Magnolias, Sun Star, B&W

Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden, San Francisco, CA

So I’ve had this photograph sitting in my digital files for about 18 months now.  I worked with it several times in Lightroom last year, but couldn’t get an end result I could settle on.  One of the biggest challenges has been to somehow make the background less dominating, especially the sky area at 10 o’clock to the sun star and left flower.  Though the background was mostly shadows and very dark greens, the Magnolia flowers didn’t stand out even though it was backlit.  I finally took a quick look to see how this photo might look in black and white.  There were possibilities.

With a B&W photograph now in mind, I exported to Silver EFex Pro and began playing with the presets and then applying color filters.  The color filters created one effect I was hoping for, pixelating the bright sky in the background and bringing the focus of the photo just a little bit back to the flowers.  While it’s still not a great composition, it’s one I can live with for the time being.

Technically, about the only thing I did right was to shoot wide open (using a low f/stop) and blurring the background.  Again, I had some random ISO 720 setting, for no apparent reason other than I had no idea what I was doing, that introduced more graininess into the photo than necessary.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 22mm, ISO 720, 1/4000 sec, f/3.8

Magnolias, Sun Star, B&W. Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden, San Francisco, California. March 19, 2010. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Magnolias, Sun Star, B&W

    1. Thanks! I did do some noise reduction, but the noise was most evident in the color version of the photo and the background section. And yes, my tolerance for noise is low and maybe unreasonably so. I’ve seen great photographs where the noise is an important element and adds to the overall effect. That’s likely the reason Silver Efex Pro has options to simulate higher ISO with very specific slide film characteristics in addition to just a standard grain sliders.

      And photos from the 80s and earlier shot on film tend to have some amount of noise present in those lower light situations.

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  1. While I agree the background is a little busy, overall I like the composition, the eye is definitely drawn to the sun through the flowers and the background is blurred enough in the B&W frame to not be a distraction, at least to me.

    There’s also excellent play of light on the flowers themselves with shadow lines that are stark enough to contrast nicely with the gentle curves of the flowers. I also feel the noise is almost unnoticeable, at least in the size of photo that is uploaded to wordpress.

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  2. I haven’t seen the original version but I do not find that the background distracts me as much. It also kind of depends on what is it you have in mind versus how others see it. I think I like the idea of a general chaos and yet the eyes (rather the mind ) figure out where to look for the right subject. I think not all images can or need to be simplified which is what you were possibly hoping for here too.

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