Shooting for a Calendar: Into the Garden of Good and Evil

It is everyone’s dream to shoot a calendar: beautiful women in bikinis, fast cars with lots of chrome, wild animals in the jungle.  Me, I get asked to do a racy calendar of plants and bugs. Perhaps it was not the most glamourous photographic opportunity, but it was to support the school’s eco-activities while providing exposure for my photography to a wide audience. Gardens are about colours, textures and hidden worlds; I wanted to capture as much of that imaginary micro-world I could, while still remaining true to my own style of photography. My favourite photo was actually not selected for the calendar – there are only twelve months to work with, after all. The yellow and lilac tones contrast subtly with the plant greens, but it is the two insects that pull me in. This style of macro image always pulls me in, and even though I do not own a macro lens I do love experimenting with the imaginary world beneath our everyday notice.

Any good garden will feature some roses, and these red roses just exuded romance, while still being cold and pristine in their tones. It was October, so these flowers were pretty much on their last legs before the frost. For the images I used a Canon 300mm f. 4.0 IS L lens and a reversed Canon 50mm f. 1.4 lens. I was really struck by what a great lens the 300m lens was for these types of shallow depth of field shots. The Image Stabilization really helped to handhold the camera in the wind and rain.

Finally, I decided to include a shot of the harvested produce that the gardeners had gathered that day, and which was going to be used some recipes included in the calendar lay-out. The real feature of this type of image has to be to combine the colours while still building depth in the field of focus through shadows. The viewer has to taste the realness of the organic tomatoes even if they only get to enjoy hydroponic styrofoam ones come February. The sunshine of the September afternoon really shines through here.

It should be wonderful to see this project come to fruition over the next month. The lay-out looks solid and inviting, even if the photos take a secondary role to the recipes. I am always amazed at what opportunities have become available to me in the past few months, and just how different each project is despite needing the same basic skill set to complete it. You always have to be searching for ways to grow your palette and to learn from each new session, and what I learned while taking these photos will develop how I approach my next food photography session. Looking at these images now I cannot help but wonder what I might have been able to produce with a macro lens and a tripod.

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