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Spectacular Orchids at the Orchid Spectacular

August 26, 2013

Orchids-0254Yesterday, I had a most enjoyable wander around the Melbourne Orchid Spectacular. It is an annual event and features displays of numerous varieties of orchids from all over Australia. I am always fascinated by orchids. I love the vast variety of colours and shapes.

Orchids-0266Orchids are amazing in their diversity, ranging from tiny almost invisible flowers, to the large, showy almost surreal oversaturated colours of the Cattleyas. The show features a wide range of Cymbidiums, as these seem to be the most popular variety, relatively hardy and fuss free to grow. Serious orchid growers will disagree as they hybridise and crossbreed for colour and flower shape. The weekend grower however can stick them under a tree, give them the occasional watering and they seem to survive and bloom.

Orchids-0247From a photographic point of view, orchids stretch the limits of the colour rendering of many sensors and definitely the depth of field of many lenses. For best results you need a close focusing macro lens. One gentleman was equipped with a telephoto zoom and was struggling. There were a number of people using iPhones and from what I could see, were getting reasonable results.

Orchids-0255I decided to use a Nikon D600 full frame DSLR with Nikon 60mm ƒ2.8 macro and 85mm ƒ1.8 lens for my interpretation of the flowers. I wanted to use available light and no flash. Although it seemed to be OK with the organisers, I chose not to walk around with a tripod.

Orchids-0244Orchids-I simply wanted snapshots. Just some quick, fuss free photos of the flowers I so much admire. Once you start with a tripod, which I usually always advocate, you’re starting to move from the realm of the snapshot and into serious photography. Not what I wanted to do on a pleasant, casual Sunday surrounded by flowers.

The flowers at the are quite accessible at the show, although many are crowded together on stands. Most are propped up by stakes and the backgrounds, as is the lighting, is a bit challenging.

Orchids-0285As I was only interested in taking snapshots, I set the camera on aperture priority and auto white balance.

The new Nikon algorithms for auto ISO are very clever and I opted to use those as well. In the auto ISO menu, I set a minimum shutter speed of 1/100th of a second and a maximum ISO of 6,400. The shutter speed was chosen because you need to get close with both lenses and I didn’t want to get any shake. On a good day, free of coffee, I can hand hold down to 1/30th with either lens, but to get good results, I need to concentrate.
For the D600, I was comfortable setting ISO 6400. It is full frame camera and relatively noise free at that ISO setting.

Orchids-0244Technically prepared, camera set to advanced amateur mode, I was free to wander around and take some snaps. It was a joy. I didn’t fuss. I pointed the camera at whatever orchid took my fancy and simply enjoyed the others while I meandered around.

I downloaded the results to Lightroom 4 and did a bit of minor exposure adjustment and sharpening. I am quite happy with the results. They’re a fuss free, colourful reminder of an enjoyable day out. The pictures are sharp and colourful, surroundings soft and blurry. Exactly the results I wanted.

Orchids-0251On checking some of the meta data, I was interested to see what the Nikon did with no interference from me. I had set a nominal ISO of 200, but the Auto ISO varied from 2,000 right up to the 6,400 maximum I’d preset. In most instances, the shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, but occasionally, the shutter speed had dropped to 1/60th and in one case 1/30th of a second.

Orchids-Those pictures were OK, but not as sharp as the 1/100th of a second ones. The main point is that the Nikon program works extremely well without interference, provided your parameters are set properly to begin with. My Nikon D7100 gets noisy at ISO 2400, so that is the top limit I use for auto ISO with that camera.

Orchids-0247Even as an experienced professional photographer it can be a pleasant experience to abandon a lot of the technical aspects of your craft and take snaps, just for fun. You can’t unlearn everything, because that is ingrained and part of the way you see and function, but you can take yourself back a few steps and have fun with even the most complex of cameras.Orchids-0250 Orchids-0248 Orchids-0246 Orchids-0256 Orchids-0263

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