Get Down for Flowers

The Minnesota State Fair is on now, and that was always a sure sign of the end of summer when I lived there. Kids are going back to school and days are getting shorter. Still, there are a lot of flowers ready to be photographed! Prairie flowers are looking good, plus asters (like those in Maine, above) are showing up everywhere.

An old cliche that is still very true is that if you want to get good photographs of flowers, you need to get your knees dirty. But simply getting the knees dirty won’t always get you the best shots. The most common way flowers are photographed is from a position about 45 degrees above the blossom. There is nothing wrong with that; you can get good images of flowers that way. However, that angle is very limiting and makes your photo look like everyone else’s.

One way around that is to get down to the level of the subject. You might consider this eye-level to a flower, for example. Now this is not always easy to do. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time sprawled on the ground trying to get this sort of shot. That can be uncomfortable; the ground is rarely soft and gentle on your body. Plus there is the challenge of getting up and down. The photo below was shot recently in the Los Padres National Forest and is eye-level to California buckwheat flowers.

This is why I really like tilting, live-view LCDs (and Canon finally joined most other DSLR manufacturers by announcing the 60D with a swivel LCD). They allow you to place your camera where it works best for the shot, then you tilt the LCD and see what the camera is seeing from a more comfortable angle. They are far better than any right-angle viewfinder attachment I have seen (I really dislike them) — this live-view LCD is like using an old medium format camera where you looked down into the viewfinder to see the scene on its focusing screen. I started using such a camera with a very early Sony point-and-shoot. Then when the Canon PowerShot G-series of cameras came out, I bought them and loved the capabilities of the live view, tilting LCD. The asters at the top of this blog entry were shot eight years ago in Acadia National Park with a G-2. I was so disappointed when Canon quit making that tilting LCD for a time with these cameras, but it is back on the G-11, which is a great little camera (I bought one when it first came out).

I like Live View so much that I actually went to an Olympus DSLR system (even though I had a Canon system) when they came out with the first interchangeable lens, true DSLR camera with a live-view, tilting LCD (the E-330). I have since gone to an E-3 with gives a swivel LCD for even more flexibility. Today I shoot with both Olympus and Canon (I prefer Canon’s video capabilities and shot a 7D for that) — and I am seriously considering getting a 60D when it is available. Nearly all other manufacturers are starting to offer tilting live-view LCDs for DSLRs. If you do not have a tilting or swivel LCD, you might consider what I do for shooting low-angle video and still images with my 7D.  I use a Genus GVISTA LCD finder distributed by Manfrotto Distributing (Bogen Photo) that fits over the LCD. This low-cost unit allows you to see your LCD from an angle above or below the camera.

Now, if you are curious why Pink (the singer, not the color) can help us think about better nature photography, check out my blog,