glimpse of the Kitchen Garden and the views around the central fountain that faces E Street N.W.  The Kitchen Garden was neatly planted (and mulched) with lots of lettuces and herbs – cool weather crops very appropriate for the kind of temperatures we’ve been having.

White House Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden, with a cherry tree (?) in bloom in the background.

White House Gardens, White House grounds

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are visible from the hill on the South Lawn. Pity about the bald sky, but you can't have everything.

The magnolias, most of which were still at peak bloom, were probably my favorite trees (along with a number of huge, magnificent dissected Japanese maples just leafing out). Here’s a favorite shot of one next to some more formal plantings near the fountain.

White House Gardens

A saucer magnolia in bloom softens the clipped yew hedge and bedding bulbs surrounding it on the South Lawn.

Tulips for A Shutterbug

March 13, 2010

As a landscape designer, I tend to plant daffodils for clients who have deer problems, or who prefer bulbs that can be depended upon to return for many years, if the site is right (mostly in terms of adequate sun and not too much ground moisture).

But as a photographer, my heart belongs primarily to tulips. Here is one of my first images of a tulip taken just for the pure joy of the color. I was trying out my new macro lens at the Cylburn Arboretum, near Baltimore. I have to say the composition isn’t great – your eye doesn’t really know where to rest. But the color probably made me a little crazy.

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips at the Cylburn Arboretum near Baltimore, MD.

Brookside Gardens is a great place to photograph daffodils in the spring (my next header, going up in April, is a “slice” of tulips from one of their beds a couple of years ago).  In this shot, I went for the repeating line of the bulb heads. I think this is probably ‘Princes Irene,’ one of the most fabulous of the orange tulips. Wish I’d gotten a little more of the stem in the shot.

Tulip Princes Irene, Brookside Gardens

Orange tulips at Brookside Gardens

Another great place to photograph different varieties of tulips is the Tulip Library in downtown DC,  near the Tidal Basin in view of the Jefferson Memorial. You have to catch it just right, but if you do there are countless varieties to enjoy, all of them labeled.  Here’s ‘Banja Luka’ from an early-morning visit several years ago. This time, I went for a cropped profile shot, close up to capture the dew still on the petals.

Tulip Banja Luka, Tulip Library

Tulip 'Banja Luka' at the National Tulip Library can't be checked out except visually.

Finally, here are two more recent photos, both taken at my house with the tulips in vases, so I was able to control lighting and was able to get shots without contorting my body or groveling in the dirt. Special thanks to Brent and Becky Heath, whose bulb company sent me (as a member of the Garden Writers Association) some extra bulbs to trial. So here is ‘Perestroyka’, followed by a closeup of an unknown pink tulip.

Tulip Perestroyka, Brent and Becky's Bulbs

A clutch of Tulip Perestroyka, their stems bending over the side of a vase.

macro photography, tulips

This shape on the side of the tulip is what caught my eye as a photographer.

One final note: if you love tulips and want some that do come back (unlike the Darwin hybrids and the other stunners shown above), try some species tulips, like the Kaufmanniana or Greigii cultivars. I have a small group of  ‘Stresa’ tulips (yellow and red) that have been blooming reliably for me for over six years in a sunny, well-drained site. More on these another time!

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