From “Natural and Informal Backgrounds” in Irises: Their Culture and Cultivation by Gwendolyn Anley:
“Given the ideal setting, no more lovely picture can be achieved than when what I might describe as a limitless background is utilised. I recall, and will not easily forget, such a picture. A low hedge, no more than 18 inches high, denoted, but did not emphasise, the confines of the garden. Beyond lay the open country, gently rolling pasture land intersected by hedges, the straight lines of which were interrupted here and there by the soft billowing masses of elm trees. In the far distance blue hills melted into a soft haze….
“In the foreground the irises set the colour scheme for the deep blue and purple shadows cast by the trees and the misty blues and greys of the hills beyond…. It is obvious that in a setting such as this there could not fail to be a certain dramatic beauty brought about by the clever utilisation of the stereoscopic effect of the irises silhouetted against the scenic ‘backcloth.’ Moreover, whichever way one turned, in the absence of a solid back ground the irises could be seen with light shining through and around them and this seemed to add an ethereal beauty to even the deep-toned flowers.”
The tiny irises in the galleries below are a variety called iris japonica — also known as the butterfly flower. This was the first time I’d seen them at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — possibly because there were scattered throughout shaded areas of the garden, nearly hidden among large swatches of English Ivy, and so small in size that they were easy to overlook. The third image below seems to demonstrate how they got their “butterfly flower” nickname, with the two pair of petals on each side suggestive of the shape of a butterfly’s wings.
Here are before-and-after versions of the photos showing how I transformed them in Lightroom. You can see from the before images how much the irises are embedded in the ivy, their flowers and buds snaking just above the ivy leaves and the iris leaves nearly flat on the ground.
For these photos, I enhanced detail and color, then reduced shadows and highlights to eliminate the filtered — but very bright — sunlight that made its way through the trees, a flower having appeared near every spot where the sun came through. I then used radial filters — as I often do — to leave only a tasteful amount of the messy background and emphasize the flowers themselves. While I often blacken the entire background surrounding a subject during post-processing, I used this approach instead to preserve the fine detail in the flowers’ filaments and keep the scalloped edges of the petals fully intact.
Select any image if you would like to compare the before and after versions in a slideshow.
Thanks for taking a look!