A S C R A P B O O K O F S O L U T I O N S F O R T H E P H O T O G R A P H E R
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17 March 2017
Once again we took a moment to take in Bouquets to Art, the de Young Museum's annual conversation between art and nature "where the most in-demand floral designers from the Bay Area and beyond create stunning arrangements inspired by the de Young's collection."
The show opened Tuesday and runs through Sunday with photo-free periods on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. That's a nice expansion of the photo-free sessions from last year's single morning.
The problem with photos, as we've pointed out, isn't photography. It's smartphones. Their wide-angle lenses oblige you to get very close to the display, blocking everyone else out.
We shot with the Olympus E-PL1 using the 14-42mm kit zoom at f5.6. That works for us.
And we made quick work of it, too, getting through the museum in about 50 minutes, although there did seem to be fewer bouquets this year.
We took 83 photos, 39 of them at f4.5 and 24 at f5.6. Shutter speeds varied from 1/25 to 1/100 with most between 1/40 and 1/80 second. With in-body image stabilization and no moving subjects, we didn't have to worry about slow shutter speeds. And ISO was almost entirely at 1600 and only six times as low as 640 to 400. It's dark in there.
Focal length was very evenly distributed throughout the 14-42mm range of the kit lens, which is a 28-84mm 35mm equivalent. The wide angle 14mm did make it into double digits at 13 but none of the others came close.
We do have to explain the centerpiece, which was an uprooted tree hung from the ceiling in the foyer. The trunk was formed by a thread-like spiral with the roots dangling just over the heads of the people in the foyer. On the second floor there was even a bouquet to it.
We processed the 83 images in Lightroom CC, which required a few different tricks.
For one thing, we spent more time with color temperature than we usually do because the museum is artificially lit. We should have thought to use a WhiBal to color correct the images, frankly.
The other big problem was converging verticals. We couldn't rely on the Upright tool's Auto mode because the angles were confusing. So we used Guided mode to draw at least one pair of parallel lines and often two. That made a huge difference in the crop and greatly enhanced the presentation of most of the images.
Our exposures captured the highlights pretty well, no small feat considering the bouquets are spotlit while the paintings are more subtly illuminated to protect their pigments.
TWO SLIDE SHOWS
We ended up with 57 keepers of the 83 total, way too many for a slide show. So we uploaded the keepers in full resolution (but probably massacred by Google's Guetzil JPEG Encoder) to Google Photos where, if you're inclined, you can enjoy all of them.
For the slide show above, we narrowed the selection down to 38, which was still far too many, and then closed our eyes to cut it down to just 20 of our favorites. Not too taxing, we think.
We didn't shoot everything. A few bouquets were less than inspired. Some were just difficult to frame.
There always seems to be one particular angle that best pairs the painting and the bouquet. That's the secret to getting through the exhibit in an hour, even if you have to wait every now and then for a crowd to clear so you can get the shot.
If there were multiple angles, you could be there all day.
So find the painting the bouquet was inspired by and you'll be halfway there.
The other issue, especially this year, is to be aware of your horizontal angle. We got far too many floor registers in our shots because we were often shooting down instead of squatting a bit.
It isn't enough to get both the painting and the bouquet in the shot. You have to pose them. And you do that by standing in ridiculous poses yourself.
We do have to say how impressed we were by the politeness of the crowd. We were there on the second afternoon of the show, which was quite busy. We often found ourselves waiting for a shot to clear but we were surprised to see people waiting for us to fire the shutter before the crossed in front of the camera.
Even the smartphone shooters were less intrusive that afternoon, getting their photo and moving along so we didn't have to wait nearly as long for a shot to clear as we have in the past.
Another perspective on perspective occurred to us as we wandered the permanent galleries.
Some paintings and sculptures always seem to get a bouquet. It's fun to look back over the years we've been doing this at what other designers came up with for a particular painting. Just click on the See Also links on the left to go back in time.
It's also interesting to see, over the years, how various styles of painting have evoked various styles of arrangements. The modern art on the first floor gets the most whimsical bouquets while the Impressionists on the second floor get the most evocative.
But there are always surprises. And that's what makes it so much fun.