#366. Theming up (2): flower saucers

By philberphoto | Opinion

Jun 17

Many times, when a photographer is credited with having “a distinctive style”, that is meant as a compliment. I have never been completely at ease with that, as though it meant, in a way, being a “one trick pony”. I remember my disapointment when reading the third or fourth book by a writer whose first instalments had kept me awake at all hours, and finding that, really, they were all pretty much the same. Such “formulaic” production has always left me wanting, and, so, photographically, I am not drawn to it. Hence the haphazard distibution of my production

Pascal, however, is of another persuasion. He is a staunch believer in having a strong personal identity, as evidenced in style, and is forever seeking mine in my works. And egging me to produce “collections”. His being the Boss has lead me to a first “theming up” post, and here comes the second, again at his behest. The theme is “flower saucers”; let’s see how it flies…


To be honest, I am not very proud of such a collection, and that, for 2 reasons. One is that it couldn’t have been done without first class lenses, with fantastic wide open performance. Such lenses cost money, and my basic contribution here is merely in outspending other photographers. The other one is that this “look” started not so much in a personal aspiration or inspiration of great mystical import, but in a childish delight in showing off my equipment’s performance.


Still, to be honest, this has developped into a body of work that I am happy with. Some pics here, such as the one above, really speak to me. So, while the roots of this collection may be somewhat tainted, the fruits are not necessarily rotten…


And it is relaxing, once in a while, to not dive too much into gear-talk. Suffice it to say that the pics were all produced with my Sony A7R, soon to be semi-retired to back-up body status when I get the newer model, and the fantastic duo, Zeiss ZM 35 f1.4, a.k.a. “Audrey”, and the Zeiss Otus 55 f:1.4, a.k.a. “Bertha”

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There is, however, a “catch”. Neither Audrey, nor Bertha are really lenses for close-ups. So, either I crop like crazy, which is fine for Internet publishing, but not for large prints, or I need to add some hardwware. Either a helicoid adapter, for M-to-E-mount conversion, or a tube, in this case a 12mm Kenko, for Bertha.

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Actually, putting this post together has proven interesting in a way I didn’t expect. I remember having shot the same garden of clematis and roses 2 years ago, and being happy with a couple of pics. So I thought, let me get back in time, and include them in my post. Ooops! What a good idea -not! It seems, all modesty long forsaken, that my “satisfactory” pictures of 2 years ago don’t quite make today’s grade. Is it possible that I have actually learned a thing or two, even maybe, improved a bit?


At any rate, let’s continue with the flower saucers…


All things, however must come to an end, and, in this case, flowers don’t last forever, so, with these last two, ends my collection. Ironically, this on the very day that I finally get the 8mm tube from Nikon that suits Bertha better than the 12mm one for my purpose. So I will be a full year without using it…

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  • Boris says:

    This is a great collection of flower images, especially the first seven images. But I think it’s not the equipment that’s most important for these images but two other things:

    First, and in my opinion most important, is a good PP skill because these image shine not because of their great sharpness but because of their great colors and perfectly chosen contrast. Lenses influence colors and contrast. But for the above images PP is much more important for the great result than lens selection. My guess is, that you could get similar (but less sharp) results by using for example a ‘cheap’ Voigtländer 1.2/35mm lens.

    Second the (experienced) eye of the photographer. Again the carefully chosen composition and perfectly selected background is in my opinion much more important for the visual impact of these images than the lens selection.

    It’s a very satisfying experience to shoot with great lenses like the Otus. But it’s not really a necessity for great images.


  • philberphoto says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Boris, they are much appreciated. But I cannot agree 100%. Yes, in the vast majority of cases, great lenses are not a requirement, and one only loses a bit of “performance” (sharpness, contrast, detail, clarity, whatever) with a good-but-not-great lens. But, for some pics, a great lens is required. Such as, when the picture makes sense when shot wide open at f:1.4 a,d needs to be sharp too. There aren’t that many lenses that still give very good performance at that aperture. Again, in the vast majority of cases, you could shoot it at f:2.0 or f:2.8. But not all of them. Because, if you “paint with sharpness”, it might just be that the extra depth-of-field deprives the picture of meaning. It is the case in some of these pictures.
    But again, in the vast majority of cases, you are correct.

    • Boris says:

      I agree that some images are only possible by using one of the current top performance lenses. This is for example the case if you need very high wide open corner sharpness for your composition. And I will show you soon some images from Namibia where the result would just not have been possible without using a high performance lens.

      But for your lovely flower images the in-focus part of the images is mostly in the center area and in addition the images size is reduced to small websize images. Therefore I still think that a cheap fast lens with good center sharpness like the Voigtländer 1.2/35mm could lead to very similar results.

      But that’s just a guess, maybe I’m wrong.


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