Light & Shadow

Behind the Shot with Ellis Vener

Lotus Flower and Seedpod
By Ellis Vener

It’s always nice traveling to exotic locations to simulate my imagination but working on familiar ground that is close to home can do the same thing if you take the time to really look at what is around you. The genesis for it was the near daily walks my daughter and I have been going on at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the past couple of weeks. She’s back in school but I am still going because the small day-to-day changes in the plants have caught my attention. She was the one who made me really aware of the shape, color and form of the Lotus seedpods and I wanted to make a photo of one as a thank you gift for her.

"Lotus flower and seedpod" by Ellis Vener

“Lotus flower and seedpod” by Ellis Vener

Ellis Vener
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Nikon D810
FX (full frame) mode
14-bit lossless capture
Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm/f2.8G ED
70 mm
ISO 320
1/640 sec

Technical details:

I shot with a Nikon D810 and AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G lens in hazy mid-morning sunlight. The camera was tripod mounted using an old Gitzo 1341 aluminum leg set with a late model Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball, one with a removable quick release clamp. I recently replaced the Really Right Stuff PCL-1 panning clamp I had been using since at least 2006 with the new PC-LR panning clamp which has proved to be a big improvement. To get the camera exactly where I wanted it I also used a CB-10 camera bar and PG-02 VA. With the head tilted over the PG-02 VA let me get the camera exactly where I wanted it in relation to the flower. The camera was set up for Live View, Aperture priority exposure mode, and single point AFS-C focus mode. To make sure I was getting the sharpest image possible I used the camera’s self timer so I wouldn’t jiggle the camera and also set it to use the new “Electronic First Curtain” mode. This new feature of the D810 eliminates the possibility of any “mirror bounce” effect by removing the need for the camera to first close the mechanical shutter and then reopen it for the actual exposure when shooting in Live View Mode. It’s very handy for both close-up work and time exposures. The best frame turned out to be the second to last of the thirteen frames I shot.

The Setup

The Setup

Back at home I processed the day’s shoot in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.6, first converting the NEF to a DNG format file. During the import process I have Lightroom set up to apply a basic combination of settings I find useful. Specifically, those settings are:

  • Clarity setting at +20
  • Vibrance +16
  • Capture Sharpening at 40/0.8/35/0 (Amount/Radius/Detail/Masking)
  • Adobe’s Lens Corrections settings for Optical Corrections and Chromatic Aberration
  • A custom Camera Calibration Dual-Illuminant Profile I created for the camera using X-rite’s ColorChecker Passport system

The D810 has phenomenal dynamic range and for this image I didn’t need to use any of Lightroom’s Basic Development settings (WB/ Exposure/Contrast Highlights, etc.)

After deciding on this photo I thought it might look better cropped and as a black and white image so after making a virtual copy, cropping, and experimenting with Lightroom’s built-in Black and White filter set, I settled on a square crop and the Yellow filter. After that I tweaked the Exposure (-20), Black Clipping (-33), and Clarity (-13) settings and exported the image as a 16-bit per channel Pro Photo RGB TIFF to finish the Development Process in Photoshop CC (2014).

In Photoshop CC, I did some minor spotting of a few tiny stains on the petals using the Spot Healing Brush tool and added a Levels Adjustment layer in which I used the black eyedropper on the shadowed area to set it to maximum black and anchor the image. The final step was to use the PhotoKit Sharpener’s (a plug-in available from Creative Sharpener “Sharpen Narrow Edges 2” effect.

This is one of those rare images that truly is very strong as a color but also as a black and white photograph. I find both versions to be very appealing. The black and white version has a real delicacy to it while the color version is more earthy, sensuous and exotic.

"Water Lily flower and seedpod" (color) by Ellis Vener

“Water Lily flower and seedpod” (color) by Ellis Vener

Copyright ©2014 Ellis Vener. All rights Reserved.