How did you get into the art of drying and photographing flowers?
I have been a flower admirer since a kid - I was one of those kids that would pick wildflowers and hang them in my room without really knowing the significance until later in life. I have also always photographed flowers - from the youngest of ages I remember laying on my stomach and snapping a daisy head, for example, with my little Instamatic camera.
When I got older, I loved the textures, colours, and shapes you would see through macro photography, something that you may not notice so much with the naked eye.
Apart from photography, I am also a dried floral and resin artist so I really do love my flowers, equally creating with them!
Some flowers I dry myself (if my garden or my mums garden allows) and others I source from other New Zealand small businesses. I love supporting local and I think especially in this day, that it is important to do so.
I love how you can pick, dry, and create with flowers, in so many ways and how flowers can be everlasting if you look after them properly. I am at my happiest when I am photographing or creating with flowers.
Do you have a special technique or tips you could share with other members for drying and shaping flowers?
I have to say, not all flowers are created equal, in fact, some just aren’t suitable for drying at all. But don’t be disheartened, there are many that you can dry and create with. A few you could start with include hydrangeas, roses (use tight buds), daisies (great for pressing), lavender, gypsophila, gomphrena, statice, strawflowers, larkspur, poppy seed heads, cornflowers... gosh the list goes on!
I bunch my flowers carefully (with some space between the blooms, so the air circulates), hang them upside down in a warm (but not too hot!) darker space away from direct sunlight and wait a few weeks. I have heard of some people using dehydrators for drying flowers, while I have not done this myself, there is some success with certain flowers. It’s on my list of things to try!
I have wooden flower presses that I use to press my flowers, I leave these for 2 to 3 weeks to dry properly - The flowers should be somewhat papery when dried correctly. When drying, regardless of the way you do it, remember to keep the flowers out of direct sunlight as this fades the colours. Do expect some natural colour fading in some flowers too.
One other thing I have learnt, though I am no expert, is that some fleshier flowers don’t dry so well because they hold water, and so they go brown or mouldy. I learnt the hard way with that one! If you don’t have access to your own dried flowers, support a local florist or flower grower and buy a bouquet off of them and experiment!
What advice would you give for those just starting photography in this genre?
I use natural light, so I set up alongside a well-lit window - not blazing sunlight, but gentle light with no shadows. If it’s a sunny day, I either photograph in the morning or late afternoon, depending on where the shadows are and if it’s an overcast day but still has good light, then anytime is good before it gets too dark.
You could experiment with different colour backgrounds with your petals, or even fabric, being careful not to take away from the flowers themselves. Mostly I like to use a white backdrop because it makes the colours of the flower stand out a bit more but sometimes, I experiment with fabric and different coloured card. It just depends on the flowers I am using, the more intricate the flower, the less busy you want the background.
You don’t need any fancy equipment, but of course, if you have some, that’s great! I started out just using an A2 piece of white card stock that would curve naturally. I would use a bulldog clip to secure it to something and yahoo you have a backdrop! I have no studio, just the kitchen table because it’s alongside a big sliding door with gorgeous light. I look for angles, so instead of looking straight into a flower frontwards (although that can work too sometimes), go from the side, above, or below looking up.
Turn or tilt the flowers in various ways until you have the angle you are liking most. Combine colours, layer them up but watch the light and how it casts onto the petals. Look for shapes, layers, textures, and curled edges, different shading, even if it’s the browning of flower edges, don’t be shy, use them! They can be quite striking. But have fun with it, after all, if you love flowers, you love them in all shades.
Do taking these kinds of floral photographs hold a special meaning to you?
Gardening and flowers are a big part of my family, photographing them brings special meaning to me because it’s keeping memories alive as generations pass. I like to think every flower has a story, and perhaps sometime in the past, my ancestors have looked upon similar flowers and appreciated them just as much as I do.
I always think of my family that have since passed looking down on me smiling because I have captured another bloom in some shape or form, preserving their memory as well as my own. It’s also a great reminder to appreciate the little things in a big wide world.
One thing I like about macro photography and flowers is the smallest of details, the intricate folds, the curled edges, and the muting of colours as they dry. It’s all rather remarkable in my eyes.
Tell us about one of your overall favourite floral shots...
It's hard to pick one as I love photographing all my flowers, but I would say my hydrangea photo is my favourite out of all of them at the moment because of the colour, shape, and textures you can see in the shot.
A close second would be my rose shots as I love how the folds of the petals spiral in the middle, or as a rosebud is just opening up. Thirdly, I love the curl of the paper daisy or strawflower, the petals on the edge have this wonderful curve upwards, much like pretty eyelashes! I love photographing the edges. Nature really is amazing!