Various stages of an orchid in bloom over a period of 12 hours, photographed in the studio on 27 January 2012.

Today I’m going to join the ranks of millions on Flickr and bore to you tears with flower shots. Actually, I really hope that I don’t bore you. But I am still going to share them with you.

Orchids are amazingly beautiful and I’ve always wanted one, but had heard that they are difficult to care for. Since I’m not much of a gardener, I held off until two years ago when I found them in Wal-mart. The care instructions were idiot-proof, so I bought one and proved that I am not, in fact, an idiot, as the plant is still alive today. More than alive, it’s blossoming for the first time since I bought it, which I find very exciting. Enough so that I set it up in the studio and photographed it every few hours while the flowers were opening.

The setup here is fairly straightforward. I have the orchid sitting on my shooting table, with my black backdrop folded and draped over the rear as a background. The orchid is at the front edge of the table, to keep as much separation as possible between it and the background. For lights, I’ve got the 24” softbox above and behind, slightly to camera right. It’s running at a little over half power and is lighting from the top, but also providing some back light to make the color in the blossoms pop. The second flash is firing through a small shoot-through umbrella at camera right, which is feathered in front of the orchid. There is also a white fill card to camera left, just out of the frame.

Originally, the softbox was the key light and the umbrella was providing fill. But as I continued shooting through the series, I kept edging up the power on the umbrella flash until both were at the same power. It probably became the key at this point, since it had more influence over the results than the softbox.

Compositionally, my focus was on the blossoms, but I also wanted to include some of the leaves – they are broad and smooth, with very fluid curves, and picked up rim lighting very well, which I felt added a dramatic element.

Various stages of an orchid in bloom over a period of 12 hours, photographed in the studio on 27 January 2012.

All of the lights are in as close as possible; this both maximizes their relative size and their power output. Combined with the reflector board, I’ve got light coming in from three sides and the top, for a very filled-in look. The only real trick here was keeping the background black. There was some light spill onto it, but it was an easy fix in ACR via the blacks slider.

I shot with a variety of lenses – pretty much everything in fact, trying to get a close-up. Turns out that none of my lenses have very close minimum focus distances, save the 18-55 IS. (The 70-200L had me with by back against the far wall of the office.) I’ll also mention that, since I was in a studio setting, I had the 7D tethered to the computer. I’ll do a full post on this later, but for now I’ll just say that when it comes to static work, I find this very helpful.

Various stages of an orchid in bloom over a period of 12 hours, photographed in the studio on 27 January 2012.

I’m not about to add to the overabundance of flower shots on the internet, and this is one of the few times you’ll ever see me share something like this. As a post, my primary interest is in sharing the photographic aspects that went into this shoot. On a personal level, I just wanted to capture a short record of my orchid in bloom. In my house, plants become somewhat like pets – maybe that’s weird, but I have an affection for them. But the greater point is that we all have digital cameras these days, and there are things in our own lives worth documenting. Maybe no one else cares, but these events are important to us. And if we’re going to document them, even if it’s just with a point & shoot, we should at least take the time to do a nice job of it.

Various stages of an orchid in bloom over a period of 12 hours, photographed in the studio on 27 January 2012.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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