Photo of the Day – 11 January 2017: Ranunculus

Posted on 15th January 2017 by Admin under Equipment, Photograph, Technique

The light in the middle of winter can be glorious.  The sun, if it shines, never gets that high in the sky and spreads its warm tones throughout the daylight hours.  The downside is that at this time of year it all too often hides itself away behind dense cloud.  After a string of successive dull, high ISO days so typical of the season, I was wondering what to photograph next.

There were a couple of other considerations.  A bad back had been curtailing my activity outside the house and I also had a “new to me” lens to try out.  This lens will be celebrating its 40th birthday during 2017, so it is quite possible it has had several owners in that time.  I can be so precise as to its age as it was made by Leica which, until a few years ago, published the year of manufacture for all its cameras and lenses.

Ranunculus mono

Ranunculus – final monochrome version
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)


The lens in question is the Elmarit-R 60 f/2.8 macro from Leica’s now defunct R range of SLR film cameras.  All of the R lenses are capable of good results and some have the reputation of being among the best ever made.  Even today, the most highly regarded can command prices of several thousand pounds. Many have actually increased in value over the past few years, despite being manual focus only.  My lens is not in that league in terms of cost at least, but it has stood the test of time.  It first went into production in 1970 and the optical design remained unchanged until Leica discontinued the R series in 2009.  The company clearly thought it met their high standards and did not require an update, which is reassuring.

My initial test shots confirmed that everything was OK with the lens, so I decided to put it into use.  It requires an adapter to mount it on a modern digital camera and I opted for a full frame body.  This flower is a type I had not previously seen and it intrigued me.  Initially I did not know its name, but finding out it is a Ranunculus just added to my fascination.  I decided it would make an appropriate subject, the lens facilitating the close focus required.  More importantly, given my bad back, I could sit down to set up and take the shot.

When doing such work, I prefer to focus manually, so the Elmarit macro lent itself to this project.  The focussing ring has a long throw, which makes fine adjustments easy.  I checked everything by using live view and taking a few test shots, magnifying the image to ensure I had critical sharpness.  I set everything in my conservatory, which has a soft even light due to the blinds in the roof.  In addition, I had a silver reflector throw some light onto the flower’s side.  Using the timer to delay triggering the shutter gave me enough time to hold a piece of black velvet behind it.

Ranunculus bloom in colour

Ranunculus – colour version
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)


My original idea was to use the contrast between the white bloom and the black velvet to create an almost monochromatic image with few other tones.  When I viewed the result, I did not consider it was entirely satisfactory.  It had always been a possibility that the shot might work black and white and I duly converted it using Silver Efex Pro 2.  Usually I add some silver toning to my monochrome images to give a bit of warmth, including just enough for a subtle effect.  On this occasion I found that I needed to dial in more than normal to achieve what I wanted.

Overall I feel that the “new” lens has put in a good performance in the way it has rendered the bloom.  It has brought out the fine detail without being too clincal.  It is a keeper.

This post is part of my occasional “Photo of the Day” series when I publish any shots which I think might be of interest and tell the story behind them.  They might not necessarily be portfolio standard images, nor the final version, but still be of sufficient interest for inclusion in my blog.  If I do not show a shot on any given day, it does not mean that I did not take any photographs, just that I did not get anything worthwhile.  For me, that is part of the fun of photography, not knowing what you will find on a shoot when nothing is planned.

2 thoughts on “Photo of the Day – 11 January 2017: Ranunculus”

  1. Janice Payne ARPS says:

    Hi Mike,
    What a fantastic shot and it just shows that we should all try a B&W conversion for some of our images it is in a different class to the colour version in my view!
    I have enjoyed looking at the images on your website incuding some that really stand out to me.
    I am predominently a colour worker due to the fact that I like to print my work for competition and my printer produces great colour prints but struggles with B&W, I cannot afford a top of the range model at the moment but I will have to try some B&W PDI’s.
    Just as an introduction I am programme secretary at RPS TVDIG and you have been communicating with my partner Alan, look forward to meeting you at one of our meetings in the near future.

    1. Admin says:

      Hi Janice

      Thanks for your comments about my photos, in particular this Ranunculus shot.

      I have looked at your website and would like to return the compliment, having enjoyed what I saw there.

      Yes, getting a good mono print can be an issue. Like you, I prefer to print my own work as I can see the result immediately and it adds to the satisfaction of knowing the final image is entirely down to one’s own efforts. It is an expensive way of producing prints compared to a lab, though. That is not helped by the best mono printers being in the higher price brackets. I hope you can get something sorted out soon.

      At the moment, it looks as though I will not be able to make the next TV DIG meeting in February, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for March. The talks by Paul Sanders look promising. I’ll be sure to catch up with you and Alan when I am next there.

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