Night Lights in the Garden is being held at The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens from February 1 to February 18, on Wednesdays through Saturdays. The event was a beautiful display of lighting and color. The plants were awash in colorfully changing, theatrical lights.
Music played and bongos pulsated through the rainforest display. A little creative photographing above echoed the sounds all around. The tropical atmosphere was a delight as outside was cold and rainy.
Plants soared skyward in the dome.
Each night has different entertainment and going more than once would not be out the question. I was there as a member of the botanical gardens, but also as a photography group member. If you remember from my posts on Old Fort Niagara, our photography group meets at a location to photograph as a group, all of the members having a differing artistic approach. Many shot the interiors with a wide-angle or fish eye view. My approach here was to shoot closeups, but, not many individual plants were lighted. So I got a little creative with movement and mood.
We were required to stay on certain paths, so I thought bringing a macro lens was going to be a good idea. I like the results, but will show you the more open views with a different lens in a later post.
We were not allowed the use of tripods, and in this low light, that proves a bit tricky. I had a monopod, but that is still difficult to control keeping the camera very still during these longer exposures. Most of the images you see here had the camera set at a high ISO. I jumped between 1600 to 4000 depending on how well-lit was the display. Above, was a 4000 ISO image. The shutter was set at 1/50th and the aperture at f2.8. Below, the shutter dropped to 1/20th, and at these speeds, a tripod is really a necessity. Having the ISO so high let me have shutter speeds more reasonable in the range of 1/50 to 1/100 using the monopod.
For those of you that never changed the ISO and may not know how it functions, here is a short explanation. Simply, ISO is how sensitive the image sensor in the camera is to the amount of light present. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor and therefore the possibility to take pictures in low-light situations.
I was going for more artsy shots being a bit limited by the lens I was using. One of the professionals suggested I not use a 4000 ISO, but you can see my images really did need it in this setting. I had to weigh whether I wanted to sacrifice camera shake blur for less grain. I only want blur when I want to show motion, or sometimes for an artistic technique, like in my abstract images here. Blur is really a different consequence than that of the result of camera shake. My camera and lens are pretty fast, so I was pretty sure my images would be fine. I did not want to ignore his advice because he is really talented and knowledgeable. And most probably, better at working in these low light conditions than me.
Most images are pretty sharp at the higher ISO considering, but blown up, would be somewhat grainy. I was not shooting RAW (which helps in processing later), but jpeg fine. If you click them, twice, they get really large and you can see a bit of the grain.
I was using a Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G lens, which has an ED lens of superior sharpness. The lens is a 1:1 and what the eye sees, is basically what the camera sees as far as distance, and it focuses to infinity. Being a true macro lens, it also focuses to within 6 inches of the subject, great for flower closeups.
The water falls is very high, but I could not get back far enough with the macro lens to get more of the image. This lens has no zoom, so you are quite restricted in how you frame a shot. It makes you more aware how you are filling the frame. Like above, I wanted the waterfall framed by the foliage, but you should have seen where I had to stand to get this shot. No, I was not I the planting beds, but was wedged in a corner very uncomfortably.
These fan palms were truly beautiful and have so many colors!!! In this image above, a professional suggested I crop out the wall to the left. Actually it is not a wall, but a palm trunk. But he is right, it is a highlighted distraction, and one he could not identify, making it more of a problem to the photograph. What I thought anchored the side in my framing of the image, ended up being very distracting in print. Being in this photography group will help me quite a bit. I love the constructive criticism that they offer. It will also help you the readers too, because you will see from my mistakes what not to do.
This reminded me of a deep-sea dive. Something I would never do in a million years, but it is nice to imagine what it would be like. The dancing lights were moving, and I just used a two second to three second long exposure for these abstract images. The larger areas of light were actually kids with a ‘light’ necklace. If you look close in the image above, you can barely see one of the kids on the left. Eerie isn’t it?
I did shoot some macro images of the flowers of the nighttime gardens, even though they were just receiving ambient light and not directly lit. This softens the photo generally as light washes the surface. The light was not sufficient for most, but too much for some. In those you see the hot spots in the photographs, like in the blue, ‘petunia-like image’ below. It is not a petunia by the way, but a small Amaryllis since the show was going on simultaneously.
And this is where the event was held. It is such a beautiful building. I will take you back here again soon in the daylight. Did this post remind you of my Avatar post? I would love to visit such a richly colorful place.
See Green Apples for making this classy digital matte. It is done on a white matte instead of black, but really it is a nice way to show off your images.