Every year Rochester, NY hosts the Lilac Festival. This week long festival showcases Highland Park’s fantastic lilac garden. They have over 500 varieties of the flowering bush; the oldest was planted in 1897. I stopped by with my camera the week after the festival ended, to avoid the crowds and catch the majority of the blooms (the festival is at the beginning of lilac season.) Here are some of my favorite photos:
I should mention this is one of my first experiments in close up photography (at least in public.) I think I’m starting to get the hang of the decreased depth of field that comes with macro photography.
Interesting side note: technically “macro photography” refers to photography that captures a 1:1 or greater ratio with nature. Most of these lilac photo would be considered macro, but a few would just be “close up.”
I digress. Close up/macro photography is challenging because the depth of field (amount of the photo that is in focus) is so narrow that you can have trouble getting everything you want in focus in focus. Once you get used to working with a narrow depth of field, it can be a powerful tool. You eye is naturally drawn to the elements in a photo that are in focus so you can draw attention to, say, individual lilac flowers by keeping those in focus and allowing the background to be blurred and out of focus. The featured photo at the top of this post is a good example of that technique (as are most of the photos in this post.)
Photographing outdoors presents other challenges–there is wind so the lilacs move which can make an otherwise perfectly framed and focused shot look blurry. The lighting can also vary dramatically when you are outside. Particularly the the day I was there, when it was bright late-afternoon sun but with a smattering of clouds. One moment I’m dealing with stark, bright light, the next it’s deep shadows. But sunlight is really the best light for capturing colors and fine details, so it’s worth dealing with the dark shadows and fickleness when you can get it. (There are ways to cope with lousy lighting, as I’ll discuss later.)