Today the sun shone warmly, almost too warm for a day in mid-February. A few tulips given as gifts were getting older in the vase and one started to hang its head. They had delighted us with their colourfulness for many days.
So I decided to do a photo series with tulips on my lightbox.
Tulips are best suited for scenic representations because they look like a human person against a light background. Dance is the most obvious association I have then. The leaves become whirling arms. The flower is the head. The legs are not really needed.
If the tulips lie close together, you get the impression of a tapestry. The light from the lightbox penetrates well enough to create an airy effect.
Here they show themselves in a formation like a dance group.
Longtime exposures hold a special appeal for me. Again and again I try do do it. I found the idea for this picture in a book about modern photography. The photographer took a picture of flowers in a vase with a specially built camera for many days until the first petals fell. The passing of time, which often cannot be experienced directly by us, can thus be illustrated by a photograph. Due to the new corona virus we had plenty of time at home to make flower photographs.
With my macro lens I can only realize the aperture value f/32, which means that even at ISO 50 the exposure time dose not rise above 15s possible when the lightbox is turned on. As an approximation to a true long-time exposure, I started a series of 23 HDR images at irregular intervals over the course of 4 days, just as it became apparent that my tulips would rise wide.
Each HDR image was created from6 shots at f/32 and ISO 50 with exposure times of 0.5s, 1s, 2s, 4s, 8s and 15s. The biggest difficulty was to block off a part of our living room before Christmas so that the exposures could always be done in the same way. Furthermore, the camera was not allowed to be changed by switching it on and off, changing the exposure times or removing the memory card.
I processed the layer stack of 23 TIF images in two ways. First straightforward as a smart object and then change the stacking mode in Photoshop as an average. Or fade out the layers after the start shot using black layer masks and gradually paint in interesting parts of the later images with a soft brush to create an overall impression. This approach was more promising to me than averaging the layer stack, which in my eyes expresses the flow of time too weakly.
Just to do the math: each image of my camera has 151 million pixels with a file size between 125 and 180 MByte in RAW format and 866 MByte after a RAW conversion to a TIF file. The total size of the project is something above 300 GB. 138 RAW files sum up to nearly 21 Billion Pixels. The final image has 159 million pixels due to some added background at the top of the result.
Tulips have become an attraction to me. For a long time I found them extremely boring and meaningless. That has changed over many years. Should I have become older because of that ?
We also have many tulips in our garden. A group of red tulips at the edge of then planted tomato bed is particularly beautiful. But is this beauty also photographicable ?
The beauty in a vase is the epitome of transience. In the meantime, changing light conditions trigger a feeling of tension and happiness in me. This bouquet of tulips has been staying with us for a week now.
With my iPhone I took a shot in our living room. Filter apps help me to get a presentable result.
Today I wanted to try out the same light with the tulips, which spoils my eyes every day with the orchids.
As one can see, our tulips in the living room get already weaker. They are old guys now. Fresh water doesn’t really help. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. How sad is that.
Inspired by a photography of german photographer Michael Wesely, I tried to superimpose the movements of orange tulips in a white vase to create an equivalent to a longtime exposure image. A longtime exposure with 3 or 4 days exposure time was unfortunately not possible for me. Therefore I took 35 pictures with my camera at irregular intervals dictated by occupational requirements whose pixels were to be averaged. Here 4 examples of the highly active flowers in a vase:
Each RAW image has a file size of 125 MB, after RAW conversion this was 580 MB per image as TIF. The entire stack had a size of 21,5 GB. The image of the average then becomes 580 MB again. The pure mean value image was interesting to me but not exciting. Therefore I took this image and layered in parts of original images. The result became convincing:
Fusion imaging is beauty made of composite X-ray images and HDR images on a light box. The primary question is what energy fits best for flowers. To my experience 40 kV is often suitable. But: the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Mammography systems start e.g. from 20 kV and reach 39 kV. The sensor is up to 24cm x 30cm. Conventional systems start from 40 kV and reach 125 kV. The sensor is up to 43cm x 43cm what makes them more attractive to floral compositions.
The higher resolution and the lower energies of a mammography will suit better for transparent objects. But the spatial limit of a composition (which is 24cm x 30cm) might put hard restrictions on the artist.
Floral compositions have more creative space with a bigger sensor. But the X-ray tube starts with 40 kV and this might lead to overexposure of tender structures.
Thus I performed today more than ten compositions to study this relation.
After four exposure of three tulips I found this composition with four dense blossoms attractive to go further. The composition might somehow resemble to a sketch of three angels. The image is nice due to very soft edges of their „wings“, technically blown out portions in the image. The inner structure of the nearly closed blossoms is well resolved. The stalks serve as „body“. There is no advantage with higher energies.
The same composition was done immediately after the X-ray as a bracketing series on a lightbox. After returning I processed a manual HDR, the colors not to warm.
The final fusion image is a composite of the preceding two images. Compared to the lightbox photo, the hidden stalks reappear naturally, the inner petals are outlined like a sketch.