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Photography Question 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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Shooting a Night Bloomer

Inherited pots of plants on my balcony when moving into this apartment, two of which were so ugly I was about to chuck them, until a neighbor told me they produced extraordinary blooms about the size of a dinner plate, only at night, and they only last one night and only bloom in June (am in the sub-tropics in China). However, two buds have appeared now in September, so she was wrong about that. I asked an expert; the name of the flower is: Epiphyllum Oxypetalum
"Night Blooming Cereus".

Now, don't laugh, but though I'm saving for a Rebel 350D, I now only have a Powershot SD300 (IXUS40)---and I want to capture these blooms as best I can, but have no experience shooting at night (and no lighting equipment). Florescent light can come, or not, through the living room window and there's a sad little light bulb on the balcony. I'm including a picture of this flower which I've pulled off the internet--it's almost entirely pure white, extremely delicate and complex. I'm afraid flash will wash it out.

The picture from the internet is exquisite because it's taken with lighting from behind. I might try that but have little idea how to set my camera for maximum effect (very much a newbie).

The camera is equipped with the following limited (compared with most of you guys!)features: ISO: 50/100/200/400; 4.0 megapixels, 3x optical zoom; there's a scene mode for night snapshots; shutterspeed 15-1/5000, manual setting is available from 15 to 1 second when in long-shutter speed; evaluative, center weighted average or spot--metering frame when spot is center-fixed; and it has a scene mode for night snapshots and underwater along with other things which don't seem relavent. It also has different settings for flash timings: a slow syncro which is adjusted to slow shutter speeds; auto which fires as required depending upon light level and red-eye reduction which isn't relavent.

Anyone have any ideas about how I can make the most of my camera to catch this beauty when it blooms?

I experimented tonight on the balcony, shooting a bud without flash and will attach too, though don't know if that can tell you anything much. I liked the effect after doing some level/contrast adjustment in Photoshop and have some shots with flash, but don't like them much.

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9/22/2005 12:34:59 PM

Yvonne M. Nieves
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/5/2006
I read about you wondering how to shoot a Night Blooming Cereus, well, they just happen to be one of my favorite models. All I shoot them with is my Sony Mavica FD200, a piece of black cloth for a backdrop, and a flashlight. I don't even own a tripod, so it's a bit difficult for me sometimes, and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you would look into my Gallery, you will see the one I just posted recently. They are the most intriguing and beautiful flower I have ever shot. We have several of the plants here at home, in fact, the weather is still very warm here and tonight, we had 4 of them blooming at the same time, and they give off the most beautiful scent. Just keep shooting them, it just gets easier. Hope this helps some.

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12/12/2007 11:21:59 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Susan, The dark backdrop is a good idea and if you can get one of those clip lights at Home Depot (the round silver bowl looking type) and use a white bedsheet to work as a diffuser. From the flower, try hanging the sheet about 2 feet away from the flower and the light 4-6 ft away. The distance between the light & the sheet will make a difference as to how the light is diffused and cast on the subject, so you may need to experiment a bit with this. Get a 400 watt bulb or bigger if you can to get the best lighting possible. I think this will be an inexpensive and workable solution but you will need to experiment a bit to get dialed in.

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12/13/2007 12:12:17 AM

Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  Hi Yvonne and Carlton--thanks so much for responding. (Yvonne, your capture of the flower is amazing! And REALLY enjoyed the birth of that duck! Wow!)

Anyway, as to the Nightbloomer, kind of funny because I posted that question in September 2005! I am now in Japan and after arriving here, did eventually rig up something similar to what Carlton discribed--like a HUGE softbox with a 400 watt bulb on one side and a 300 on the other with other smaller spotlights. You can see a pic of it inside the thread of this pic:

But that September in China, wasn't able to rig up anything quite so elaborate. Got a few fairly good shots though (not as good as your incredible one, Yvonne!)

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12/13/2007 12:37:42 AM

I doubt a black backdrop is ideal to catch the subtlety of a white flower. I expect the contrast to be much too much for the cam to capture. Maybe a middle green backdrop would be better.

And a tripod is indispensable for this shot.

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12/13/2007 1:03:50 AM

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