Send A FREE Floral Art Online Greeting Card

planted-fountain.jpg

Why not use our FREE POSTCARDS at MoPlants.com to send your friends a floriferous greeting for New Years, birthday, holiday, anniversary or just to show you care? Click here to go directly to our collection of 30 gorgeous original images to share with friends and family.   http://www.moplants.com/free_postcards.php   Inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is a beautiful Italian courtyard featuring this tiered fountain.  But its bowls were filled with beautiful floral arrangements rather than water.  I thought it was lovely but also illustrated a great decorating idea.  Anyone in the north who moves a fountain indoors to protect from freezing, this is a wonderful way to enjoy it all winter long. When I began photographing plants and gardens for my books, I was limited by standard 35mm color slides.  All shots came back from processing as is because slides have no negative – they are direct positives.  I was lucky to get a few marketable shots out of each roll.  Those good shots remained as is in full frame forever.  Going digital changed all that.  Not only can I correct a marginal shot, I can crop an image down to create a new shot with only part of the picture.  I’d spend hours playing around with Photoshop to learn exactly what I could do to my pictures.  That’s how I created my “art shots” which turn a photo into an impressionist painting.  The lath fern house at Sherman Library and Gardens on California’s south coast was originally a marginal shot too dark to be useful.  But with a little digital magic it was transformed into a lush work of art.  I don’t sell these shots, I just create them for the joy of digitally rendering beautiful plant images.  I use the high resolution originals to create personal greeting cards.  I thought you’d like to do the same online, so even if you don’t have a printer you can send my FREE POSTCARDS from MoPlants.com  http://www.moplants.com/free_postcards.php  Just browse through my art shots to choose the right one for any occasion.  Fill out the form provided with your message and the recipient’s email address, then send one or one hundred!  No envelope, no stamp, no mailbox.  It’s just that easy.  Enjoy!  

Secrets of Mo’s Photo Art Revealed to Everyone

italian bougainvillea.jpg

Going from slide photography to digital doesn’t just give you better pictures.  Digital opens the door to explore altering a picture to make it a better version of the original.  But it’s even more fun to become an artist, to create something that look like a real paintings!  While in one of the Renaissance era parks in Rome some years back while still shooting 35 mm, I came upon this crumbling villa with its decadent bougainvillea.  Smitten by the colors I snapped the shot in Kodachrone 64 but knew the light wasn’t right and as a slide it would never be a marketable shot. This was one of the first of my old slide stock to go digital with the addition of a slide scanner to my digital arsenal.  The pix above is it’s original scanned state before alteration.  To fire it up I now use Photoshop Elements, a scaled down version of the blockbuster graphics program, Photoshop.   Step 1 is to bring up the image and rotate it slightly to get it square to the shot.  Step 2 is to crop the squared up image.  I crop a second time to get some roof, the upstairs window, the iconic facade columns and a frame of bougainvillea for color. Step 3 is to brighten up the image that tends to be a bit on the dark side.  If it’s a little fuzzy I heighten the contrast too. Step 4 I increase the color saturation to bring muddy tones into luscious bold hues. Once you’re this far then the magic begins… Then go to “Filters” and choose “ink outlines”.  This will transform the standard photograph into the artistic rendering above.  However, not all photos will look great with this trick.  But that’s what’s so compelling about this effect – you never know what you’re going to get!  Whether it’s a scanned shot or a less than great digital photo, don’t be too quick to toss it out.  More often than not it can be digitally altered into a profoundly beautiful illustration.  Get Photoshop Elements online at Tiger Direct (see Cool Links)       

Mo’s Garden Photo Tip: It’s The Light!

hard light

Want to know why English gardens always look so good?    Soft light ensures that the subtle hues of these succulents and associated stones are all fully saturated with color. It’s because the weather in England during the summer is perfect for great photography.  They say it rains almost every day, which means the residual overcast softens the sunlight like a pane of frosted glass.  This allows a photograph to be evenly illuminated, shadow free, and the colors are intensely saturated for that eye-popping image that jumps off a magazine page. In America the summer light can be far more harsh, shining uninhibited through clear skies.  When this “hard” light strikes a plant leaf or flower it bounces off – so the camera cannot “see” its color.   Plus, the shadow cast by that leaf or anything else for that matter turns jet black.  The combination of glare and black creates high contrast pictures with very little color or what pros call minimal color saturation.   Hard light burned away the suble coloration of stone making black shadows the dominant elements of this composition. This illustrates why weather is so crucial to garden photography.  There’s virtually no way to mitigate the high contrast effects of hard light, so on those days it can be futile to expect even a handfull of usable shots.  Professionals must wait for a narrow window of soft light at dusk and dawn to capture their images with quality light.  You may be surprised to learn that shooting in the rain is far more preferable to shooting on a crystal clear sunny day!  Read Mo’s article:  Zooming In On Garden Photo Excellence at http://www.moplants.com/yardsmart/yardsmart_garden_photo.php

Mo’s Garden Photo Tip: Quantity Makes Quality

thistle 1

Ephemeral is defined as something that lasts a very short time.  This is so true with both flowers and gardens.  Light changes moment by moment.  A flower peaking right now may fade in a matter of hours.  A wind can come up this evening rendering a full bloom shrub into a shadow of its former beauty by morning.  You’ll never get a second chance to get that shot. Garden photography is about capturing a fleeting image because flowers and natural light change so quickly. Thistles close up shot. When traveling, you may never return to that garden or that location again, so if you don’t get the pictures right the first time you won’t get them at all.  So how do you guarantee you get the shot right?  It’s simple - you just shoot the hell out of it and through sheer quantity you’ll get a marketable photo.  If you take just one or two shots, a single mistake will reduce your chances by 50% and two mistakes means you’ve missed it entirely. Back in the days of film photography we used to bracket a shot, which means we shot it at varying light settings.  One might be the optimal automatic setting for the camera, then we’d add a few more at slightly lighter and darker settings.  That way we were sure to get at least one perfect shot.  It also meant taking at least five shots of the same subject.  The same idea applies to composing the shot.  When I find the perfect flower or scene, I’ll shoot up to ten or more images of the same thing, trying different angles, close up and far back and virtually every possible variation I can devise.  The reason is that my first instinct of how to shoot it may not be the best one.  If I take a slew of extras, invariably I’ll come out with one or more marketable shots.  Thanks to digital photography I can shoot with impunity and dump the rejects.   Thistles medium shot. You can’t shoot this way if you’re limited by small amount of image storage in your camera.  I’ve hunted down the most generous “picture sticks” I can for my Cybershot so I have the luxury of taking as many versions of a composition as I want to without worrying about running out of storage.  Too many times lack of film or storage has cut short my efforts to capture an incredible shot or garden  To put that into financial perspective, the amount a single great shot can earn will more than pay for the price of a larger storage stick for your camera. So always hedge your bets and overshoot important shots.  What you may lack in photography brilliance you can compensate with shear quantity. Thistles wide shot.

Mo’s Garden Photo Tip: Angle for Information

incense passionflower

A good friend began photographing flowers.  He’s tall so naturally he sees the world from the top down.  Every picture he took was looking straight down into a flower.  After he followed my first tip of studying his photography on the TV, he realized he was not happy with a single shot he took.  Not only were they all the same, he was standing over them blocking the light too. I told him he’s going to have to get down on the flower’s level.  To really capture a blossom you want to show as much information as you can including the interior structures, the inner color, outer shape, stem, and maybe even a leaf or part of the plant it came from.  If you get lucky the shot might include an unopened bud and a flower going to seed as well to reveal all these stages of its lifecycle – now that’s information!  This can be hard to do with a long tubular flower, but easy with a big open daisy.  Since each flower is unique to its species, the stage of its lifecycle and it’s position in the universe, each shot must be rethought to achieve the most optimal angle to include the maximum information. This water lily shot shows overall habitat, flower buds emerging from the water, various stages of open flowers, lily pads and even the color of the undersides of the pads. To get a lot of information you may shoot an odd perspective that shows as many of these characteristics as you can get.  You won’t capture them all of course, but strive to get the most important ones.  Old botanical illustrators learned to paint their flower images this same way, to reveal the information necessary to convey the visual essence of the plant.     

Garden Photography Series Tip #1 “Study Your Shots”

iceland poppy

My Garden Photography Series will help you become a great photographer in no time at all.  During my quarter century in the business I’ve learned exactly what it takes to get stellar art shots. Check the MoZone to be sure you don’t miss a single tip.  As your garden peaks this summer it’s time to capture all the beautiful blossoms with your digital camera.  Never before has garden photography been so easy and cheap!  When I was learning back in the day, it took weeks and big bucks to get your film back from processing to find out if you got it right.  One camera setting off or the wrong film speed or bad light could land a pile of film in the trash.  But with digital pictures you can shoot them and dump them and shoot some more without ever spending another dime! It takes time to learn all the nuances of getting great shots, which I learned the hard way over the last twenty years.  I’m a situational garden photographer, that is I shoot things as is rather than creating arrangements to shoot. Getting situational photography right means you need to be aware of a lot of small things that can make or break a shot. Over the coming months I’ll share with you my tips and tricks for creating killer garden pix as we create my digital photo gallery at http://www.moplants.com/.   The best way to get better fast is to do a lot of shooting and review it immediately.  Obtain a cord to connect the camera with your TV to view the shots in this large format while they’re still on the card.  You won’t be able to tell much if you review just from the camera LCD or viewfinder.  But every little thing shows up loud and clear on a TV!  So go out and take a bunch of shots in your garden, then come in and look them over with a critical eye to see if you got it right or not.  Consider each shot and ask yourself: Are there any unusual shadows? Is any part of the image burned white or over exposed so it loses its color? Is the part you want in focus or is only the background in focus? Is the flower too small in the shot? Is the flower overly large and hard to make out? Can you tell what kind of flower it is from the picture? It’s tough to see your mistakes, but until you recognize them you’ll never improve.  Read Mo’s article:  Zooming In On Garden Photo Excellence at http://www.moplants.com/yardsmart/yardsmart_garden_photo.php