Most of the time in garden photography we juggle with apertures and shutter speeds to ensure that our photographs are crisp and sharp – free from any sign of subject blur or camera shake.
Out comes the tripod when we’re shooting macro, using telephoto lenses or photographing grand vistas at small apertures for maximum depth of field.
Up goes the shutter speed when we’re photographing flower portraits in a gentle breeze, or hand-holding macro and telephoto lenses.
Keeping the camera steady and the subject sharp is generally accepted as ‘normal’.
Occasionally though, especially after a photoshoot where the emphasis has been on ‘sharp and clear’, I find it extremely liberating to try something completely different and go for intentional creative blur (as opposed to accidental blur). Playtime in other words!
For this impressionistic image of newly emerging iris leaves at Ness Botanic Gardens on the Wirral, I slowed the shutter speed right down on my Nikon D300s (with 105mm micro-nikkor lens) and shot a series of different images, all hand held, deliberately moving the camera during each exposure. I experimented with different amounts and direction of movement at varying shutter speeds. My favourite shot, giving just the right amount of Impressionism for my taste and the dreamy effect I wanted, was taken at 1/30th second @ f9.0, iso 200. I purposefully tilted the camera downwards during the exposure.
At first I concentrated on photographing just the yellowy-green leaves, cropping tight to exclude the background, but checking my first efforts on the back of the camera revealed that the tops of the leaves resembled dancing flames. I stepped back to include more of the distant vegetation in the background, allowing more space for the tops of the ‘flames’. This also helped to separate the vibrant, fresh greens of the young iris leaves from the darker, more established greenery behind.
The result of my creative experimentation with slow shutter speeds won’t be to everyone’s taste and I’m not always keen on the results myself, but on this occasion it just seemed to work – I can imagine this photograph as a large piece of abstract wall art. What do you think?