Monday, April 4, 2011

Compositions with Roses

Fruhlingsduft (H. Spinosissima, Kordes, 1949)
Roses are blooming already at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, and I thought I would use my latest trip there to write about how I compose my pictures of rose blooms. I am not a professional photographer, but I have taken thousands of images of roses and other flowers. Here are a few basic observations on several ways to take a picture of a rose.

Close-ups of a single bloom are the easiest for me. Basically, I make sure the bloom is in focus, and then point and shoot. 

Général Schablikine (Tea, Nabonnand, 1878)
Sometimes I even remember to make sure the sun is shining the right way. These pictures almost always come out well. I think it is true of most amateur photographers, and such pictures are what one sees most of the time.

Eugene de Beauharnais (China, Bourbon, Hardy, 1838)
Next, the "two sisters" pictures. 

William Morris (Shrub, Austin, 1998)
The problems I encounter with pictures like these is making sure the two blooms don't merge into each other creating a shapeless mess, and getting the camera to focus so that both blooms are more or less sharp. Still such pictures mostly come out well for me.

Elie Beauvilain (Noisette, Beauvilain, 1887)
These images are most useful for rosarians when they show blooms at different stages of openness, 

Mrs. B.R. Cant (Tea, Cant&Sons, 1901)
such as a bud, or a newly-opened bloom and an aged bloom with its "fade" color.

Rose de Puteaux (Damask, unknown origin, 1665)
The more blooms in a cluster, the trickier it gets to take a good picture.

Souvenir de Mme. Léonie Viennot (Tea, Bernaix, 1898)
I never arrange blooms on a bush in any way, so it is fairly rare for me to find a view where the blooms would be positioned in an interesting way, my camera would focus on the right one, and the light would fall well on them.

Lorraine Lee, Climbing (H. Gigantea, Tea, Mackay, 1932)
Finally, the most difficult images are the ones which present a plant in an unusual way, showing as many blooms as possible...

Général Schablikine
 and offering a dynamic composition with asymmetrically arranged flowers at different distances from the viewer leading the eye across the picture. 

Champion of the World (Bourbon, China, Woodhouse, 1894)
If I am lucky, maybe one in ten such pictures comes out well. 

Dragon's Blood (Floribunda, Barden, 1979)
Still, in spring, when I see a profusion of fresh unspoiled blooms, these are the pictures I try to take most of.

Souvenir de Gilbert Nabonnand (Tea, Nabonnand, 1920)


  1. What a lovely pictures, whit a little bit of imagination, I can smell them...

  2. Thank you, Marian. Maybe one day they will come up with a way to photograph fragrance:)

  3. I don't think very much when I take pictures. After reading your post, it will be different ! Thanks, Masha ! Your roses are splendid !

  4. Hallo Mascha,
    vielen Dank für die nützlichen Tipps. Wenn die Rosen in meinem Garten blühen, versuche ich so gute Bilder zu machen, wie du sie zeigst.
    Liebe Grüße

  5. No tak....pięknie przedstawiłaś róże na Twoich fotkach .Masha jesteś profesjonalistką

  6. To fotografowanie wcale nie jest takie łatwe, dla nas amatorów. Tobie to juz wychodzi świetnie. Ja czasami napstrykam tych zdjęć i nie mam z czego wybrać, bo są nieciekawe, albo niewyraźne.Pozdrawiam

  7. Thank you, Dani, Anette, Bogusia and Giga. I am glad you liked my pictures.

  8. Masha - You have an artist's eye and your pictures are always beautiful and inspiring.

  9. Thank you, HolleyGarden, for such a lovely compliment.

  10. What a toughtful post! Most of us don't think SO MUCH taking photo;-] you seem a professional:-)

  11. Thank you, megimoher. I know, not everybody thinks so much before taking a picture, and that's OK, I enjoy all of them, but I have taken so many I had to learn something eventually:).

  12. Interesting post about "how to" - photograph roses! I find that besides things that you can explain like techniques or rules of composition and such, your photos have a special tough, that only comes from YOU, the photographer behind the camera. I love this moment of magic when the technique and the artist melt together and out comes one great photo. Just keep the pictures coming :-)!

  13. What a wonderful roses, Masha!
    and your shots are a true professional!
    It see that you love nature and your
    garden, you put the soul in the photograph!

  14. Thank you, Christina, and interestingly, I haven't thought of photographs having a personal touch: technique has been too much of an issue. I am glad you made that point. I love your pictures too.

    Tyziana, thank you for such a lovely compliment. I do try hard to take good pictures, but I am surprised that so much of me comes out in them. I don't know whether to feel happy or scared, but thanks for this observation.

  15. Hi Masha, Your photos are fantastic. It takes experience and a good eye to bring out such beauty in roses. Thank you for sharing.

    I'm sure your garden smells heavenly now.

  16. so informational and helpful...kind of what I do as well but I like the perspective of the 2 blooms and how to look for the right shot...

  17. Thank you for sharing these tips. Your pictures are always perfect!

  18. Thank you, One. I have a few roses blooming, and it is the best thing in the world to smell a rose again after all these winter months.

    Thank you, Donna. Your pictures are beautiful, I am not sure you need any of my tips...

    Thank you for your compliment, Olga. It is always nice to hear from you.

  19. You did a great job on photographing. The roses are beautiful. What do you do when blackspot sets in? Curious.

  20. I really appreciate your pictures which show the plant as a whole, or at least a large part of it. I choose plants, even roses, on the entire thing, and it sure does help to see what the bush looks like as a whole.

  21. Donna, thank you, and we don't usually have blackspot in California, so it is pretty easy to grow repeat-blooming roses that don't need winter chill.

    Jess, I understand the need for bush shots, it is just pretty hard to make them artistic. Whole bush shots basically show landscape shrubs and a rose as a landscape shrub is just one of many. It is usually some closer-up pictures that show the uniqueness of a particular rose variety.

  22. Thank you Masha for this photo lesson ! It could also be very interesting to see the entire plant as well, so that I could see how the rose is structured (bush, climber...).
    And thanks again for your loyalty to my blog.
    Talk to you soon

  23. I fell in love with Eugene...!

  24. Your pictures should be in the dictionary next to "eye candy". Gorgeous!

  25. Hi Masha, thanks for stopping by my blog, here's my reply: "Thank you Masha. There are several tulips with frilly edges, usually called ‘Fringed’ – I have others that you’ll see soon in my posts – they usually last a long time too."
    Your tips on photographing roses are very helpful. You are right it is important to show the whole bush as well as single flowers and I like the images that show new and fading blooms. It is very important to me that a rose bloom 'dies' well. Christina

  26. Beautiful pictures, Masha! The color of Eugene de Beauharnais is amazing. I haven't seen many roses with such a deep color.

  27. Thank you, Gabriel, I always enjoy your comments. Whole bush shots are tricky - the "structure" depends not just on your gardening methods (how hard yo prune for instance) but on climate too. Something that is a demure bush in England might look like a rampant climber in California, and so it is not very reliable.

    Thank you, Isabelle. Me too:)

    Thank you, Sweetbay, for making me smile:)

    Thank you, Christina, for telling me about fringed tulips - I will do more research.

    Thank you, Olga. There are some roses that are deeply colored like Eugene, and they are often hard to photograph...

  28. Double Wow! One for the gorgeous roses and one for the excellent photos you took! Like a professional!

  29. Thank you, p3chandan, I am glad you liked these!

  30. Dear Masha,

    A very beautiful in formative post. How do you view the picture in beautiful roses?.
    My big problem is ... how can I get this beautiful roses in my garden, hi, hi, ...
    And .... if I shoot my flowers I've been lucky as one really nice photo of 100 shots.
    But Masha,..... I am learning.
    Kind regards, Elly

  31. Thank you, Elly. I love the pictures on your blog, I think you are doing a great job. There are lots of roses that would do well in your climate.

  32. You are so right. Macro shots are easy especially if you really know the plant. It's the whole plant to landscape shot that takes talent. All your rose photos are beautiful.

  33. Thank you, Carolyn. It is great that we see eye to eye on this, and I am glad you liked these pictures.

  34. A very timely post for me. I will be entering some of my photographs in the local rose show in may. Some good tips.. Thanks.

  35. Nice! I'll have to remember this when my Roses are in bloom two months from now. :)

  36. Good luck, RR! I hope you will write a post on that, I will be looking forward to it.

    Thank you, Beth. This wasn't meant to be a tutorial:), your pictures are great already.

  37. Masha what a wonderful and informative post. Truly you are a master photographer and gardener. There are many of us who are happy to learn from you.

  38. You may be turning me into a rose lover!

  39. Glad you posted this Masha, I definitely find it easier taking pictures of single blooms. Very often if I am doing otherwise I find the central bloom is in perfect focus but the others are blurry. Love all your Rose pictures.

  40. Thank you, Fawne, for such lovely compliments.

    I am glad, Greggo, roses are wonderful plants.

    Thank you, Alistair, photography can be difficult:).

  41. ah, I wish I had time to go up to the San Jose Heritage garden now! but I wont have time for another 3 weeks, I wonder if they'll still be blooming then!

  42. Yes, Aimee, they will! I hope you get to see them. Also, the European ORGs should start then, there are some really interesting roses you could see.


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