In April of 2020, shortly after the world shut down for Covid, I purchased my first macro lens and discovered the joy of macro photography. When all we could do was walk around our yards and neighborhoods, macro photography was an escape for me; I learned to attune myself to the tiny details in nature and discovered a wonderful new oasis with my lens. That summer, the Atlanta Botanical Garden offered reservation openings, and I delighted in this new exploration of minute botany. 

By my first pandemic visit in June 2020, the lotus blossoms were in full bloom. I photographed a beautiful, soft pink lotus that made me pause every time I looked at it on my computer. The lotus floated delicately in a pond which limited my ability to photograph it from a good angle. I shot from the side I wanted to feature, and that angle provided a solid background instead of the busy stonework along the path. This decision eased my extraction, making it easier to isolate the lotus and create a competition image.

The beginnings of “Lovely Lotus”

This original image was taken with my Canon 5D Mark IV and a Sigma 105mm Macro lens. captured at 1/1250; ISO 400; f/7.1 in natural light.a

The journey to create Lovely Lotus took two years: which included two crops, two backdrop variations, and four different competition titles. From original capture to earning Imaging Excellence in PPAs International Photographic Competition, each iteration took an immense amount of thought and editing. I first entered Lovely Lotus in the American Society of Photographers inaugural Images of Excellence competition in April 2021. It scored well, but I wasn’t excited about my editing decisions, particularly, how I had cropped the flower. 

In my state’s competition that August, I created a new version of the image showing the full blossom in a different presentation. This new image scored slightly higher than it did with ASP. However, I still felt that something was missing. I wanted Lovely Lotus to have more impact on the viewer and now that I was a full year into discovering macro photography, I knew that I needed to come up with a different look for this beautiful flower.

After playing around and experimenting with new backgrounds and learning to create my own backgrounds and textures, I began pulling some of the deeper tones of pink into the composition. The rich colors really made the flower stand out and I finally felt happy with the end result. I entered the newest version in IPCs District Competition and with a seal, I entered it in IPC where it earned Imaging Excellence.

PPA Image Ecellence Collection – “Lovely Lotus” © Lisa Hill

The journey of this lotus in competition was longer than nearly all of my other entries, but I feel that the personal growth that I achieved with each iteration of this blossom was invaluable for my confidence in macro photography. I learned which details I needed to attune myself to and streamlined my ability to process macro images quicker.

Now, a few years later, I continue to work on my macro skills and find myself out amongst the flowers nearly every day. The pandemic truly changed my photographic direction– it taught me to stop and stare at the flowers and shift my focus to the intrinsically beautiful, often ignored details in nature. 

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