Peonies…

I planted peonies in my new garden last year. Peonies were one of my favourite flowers as a kid.  I remember them fondly from our garden in the West Island of Montreal. We had lilac bushes, crabapple trees and plum trees. We had irises too. Oh yes, and tulips and daffodils. Marigolds also, I think.

peony garden portrait

This was shot at F 2.2. I wanted a shallow depth of field in order to focus on the bloom. After doing basic conversion in Camera Raw, I added an adjustment layer of Colour Lookup and added Filmlook for, well, the look of film.

But it was the peonies that won my heart for having both a delicate frilled beauty and an unforgettable fragrance, which heralded early summer and its longer, languid days. And peonies had such a short life too — they were a sweet reminder that many good things in life are fleeting, so paying attention and having appreciation is in order.

When I first saw the peonies unfurl to the sun this year, I ran out with my camera to capture them in situ. I quickly bent to have a sniff. I could not believe the scent — it was even better than I remembered. Not sweet or sickly — just perfect. I inhaled deeply. Then I went to work shooting them in the garden.

I like this one, which was shot from above, just because it’s a bit different. I used the adjustment brush to try to bring out the rain drops on the bloom.

After that, I brought one in and placed it in a clear vase. It was still wet from the rain. I took shots from many angles with different apertures, all against a white background, trying to pay attention to the composition. I was going for something pure and simple. Trying to convey the spirit of the peony.

Then I moved the vase into the kitchen so it was backed by my window to the back yard. I made some images in the golden morning light, again with different apertures, but mostly large because I didn’t really want the peonies to have to fight for attention with the back yard!

Once I was finished shooting, I began to process the raw images. I  use Adobe Camera Raw to start with and then for some of the images I played with my new favourite tool in Photoshop, Colour Lookup.

 

This was shot at F 3.2 so it’s crisper and more of the flower is in focus than at larger apertures. Here I wanted to emphasize the golden light in the background.

I don’t very often convert my flower images to black and white unless they are very contrasty. I thought I would see how a more dreamy image turned out. I like it — it’s moody — but in general, I think peonies are better in colour!

peony framed

This was shot at F 2 so it’s really quite painterly and dreamy. It evokes memories of summer as a kid, when we spent almost all our time outside — in the fields and playgrounds and backyards.  We’d come in for supper and be greeted with the scent of peonies in a vase on the table.


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14 thoughts on “Peonies…

  1. Hello friend;) your peony flowers are beautiful and so is your photography… Mine. Did not fair this past winter all too well, hopefully they will come back next year to there beauty.

  2. Your love of peonies certainly shines through these marvelous images! And a great little tutorial. I’ll be back to study it when I have a bit more time. {The story of our lives, no?} Happy Sunday!

  3. “This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
    to break my heart
    as the sun rises,
    as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers…” (from “Peonies” by Mary Oliver)

    Lush beauty. Thanks, Sherry!

  4. Magnificent!! I love the whole set of these images! And the text too. Great job!! (Have I mentioned I love this post?) 🙂

    For some reason unknown to me, our peonies completely failed to bloom this year. I am wondering if they need a cold winter – something we didn’t have. Hopefully their beautiful blooms will return next year.

  5. All of them are so lovely and as I’ve said before, I love the color of these…your processing is always lovely and I have not heard of Color Look-Up…it really seems to have done quite a nice job…my peonies just popped yesterday so tomorrow I’m hoping to get some shots and some flowers brought in…we have many…
    Thanks for your tips Sherry…

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