Pink Mallow

Flowers, Lightroom, Macro, Photoshop

(1/250, f/7.1, ISO 100)

I was given a pink mallow not knowing when I planted it what it is was or would eventually look like. It started to bloom in July and instantly became a bee magnet. When it wasn’t full of insects seeking its pollen, it became a great model for test photography. I used it to learn more about aperture settings, flash use, Lightroom adjustments, and Photoshop editing.

(1/125, f/32, ISO 400)

The mallow produces many clusters of four- or five-petal flowers. It looks decent from distance but the closeups of the individual flowers were more interesting.

(1/125, f/13, ISO 250)

(1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100)

They don’t all unfold like this. In fact this was the only flower I saw that opened up this symmetrically. You probably wouldn’t recognize it as a mallow. I returned later to take more shots but it had already completed its debut.

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

Presence > Clarity > -60

I usually move the clarity to a positive number (20-30), but in the negative numbers, it softens the image and makes it sort of misty.

(1/320, f/5.6, ISO 100)

The shape of the flower and the way the light caught it made this one stand out.

(1/200, f/4, ISO 160)

(1/200, f/22, ISO 4000)

A light rain created small water drops, the ideal effect for the subject. Additional extra effects were produced in Photoshop by Gaussian Blur on the background plus Layer Effects on the flowers to make the glow. ISO 4000 was an issue, so the flowers were rephotographed three hours later using a flash.

(1/200, f/25, ISO 200)

Soft drop shadow and new background color in Photoshop, followed by editing in Lightroom to brighten the center and replace brown spots with off white.

Cluster of three with water drops (1/200, f/22, ISO 200)

The flash on the camera didn’t create very bad shadows of the central parts. One of the advantages of flash besides making the subject brighter is making the background darker. Flash exposure had to be maxed out at 2 on my T5i for the higher apertures (f/22 and f/25); it struggled to get enough light at f/32.

Some of the drop shots were taken in the rain. If you wait too long after it has started raining, the water gets absorbed into the petals, and leaves a dark mark there that weakens the image. Several were removed in Lightroom.

Depth-of-Field Editing Post Capture: Isolating and Blurring a Flower’s Background in Photoshop

Flowers, Irises, Photoshop, Software, Tips

1/320 f/5.6 ISO 100

The background of this image isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, either. After a recent post-capture edit of a background to isolate the subject and make a pure, one-color or block color background, I decided to try the other most popular look, i.e., blurring. This is typically done to make it appear as if the photographer used a high depth of field (DOF).

It’s a common problem in garden photography to have a ‘junk yard’ behind flowers. Sometimes you can take the picture with the right settings so it’s not an issue, but this will often require blurring on part of the image. Your choice then it to either blur when you shoot or afterwards.

When the subject has edges with high contrast beside the background, that is a decent invitation to blur the background, because you can be confident it will be quick and easy to select the entire area in Photoshop.

Wand > 50 selected most of the area instantly. Quick Mask Mode showed a few spots it missed. Lasso finished the job. Note: QMM missed a few small areas. It was necessary to inspect the entire photo at 100% size to see what was omitted.

Gaussian Blur 100

Without feathering, using just what the wand and lasso had selected, a high-level Gaussian blur cleaned up the background, making the flower stand out more, and enhanced it with a soft glow around the edges.

Gaussian Blur x 12

Taking this a step further as an experiment, the background that had just been blurred once with Gaussian Blur 100, got the filter effect 12 times. (Each additional time increased the glow a little.) This extra step takes the image from a photo to fine art. It no longer looks like a realistic context.

(There were a few minor tweaks such as growing the selection +1, +2, and then +2 with a feather of +1 to deal with the fringe around part of the iris).

A dozen more shots of the same filter on a copied layer applying GB in the last dozen applications, after continuation of the same approach, and most all the fringe along the edge of the top white part of the iris has been removed. Furthermore, more of the green stems have been replaced with purple from the flower, accentuating the subject.

Dazzling Dahlias: Lightroom and Photoshop: Tips for Centering Crops, Image Isolation, and Color Consistency

Flowers, Lightroom, Software, Tips


Dahlia (1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100)


1. The Best Crop Guide for Centering

2. Subject Isolation Surprise in Photoshop

3. Removing Red to Make a Clean Pink in Lightroom


In 2013, for the first time I wanted to try growing dahlias, possibly at the advice of my gardener (I forget). On October 23, 2013 I ordered several different kinds of dahlias from Veseys. I got the Red Jill Pompon Dahlia; Mom’s Special; Wizard of Oz; Santa Claus Dinner Plate; Babylon Bronze Dinner Plate; and Brigitta Alida.

On Sept. 1, 2014, I photographed the ones that grew well and looked good. In 2017, I wanted to edit two or three dahlia pictures to put up for sale on In my image library, I saw a pink dahlia, but its ISO was higher than I wanted, so I looked around and found an ISO 100.

(1/800, f/5.6, ISO 320)

(1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100)

The photoshoot wasn’t too serious; the dahlia had been placed in a glass. However, the background was mostly light, in high contrast with the flower’s edges, so not a likely problem to isolate. Even so, this edit had some surprises, and a few things to learn.

I used to try and do entire isolation edits in Lightroom (LR). Now I use Photoshop (PS) for the speed and flexibility it allows for tonal editing in Lightroom.

1. The Best Crop Guide for Centering

In Lightroom I used to eyeball an image when cropping to get it centered. But this time I happened to have the guide set to the busiest grid, instead of thirds, and as I cropped, I noticed it evenly spaces the outermost lines, enabling the centering process to be more accurate and faster. (Keep pressing the ‘O’ key to cycle through different grids to get this one; it’s the last one, “Grid Pattern.”)

2. Subject Isolation Surprise in Photoshop

The Wand tool selected what appeared at first to be almost everything in the background, but using the Quick Mask Mode (toggle “Q”) showed it missed a few parts on the edges. That wasn’t a surprise.

The surprise was two chunks by the lower left part of the flower background had not been selected and they weren’t visible. The Brush tool cleaned this up quickly. It seems the Quick Mask Mode check is essential to guarantee reliable quality to the final edition.

3. Removing Red to Make One Color Consistent in Lightroom

For some reason during editing, the central part of the flower looked slightly red while the rest was dark pink. The color difference didn’t help the image; some buyers might have noticed whereas others might not. In any case, the fix was simple: isolate and block the red. Color > Red > Hue -100.

Be There: The Story Behind the Robin Family Photo After First Baby Robin’s First Flight

Birds, Nature, Robins

Date: July 12, 2013
Location: Rideau Forest, Ontario, Canada

Camera: Canon EOS 30D
Lens: EF100mm/2.8 Macro USM

Exposure: 1/320 at f/2.8
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 400

I didn’t expect to see this, let alone capture it. I didn’t even know both male and female robins share feeding responsibilities.

A robin built a nest on top of the outdoor speaker just outside my back door. I followed the development from nest construction to egg laying, hatching, and feeding of the baby robins. As they grew larger, I decided I wanted to capture a first flight, starting with the moment it took the leap of faith.

One night in July, I watched as a fledgling robin looked agitated and restless in the nest, sitting up near the edge, chirping. I guessed it wanted to leave, so I parked myself nearby, waiting for it to jump and fly.

I waited and waited and waited. But it wouldn’t jump. After 7 pm, I didn’t want to wait any longer, thinking I should try again the next day. But something gave me pause, and I waited longer.

The little bird jumped when I took my eyes off him. My heart sank. I had waited patiently but missed the moment. Even though I didn’t see the jump, and wasn’t ready with my camera, I saw the flight. The robin flapped a lot but moved very slowly. However, it was a smooth flight, so he had a soft landing.

Next he hopped onto the fence.

One parent came over to him with a worm to feed him; and then the second parent arrived, also with a worm, ready to feed him.

At 7:21 pm, we end up with a picture of the baby in the middle, one parent on one side turned towards him with a worm, the other parent on the other side turned towards him, also with a worm.

I don’t know if I could have staged the scene better than it turned out.

(The reason this image is smaller than other images on this site is because it’s for sale at Fine Art America.)

Chipmunk Grooming – Burst of 48 Consecutive Still Photos Taken at 1/4000 sec


Chipmunks can be cute, but you really can’t appreciate their cuteness when grooming until you slow down the high-speed process and see the details. Here is a gallery of 48 consecutive images of a chipmunk grooming while perched on his favorite wooden palette. The shutter speed was 1/4000 sec (fastest on my camera) and the cropped picture size of each frame is 1000×1500. They are all high-resolution and sharply in focus. (Aperture range: 2.8 to 3.2. ISO range: 500-640.)

Click on the first picture to view; then use arrow keys to move forward/backward.

See also: Ridiculously Cute Chipmunks

Editing Flowers in Lightroom: Before and After: Cleaning the Border and Fixing Petals

Flowers, Lightroom, Software, Tips

After: Macro of yellow flowers in naturally elegant floral arrangement (1/200 F/7.1 ISO 100)


Unedited, this macro has a decent crop, but still isn’t great. Further cropping would be too tight, so the choices are to make the crop less tight, or edit the edges. I didn’t want the subject to be further away, so I opted for editing, especially when there wasn’t much to edit. The bottom in the middle has a blurred yellow section which got removed by a stroke of the brush using the Healing tool (K). Same again on the left side near the bottom.

The spider’s web disappears quickly with three strokes, using a small brush size, and sourcing from image just beside the web. The bright spot on the lowest petal of the entire picture is gone by one edit to match surrounding color. The toughest editing challenge is the petal that has parts cut out. You could probably edit this in Photoshop, copying, pasting, and rotating a similar petal from elsewhere in the shot, but I didn’t plan to try and sell this. I wanted to see if the photo would look acceptable by blending the edges.

Lightroom edit points

Ridiculously Cute Chipmunks

Animals, Chipmunks, Nature

Chipmunk finds the chip (1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 2500)

(1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 1600)

(1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 1600)

(1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 2500)

Landing after a jump (1/1600, f/2.8, ISO 320)

The lens and/or capture I finally noticed works much better when the camera is lower to the ground. It must be easier for the autofocus to differentiate distance on the f/2.8, because the comparison options are reduced.

(1/2500, f/3.2, ISO 1000)

Out of focus, but funny with front legs on the ground, back legs off the ground.

(1/1600, f/2.8, ISO 1250)

Jumping or dancing?

Low-flying chipmunk springs from one rock to the next (1/2500 F/3.2 ISO 640)

1/2500 F/2.8 ISO 640

Chipmunk sitting on a rock in the sun (1/4000 F/3.2 ISO 500)

This little chipmunk looks adorable, hand over hand, sitting on his rock. He was motionless for at least five minutes, soaking up the sun. I first expected to shoot him in motion, so my setting was in TV mode (1/4000 sec), but the background (grass around him, and two purple flowers on either side, for a nice symmetry, not to mention his pose, made this a memorable, cute, funny picture. The ISO was too low. I should have taken it in Flower mode (f/5.6), or something similar, but he moved before I changed it.

Chipmunk sitting in front of irises (1/125 F 5.6 ISO 400)

Chipmunk beside piece of bread (1/4000 f/2.8 ISO 1600)

What to do when you see food as big as you? This little guy was stumped! :-/

Chipmunk escapes down fence after stealing seed from bird feeder (1/250 F/10 ISO 100)

Chipmunk running directly towards camera (1/3200, f/3.2, ISO 125)

The previous day, I had seen a chipmunk on a rock nearby, sitting around, doing nothing. Then when I got up he had quickly bolted in the other direction. This time I thought it was probably the same chipmunk at his favorite rock, so I expected more skittish behavior. Instead it was just the opposite. He ran right at me! I wasn’t in the habit of feeding chipmunks by hand, so I don’t know what this was all about.


A tighter crop and slight rotation adds more drama, if less aesthetic appeal than the full landscape frame. You feel a bit more of the small animal’s determination.

Closeup of chipmunk standing on its hind legs (1/3200, f/2.8, ISO 500).

He came right up to me, stood up like a pez dispenser, looked around, then quickly departed towards the food space.

See also: 


Butterflies, Insects, Lightroom, Nature

Orange monarch butterfly on pink flower in garden (1/500 F/5.6 ISO 400)

June 2006 in my late mother’s epic garden, one of the biggest and best private gardens in the greater Ottawa area.

Yellow butterfly on purple iris

Macro of orange-and-brown butterfly (1/800 F/2.8 ISO 125)

Four consecutive times on the same day the first thing I saw when I went outside was this butterfly. He was virtually begging to be the nature model of the day. It’s the first time he showed up this summer. Very impressive insect thanks to the Canon macro lens.

Brown butterfly with yellow edges and blue dots (1/800 F/5.6 ISO 250) F/L 55 mm

The background got a cleanup in Lightroom.

Isolated brown butterfly with gold edges around black dots with white dot at center (1/800 F/5.6 ISO 2000)

This beauty had a part of its wing (a little chunk) missing. She could still fly, but got fixed in Lightroom with the Healing Brush.

“I fix butterfly wings… what do you do in your spare time?” :-/

The original background was the wall of my house, which was okay for a photo, but not great. Out of curiosity, to see how easy or difficult it would be, the subject was isolated using tonal adjustments and then a new technique I learned on this edit. Using the Mask tool in Lightroom (K), sections were “painted” white. The pure white part (J) showed what else if anything needed to be done.

One key (H) shows you the handles when you need to edit tone, etc. The Mask option is a very powerful tool that keeps you from having to import into Photoshop and make new large files when you need to do local editing.

Small orange butterfly

(1/125, f/22, ISO 3200)

This butterfly parked for about half an hour on a big rock. Although she gave me a lot of time, she only offered one ideal pose (classic overhead shot, perfectly even background), but only for a moment, and not long enough to capture.

(1/160, f/16, ISO 1600)

I used the time to test different aperture settings and shutter speeds as well as ISO numbers. It occurred to me that you can get away with high ISO speeds like 1600 here when the background is speckled or full of detail, because you won’t or are less likely to notice noise. (The background is already noisy.) The same holds true when the subject like this butterfly itself naturally looks grainy.

The closer you get to the subject when using a macro lens, the higher the aperture needs to be to keep everything in focus. This butterfly was smaller than previous ones, so it was a challenge to make it sharp while trying to fill the photo frame.

(1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100)

This photo was a test of both low aperture and higher-than-usual shutter speed. Previous shots in this shoot were at f/22-32, which is essential to capture full detail on all parts of the butterfly in focus.

It’s a different look than usual, because only a very small line or space is in focus, but it’s the most important parts (front and eyes), so it is tolerable. The center of the butterfly got an interesting effect; it looks as if it’s getting hit by a gust. It was a windy day, so I’d normally shoot at 1/800 sec, but 1/400 was sufficient.

Chipmunks in Motion: Experiments in High-Speed Small Animal Photography

Animals, Chipmunks, Nature

“And We’re Off” – Chipmunk starting to run (1/4000 F/3.2 ISO 640)

Chipmunks are often cute but mostly boring when sitting around or eating. In motion, however, they are funny and/or cute. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t see at least one chipmunk in my backyard; currently there are three; the most I’ve ever seen in the same place at the same time was five.

Chipmunk jumping off garden wall in Sport Mode (1/800 F/2.8 ISO 320)

The Sport mode (default 1/800 sec) on my Canon camera provides a shutter speed that captured some interesting images of chipmunks on the move, but they were always at least slightly out of focus for the speedy small animal.

Chipmunk jumping over a large rock (1/1000 F/2.8 ISO 100)

Chipmunk in mid air running (1/800 F/2.8 ISO 640)

Looking for an upgrade, I turned to the Tv mode, and turned the dial to 1/1000 sec. This showed a noticeable improvement but there was still some blur. Therefore I tried an incremental increase to 1/1250 sec.

Chipmunk about to step forward into garden (1/1250 F/3.2 ISO 100)

Chipmunk running down path towards food supply (1/1250 F/2.8 ISO 100)

This speed wasn’t so good, so I considered another slight increase to the next highest speed, but decided instead to move to the end of the spectrum, my camera’s fastest shutter speed, 1/4000 sec. I also adjusted the ISO level from 100 to Auto. I prefer ISO 100 but in the evening that’s all but impossible for high-quality high-speed photography.

Chipmunk running (1/4000 F/3.2 ISO 640)

Finally a picture with the details in focus because the cam speed was fast enough. It’s not ideal because it was late in the day (after 7 pm).

Chipmunk off the ground in sharp focus (1/4000 F/3.2 ISO 200)

The extra light from the sun helped make the details razor sharp. Click to see the feet (1200 x 800).