Refrigerated Butterflies And Store Bought Flowers
Do You Still Appreciate Them As Much?
In a previous life as Art Director of Shutterbug Magazine, I often spoke to some of the writers pertaining to a story they had submitted. On one particular occasion while laying out an article on photographing butterflies, I needed some input from the writer/photographer whom happens to be quite well known in the industry.

Upon him telling me that he puts the butterflies in the refrigerator before he photographs them, my appreciation of the images suddenly seemed to drop tremendously. Even the flower or other props the butterfly is posed on is kept in the fridge. He does this so that the butterfly will be mobilized and not fly away during the shoot.

I can say that in all my years of playing with cameras, that the image shown here is about the best I have ever been able to capture of a butterfly. Not nearly as sharp and crisp as those captured of chilled specimens.

It was like he could have just used fake butterflies and it wouldn't have made a difference. Although they were incredible images, there just seem to be something not so stunning about them once I knew that they were chilled.

That leads me to my next subject of manipulated photo subjects apart from their natural environment... Should I feel the same way if I knew that the photographer had purchased the flowers at a store or picked them from the wild and brought them into the studio to shoot?

Looking back on it, If I didn't know the butterflies were chilled or the flowers were in a pot from the store... Would I not appreciate them? Of course I would, until I had found out the writer was chilling down the butterflies in the refrigerator, I thought they were some of the most incredible butterfly images I had ever seen.

While I may not have chilled butterflies before, I am guilty of buying flowers and setting them up for a shoot. In fact in this scene here of "Field Trip", in which I purchased the 3 sunflowers and propped them up outside to make the initial capture. Even though I worked over this image heavily with my Wacom Tablet, the fact is that they were once in a cooler at Food City.

I guess I do have some slight vindication for this image since I have sold a 20x30 and a 12x18 Giclée of this in the Gallery before. And that's even after telling them the cool story that went along with the field trip I made out of the shoot. But, out of the 55 images so far in the Gallery 5 website, only 4 or 5 are from a nursery or store bought.

I will say that I have never really been impressed with an image of a flower that was obviously shot in the studio over a black background. No matter how sharp the image may be, I just haven't really taken a liking to them. But on the other hand, if the flower scene looks the same as if were captured in the wild, then I don't seem to be bothered as much like I am the chilled butterfly images. Hmmm... is that a double standard in my thinking?

You show me a flower image that appears as if the photographer had to get down and dirty and be as one with the flowers, then I am typically very appreciative. And it seems the more unique of a perspective I see someone has captured the flower in, the more I tend to like the image.

I am sure to most photographers it's all about the final image and not the steps they went through to capture it. For me, I approach my appreciation from possibly a little different psychological viewpoint.

Like many folks I will try to envision in my mind where the photographer had to position themselves to get the shot. Or in some cases I try to think if I knew of a place that had such a grand display of flowers that was presented.

Knowing what I know now, I am not sure if I chilled a butterfly and then photographed it, if I would feel as good about presenting it for display as I would if I had captured it in it's natural environment. I know all too well just how difficult it is to capture a really sharp butterfly image. I certainly have chased plenty of them around the yard and places in an attempt to get a great image of one.

If you have tried, then you also know it is very hard to not only get close enough to one, but to also hope he poses in the right spot for you to grab an award winning shot. But with flowers, about the only thing you have to deal with is the wind and lighting. Of course that means you may need to shoot at a high ISO and slightly fast shutter speed which may not be conducive to your camera set up at the time. Depending on the angle of view you want and the type of flower, you may also have to get rather close to the ground if not even totally lying on the ground.

There is yet another option...
And that is to go to a nursery, Lowes store or Walmart with your camera and have a wide array of different flowers to capture right at your disposal. I have even been part of a camera club outing that went to a local nursery once on a photo field trip.

As it just so happens, this image of "Alive In Pink" and one titled "Uneven Crowns" are images from that very same camera club adventure. And although both are pretty much out of print anymore, I have sold 3 of each of them from the Gallery in the past.

I guess I should ask myself... Is there any difference in going to shoot at a nursery as there is to purchase a flower or pick some from outside and take it home for a photo session?

Maybe this whole dilemma is just the fact of what the subject is to begin with. Kind of like taking a stuffed bird and photographing it and presenting it as if it was actually out in the wild. But flowers are not animals or something that can purposely avoid being photographed.

Possibly this is also a deep rooted answer to why I don't have very many images of Orchids in my gallery as I wrote about in another article of this issue. Maybe subconsciously I never captured them for gallery pieces because they are captive in my home and not out growing in the wild. Although you can find wild Orchids in certain areas, it is not very common in comparison to Daisies, Daffodils, Tulips and so forth.

Let me be clear on this...
I am not saying it is wrong to purchase flowers and shoot them in studio-like conditions. I am just wondering if others share my views on the subject. And if you feel the same towards chilled butterflies as you would studio shots of flowers.

Of course in a bit of irony, I happen to purchase Orchid #20 in my collection just today before expressing my views here. And yes... As shown here, I did make several captures of it.

Will I make a gallery piece from it... Well maybe, since in my article about photographing Orchids I set a goal for myself to make a third gallery piece featuring an Orchid.

Will I feel any less proud of it compared to some of my Tulip pieces? That's a good question that I guess will be answered in the next few days as I explore this new Orchid acquisition with the camera.

More food for thought...
I recently discovered that a fellow photographer I know, who has incredible captures of wildlife in his gallery, actually goes on high-dollar photo safaris where the animals are basically tame, trained and virtually harmless in most situations. In fact there are certain places throughout the grounds of the safari where the animal will stand posed so the photographers can get fabulous shots.

Just as I suddenly lost appreciation for the chilled butterfly shots, I also lost the great deal of appreciation I had for the wildlife shots I thought were captured in the wild. It is by this same idea I go by that I have only printed and sold this image of "Nine Lives" twice before and I don't seem to want to print and hang any wildlife stuff I have captured at zoos.

Even though if I was on the same side of the fence with this cat he would eat me alive, there is something keeping me from printing much of my wildlife works. It may be from the facial expressions I have seen from people in the Gallery after they find out it was in a zoo.

There again, I am not saying that this is wrong, I am just stirring the pot to see what the opinions of other photographers and non-photographers think of chilled butterflies, store bought flowers and tame wild animal photo safaris.

Your viewpoints on this are welcome on the TPE FaceBook page.

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