Milkweed and Some Words on Sharp Photographs (Three Photographs)
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I have learned that there are many types of milkweed; this variety of the genus Asclepias is the most common in our area and much loved by Monarch butterflies. There is a style of flash photography that was used in the 40’s and 50’s to take photos of film stars. I always called it the caught in the headlights look. Rather than balancing the flash with the ambient light, the flash was just a touch too much. Add in a bit of a blur and you got a hyper-real fashion light with your subject better lit than the surroundings in natural light. I seldom use flash with flowers because you often get too many highlights and not enough detail. However, applying some of the technique I described above, I used flash and slightly under exposed. In post I got rid of noise, sharpened the picture, added a bit of tonal contrast with Intensify CK and Levels. Then, borrowing from the Orton Effect, I added some Gaussian blur, changed to an overlay blend mode and reduced the fill to a very small percentile. The result to my eye, is a bit surreal but very pleasing.
Part 1: The ways and means of sharp photos
Focus is not sharpness. Focused photos are the first step; sharp photos are a step further. Sharp is almost always defined by what it is not. If the photo lacks a little sharpness it’s soft, if it’s out of focus it shows motion or blur. Sharp applies only to what is in focus. Often backgrounds are out of focus by choice, and sometimes we want other elements of our photographs to be out of focus as well. Technically a photograph looks sharp when the resolution of small details, like the transition from one pixel to another, is seen. Over sharpening causes these transitions to overlap and the edges of elements to blossom into halos (shiny outlines of your subject where there should be none). When we see small features clearly we have a sharp photograph. A print will be sharpest at a set point from the wall, with digital your distance from the screen does not matter significantly. In the next few posts I will cover the subject of making sharp photographs in camera and in post-processing.