By Melanie North

How do you extend your Iris season? Take pictures, that way you can enjoy them all year round.

By following these simple steps you can take beautiful pictures no matter what type of camera you own.

1. Know your camera, lenses and equipment, read and re-read your camera's booklet. Practice taking pictures, developing your film and evaluate your pictures. If you plan on purchasing a new camera , do your homework, visit a camera store, let the salesperson know what you are going to do with your camera. Buy a photography magazine , once a year, usually in December or January they have special buyers guides to help you pick out the best camera, equipment and film for your needs . The best camera to use on Iris photography is the SLR or the Single Lens Reflex Camera with interchangeable lenses. I personally use the 80-105 mm zoom lens for most photographs, but my telephoto lens , the 100mm to 300mm zoom, can also give you some very interesting close up shots. My camera, Canon EOS 3 is an automatic with a manual setting to give more versatility in picture taking If you have a point and shoot camera, you can still get some very nice results by using your telephoto and wide angle zoom control on your camera. Don't be afraid to take a whole roll of film and experiment with it. Try different angles, backgrounds and different lighting situations. Take notes so that when you develop your film you can improve your photo the next time you take your picture ,or know that you are on the right tract and can use that information to take other photos.

2. Avoid shooting at noon. The bright sunlight will bleach out your colors. If you can only shoot at noon use a , diffuser or a reflector to get rid of unwanted shadows. A diffuser works the same way as a cloud passing overhead. I use a white umbrella but you can also use a transparent white material. Hold this material over your subject, get someone to help you with this.Your material can be attached to a wire hanger. If your subject is in an uneven lighting situation, half shade half sun, a reflector can allow you to bounce the light around and fill in the shadow area, making the light appear more even. A plain white poster board is ideal for this situation. Other colors to try are silver ( you can use aluminum foil for this attached to a piece of cardboard ) and gold. The silver board will give your subject's area a crisp clear light, and the gold will give a warm glow. Make sure to hold the board as close to the subject without getting your board in the shot. The best time to photograph your Irises is during overcast days, early morning or late afternoon. Your colors will be more vibrant. Taking a picture after a rain storm is pleasing when you can photograph tiny droplets of rain on your Irises. But never take pictures in the rain unless you can protect your lenses and camera. Unwanted droplets on your picture can ruin a perfect shot, not to mention water in your camera can damage it. Pros use a water bottle to mist flowers and get pretty much the same effect.

3. Use a tripod, and cable release if possible. A tripod-pod will enable you to shoot at slower speeds which will allow more of the picture to be sharp. A tripod will allow you to take your time with framing your shot. It will also allow you to make sure your area around your subject is free of unwanted twigs, people, pets etc.

4. Use a low ISO speed film ( this is located on your film box), of 100 or less, which makes for a better picture especially if you want to enlarge it later. Larger ISO, 400 speed film and higher , tend to have a more grainy appearance with washed out color. Kodak and Fuji make excellent films and both have excellent web sites that you can visit to get valuable information.

5. Before you take your shot, check your Iris in all directions and every angle. you will be surprised the different shots you will get. Don't forget to try horizontal or vertical compositions with your camera.

6. Don't be afraid to get up close to your subject, the biggest fault that occurs with most pictures are shots taken too far away. Frame your subject, get as much of your subject into the shot as possible.

7. Have patience with your subject, take your time taking the picture. If it is not a good day for you, chances are you will not take a good picture.

8. Try to avoid taking pictures on windy days. But if you must take pictures on a windy day a piece of cardboard held close to your flower will help to steady your subject. Ask someone to assist you with this . Use a 200 ISO or 400 ISO film to make up for movement of your Iris.

9. Try something different, why not do a still-life of your Iris. With simple materials you can take a very pleasing photo which can be enlarged and framed. Follow these simple steps:

9a. Find a shady place outside, this will eliminate any unwanted shadows in your photograh.

9b. Place a sturdy table or tv tray against the wall of your house, or in front of a nice back drop such shrubbery, someplace where it will not distract from your subject. Drape a piece of black velvet on your table, and if your table is against a wall tack up some of the velvet onto the wall . Other color backgrounds that compliment your flowers are blue, black, green, gray or off white. Colors that are least flattering are tan, beige, lavender and peach. Felt also works well as a background material. Try and avoid shinny materials that do not reflect well.

9c. Place your Iris and objects ( these can be sea shells, vases, pictures, cards etc.) around the table, experiment with different levels and compositions.

9d. Place your camera on your tripod and look through the lens, do not take your picture at this time, check your composition, and surrounding area. If this looks pleasing to you take your picture. If you have a cable release be sure to use this. If you do not have a cable release slowly release your shutter button. If you are fortunate to have a timer on your camera set this and step away from your camera, and allow your camera to take the picture. All of these suggestions will allow you to take a picture without blurring at slow speeds because of camera shake.

Note: The best f stops to use are f16, f22 for flower colors such as white, yellow and light pink . For darker colors blues, blacks, orange, browns, use f11 or f13. This will give you the best depth of field for your flowers, and allow the entire flower to be in focus.

9e. Experiment with different objects, backgrounds, but most important have fun. Now as old man winter approaches and your beautiful Irises and roses get ready for next year's colorful show, get your photo albums or your slide projector a hot cup of cocoa and enjoy your Irises ...and share them with a friend or loved one....

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