A Different Way of Seeing

A Different Way of Seeing

Infrared use for black and white

Ancient Oak by Michael Hudson

A Different Way of Seeing

Thinking about an infrared capture for the Black & White Photo Project? Michael Hudson, winner of last competition’s, talks us through his capture.

How much planning was involved? Did you go out with an idea of the kind of shot you wanted?

I was on holiday with my family in the area and I had read about the Wood where the shot was taken and was hoping to photograph it. But it was hard to find on the map and I had just about given up hope of finding it when I realised it was a field away from where we were staying. I actually walked there twice that week. I had an idea for the type of shot I was looking for. I’d made images of trees from a similar angle, looking up the trunk at the full branches with a wide angle lens, but each one is different. What I like about this one is the moss covered branches and trunk, and the bright backlighting.

Can you tell us a little more about the image and the kit/techniques used?

I used to shoot a lot of infrared film many years ago, which was tricky and temperamental to work with, but if you got it right, the results were very beautiful. I’ve hired an infrared converted camera a couple times now and I really like the look that the infrared camera gives me. I always convert infrared to black and white in post processing as I don’t usually like the effects it has on the colours.

What do you like about the picture?

I like the full feeling of the image, the way the tree fills the frame. And because it’s an infrared image, the leaves don’t dominate the picture, but instead, the branches do. It’s a simple image, but there’s a lot of detail in it at the same time. I also liked how the branches, covered in moss, have a very old, weathered look.

Did you do much to it in post-processing?

As a raw, infrared image straight out of the camera, it needs a fair amount of processing. First I converted it to black and white, then I boosted the contrast and clarity, to give some sharpness to the details in the branches and the leaves. I brought back some detail in the highlights, but not too much as I like the backlit feel to the image.

Do you have any tips for capturing infrared imagery?

Look at a lot of other infrared images to see what infrared does to the landscape. In nature, leaves and grass turn white and blue skies darken. Become familiar with it because it involves a different way of seeing. Once you begin to know what infrared does, you can look for appropriate subjects. Unlike infrared film, where you
often wasted a lot of film to get one good shot, it’s easy to experiment with digital infrared.

Enter the Black & White Photo Project now.

Layers of Realism

Layers of Realism

Why black and white photography has immense story telling value

Gracefully Grassy by Rachel Chappell

Layers of Realism

Black and white has so much to offer the genre of garden photography. In fact, the thought process behind many black and white images reveals how photographers are encouraged to engage with subjects in a nuanced, emotional and somewhat deeper way, accessing a rich narrative of artistic story telling. But why?

Rachel Chappell helps us answer this as she talks us through her award-winning black and white photograph, from Competition 11. 

What drew you to shoot this image in black and white?

I wanted to create an image which was distinctly minimalist but still had enough detail to be interesting. Although the image is all about movement with the long wavy lines I also wanted it to be calming and restful. I had been looking at the black and white landscape work of Cole Thompson and Michael Kenna. Both of these photographers use black and white quite expertly and are not afraid of using both true black and true white to dramatic effect.

How did you achieve the desired effect?

I am sure the day was not windy but looking through the lens close-up there appeared to be a small gale blowing! Also the part of the grass I was interested in was at the top of a very long and bendy stem. To ensure that I could compose the image as I wanted, and to have a range of aperture options open to me, I set up my camera and tripod indoors. The grass stem was clamped in an old clamp stand (remember those from science lessons?).  As I wanted a minimalist effect I placed a sheet of plain white card behind the grass. Ultimately I chose the mid aperture of f/9. Working at a close distance of around 6 inches this allowed me to have some sharp areas but also some softer edges. I often like the combination of hard and soft edges to tell a more rounded story and leave some work to the imagination.

Did you use any special equipment?

I do a lot of macro work and the lens I use most of the time is a 105mm macro lens. This allows me to get up close to the flowers and isolate the part of the flower which I am most interested in.

My best bit of ‘special’ equipment is a small 4 inch square of card wrapped in silver foil. I can hold this in one hand without creating too much draft as I reflect the light back onto the grass.

What plants do you think work best for black and white photography?

I feel that creating a black and white photograph allows the photographer more scope to tell a story. The removal of colour takes away a layer of realism which allows you to take a different approach and put emphasis on another aspect of the image. Flowers which photograph well in black and white tend to be those with definite features of shape, texture, lines. When working in black and white it is even more important to be aware of the light and composition as it will add to your story. If your story is about lines, as it was in this image, then the composition needs to be arranged so that lines really stand out.


Ready to tell your story? Enter the Black & White Photo Project now

Black & White Backlight

Black & White Backlight

A technique for the Black & White Photo Project

Photography by Claire Gillo

Black & White Backlight
With the Black & White Photo Project deadline rapidly approaching it’s good to revisit genre specific skills and  take a look at some interesting techniques to complement your style.
In this post, Digital Camera magazine’s Claire Gillo takes a look at backlighting.
Light your object from behind to create a magical halo effect
Backlighting looks extremely effective when shot in the monochrome medium. By lighting your subject from behind, you capture a silhouetted object with a halo outline. Once you remove the colour from the image, the silhouette and halo effect is enhanced even further.  
For this tutorial we used an external flashgun and picked a wild flower from a hedge. We also had a reflector to hand to bounce some light back into the top part of the subject. You may also need to do this depending on the size of your subject. We also placed our flashgun onto a pile of books to bring the light closer to the flower.
There are many different techniques you can use when backlighting a subject. In our example we’ve kept it simple, but if you want to add in an extra touch, you can also try spraying some water onto the subject. If you use a fine-mist spray bottle, the small droplets will ping out against the dark background. If you try this technique, just make sure you keep wiping your flashlight with a towel because after a few sprays it may get a little damp!
Pick the right subject
You want to pick an object that will silhouette while describing an interesting outline. Flowers are good for this technique, but you want to avoid the usual pretty full-faced type. Seed heads or weed-like species work best, and anything with spikes or hairs that are going to catch the light are preferable. Put it in a vase so it stands upright, and place it on a flat surface. We secured our flower in place using some Blu Tack and a vase.
Set up the background
Set up a dark background behind your subject. We used a thick brown blanket. As long as the background is dark in appearance, it doesn’t matter if it’s not black because we can easily fix this in processing later. It’s best to use a thick material like velvet that will absorb the light rather than a shiny surface that will reflect the light. If necessary, angle the background to eliminate any stray light reflections.
Set up the camera
Next set the mode dial on your camera to manual so you are in complete control of the exposure. Set the shutter speed to 1/250 sec because this synchronises with the flash light. Also, set the ISO low to 100 for optimum noise-free results. Now we can balance the aperture setting with the flash. In this example we set the aperture to f/16 to keep the subject completely sharp from back to front.
Set up the flash camera settings
We want the background to be under-exposed. And we’re going to use the camera’s built-in pop-up flash to trigger the external flashgun. Under the Built-in flash setting, set the flash to the wireless function so that the external flashgun and the camera are communicating. Set the pop-up flash to fire so it doesn’t have any impact on the final result. We’re only using it to fire the external flash, not to light the subject from the front.
Set up the flashgun
Set the flash unit to the Slave setting and put it into manual mode. We can also control the intensity of the flash through the built-in flash feature on the camera. We set ours to fire at 1/16th of its full power. The setting you need will vary depending on the power of your flashgun, and its distance to the subject. Angle the flash head up and place it behind your subject, like in the picture above. Finally, we’re ready to start shooting!
Fire away!
We had to use a reflector to bounce the light back into the top part of the flower. Without the reflector, we found the top part of the subject was under-exposed. If you struggle to hold the reflector and take the shot at the same time, get an assistant to help you, or mount your camera on a tripod. When you take the shot, make sure the main focus point is sharp on the centre of the flower. Check the exposure using your camera’s histogram.
Convert to black and white
Open the image in Adobe Camera Raw by double clicking its thumbnail in Bridge. In Camera Raw, convert the image to black and white using the Convert to Grayscale setting. Our flower has some green parts, so we can use the green channel to boost the outline. In the Basic panel we want to enhance the Blacks and boost the Contrast. Once you’re happy, click Open Image to bring it into the main image editor.
Dodge the top of the flower
Although we used the reflector to enhance the light at the top of the subject, we’re going to do a bit of dodging and burning to help enhance the end result. Duplicate the background layer, select the Dodge tool and set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure at 10%. Run a small brush around the top of the flower, building up the effect slowly. Now go to the Burn tool and set the Range to Shadows. Paint in the centre to darken the silhouette. 

Black & White Photo Project

Black & White Photo Project

Now open for entries

Anne Maenurm

Black & White Photo Project

Cerrado Sunrise, the Winner of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 11

Cerrado Sunrise, the Winner of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 11

By Marcio Cabral

Photography by Marcio Cabral

Cerrado Sunrise, the Winner of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 11

A huge thank you and congratulations to all of our winning photographers who have once again captured the incredible beauty, diversity and importance of plant life, from the wilds of Patagonia to the English country garden. A special congratulations goes to Marcio Cabral, of Brasilia, Brazil, who is the overall winner and the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 11.

Marcio is recognised as one of the top landscape photographers in the world and holds a world record for the largest underwater panorama. The winning image entitled, Cerrado Sunrise, was shot in the vast ecological region known as the cerrado in Brazil.

Marcio said: “Paepalanthus chiquitensis Herzog is my favourite wildflower and I have been photographing it for more than a decade. These wildflowers have an incredible effect when photographed at sunrise or sunset as they reflect sunlight and this generates a striking effect that looks like the flowers have been individually illuminated.

Although this location has a large flowering field, it is not easy to find a perfect spot with the flowers lined up to fill the foreground. I visited this site for a week until I was able to capture this formation of clouds before the sunrise.”

Marcio’s love of the region holds strong botanical significance as well as many photographic opportunities. Prof. Ana Maria Giulietti, the world Paepalanthus specialist and Honorary Research Associate in the Americas team of the Identification and Naming department at Kew Gardens said: “Individual plants are found with flowers and fruits throughout the year, especially after the rainy season. The flowers are pollinated by beetles, wasps, and flies. Once the plant has reproduced or set seed, it dies.

Featuring large populations and a wide geographic distribution, Paepalanthus chiquitensis is not considered endangered. However, the accelerated advance of monoculture plantations on the cerrado causes concern for the future. The implementation of the National Plan for the Conservation of Everlasting Plants is a crucial element to reverse this process and reduce the impacts on the natural populations of these plants.”

Apart from possessing interesting access points to discuss conservation in South America, the image is technically brilliant, showing superb control of contrast and exposure with flawless composition.

Judges felt a real connection with the image and the endless filaments and flowerheads stretching into the distance beyond. The scale and impact of their presence added to a sense of timelessness. This feeling echoes the fact that conservation and living in harmony with plants and nature is a process that doesn’t have an end point. We must continue to carry this sentiment far into the future, wherever we go.

See the winners on your coffee table. Buy the book here

The Botanical Year Starts Here

The Botanical Year Starts Here

IGPOTY 11 launch exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Photography by Andrew Wade
The Botanical Year Starts Here

It’s almost February and that means it’s almost time to reveal the winners of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 11. Winners will be made public and available to view online from February 9 2018, with the exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew opening to the public on February 10.

If you’ve never been to the most prestigious flagship exhibition of garden photography in the world, then you’re in for a treat. This year will feature the most ever framed prints supplied by UK based pro lab, One Vision Imaging, and include garden photography from classic categories such as The Beauty of Plants, Breathing Spaces and Wildflower landscapes as well as two new main categories, Abstract Views and Outdoor Living.

Also new to this exhibition will be images from the mobile phone only category Gardens on the Go,  a new Still Life Photo Project, plus the winner of the special Portfolio category My Garden Stories. And of course, Captured at Kew, with the largest selection of winners exhibited to date.

The photography on display will aim to broaden your understanding of the natural world and inspire you to see our green planet with renewed beauty and importance. Expect to see images from around the UK plus countries all over the world such as: Ireland, USA, Germany, Denmark, Croatia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Each image will have a story to tell and offer a new perspective on plant life through the exciting and growing genre of garden photography. Conservation will be, as always, an important theme of this competition year so watch out for interesting interpretation provided by the Kew Science team.

This exhibition is vital to the IGPOTY mission as we continue to work with Kew to share the wonder of plants. So discover your inspiration for 2018 with the finest images of plant life in the world at the birthplace of botany. 

The exhibition will be on display in the Nash Conservatory until March 11 2018. Entry is included with the price of admission to the Gardens. The next venue to host the exhibition of Competition 11 will be RHS Hyde Hall, which opens on March 21.

For more information about Kew visit kew.org

Threatened Beauty

Threatened Beauty

IGPOTY and Botanic Gardens Conservation International launch a new award

Standing Alone by Yi Fan

Threatened Beauty

Central to IGPOTY as an organisation is to display photography that has meaning and purpose. The images we exhibit lead a global conversation in how we think about plants and gardens, the importance they have on our lives as citizens of a diverse green planet and the responsibility we share in ensuring they exist around us for generations to come.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International then are natural partners. If you haven’t heard of them, they are the largest plant conservation network of botanic gardens in the world. Its members include the largest, most renowned gardens on the planet – Kew, New York, Missouri, Singapore, Sydney and Shanghai – but they also include many smaller gardens situated in the world’s plant diversity hotspots.

And just as the BGCI joins together organisations that are passionate about plant conservation, IGPOTY brings together individuals who are passionate about representing, interpreting and documenting plant life through photography.

To strengthen and reinforce shared objectives of awareness and conservation, IGPOTY and BGCI will be launching a new ‘Threatened Plants Photographic Award’. Winners will be selected from images entered into the Beauty of Plants.  Simply enter as normal and BGCI and IGPOTY judges will choose an image that displays both compelling photographic skill and threatened plant life, which tells a captivating and vital story about conservation.

Indeed, conservation is a central part of this new partnership. It’s one thing highlighting a threatened plant but it’s another to conduct conservation work to actively protect the species. This is what botanic gardens do every day all around the world. Part of this award then is about celebrating the work of botanic gardens in protecting plant life.

The award will launch at the start of Competition 12 on February 20 2018. The winner will feature in the latest edition of the IGPOTY book and receive special prizes from BGCI.

Working together we can always achieve greater, better, more meaningful things. So, when you find yourself on that freezing mountain pass, or lonely forest path, remember you’re not alone on the journey and that individual actions can have global resonance.

Find out more about BGCI

The new IGPOTY Collection 11 Book

The new IGPOTY Collection 11 Book

Pre-order now

The new IGPOTY Collection 11 Book

The new IGPOTY Collection 11 Book

Get your copy now

The new IGPOTY Collection 11 Book

Thank you for entering Competition 11

Thank you for entering Competition 11

What now?

Photography by Michael Lowe
Thank you for entering Competition 11

Thank you all so much to everyone who entered Competition 11, and thank you for your patience as we experienced unprecedented demand. The hard part is over, now sit back and relax whilst the IGPOTY judges get to work.

If you haven’t entered IGPOTY this year the shortlisting procedure is as follows:

1. Judging begins.
2. Shortlist chosen.
3. All entrants receive a prompt via email to login and check their account. This prompt will also be posted on social media channels. Your dashboard will indicate if you have been shortlisted or not.
4. Shortlisted photographers upload high-res directly to website (and ensure all required photograph information has been entered). 
5. Final places decided.
6. All shortlisted entrants receive a prompt via email to login and check their account. The dashboard will indicate if your photograph has been awarded a place.

We aim to begin shortlisting on the week commencing November 13 for around 1 week. Please be around for a small amount of time during this period to ensure you can respond to any shortlist requests. The sooner you get high-res images and information to us the better - this is much appreciated.

We’ll be in touch again with all entrants via email and keep you updated at every step. If you still have questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly on social channels or via email. If you’ve been in touch already we will respond as quickly as we can.

As ever, winners are made public when we launch the exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in February. We can’t wait to see the winners there.

Also remember entries into the Humphry Repton Special Award will remain open until midday on December 31 2017.

Best of luck and thank you again from the IGPOTY Team.