Summer Photography Tips: Telephoto Lenses are for Flowers Too

Sure, telephoto lenses are great for wildlife, sports and many other uses, but they are also great for flowers! I've had my eye on a small field of wildflowers and, after spending a large number of contiguous hours of work putting the Lens MTF Comparison tool into place, I gave myself the freedom to go after some summer color in the form of flower pics.
 
I knew that making an image worth sharing from this field was going to be a challenge. The location was not well-suited for a grand landscape image incorporating the flower color in the foreground. The flowers were beautiful, but they were intermixed with other vegetation, were very random in position and most were imperfect including a random state of bloom (some were well-beyond peak).
 
I was biking to this location (2 cars - 4 drivers = a problem) and, since I wasn't sure what the best opportunity was going to be, I put lenses ranging from 16 to 300mm in focal length along with a Canon EOS 5Ds R in a Think Tank Photo StreetWalker Pro backpack and was on my way. After riding past and then walking back along the edge of the field, I found few standout subjects calling for emphasis. Sometimes, flowers look best when blurred out of focus, becoming blobs of color and this was what I determined the case to be for much of this field.
 
This pair of cosmos did appear to be a cut above the rest and I focused on them for a period of time. By using a 300mm telephoto focal length with a relatively short focus distance, a nice blur was created, making full use of the imperfect blooms in the background.
 
While simply setting up such a blur is easy and can be good enough, taking the shot to the next level requires some attention to detail. In this case, I oriented the tripod-mounted camera and lens so that the background of the in-focus flower was only green, making the flower pop. This perspective also placed a complementary same-color cosmos just out of focus with a matching pair more-strongly blurred above. An intermittent light breeze made this alignment a bit more challenging, but ... patience was the answer to that issue.
 
I used manual focus aided by the 5Ds R's 16x Live View, allowing precise focusing on the center of the flower (preventing AF from picking the petals just in front). While an f/5.6 aperture would have given an even stronger background blur and would also have created a nice image, I opted for f/8 in this case. F/8 kept more of the flower in focus and reduced vignetting to even out the background brightness. Lighting is courtesy of a bright cloudy sky.
 
Then, right on cue, the bee landed on my primary subject. I was shooting the scene in vertical orientation at that moment (creating a nearly identical image), but I wanted to post the horizontal format picture as it fits better on computer monitors. So, I simply copied the bee out of the vertical photo and pasted it into this one.
 
Go get some summer color (in your photos, not your skin). Mount your telephoto lens and go flower hunting!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr, Google+, 500px and Facebook. Also, if reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image.
Posted: 7/22/2015 11:05:13 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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