Wildflower Photography Class

I’ve been shopping at Mike”s Quality Camera for several years, since I got my digital camera at Costco, and the original lens quit working correctly (after the warranty expired).  This was my first official photography, meaning light-writing, class.  My dad was an amateur photographer, so I osmosed a bit from him, but most the technical stuff never took.  I bought a new lens after lusting after someone else’s at the Underground Garden, and the sales lady, Pam, asked if I wanted to attend a Wildflower class.  I’m so glad I said yes.

Our teacher, Pam
Our teacher, Pam

We went to Circle J Norris Ranch in Yokohl Valley, a pristine location in the foothills east of Porterville.   Tulare County Office of Education provides use of this ranch so that students can observe and study native species, both plant and animal.  As a TCOE employee I have had the privilege of visiting it before, but on this photo shoot we got down and personal with nature.

Time flew by for my partner, Wendy, and me.
Time flew by for my partner, Wendy, and me.

After everyone arrived, Pam, another Mike’s Camera employee, and a Tamron lens salesman set up boxes of lenses that we could try with our cameras. What an opportunity, but since I had just purchased mine on Wednesday, I chose not to experiment with them.   I wanted to use the opportunity to improve my skills using what I have instead of wanting something else.

Yay, I finally got a blurry background.  Go F11.
Yay, I finally got a blurry background. Go F11, and my new understanding of manual focus.

This background should look even fuzzier because I raised the f stop clear up to F13.

Yesterday I knew all the names of these.  I think this is baby blue eyes.
Yesterday I knew all the names of these. I think this is baby blue eyes.  It seems like this one should be fuzzier than the f 11.  Again ????

I will probably bore you to death with this stuff because I’ve tried unsuccessfully to learn it since I was 10.  For you photographers its second nature.  For point and shooters, it dull as old rusty barn nails.  I fall in the barn nails category, so I’m not offended if you want to click through here at a shutter speed of 1/10,000 or more, and say “Beautiful pictures, Marsha.  I like shutter speed blah blah blah  best, and just pick the last picture!”  hahaha

This was my experimental flower.
This was my experimental flower.

I THINK I understand f stops better now.  The higher the f stop the smaller the lens opens, the less light that comes in.  This way you focus on one object and everything else becomes blurry. For shooting wildflower, this is a plus since they are so small in a field of other flowers and lots of green grass.  With the F9 setting, everything is in focus.  Notice that between this picture and the next I changed the film speed (old talk)  ISO (new talk)  I thought the shutter speed changed itself to compensate, but I may have inadvertently been changing it all along.

Now I like this color better, but the camera said it was under exposed.
Now I like this color better, but the camera said it was under exposed.

Next,  I guess I changed the shutter speed, but didn’t know it!  By the way I had my camera set at AV on the little round dial on the top of my camera – a new setting for me.

All I did on this one was change the ISO, which used to be the film speed you bought.
All I did on this one was change the ISO, which used to be the film speed you bought.

I chose this little flower because it was purple, and most of the flowers were yellow or white.  However, on my camera’s screen, it looked white.  So I kept trying things to make it more true to color.

A little brighter?
A little brighter?

Wendy tried to help me.

The leaves are sure lighter here. at 1/30
The leaves are sure lighter here. at 1/30.  There’s more light

We were moving the little knob on the top, which changed the f stops, but if you pressed another button on the top right hand side of the back of the camera – voila another little graph appeared, and it showed you light.

Shutter opened longer to let in more light.
Shutter opened a tiny bit longer to let in more light.  This one seems darker than the last one.  Maybe the sun came out.  ????  We were also adjusting buttons that said shade, etc. so we may have another change in here that isn’t recorded in Photoshop!

Then Pam came along and showed us how to read a histogram of where the pixels are located on the sensor (used to be film).  On the graph, you want a bell shaped curve to be in the middle  That shows that the exposure is just right.  Interestingly, the flower that looked white on my screen was exposed correctly, but the darker one that showed purple was underexposed.  I’m not sure which one I like best, so I’m showing you several of them.

This should be the lightest of all.
This should be the lightest of all.

Funny thing, I was also using the instructor’s very expensive tripod.  Since I really find animals more interesting  than plants, I kept getting distracted, and hampered down with the tripod.  I finally got tired of wrestling with it when there was this gorgeous squirrel posing for us in the tree.  I took my camera off, and it immediately fell into the dirt – not the tripod – my camera!!!  My camera with it’s brand new lens — kerplunk in the dirt.  I know that God loves me because the only consequence was that the back of the camera got a little scratched.  I’m still shaking inside!

Wildflower class

And remember cows, think about where you make your pies (from my story yesterday).  Don’t put them next to a pretty flower, or the cow revenger might get you.

Cow Revenger was here!
Cow Revenger was here!

So with that, I’ll leave my exciting post about photography nitty gritty, and just leave you with some of my favorites from the day.  Have a great week.  Do something fun.  :)

61 thoughts on “Wildflower Photography Class”

  1. Marsha, if you want the flower sharp and the background blurry you want a wide aperture and a low F stop number. That’s why F11 gave you more blur than F 13. Wide apertures also give you more light and less motion blur as you get a faster shutter speed. But ultimately it doesn’t matter if you like the result. There are some tremendous pictures here. I’m glad your gear wasn’t badly damaged in the fall. We’ve all done that. Congratulations on your new lens. I hope it gives you lots of pleasure.

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      1. Marsha, it is only automatic when we know how! We all have to learn. If you received a manual with the camera it may provide some helpful tips but I rarely read them. The main thing is to experiment and enjoy.

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      2. Thanks for all the encouragement, Andrew. That’s what I love to do is experiment. I have to admit to actually pulling gout my manual when I did the post and was studying my pictures. I figure if pictures look good in the lens, the pictures will turn out passably well. :) Most of the time I’m right. When I get into an important meeting or ceremony when it matters, they don’t! :) Marsha :)

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  2. Marsha – Andrew is right the larger the lens opening the blurrier the back ground but the speed will be faster. Remember if you go down in focal length, larger lens opening, you go up in speed. They are reciprolcal.
    When we hosted Island Park at Pine Flat Lake we had a Ranger, Mat Murphy that tought me all about the wild flowers and different weeds. The only one I remember is the Baby Blue Eyes.

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      1. When I started I didn’t know anything. So I signed up for a photography class at night school. I did not know what makes a good picture so I tried to learn what technically it took. After a year or so I was getting a little better at taking pictures. I would go through two rolls of 36 35mm film a month,. after awhile it came naturally. Five and a half years later I quit going to photo classes. I loved every minute of it.

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  3. Beautiful post, don’t work with different lenses anymore … but very usful information. What a lovely place to play around on. My favorite of your little blue flower .. is the second last. The little pretty flower stands really out.

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  4. You said you liked the darker one more (me too) but the camera said it was underexposed – that’s another big lesson. Like Andrew said, if you like it, that’s the clincher. In sunlight, a pale flower’s color easily gets washed out. They’re easier to get in darker or more overcast conditions – the bright sun can make the color disappear.
    Don’t worry about getting the f stop piece backwards – there’s a lot to keep in mind in the beginning. If you keep everything the same and just move one variable, you can at least begin to understand that one thing. I’m not technically inclined either, so I know what a slow process learning all the settings is. Take it easy – maybe keep the ISO on auto and the camera on “A” for aperture, so that’s the only variable, until you see clearly what changing the f stop does.
    And then when you get tired of fussing with the technical stuff, experiment and play – do something they told you not to do! There are many photographers out there who understand the technical piece and can be quite intimidating, but you’re free to ignore them. It’s your camera!

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  5. Great post MVBFM :D Makes me think that I may have to upgrade my pinhole camera. Get a new shoebox maybe as I don’t want to splash out too much ;) xox

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    1. hahaha Time for an upgrade, for sure, MFR. I don’t know if one of your shoeboxes would be manageable. I’ll send you one of mine. Much easier to tote around, but not nearly as much fun for Star to play in! I thought she was playing with a potato chip box. I had no IDEA that was your good camera you were rolling the ball into. hahahaha!!!! Love and hugs xoxox RVBFM :)

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      1. Just saying – I only wear a 6.5 to 7 size shoe, and you could probably tote the box in one of your shirt pockets! lol What you need, my dear Ralph, is a tripod. Then YOU don’t have to be still – it does! RVBFM :) xox

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      2. My camera is tiny. I must get a small tripod. I do have one for binoculars and that is huge. CNN cameramen would be proud to use it. I also have another for a star gazing telescope and that is even bigger !! Maybe I should get a big macho camera as well that does videos ;) xox

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    1. haha, you think? haha You read the part about me really getting down and dirty??? You should have seen me trying to get my head wrapped around using a tripod! (literally – wrapped around!) There should have been a video going! I know one of the other participants was taking pictures of me instead of the flowers, but I haven’t seen the pictures. :)

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    1. Hi Lisa, I’ve been in Spam before. It’s the story of my WP life. I don’t know why, either. Thanks for rescuing me! I check mine regularly, but rarely find anything but Spam. :)

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  6. Great pictures and you’re really getting good at finding the best composition of your subject with the surrounding area! I used to have a 35mm Canon with a ton of lenses and did a lot of nature and close-up photography, but alas my camera broke and I haven’t bought a new one. Makes me miss the flexibility of manual settings. Keep up the good work. Your photos are wonderful!

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    1. Thank you so much, Margi. That means a lot! I hope you kept your lenses! That is what is so expensive. Was your camera digital. We could go on a photo shoot sometime – or just out to lunch if you’d rather. :)

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  7. Oh, I loved this, Marsha! Beautiful pictures (love the orange poppies), and I learned some things, too. So glad the mud bath didn’t hurt your camera.

    I am chomping at the bit to get a camera. I think I’ll have one before June. You reminded me of something I learned in a photography class I once took – photojournalists used to be told, “f8 and be there.” The shot was always good enough with f8; it was most important that they arrived on the scene to get the shot rather than sweat the technical details. I always remembered that when I got confused about settings, but I want to learn the right way this time and be able to choose my own settings. It should be a fun summer.

    I think you did a great job with your camera!

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  8. Marsha, First off, such beautiful images; I love that you put your settings on the photos.
    I am surprised that you got a blurry background with F11 aperture setting. If that was a film camera, you probably wouldn’t have.
    The F stops refer to the depth of field; the amount of the image that is in focus. The larger the ap number, the more of the image that is in focus. Normally an F11 would pretty much have most of your image in focus. The smaller the number (the larger the aperture is open – don’t even try to figure that out) – the shorter the depth of field. In other words, only what you are directly focusing on will be in focus and you get that blurry background. Depth of field is measured from front to back. Everything on your first flowers vertical plane will be in focus but anything an inch or so in front or an inch or so behind is out of focus.
    Its more technical than that, but just remember, the smaller number, the less in focus! But keep in mind, the smaller the number, the MORE light that is coming into the camera, so you have to adjust accordingly. “for every action . . .” that is why some of them are over exposed or under exposed. :-)
    The shutter speed determines how much ACTIOM you stop. If you want to catch a flower blowing in the wind you will need a faster shutter speed – 250 and up. Likewise, the faster the shutter speed, the less light you are getting – every action .. . Still lives don’t need a fast shutter speed, but a human can’t usually hold their camera steady enough with a shutter speed under 60 – that’s why God made tripods. The slow shutter speeds are for capturing the illusion of motion i.e.. water running, twirling children etc. But you will have to use a tripod and experiment with SS as low as 8 seconds and so forth.
    Sorry if I rambled on too much and told you something someone else already did – its like they say, “Once and teacher, always a teacher.” :-)
    I love all your images and you are doing great! Now, I have to go view them all again!

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      1. Okay, I couldn’t reply to your comment on the oragne flower. Boy you’ve got me, I can’t figure out even half the stuff on wordpress, it really isn’t very user friendly. :-P

        The white thingy is to set your white balance. It makes sure your camera is set for or reading for absolute white. It is really important for shots with lots of white like wedding dresses.
        I’ve never done the white card setup, because although I understand the principal and what it is for, I’ve never been taught how to use it!

        Maybe you could teach me!

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      1. yes I did, I replied to the fist one on another post, It doesn’t give me the option to write a reply to your comment on my comment! LOL There is more than one way to skin a cat!

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