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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Consider the Beauty of the Lowly Dandelion

It's a good thing that I don't take better care of my lawn because if I did I would probably lose all the interesting weeds and wildflowers that grow there. Among my favorite "weeds" are the dandelions that I have by the hundreds in the back lawn. Dandelions may be the scourge of lawn fanatics, but to me they're cheerful and bright and the bunny rabbits love to eat them. And if you've never laid down in the lawn and looked face-to-face with a dandelion, try it--they're amazingly intriticate flowers. Amid the many layers of delicate yellow petals are dozens (if not hundreds) of little curly florets, or tiny flowers. Most people, unfortunately, poison or weed whack them into oblivion before really appreciating them.

Photographing a dandelion is mostly a matter of laying on your face on the lawn and having a camera that lets you focus very closely. I took this shot yesterday while continuing to do test shots with the Nikon D90. I was using a 105mm Micro Nikkor which is an incredibly sharp lens and a great focal length and lets you get very close to small subjects. I realized while shooting this photo, however, how much I wished I was working with a zoom lens. When you're limited to one focal length you have to physically move closer or farther away to change the image (subject) size. While using a prime lens (a single-focal-length lens) is a lot more restrictive because you can't change the composition by simply twisting the lens barrel, it does force you to try to find subjects and compositions that match the focal length. It's an interesting challenge.

I've also photographed dandelions with point-and-shoot digital cameras have have gotten some great photos. Unfortunately some point-and-shoots set the lens to a single focal length once you put it in the macro mode so you have exactly the same issue as with a prime lens: you can't zoom. Still, some point-and-shoots, like my old Olympus C5050 (and I love that camera) let you focus extremely close and there's almost no flower too small to shoot.

Next time you're thinking of killing off the dandelions, grab the camera and take a few mintues to photography it first. I'll write more about close-up photography in the future because it's one of my favorite topics. Taking good close-up photos is really tough work but I do have some good tips to share. By the way, my friend Bryan Peterson has a wonderful new book out called Understanding Close-Up Photography and it's well worth owning. Bryan is one of the world's best photo instructors and writers and I learn something every time I open one of his books.

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