Pink Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orchids are amazing photographic subjects. And this pink Phalaenopsis is this week’s favorite. I captured this image in the conservatory at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. The color was a show stopper, it was so intense you absolutely had to stop.

It would seem that photographing orchids in a conservatory would be straightforward. After all you don’t have to deal with harsh sunlight and the flowers are in a somewhat protected environment. That’s all good, but orchids need humidity and air circulation. So the conservatory has several fans which run full time, and that means the flowers are constantly moving. The movement problem is magnified with the use of a macro lens which has a narrow depth of field even under optimum conditions. I overcame this by shooting at f/8.0 with the Sigma 105mm EX macro lens. That’s a good compromise between depth of field and sharpness. Then I shot six frames making tiny adjustments to focus. In post production those frames can be stacked an blended into a single image with much greater depth of field than could ever be captured with a single image.

That focus stacking is a very useful tool to have. Depending your individual artistic vision, you may want the increased sharpness and depth, or you may want soft focus on some areas. I think it’s a good idea to develop the technique so that you have options. It’s something you can use when you need it, but some images may be better without it. Better for your technique to be the limiting factor than the equipment.

Some gear helps

To get this image I used a geared tripod head. Specifically the Manfrotto 410 Junior. This is a serious piece of gear with serious advantages. First it’s rock solid and heavy. Adjustments are done with the geared control knobs and are ultra precise. You can compose the frame and be assured that it will not move a single millimeter. The head weighs 2.7 lbs by itself so of course it needs a solid tripod. The big plus when doing multiple exposures is that there is zero movement between frames even as you make focus adjustments. Not for the casual shooter, but when you want it done right, this head can’t be beat.

Seems like a lot of effort to get a picture of a flower. I guess it’s where your head’s at. To me, even capturing a small part of something so beautiful is worth the effort, and then some.

Factoid Fun
The black seeds that you sometimes see in high quality vanilla ice-cream are the fruit of the vanilla orchid! It was discovered in the 19th century as a highly aromatic culinary spice. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron.



Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden