Talk about easy targets. Love it or hate it, flower photography is one of the most prevalent past-times for shutterbugs. Besides people, flowers probably rank number two on the list of most-frequently photographed stuff. After Louis Daguerre took the first known photograph of a human being, he probably lugged his gear down to his garden and pottered around for a little bit. And why shouldn’t he? Those colorful little packages of flora can be downright inviting. Beautiful color contrasts, intricate shapes and patterns, they’re a visual mother-lode. Just because they’re an easy mark doesn’t make them any less photo-worthy. It does, however, make it more difficult to produce something unique.
In and around Lancaster County, we have no shortage of photo-floral opportunities. Hershey Gardens and Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve are popular spots, but the botanical pièce de résistance is the nearby Longwood Gardens. Longwood boasts more than 1000 acres of outdoor and indoor gardens featuring a wide variety of plants and flowers that bloom throughout the year. You could literally spend a full day wandering the grounds exploring all the meticulously maintained horticulture.
I hadn’t been to Longwood Gardens in a few years, and I had never been to the gardens during a summer month so I was looking forward to seeing what was in season. Unfortunately, the day I had planned to visit was also going to be extremely humid and the chance of thunderstorms was high. With that in mind I decided to travel light photographically speaking. I decided to only take my small bag, my Canon 6D, and one lens. No tripod. Longwood does allow tripods earlier in the day, but I didn’t want to lug one around in the heat. Instead I decided to hedge my stabilization bets with a rental from my favorite camera store, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L Macro.
I already own the Canon 100mm USM Macro gold band and I love it. Besides being a great macro lens it also doubles as an excellent portrait lens, and the image quality and sharpness I get out of it are top notch. The only drawback being that it doesn’t have the IS built-in like the L series variant does. On this day, I knew without a tripod that my shutter speeds were probably going to drop to levels that would produce unacceptable sharpness without adding in some image stabilization. So the 100mm L glass enters the picture at this point.
So how did I do with my one-camera one-lens setup?
Not too shabby. There were definitely shots that would have benefited from having a tripod. At times, I ended up relying too much on shooting wide open at f/2.8 (especially when we were in the Conservatory waiting out a thunderstorm) to compensate for lack of light when shooting at f/11 and more depth in the shot would have been a better choice. Ultimately though, I was pleased with how quickly I could work and compose shooting hand-held and still get sharpness and clarity that I found acceptable. Sure, things could always be sharper. I could also be thinner and smell better, but sometimes we have to take what we can get.
If you’re a wedding professional and need to get those great macro ring shots on the go, this lens would be a valuable tool in your bag. For the amateur macro photographer that likes to occasionally shoot unencumbered by a tripod, it might be a wise investment or make a great rental. I’ll stick to renting for now since I love my gold band, but I’m not ruling out an upgrade someday in the future.
Finally, if you make your way to Longwood Gardens, be sure to check out what they’re doing in their dining areas. Executive Chef, and family friend, Will Brown and his staff are doing amazing things, a lot of times with ingredients grown right on there on the property. Check the man out on Instagram, when it comes to food he does not fool around.
Brian, these are beautiful! Thoughtful blog post, too, considering I have been a flower-photographing fool myself lately in that Kissel Hill flower field. I probably would benefit from a macro lens myself, sometime. One day.