Dahlias & Autumn Sunshine

Last week I was inspired by a talk at my photography club – Colchester Creative Shots – that was given by a local amateur photographer, Doug Wyatt.

Earlier that afternoon we had been taking down our summer exhibition photographs from a local gallery, and Sarah had spotted some glorious soft mauve and yellow-petalled Dahlias at a nearby market stall. I adored the colours but knew that they wouldn’t complement my home decor at all – so purchased a bunch of radiant orange and yellow blooms instead. I wanted to capture their beauty in a photograph but have never had much luck with flowers and plants – always being disappointed by the lighting or focus of the shots. The market trader was about to pack up for the day and so I gave in to my whim and added a bunch of the mauve blooms to my purchase – for photography subjects only …

That evening we sat enthralled at our meeting as Doug showed us his portfolio of amazing images. He takes a lot of still life shots, often of very ordinary items that most people would pass by without a second glance. With his simple and honest approach he turns them into something far more than ordinary. They range from old weathered, cobwebbed clay plant pots; through bunches of Swiss chard grown on his allotment, to a pestle and mortar on his wife’s chopping board …

Most of his images, especially his still life shots, are presented in a square format and on a tiled gallery format on his website – and that style has always appealed to me. The effect of the whole tile to me is as important as the individual shots and it is what I am going to try today with my post, albeit with rectangular images in my case. His advice to me on capturing my flowers successfully was to ensure that I had good natural light as my top priority – and not to be over-concerned with depth of field. He loves to pick out details in his images and doesn’t worry if the whole of his subject is not in sharp focus. It made me realise that it was the creative artist in Doug that made his photographs so special, rather than a particular focus on techniques. Perhaps then, I had been trying too hard with my flower photos in the past – instead of remembering the most basic and important requirements ? Lighting and creativity …?


The next day was gloriously sunny inside my house and the autumn rays of the sun were soft and golden. I sat my vase of orange and yellow Dahlias on a small side table in my living room with the flower heads bathed in sunlight  and took a few shots with 3 different lenses. My 70-200 2.8 lens didn’t really work as I had to stand a long way away to focus at all – but my prime 50mm lens and 24-105 zoom were perfect for the subject matter. I felt reasonably pleased with what I could see on my camera screen, so moved on to the mauve dahlias. They were somehow so much more delicate and enchanting than the bold autumnal colours and I was so glad that I had bought them. They are my favourite images from the finished shots and I hope that you like them too …


What struck me about my images was that I had been able to create something that I was really proud of and it had been achieved so simply by adhering to very basic rules. Doug’s inspiration and advice has meant that I have a new confidence to photograph subjects that I have previously given up on because I believed that I didn’t have the talent to do them justice. I have not post-edited the images at all, except to resize them for displaying.  The lighting in the images, especially for the mauve Dahlias, has created an effect that I am so thrilled with, and the focus in the shots is perfect to highlight the intricate patterns that those mauve-tipped petal edges create. Nature’s beauty is displayed to perfection in those few blooms – and I have been very privileged to capture it in my shots …


Please visit Doug’s website at http://www.douglaswyattphotography.com to see his wonderful images.


2 thoughts

  1. I’m always surprised by still life images as it doesn’t fit with my idea of getting out there and taking pictures but if you fill the frame then the patterns and colours have impact. Good idea to arrange in tiles.

  2. Thanks for your comments Michael… I understand exactly what you mean about still life, but I am now hoping that my increased confidence will enable me to get some superb flora shots out ‘in the field’. I am amazed at the fact that I was able to capture such sharp shots indoors using just the available sunlight. My ISO was set on 400, and my apertures were either set at f10 or 11 – my shutters speeds were between 1/80 and 1/250. These shots were all hand held too, and the metering was just set on ‘evaluative’. As I said in the blog though, I feel my success was down to the lighting conditions and letting my creative nature take precedence over any analytical approach …
    I hope that you like my new WordPress theme ? It is still work in progress but is orientated towards a gallery style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s