Inspiration in a Gerbera Daisy

by Timothy Waldner | Jun 1, 2023 | 0 comments

water droplets on pink daisy
Photo © Timothy Waldner.

My sister is so sweet! She gave me a flower—one flower—but she had a special reason. In the summer, when I see a beautiful photo, that just makes me go and take photos myself. I probably can be found lying somewhere outside with my nose in my camera and my macro lens’ nose in a flower, hopefully with an insect nosing around in the flower.

In the winter, things are different. There are no flowers or insects outside, and I have already shot all the picturesque house plants. So my sister asked Mom if they could buy me a flower so that I would have a new subject to photograph before spring. Mom agreed, and a pink and green Gerbera daisy was selected.

I was surprised when my mom and sister came home with this daisy. Of course I admired it, put it into a vase, and placed it on the kitchen table. But I didn’t take any pictures, not for a few days.

Then one mealtime, sitting in front of it, I noticed that it had already begun to wilt! That evening I began. At first I didn’t feel inspired at all, so I simply wet the daisy with a spray bottle to look like dew and just took pictures of its face. Not special. I studied the photo on the camera display. When zoomed in, the water droplets glittered like little gems. I got out my macro lens and took some photos of a small section of the bloom. That improved many of the droplets a lot, but along the edge there lurked drops that blurred into nothing but pink. Simple—I needed a higher f/stop. But not so simple—that would require the shutter speed and ISO to change for the worse, making the photos blurry and grainy.

So, I employed a technique taught in the May 2020 issue of Nature Friend called focus stacking. It involves taking a series of photos that differ only in the depth of focus, then merging only the in-focus part of each photo in post-possessing. This results in photos that would be almost impossible to capture in a single shot. One tip is to use a tripod and remote shutter release. This really cuts down on the variation in photo positioning, which makes post-processing easier.

Then I experimented with different angles and zoomed in on a few individual petals, capturing individually the droplets against the pink of the daisy or against a dark background to make the droplets stand out.

The next day, I thought of another aspect of the daisy I could capture with water. In the September 2021 issue of Nature Friend there was an article teaching how to photograph water splashes. I would use this daisy for a background like Steven Smith had taught in the article.

Water droplet splash
Photo © Timothy Waldner.

I created a setup similar to the one that Mr. Smith described, although I don’t have as many flashes as he did. I only used two.

While I am on the subject of equipment (for those who are always curious like I am), I used a Canon EOS 1300 D camera and a 100 mm Tokina AT-X Pro lens for most of the photos. Only when I wanted to get photos of a splash in the crown stage did I use a Canon EF-S 18-200 mm lens at 200 mm. When doing so, I placed the camera much farther away and used a smaller aperture. A splash in the crown stage is much larger than when in the pillar stage, and the water’s fast motion doesn’t allow for focus-stacking. I needed a large depth of field.

Experimenting is always a good way to learn. I experimented with different lighting, varying the brightness of the splash, and the daisy in the background. I also experimented with different colored water. This I achieved by putting colored paper behind the flower and in the bottom of my water pan. I tried classic blue, green to give the idea of foliage in the background, but black turned out to be my favorite. The splash leaps from the pink daisy in the background.

My sister, the one who gave me the flower, actually photographed the splash below. I had the room totally dark, except for a faint glimmer to see the drops falling. The flashes’ blinding blaze would freeze their movement.

Water droplet splash
Photo © Eleashia Waldner.

“What are you doing?” I suddenly heard at my elbow.

“Oh,” I answered, “I am taking pictures of your flower like you hoped. Do you want to try?”

I gave her the remote shutter button and directed her to time the release just as the falling drops hit the water. So for a few minutes, my sister surprised me with perfectly timed photos. I think she has a talent!

After I exhausted my creativity in splashes, I decided to attempt to photograph a single daisy petal floating on the water. I experimented with different backgrounds, lighting, and every angle I could wrack from my brain, but I could get nothing better than what I consider mediocre. This daunted me and, since the clock showed past my bedtime, I cleaned up the mess and stowed the flower back in its vase.

The next day brought fresh enthusiasm and an unexpected surprise when I looked at last night’s single petal. It had completely dried up and its base had fuzzed out like a dandelion seed. This gave me an idea. I have often admired photos of a dewy dandelion seed with a flower refracted in the droplets. Could I replicate this with a wilted daisy petal? I secured the petal in a pan of water and got out my spray bottle. When I had well misted the petal and placed my background flower, I took the first photo and eagerly studied it on my display screen. Beautiful. Soon, I plucked another petal and dried it for a few seconds with a heat gun. The petal’s base fuzzed but the petal didn’t wilt! I replaced the wilted petal with the new one. Now I could photograph the whole petal instead of just the fuzzed base. After I had finished taking this aspect of my well-recorded daisy, I did expect to be finished. But…

water droplets on pink daisy
Photo © Timothy Waldner.

An ordinary ladybug had decided to spend the winter in our garage, and I discovered it in a corner of the back door. As I said, I particularly like to have insects in my flower photos. They lend so much interest and story to a pretty scene. Now I felt my Gerbera daisy photos would be complete.

At first I tried to get a splash photo of the ladybug refracted in the drop. That really didn’t work because the ladybug proved to be lively. Then, when I tried to nudge it into place, it fell into the water! I didn’t want to drown the patient insect, so I stopped trying to place it. Instead I just let it wander around the daisy while I watched for an opportunity to fire. It came, and I got my favorite photo of the whole 7000 plus photos I took of that daisy. Thank you, sister!

ladybug on pink daisy
Photo © Timothy Waldner.

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