Our own Anne Belmont is the featured photographer at the Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid show. Her stunning, and huge, orchid prints are displayed in the Regenstein Hall outside of the show. You can also see them on the banners on the way into the Garden and into the visitor center. If you’ve missed her on TV, Radio, and social media over the past week you must be living under a rock! I am so proud of her! Her images are amazing and she and the Garden have done a tremendous job displaying them. You need to get to the Botanic Garden to see her images before March 15th. You’ll be inspired to take your photography to the next level. While you’re there, here are some tips for getting your own great orchid images from Anne herself!
Article by Anne Belmont
If you enjoy photographing flowers in the warmth of the greenhouses during these cold winter months, the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden is the perfect place to be. Regenstein Hall, the galleries and greenhouses have all been transformed into a magical and elaborate display of more than 10,000 orchids. I promise it will take your breath away and make you forget the cold winter weather outside when you step into this tropical paradise. The show opened February 14 and runs until March 15 and is open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A real bonus for us photographers is that the Garden is allowing tripods and monopods in the exhibit on Wednesdays. Tickets are $8.00 for members/$10.00 for non-members. To order tickets online or find more information about the show, please visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website.
I am honored to have 20 of my orchid images taken at the the 2014 Orchid Show being featured in 40” x 60” panels in Krehbiel Gallery, the main lobby of Regenstein. The Garden commissioned me before last year’s show to create the images chosen for these panels. It was a year-long project of great passion for me. One of those 20 images is being used for all the advertising, posters and banners for the show.
Orchids are complex and exotic flowers and, in my opinion, one of the hardest flowers to master photographing. They are difficult to photograph for a number of reasons. Indoors the lighting can be challenging – glass greenhouses can have bright contrasty light and several of the inner rooms featuring orchid displays have very limited light. In addition, many orchids grow in clusters or in close proximity to other orchids or plants, it is hard to isolate one orchid from others and eliminate distracting backgrounds.
When I choose to shoot orchids with every part in sharp focus, I move in close and use a very small aperture, going as high as f22 – f32, depending on the depth of the flower and how much I need in focus. Close-ups of orchids require these higher apertures if you want to get everything in focus because many of the flowers are so complex and have such great depth and interesting details to capture.
Apertures this high require a tripod to accommodate slow shutter speeds. Yes, I can hear many of you saying, “don’t you worry about lens diffraction at higher apertures and why don’t you use focus stacking?” No, I don’t worry about lens diffraction because I believe Lightroom and other software does a good job of sharpening and compensating for diffraction. I don’t personally use focus stacking but if that is of interest to you, I’m sure it will help ensure each part of the orchid is in focus without having to use higher apertures.
Using a black backdrop is ideal but not always appropriate when photographing orchids outside of home, and particularly at CBG, where orchids cannot be moved or disturbed. A small piece of black cardboard slipped behind the orchid can work if it doesn’t disturb flowers or plants around the orchid you are shooting. A flash, powered down and held off camera can be helpful in both illuminating the inner structure and details of the orchid and darkening the background. I personally prefer to use natural light and reflectors to capture the inner structure of the orchid.
In the greenhouses there is ample light, but there are often complicated, distracting backgrounds. In this setting I like to experiment with softer focus images using a wider aperture, blurring the distractions of the background and bringing only one flower or part of a flower in focus. There is enough light in many parts of the greenhouses to handhold your camera if using wider apertures, but a tripod is always preferred since you might be juggling a diffuser to soften harsh light or bounce light into the flower with a reflector.
It may be challenging to find a good composition for an orchid or grouping of orchids. Take your time and experiment. Move around to find the best background. Sometimes positioning yourself just a fraction of an inch in a different direction can make all the difference in eliminating distracting backgrounds and harsh spots of light. As with anything, the more you practice and experiment, the better you will get.
I hope you will visit the Chicago Botanic Garden during these coming weeks. The Orchid Show is a popular and well-attended event and it’s easy to see why these beautiful flowers are so beloved by many.
Visit my photography website and read my blog at annebelmont.zenfolio.com.