Mirabilis jalapa – Marvel of Peru

I bought 4 tubers of Mirabilis jalapa (4 o’clock flower, marvel of Peru) at the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) in Amsterdam. I wasn’t expecting much from these plants, given that they are really for warm temperate regions and not the United Kingdom. To my surprise, they have taken well to the local conditions (even the miserable summer) we’ve had.

I’m not really sure what to do with these plants now that winter is soon approaching. The advice appears to be divided between leaving them in place with mulch and hope for the best year to digging the tubers up till the next year. Since I do have two in the ground and two in pots, I’ll probably try different methods and see which one works best! A proper scientific process!

Evening Primrose – on black

Oenothera’s are a genus of plants native to the America‘s. In the United Kingdom they are grown as annuals, but due to their self-seeding nature, they come back year on year. These are some of the last flowers for this year.

Two pictures: The top one focussing on the petals to bring out the delicate veins, the bottom one to focus more on the stamens and carpel of the flower. In order to achieve a dark background, a flash was used with high shutter speeds. The blacks and shadows were adjusted in Lightroom 4.1 to give a complete black background.
Technical details:

Nikon D80
SB-600 Speedlight Flash
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens
Post-Processed with Adobe LightRoom 4.1

Study of a Rose

As autumn draws ever closer here in the United Kingdom, the last of the summer roses go out in a blaze of colour for a final time in 2012. The following pictures are of one such rose in my garden. I would be interested in knowing which one of the four you like best, or none as well!

Please click on each picture to view a full size version. In order to achieve a dark background, I have used a flash and post-processed to cut darks and shadows.

Technical Details:

Nikon D80
SB600 Speedlight Flash
1/125 to 1/40 f/7.1 ISO200
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens
Post-processed in Adobe Lightroom 4.1


Gazania – on black

Gazania‘s are native to south africa and are commonly grown in the UK as an annual. The lovely flowers light up any border with their profuse blooms and long flowering season. These gazania’s are from my garden in Cambridge.

Technical details:

Nikon D80
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
1/100 f/18 with flash.
post-processed with Adobe Lightroom 4.1

Daffodil on black

I know it is strange to talk about spring blooms in the dreary days of autumn! I came across this picture in my collection taken earlier this year and thought it would offer a chance for us facing shorter days, cold and rain to cheer up with thoughts of spring!

Daffodil against a dark background. Click to see a larger image.

Technical details:

Nikon D80
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens
1/3200 f/7.1
External SB-600 speedlight flash used.
post-processed in Adobe LightRoom 4.1

Tree Lilies

Tree Lilies are a hybrid lilies of oriental and European lilies, and grow up to 8 feet in height with large fragrant blooms. I bought a few tree lilies earlier this year and they’ve grown to about 5 feet tall. Here’s what the flowers look like:

Majestic yellow blooms about 5 inches across with heavenly fragrance.
Dark pink/salmon shaded tree lilies. Also large long lasting blooms on tall (year 1 – 5 feet tall) plants.

Tree lilies can be bought from most good garden centres an nurseries. I purchased mine mail order from Thompson & Morgan. Don’t buy bulbs in autumn, or if you do, desist from planting in the ground till spring next year. I lost a whole collection of these over the winter here in Cambridge.

British Wildflowers – Birds-Foot Trefoil

A common sight in British grasslands and meadows. In high season, whole fields seem coated in yellow.  These plants, also called Lotus corniculatus, belong to the same family as the pea.

Common Bird’s-foot trefoil
Macro-view of Common Bird’s-foot trefoil flowers.

Related Posts:

Back on Black – 1

I love taking pictures with a black or underexposed background. Most of my pictures are taken in daylight. There are two tricks I use to get to a suitably dark or sometimes totally black background. As I’ve been asked many time how I do this, here’s is the first way.

Using an external flash with the camera set to a very high shutter speed (> 1/2500) and a high aperture (~f/14). This ensures that the foreground is well exposed and there isn’t enough time for the sensor to record the background which then appears dark. Slight adjustments in Lightroom to increase black and the photograph really stands out.

Original image 1/3200 f/14 with external SB600 flash
Adjustments in Lightroom. Increased blacks, desaturated greens, increased highlights.

It is really that easy!! Of course, it always helps if the background isn’t too crowded or very bright. Also using a high aperture means that most of the image is in focus. In a future post, I will try to cover other ways by which I get a black background (especially in those cases where this method is not possible).