Photographing Feathers and Petals
Feathers and petals simply refers to a photographic project involving the recording of images of feathers and flower petals together in one main photo composition.
This is an almost exclusive realm of the studio and a still life technique. Obtaining specimens to photograph should not be too difficult, in the case of petals go to any flower store and select several bunches of flowers.
Carefully separate the petals from the flowers and keep them in a cool dry location until ready to conduct your project. Next go to most hobby, curious shops or to any arts & crafts center and you are sure to find many varieties of feathers. Try to stay away from those artificially colored samples as they rarely look real. Look for real colored natural looking samples.
The project involves gathering a fair sample of both feathers and petals of various colors and shapes and carefully arranging them in a pattern that looks pleasing and is acceptable to you. Be artistic and break the rules if you need to, so long as you achieve a composition with which you feel comfortable.
You will more likely need a flat surface to lay your subjects on. The background should also be dark to black. there are many alternatives to a background and surface, but for now lets stick to a dark one. Use diffused light to cast a soft light and avoid harsh shadows. Use of a snoot is highly suggested since it concentrates a narrow beam of light onto a particular spot, yet it is wide enough to illuminate the entire subject.
A good tip is to lay the feathers first and sprinkle petals on top. Use judiciously since you do not want to cover one subject with too many samples of the other. Shots should be close ups to record textures, patterns and variations in color hues. Use colors that compliment each other like subtle variations of reds for example. Try different angles of illumination; side, overhead, behind and directly in front of the composition.
Other variations are to use a clear surface on which to deposit your feather and flower composition and illuminate the entire scene from directly below. You can also use two pieces of a clear holding material such as plexiglass and "sandwich" you composition. This will allow you to move the entire frame and angle it in any way that is suitable and presents an easier handling platform.
Another variation is to use colored filters in front of the light source to cast subtle hues of color, or use several light sources with different colored filters. Please note that the ambient light cannot be be too strong or it will overpower your main light source, and when I say "overpower" I am referring to an ambient light that is strong enough to erase any subtle hues if you are using diffused light, colored filters and so on.
Almost any feather will work with this theme but the best samples are those that come from exotic specimens such as those of the peacock and many parrot specimens. Most of these are commercially available at the fore mentioned locations. If you cannot locate any suitable sources for feathers, then a good source is the net.
The emphasis of this theme is to capture samples of color, texture, shapes and form. Because of the many variations in color and texture offered by these two subjects this composition makes great images.
The best samples can be shown in fine art galleries and submitted to the many photography publications which are constantly looking for new and inspiring photographic compositions. Color variations can include softer color shades of feathers accompanied by stronger colored petals or vice verse.
This theme is also quite adaptable for wedding portfolios; try mixing a combination of flowers and feathers as center pieces or surrounding the wedding rings and so forth.
Try creating compositions that includes candles to add a feeling of romanticism to the scene. You can also mix both subjects in wooden or copper bowls, or have the petals floating on a bowl with water which is surrounded by feathers.
There are many alternatives to creating many compositional elements. You are only limited by your imagination.
Keep in mind that both these subjects are translucent and light will easily pass through them. Use a not too strong light source and test various angles to find the more suitable one for your needs, otherwise you may end up recording a mostly silhouetted scene. Also remember to keep your subjects in a dry and cool place prior to starting; flowers wilt quite quickly in the heat and feathers may dry up and become brittle.
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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez