Beautiful flowers are popular subjects for close-up macro lens photography. Read on and find out more about a technique to create an abstract photo of a rose by using foreground bokeh. (Reported by: Shinichi Eguchi)
EOS-1D X/ EF180mm f/3.5L Macro USM/ FL: 180mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/3.5, 1/250 sec., EV+0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
I sought to create a surreal look using a soft bokeh effect at maximum aperture. Hence, I placed visual weight on the flower’s swirling lines, and focused on the tips of the petals so that only those edges would be depicted sharply.
Tip 1: Select a 180mm macro lens to obtain a large and creamy bokeh effect
A 180mm telephoto macro lens produces a larger and softer bokeh effect than standard or mid-telephoto lenses. It can also produce a soft bokeh behind and around the main subject even when you take a slightly pulled back shot, which allows for a soft depiction of the main subject.
In the photo of the rose above, I composed foreground bokeh in front of the main subject—the rose in bloom—and focused on the edges of its petals. I wanted to use the extremely shallow depth of field at maximum aperture together with the 180mm macro lens’ soft depiction characteristics. To get a large close-up shot of the flower that filled up the entire image, I went right up to the closest focusing distance and took the shot at life size.
Curious about macro lens and what they can do? Hop on to:
Uncover a Whole New World with Macro Lenses
EOS-1D X/ EF180mm f/3.5L Macro USM/ FL: 180mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/3.5, 1/2000 sec.)/ ISO 400/ WB: Manual
Make another flower the foreground bokeh
You can create foreground bokeh using the petals of the flower that is your main subject, or apply the effect to another flower. Here, I selected two California Poppies in bloom that were lined up one in front of the other for a motif, and used the flower in front for the foreground bokeh.
Tip 2: Shoot from diagonally above to bring out the details of the flower
Find an angle that you think reveals the best side of your main subject, the rose in this case, and take a shot at the closest focusing distance with the lens you are using (48cm for this lens). For the photo above, I surveyed the scene from various angles while maintaining the image I had in mind, and found a perfect position where the front flower became the foreground bokeh. Next, I adjusted the image composition while taking into account how the flower that I would use in the foreground bokeh was lined up with the flower that was my main subject, as well as the degree of the bokeh effect. I also made sure that my lens was positioned slightly diagonally from above, at the same level as the rose.
Tip 3: Use positive exposure compensation to depict the flower brightly
Using positive exposure compensation for flowers with bright colour tones lets you obtain clean colours that are depicted naturally and clearly. This is particularly important in photos such as this, where you are using a macro lens to fill the entire image with the petals of the flower. Because the key points to photographing roses include the ambience of the overall image and the vividness of colour deep inside the flower, I used an exposure compensation of only EV+0.3 so that the image would not end up excessively bright.
This article has some more ideas on how you can turn close-up shots of nature into abstract photography:
Abstract Photography: Turning to Nature for Props
For more tips on photographing flowers, go to:
Flower Photography – Composition and Camera Features
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Born in Fushimi, Kyoto City, in 1953. Eguchi is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society, and is active in a wide range of genres, from macro photography of small subjects in nature, through to landscape photography. He contributes to photography magazines, runs photography seminars in various locations, judges photo competitions, and is enthusiastic about providing guidance to amateur photographers. He holds solo exhibitions regularly, and has produced numerous photo collections and books.
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