Today it was -10C and windy outside, but yesterday I was able to take this image of a snowdrop fighting through winter to make a statement: freezing temperatures and miserable weather will not stop the arrival of spring. At the edge of winter, nature has adapted to survive just fine.
Snowdrops and other flowers that bloom at this time of the year have a sort of “antifreeze” protein that prevents water turning to ice inside cells and killing them in temperatures that harm other plants. They may droop a little more when it’s freezing cold, but they bounce back as the temperature rises. The wonders of evolution at play – the snow around the base of this flower doesn’t bother it at all.
Which is a good thing, because snowdrops are my wife’s favourite flower and we’re trying to establish a healthy group of these in our garden. Knowing that the snow around such a flower is iconic, but that this one had started blooming in an area with remaining fresh snow from a few days before, I transplanted the snow to this location from a shaded part of the yard. I also deliberately designed the background, falling off to a deep pale blue. Maybe the right word there I “pail” blue, since the colour is coming from a small blue garbage pail placed in behind.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes image of the setup: http://donkom.ca/bts/snowdrop-bts.jpg
I used a flashlight to add extra sparkle to the snow, which when out of focus with a Trioplan 100 lens turns into a very beautiful bokeh. Those faint circles dancing around in the background are only possible with direct light hitting the snow and having a very shallow depth of field. The Trioplan 100 (and many other similar lenses) only display this “magical” bokeh when shooting wide open, so you need to choose your focus carefully if you’re after a single-shot image like this. Aligning the camera to the subject to make sure your focal plane passes through as much of the subject as is necessary can be difficult. If I was a little higher and aimed the camera at the flower head, much of the rest of the flower would be out of focus. I feel this angle finds the right balance – but there were dozens of other shots that didn’t find that balance! Much adjusting and experimenting was required here.
In the end, this image is trying to tell a story. That’s a hard thing to do with macro photography of static subjects, and I’ve failed at it many times in the past. This image is as much about fragile beauty as it about strength and perseverance, which is why it’s a personal favourite in my work photographing flowers. Absolutely inspired by my wife Desi to make this image. <3
If you’d like to walk through our award winning gardens here, you should absolutely consider a workshop. I’ve got a number of full-day macro workshops in July and August, and a variety of 3-hour water droplet refraction workshops coming up: http://www.donkom.ca/workshops/ - I promise you’ll walk away with magical images and new knowledge and techniques to be creative and inventive with your photography.