Beningbrough Rule Bending Pt II

So back to this new fascination with macro photography that I mentioned in part one.

Though none of my nudes have ever been explicit, it seems far less controversial to shoot close-ups of sex organs when they belong to plants, and so I’ve spent a good many hours this summer getting up close and personal with flowers, whether growing wild or in gardens… or in a vase in my kitchen.  (I’ve been in and outdoors shooting nudes too, and have continued that discussion with the two models concerned, who both actively embrace the genre.)

As you may have gleaned from the first part of this post; the driver behind this interest in the small world (and now I have THAT SONG in my head) was that it didn’t require a huge investment in special lenses and that came as a huge surprise.  I’ve owned a macro lens for several years but none of the shots I’d taken with it ever seemed close enough, yet reading the captions of the photographs at the exhibition told me they were shot with similar equipment.  It was time for some serious research.

A bit of reading introduced me to some new equipment (macro tubes) and new techniques (focus stacking) which seemed easy to try.  The first are a set of different sized connectors that are placed between lens and camera which have the effect of enabling the lens to get closer to the subject and they are so cheap.

Now I was getting somewhere, but then the closer you get the more another difficulty becomes apparent; getting the subject in focus.  Without being overly technical, photographs are a compromise between how much of the space between lens and background is in focus and the time the shutter is open (I’m ignoring the use of ISO here to keep it simple) but basically if you want everything in shot to be pin sharp then you need a longer exposure.  Fine if you’re shooting a building or a landscape but add a gust of wind to a flower and you’ve lost it.  Go to the opposite extreme and you can shoot quicker but the depth of field can be so small that when the tip of a petal is in focus the rest of the flower is not;  focus stacking means shooting a range of images that focus on a range of points and then blending them in photoshop so that the whole subject is sharp.  I haven’t cracked it yet, but this image of a feather shows the potential for the technique.

I’ve also embraced some of that blur as any creative should.

And then I discovered something else.  Reversing lenses.  This is how some of those amazing images had been captured with what seemed like very ordinary glass.  Using a special adaptor you can fit a lens backwards to your camera, enabling a wide-angle lens to do the reverse; become so narrow that it enlarges the subject.  Combined with those extension tubes and a device to move a small flash up to the subject too and I’m ready to go (even if the camera does look like feel more cyborg than I’m used to.)

And so back to the riverside at Beninbrough, with a flash in the wrong place and a lens on backwards to make some new naked friends…


The Wild Bunch


In 1969 Sam Peckinpah directed what was then one of the most violent Westerns to have hit the screen.  Starring William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates it was The Wild Bunch, and it told the tale of gang of outlaws who were struggling to cope with changing times.

Four years later and one of my favourite Westerns was released, though one that fewer people have heard of.  My Name is Nobody, starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda, is a more comedic film, though it has some commonality with Peckinpah’s masterpiece.  With creative input from Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone I believe it’s a must for Spaghetti Western aficionados though it divides opinion quite strongly.  Here again we see a time of change as Fonda’s world-weary gunfighter plans a quiet retirement, though a younger man who hero worships him believes he should die in a blaze of glory – by taking on the 150 members of The Wild Bunch!

Having been referenced in both films I wondered if the Wild Bunch ever existed, but any attempt to discover more leads me either the Peckinpah movie, or a florists website, which is interesting because there is such a florist in Sunderland.  One that again has seen a time of change, only this time as the catalyst.  The Wild Bunch broke the mould through the use of a greater range of quality flowers than had been seen previously in the North East.  Sixteen years later they are still going strong and as distinctive as ever.

I called in earlier this week as it’s Gill’s birthday tomorrow, and while I was there photographed Roslyn, one of the friendly and helpful team there.  Could there be a more appropriate name?  It means beautiful rose.