Flower photography is a nice relaxing activity to do in the warmer weather, especially in an environment as nice as the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The gardens used to be a favourite haunt of mine when I was studying at Adelaide University. I’d often take a walk from the campus to enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens for an hour or two. Some of my favourite memories happened in the gardens, and though I live some distance from it these days, I try to get there at least a few times a year with the kids so that they can experience the wonder of the gardens, just as I did when I was younger.
Flower photography is very popular amongst photographers. Who wouldn’t like it? After all, flowers don’t move quickly like kids and animals, un less there’s a strong breeze of course. On my last trip to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, I carried with me my trusty Olympus OMD EM5 fitted with a very small and very silver Bell & Howell Lumax. The Lumax is a 25mm f1.9 lens that was once used on 16mm movie cameras some 60 odd years ago. You’ll quickly see why it has become one of my favourite old lenses for close up flower photography. Check out the following flower photos:
The lens has no modern coating to speak of, so flare with bright subjects is quite noticeable. I think this is a big plus when making photos of flower and other foliage in the sun though. I have deepened the greens and split toned in Lightroom, but what I want to draw your attention to is the quality of the out of focus areas. Note the circular cat’s eye characteristic of the bokeh. This type of distortion is very pleasing when the background is suitable. In this case, the highlights are provided by the sun glinting off a body of water in the background.
You can see the same pleasing circular bokeh in the above photo. A square crop setting really invites central placement of the subject and isolates it. The circular cat’s eye background really makes the flower pop!
Though the Lumax is significantly soft in the corners, the centre is surprisingly sharp. I was able to pull out a lot of detail in Lightroom from the photo above. Even on a zoom, it was possible to see individual hairs on the abdomen of the bee!
The lack of a modern coating can be used to advantage in some cases. The photo below demonstrates how a backlit photo can take on a soft and mystical feel with an old lens like this: