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Lisianthus Flower

"My Flower Photography" by Sue McDowall


Sue, when did your interest in photography begin?

"I have had an interest in photography and have been taking photographs for more years than I care to remember!


Freesia Flowers In A Jug


"My first camera was a Kodak Brownie 127 which I had when I was still at Primary School. 

Then during my early teens I was given an Olympus camera which used cartridge films and I shot large square slides. 

I then acquired my first SLR camera, a Pentax K1000."

Purple Tulip Ii
Lisianthus Buds






Have you always been interested in Still Life photography?

"I enjoy most genres of photography but I have a particular passion for still life.  I have enjoyed looking at flowers all my life.

I used to help my Dad in his greenhouse so I suppose it followed that I would one day combine this with my love of photography.

I started off by just taking straight pictorial shots of flowers, but it was when I got my first digital camera that I was then able to experiment more without the cost of buying and developing the film."

Purple Tulip Reflected I
Emerging Freesia Flowers




What inspired you to use this particular technique?

"I could try to create more arty images with my flowers making them very soft and pale and then introduce textures. 

However, it was last Autumn when I heard a lecture by Alex Hyde, which was almost a light bulb moment. 

Alex was photographing small amphibians in the Amazon jungle, but his images all had very black backgrounds and perfectly lit subjects.  

I knew I could adapt this technique to photograph flowers."

Yellow Tulip
Purple Tulip I



Can you explain how you create the completely black backgrounds?

"To create these images, firstly it is important to take a test shot and it must be totally black. 

I tend to use a very low ISO, either 64 or 100 and the shutter speed needs to be very fast. 

This obviously depends upon the ambient light and the smallest possible f stop. 

I then light the subject with a Manfrotto LED torch. This was my starting point but I have also experimented lighting various subjects in different ways, which can then be merged to give greater illumination."


White Lily Bloom Past Its Best
Iris Flower





What other techniques do you enjoy using?

"For the image of the Lisianthus flower (at the top of the page) I used a very shallow depth of field. 

I was inspired by Niamh Whitty who takes beautiful images of flowers almost out of focus but with just the meerest hint of sharpness on say a petal."





Iris Past Its Best
Three Yellow Dafodils


Finally Sue, where do you hope to go next with this project?

"I am now looking to create a larger still life set-up and use the same method but experimenting with different lighting and who knows where my imagination might take me!!"





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