Readers Challenge Assignment: Flowers

Wow. I am truly humbled and a bit overwhelmed at the response that we got for the Record’s first Readers Photo Challenge (its semi-official title). The theme was “flowers” and from potted plants to wildflowers 40 readers sent in a total of 123 photos! All the flowers are beautiful but there’s a difference between taking a photo of something that’s beautiful and taking a beautiful photograph. The first relies only on the subject and how it looks and the second is a way of finding beauty in what you’re photographing. For some it may be a subtle distinction but with the latter you can find beauty in anything. The top 10 examples are shown here (in no particular order).


A true photographer goes through almost any length to get the right angle for their pictures. Carolyn Silva of Jackson saw some vibrant yellow tulips growing along a walkway in her front yard. She quickly got her Nikon D5000 DSLR camera and began taking photos. She first shot them straight on with front lighting, which washed out their color. Then she moved around and laid down on the ground to get the flowers backlit and the low angle captured a dark background of shadows. The result is a photo with the rich, vibrant colors of the tulips that jumps out against the inky blackness of the background and is stunning in its beauty and simplicity.

Jackson said her husband came up the walkway and saw her face down on the ground and thought she had fallen and hurt herself until he saw the camera in her hands. Anything to get the great photo that she did. The next time though, she should warn her husband ahead of time.


Experienced amateur photographer Dave Skinner’s 12-year-old granddaughter Angel Limas of Stockton shot this foothill poppy on Electra Road near Jackson with a Nikon D70 and 55-200mm lens. Her use of a relatively large aperture and long lens (set at 150mm) gave the photo a shallow depth of field making the flower stand out against the out of focus background making for a simple yet beautifully elegant photograph. Watch out Dave, looks like you’ve got some competition!


Mary Paulson of Valley Springs shot this photo of roses on a trellis in her backyard with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50. Excellent use of early morning side lighting to help give the flowers contrast and shape. I like the diagonal composition which brings the viewer’s eye to the one rose in the upper right of the frame. Its bright yellow color is set against the blue sky and contrasting itself from the green of the leaves and the red of the other roses also emphasizes the one blossom.


Marian McGlothlin of Ripon shot this flowering cactus in her neighbor’s yard with a Canon PowerShot SX230 HS. Most people would have been content of just photographing the face of the flower, indeed McGlothlin did send it others that show the blossom’s top. But she “worked” her subject and went a step further than seeing just what’s on the surface. By shooting the underside of the flower McGlothlin captured the graceful upward sweep of the petals and interesting textured details of the flower’s base in a photo that would normally go unseen to the rest of the world.


Gary Fiorio of Manteca, a photo teacher in Dublin area schools until is retirement in 2004, shot this clemantis in his yard with a Nikon D3100. It’s an excellent example of using contrasting colors. The magenta of the flower stands out against the green (the direct opposite of magenta) of the surrounding leaves. The bit of yellow at the center of the blossom and the sprinkling of water drops add some great visual interest to the photo as well.


Susan Scott shot this California poppies and foxtails at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton. She used a Canon Rebel DSLR with a 250mm lens. I liked the triangular composition that the 3 flowers created. The bright backlighting captured the bright, graceful, ethereal feeling of the scene.


Jim Vergara with the Public Information office at San Joaquin Delta College shot this photo of a magnolia tree on the Delta College campus in Stockton using a Nikon D200 camera. Venegra used a fill-flash technique where he used a flash during outdoor sunlight conditions. It allowed him to capture the sun in the sky yet maintained detail in the flowers at the same time.


15 -year-old Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton took this photo of a dahlia in her yard in Stockton with a Nikon CoolPix camera that she got as an 8th grade graduation gift. I liked how she got in close and captured the petals of the flower radiating outward. She included the sky and another flower at the top of the frame to include a splash of color to an otherwise monochromatic scene.


Letty Balderas of Stockton shot this potted gerbera in her backyard with a Canon 40D and 24-105mm lens. A nice use of a dark background and slight backlighting to make the already vibrant colors of the flower to pop out even more. By getting close to the flower and cropping out its leading edge it helps to give the viewer’s an entry point to explore rest of the photo.


Galt resident Leslie Wang’s photo of daffodils in her backyard was shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60. It’s a great example of using backlighting. The vivid colors really jump out against a dark background and the overlapping shadows of the stems and other flowers make for an interesting composition and gives the photo texture and a visual complexity.

Thanks to all who sent in photos. Everyone did an excellent job. I wish we had enough room to run all the wonderful photos that were sent in but they can be seen in an online gallery at


The next challenge is a bit trickier: Outdoor portraits. I talked about photographing people outdoors in last week’s column. Open shade (under a tree or the shadow side of a building) is best .Try not to shoot them in bright sunlight. If you do, try photographing them on their shady side (so that you’re squinting in the sun and not them). Try using a reflector or fill-flash to add light to the shadows on your subjects face to reduce the harshness of the direct light.

Here are the rules/instructions:
1. Entries can be emailed to me at (include the words “Outdoor Portrait” in the subject line)

2. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera you used.

3. Include the name (first and last) of your subject, their relationship to you (relative, friend or stranger off the street) and where the photo was taken.

4. Any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took or came to take the picture.

5. The deadline for submission is Saturday, May 11. The top examples will be published on Monday, May 20 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day (Photos have to be shot between today and May 11).

We’ll see you then. Have fun and good shooting!

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