22 January 2007

Cymbidium Orchid: Keeping Notes and Trade-Offs

People are enjoying my New Zealand series, so I'm going to continue with it for a while.

I saw this orchid at Hamilton Gardens, in the Waikato region in the center of NZ's North Island. (That's where I photographed the mallard from the other day, too, BTW.) I had to go to my favorite plant identification forum to ask what kind of orchid this is, since I neglected to find that detail out while I was there. I was rewarded quite quickly with the info that it's a cymbidium of some sort. There are lots of different varieties and hybrids of cymbidium, but many of them are really hard to tell apart, so that's close enough for me. It's more than what I'd written down at the time I took the photo. (Aside: Always collect whatever identification information you can about your photos, especially flora and fauna, in case you ever find yourself wanting to publish them. Even if you never think you would do such a thing, note-taking -- and follow-up research if necessary -- is a great way to learn about the natural world, like the age-old practice of keeping a nature or field journal. I keep a small ruled Moleskine notebook in my camera bag to record such details, though I confess I haven't used it much since my New Zealand trip.)

This photo is an example of where I've had to make a trade-off in depth of field. I wanted the blossoms to stand out, which I would do by making the green background blurry to eliminate distracting detail. But narrowing the depth of field to achieve that selective focus meant that the flowers near the top (which were farther back from the plane of the camera) are a bit out of focus. The standard solution for this problem would have been to adjust my vantage point so that the blossoms were all about the same relative distance from the lens. But compositionally that wouldn't have been as interesting a photo, I think. In any event, the blossoms are close enough to the leaves, that with the lens I was using that day, it would have been near impossible to isolate them entirely with depth of field. So I had to choose a happy medium between having them all in focus and making them burst forth from the background. Photography is all about trade-offs.

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