Vitrine reposts

by Stefan Fletcher November. 03, 2014 2383 views

I have a ‘vitrine’ folder of my favourite images on each of my computers. The word means “showcase” in French and it’s where I bung anything of mine I like. The folder is a permanent collection and is used as a screen saver on computers, etc.

I started it as a convenient hold-all before Lightroom came on the market. I’m explaining all this because I’m going through my old files and trying to clear up my digital rubbish. In doing so, I thought I would repost some of my favourites and explain why I like them. I’d be curious to see whether anyone agrees with my reasons.

So, here’s the first.

I shot this one Sunday evening in April ’07. This is one of my favourite favourites; it’s my desktop image on all of my computers I think it’s a simple composition (and black makes it easier to see files on the computer). I had bought the flowers the day before. Some of them are opening; others just hinting at the promise to come.

I love this image for a silly reason first: in editing it, I found out what adjustment layers (specifically “Levels” and “Curves”) do in Photoshop. All of sudden, it was possible to make things really black.

But the real reason is that I don’t like the 2-D flatness of photographs. None of us really do, I think. So we all try adjusting the depth of field and composition techniques to make things stand out, but what we’re really doing is trying to convey that third dimension. Shooting these flowers in their interesting arrangement on a black background from above drew my gaze from flowers into the exact centre of the frame and gave me a pleasing sense of depth and balance. I remember feeling excited when I looked at the LCD.

All extraneous details (the vase and background) are made unnecessary. On a large, backlit computer screen the effect is quite impressive (you can make out the stems, so the flowers really pop). The print version costs a fortune in ink and needs to be carefully controlled. Even so, it isn’t quite as luminous.

What could I have done better? If anything, this composition is understated, too tight, too caught up in details. In the end, it doesn’t say much. It resembles the rather bland naturescapes you find in screen savers for all computers. If I had used a shorter vase, the flowers would have been wilder, freer, probably more interesting. I also got the DOF slightly wrong: the base of the two most visible stamens is slightly out of focus. The technique known as “focus stacking” would have fixed that (had I known about it at the time), but I didn’t own the requisite tripod then.

I’m quite pleased with the sharpness given the awful lens I was using, but if I had known more about modelling light at the time, there would have been some lovely effects through the petals.

One of the disadvantages of digital post-processing is that every image can be turned into an almost infinite number of variations, which makes it so easy to lose one’s way. Sometimes this is a good thing, but I was happy when I shot this one because it came out as I imagined it.

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There are 8 comments , add yours!
Jorge Moro 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't have an favorites. I have 200,000 digital images, and over 5,000 slides. My "favorite" if I were to call it that, is whichever makes me the most money in stock sales.
There. Money talks :)

6 years, 6 months ago Edited
Howard. 6 years, 7 months ago

Seriously good. I'm still looking for "my style" and I'm envious!

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Collateral Anguish 6 years, 7 months ago

I always think any photo with a black background is a great success haha. Mine never have that though :((

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Sadhya Rippon 6 years, 7 months ago

Very interesting to read your feelings about this image. I'm not going to comment, other than to say that I wish I could see it on a large backlit computer screen as that would probably resolve the niggling issues that I have.

Why don't you go out and buy another bunch and have another go, with the knowledge and equipment that you now possess I think that would be a fabulous picture?

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 6 years, 7 months ago


6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Larry Sample 6 years, 7 months ago

This is exquisite! And the pointers you have included here are most appreciated as well!

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 6 years, 7 months ago

Definitely, a beauty.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Gillian Parsons 6 years, 7 months ago

The curls and swirls and the stark background make this shot a hit for me also.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited