Photographing flowers has long been a favorite photographic genre of mine. Wherever my wife and I have traveled I have looked for botanical gardens. I have found some dandies. Some examples, Bouchart Gardens in Vancouver, B.C., the Denver Botanical Garden, Oregon Gardens near Portland, the Quebec Botanical Garden, & the Botanical Garden of Annapolis Royale in Nova Scotia to name just a few. Close to home, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and right here at home, the UCSC Arboretum. As you might imagine these have allowed me to build quite a portfolio of floral images. And that doesn't even account for tons of wildflower photography I have done in many locations.
That being said, I find flower photography to be the most difficult type of photography I do. Why? Because it is extremely physical and my old body doesn't like it. To photograph flowers one has to get down on their level. That often means up, down, up down; it sometimes means standing on one's head to see the subject in the view finder. After about an hour of that I am totally exhausted. Moreover, it is also very painstaking to get the subject portion of the flower in proper focus as one is often using macro lenses which means close ups and a very narrow depths of field. A micro-millimeter off and the image is ruined. I have had more failures over the years than successes.
Flower photography is also gear intensive. The last time I went out I had a bag full of lenses, close up filters, stabilizing gear (tripod, platypod, clamps, etc.), extension tubes, focusing rail, etc. But one can generally do without much of that nonsense. I generally use only two or three lenses. One, of course, is a 100mm Macro lens; the others are special purpose Lensbaby lenses, specifically the Velvet series of lenses which I find myself using more and more...even for landscapes. These are "fine art" lenses that incorporate blur (where one wants it), and in the case of the Velvet lenses a beautiful glow effect at wider f-stops. Wow! What a difference these lenses make.
But, it is in post production where the magic happens. Of course one must have a good image in camera to start with, but post production is essential to me to create the effect I want. After a shoot I can hardly wait to get back to my computer to see what I can create. I generally apply textures to achieve color effects, surface texture, lighting effects, etc. I use photoshop to clean up the image, take out unwanted elements, blemishes, etc. It is all part of the creative process and I find floral images to be most receptive to creativity. When I'm shooting flowers the last thing on my mind is trying to capture exactly what I'm seeing. I think of photographer Tony Sweet who in my opinion is one of the best fine art flower photographers in the business. He is also a jazz musician who approaches his flower photography with that mindset; he creates as he goes along, and that's exactly what I try to do in post production. It's what makes flower photography so interesting and why I can put up with a few aches and pains to create something truly unique.