A Long Road To A Happy Accident; Photographing Hothouse Beauties Page 2

When I began to photograph with D-SLR cameras I tried several options, including the Canon camera software, to convert the raw files and do the color correction in Photoshop. But using that method and later using both Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom, I found the color of the flowers was not as clean and pure as I would have liked because I could not identify and remove the fiberglass color cast. Of course, if I doubled up my exposure and put a gray card in the second shot I could use the Levels (gray) color picker that would at least eliminate most of the color cast in the mid tones. But these Bodger greenhouse shoots are for fun, so why use a professional method I'd use if it were a commercial assignment and spoil the fun for myself?

With so much to photograph be careful you don't miss some hidden treasures. Luckily this shot caught my eye. This pot of daisies pushed under a larger foliage plant made what was to me a most satisfying composition, and the kind of photograph I never tire of.

I recalled that I had been successful on my first two film forays using SilverFast and my Minolta scanner using Color Cast Removal. I had used an early version of SilverFast DC (Digital Camera) in the past, so why not see if the SilverFast DCPro for processing raw digital camera files also has the Histogram Color Cast Removal function? It did, and it worked so well over the last few years that SilverFast DCPro Studio has become my personal choice to do all of my raw file processing. I did this despite the fact that when compared to Apple's Aperture, SilverFast's image management/browser function is a bigger pain than pleasure to use.

A Parting Comment
If I may digress to another bit of personal biography, I grew up through public schools in a small city in the center of the Canadian prairie provinces. When I was 6 my most vivid memory was when I heard a kid yelling in the street in front of our house, "War! War!"; it was '39 and he was selling newspapers telling us that as part of the British Empire Canada was now a part of World War II. Thereafter, my grade school days were dreary times; everything kids love like candy was either not available or rationed. The one bright spot in life was going to the Saturday movie matinees. Those glamorous images from Hollywood set an ideal of what was beautiful for me. I never dreamt then or later I would eventually spend 30 years of my life in Hollywood making photographic images. It was never a goal, just a series of unrelated opportunities ("happy accidents") that placed me at the heart of where the most impressive images from my childhood were created. But when I got there in the late '50s Hollywood was in a serious depression. It was so bad that major studios were auctioning off their back lots to become condos, and even Dorothy's red shoes from The Wizard of Oz went on the block.

A contrast in color and tone between a close-up subject can make an otherwise prosaic flower picture one with lasting appeal.

Times and the ideas of what is beautiful change. The glamorous stars of the heyday of Hollywood were no longer the popular ideal of beauty, although I did in a very small way sustain the memory and style of photography of that golden age--but that is another story I've already told. The one enduring aesthetic that is as universal, the one subject that a photographer's camera has always endured is the myriad shapes and colors of flowers. Of all the many kinds of photographs I have made over a long career, the most enduring pleasure and satisfaction has come from photographing flowers.

Since photographing hothouse flowers with a D-SLR camera, I have found that LaserSoft's SilverFast DCPro Studio raw conversion, management, and adjustment processing software has just the tool to deal with the unpredictable, "contaminated" light. In the Histogram dialog, at the bottom, is a Color Cast Removal slider that identifies the off-color cast in the image and provides an adjustment slider to get the right amount of removal of the color cast to obtain a clean color output.

Even in the dead of winter flowers may be growing in a hothouse near you, just waiting to be photographed and made into colorful and enjoyable photographs. But with few exceptions, like the wonderful, fully restored, Victorian greenhouse, the Conservatory in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, very few are well-known. However, entering "public greenhouses" in a Google search elicited thousands of references. Maybe someone will research and explore these possibilities and create a Photographers' Guide to Greenhouse Flower Photography. If I were only younger...

The Bodger greenhouse in Lompoc, California, is typical of large contemporary commercial growing facilities. Its lightweight steel structure is covered top and sides by corrugated semi-clear fiberglass sheeting that emits a soft, diffuse light that is ideal for photography. However, fiberglass can also function as a strangely distorting filter of the color of the light illuminating the interior. Upon entering the Bodger greenhouse on its one day public open house (usually the first Saturday of April) there is a plethora of different flower varieties, from the common to the exotic. It's like being a monkey set free in a fruit market, what to try first?

David Brooks can be reached via e-mail at: goofotografx@gmail.com.