Sunday, 8 February 2009

A wall of orchids

As mentioned in previous post, there were thousands or orchids on display at Kew. They were in formal displays, under fences, hanging from walls and ceiling, in natural-looking woodland settings and there were walls of them. It will take me some time to finish working through the few hundred pictures I took but this is a preview of a future topic for flower of the week.

PS: sorry about the formatting problems with my last post. Must do better next time.

Tropical extravaganza at Kew

I went to Kew yesterday. To celebrate their 250th year they have a seriously over the top series of displays of tropical flowers as well as a variety of conservation and related displays. they are also researching the conservation of 25 species of orchids from 20 countries around the world and have literally thousands of orchids displayed. Spending time in the tropical greenhouse surrounded by all those flowers is the best tonic I can think of after a week of cold weather and travel misery. Here are a few snaps just to show the richness of it all.

All pictures were taken at ISO 800 as the light was not great. All but the 'presents' were taken with the D700, 105mm macro lens and 1.7 teleconverter. The presents are taken on the D300 at 28mm. Aperture speeds varied from f/9 to f/11 and shutter speeds from 1/60 sec to 1/20. Learning points: I really must start using a monopod for extra stability as light just isn't good enough to easily handhold (at the end of the day my hands were very sore from the effort to keep the camera stable). Although I planned to use the D300 for longer pictures in the end I needed the 700 because of the lack of light, reinforcing my feeling that, whatever the theoretical advantages of the crop sensor for macro and telephoto images, the superior light capabilities of the D700 win out in most real-world situations.


This lovely flower is Agapanthus Africanus. It's a native of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Agapanthus flowers are funnel shaped and grow in a many-flowered umbel shape on top of a long straight stem called a scope.

Technical stuff and learning points

These pictures also represent my first experiment with a lightcube I bought for £23 from Calumet. I found that my small flashes, when shot through the walls of the cube, couldn't easily produce sufficient light for a small aperture (all pictures are at f/16) and reasonable shutter speed (between 1/60 secs and 1/125) combined with ISO 200. I used a tripod but it isn't steady enough when pictures are taken at an angle for me to happily go much below 1/60, even with a VR lens. My solution in this case was to put my two little macro flashes inside the cube, shooting into the back corners and flagged so as not to reflect directly onto the flower or lens. My main flashes were outside and coming through the fabric. I had the lightcube against the window and there was sunshine behind but the settings didn't really let it come through. Flash and camera exposure were all manual and I'm afraid I didn't record the flash settings. I suppose my main learning points are about the limitations of small flashes and that a lighcube isn't as simple a solution to producing diffused lighting as I had hoped.