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Just like chocolate calls to me from the hidden corners of my wife’s baking cupboards, a bouquet of tulips has been calling my name ever since their arrival, a much appreciated gift from good friends. The flowers command my attention every time I pass by and usually, they succeed in seducing me and my camera into action.

Tulips remind me of a few important things. They are beautiful at every stage. When they’re youthful with tight buds, the colours give us a hint of the display to come. When they reach adulthood, we gasp at the magnificent colours blending together. But one of my favourite phases in the life of a tulip is old age. Just like us, they get bent, wrinkled and frail. Their beauty seems to be enhanced for it’s at this stage we see the true character of the tulip, determined to shine to the max until the petals have all fallen away.

So, after many enjoyable portrait sessions with this irresistible bouquet of tulips, here are a dozen of my favourites.

 

This is actually from our last photo session. As the petals were falling like leaves in autumn, I laid these two stems on my light pad, which helps to reveal the colours and textures. While arranging them on the glass, the idea of a collection of petals on the ‘ground’ felt just right.
Soon after the tulip buds opened, I made this impressionistic style image.
Resembling a water colour painting, this was made in camera. The soft, painterly impression of the tulips speaks to me.
My wife insisted that I solemnly promise not to harm a single one. I agreed as I carefully placed a few of them on my light pad. The light pad allows me to make an arrangement as well as capture light coming through them, giving a translucent feel.
To keep the tulips fresh and long lasting, we put them in the garage each night. One morning, when I went to get them, I had the idea to place them outside in the rain for a bit. Then I spent a few hours next to a garage window photographing the flowers with my macro lens. Awesome!
With the macro lens, I poked my camera within the bouquet and between the stems, just looking for interesting discoveries. These petals were showing their age as well as their beauty.
The water drops, window light and macro lens all combined to reveal the hidden treasures within.
The deeper I went with the macro lens, the less concerned I was about revealing tulips. Instead, I was looking for pleasing arrangements of colour, shape and texture.
The over abundance of rain drops we’ve received this spring were at least put to good use on the tulips!
Softness, colour and raindrops.
Looking deep inside this multicoloured beauty, I emphasized the radial pattern by combining three images in camera.
A black cloth hung near the window to create contrast.
Also made on our final day together, these petals had all fallen off so were carefully laid out on the lightpad for a final farewell. Beautiful until the end!
Since I already had a collection of petals from the first image above, I decided to go abstract. Really, all I wanted was to blend the colours together. Camera motion and multiple exposure helped to accomplish that.

For Photographers

Even though the beauty of the tulips drew me in daily, I had another thought in mind. My intermediate photography students are currently working on creating a project of their own. With the special delivery of the tulips, my own photographic project was determined.

A project is the most powerful way for a photographer to dig deeper into a subject. With every photo, I was constantly asking myself, ‘What’s another way?’. That question usually results in new ideas and photos I’ve not made before. Pushing the creative edge is very satisfying, whether or not it leads to new and interesting forms of expression.

My rainy morning with the tulips in the garage is shown below. All I needed was a little window light and a background. And, most importantly, time without pressure or interruptions. Optional: background music is great! 

 

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