Feature Image by: Jenny Gao - @otherworld.ly |Marie Valencia - @em_space

Auckland Wintergarden Photography with Jenny Gao and Marie Valencia

What inspired you guys to start this project?

Nature informs a lot of both Marie’s and my work so After Hours is a natural extension of that. You’re bound by time limitations chasing natural light so we wanted to eliminate that constraint and explore darkness in photography. What do flowers get up to at night when we’re all asleep? This series of photos are our imagined answer.

Printing your shots

Did you guys discover new ways to capture images while working on this project?

How much constraints help creativity. How much you can achieve with just two battery powered RGB LED lights, a spray bottle of water, a garden and willing helping hands.

Flower blooms Auckland Winter Gardens

Best lens for macro photography?

Primes with wide open apertures, like the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM or EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, especially since our series was in low light environments. The trickiness then becomes nailing focus. You can get away with it if your photos are just intended for digital (web or Instagram) but when we blew these up in prints for the campaign, there’s no room for any fuzziness to hide.

Comparing to people and/or insects, how is the lighting and style different to flowers?

It helped to see the flowers as portrait subjects and lighting them accordingly. We were inspired by moody Rembrandt setups. We also took advantage of the flowers’ translucency and played around with lighting them from the inside which helped create more uniqueness.

Winter gardens auckland blooms lighting

What was your camera set up?

I shot on the EOS 1D X Mark III with EF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM and and Marie was on the Canon R5 with primes.

What was your lighting set up?

Two battery operated LED RGB lights, a UV light, and those cheap lights you wear on your fingers for raves.

Did you run into any challenges while shooting?

The Wintergardens tropical house is filled with cockroaches at night so we had to dodge them but the worst part was probably the tropical plant smell getting baked into our clothes for days afterwards. But because we’d done so many tests, the actual shooting was straightforward. We brought in pre-made props (fishing line taped to a bamboo pole, professional stuff) to light the plants without damaging them. Three nights on location allowed us to be iterative, editing the next morning and changing direction for the following night.

Tips and tricks?

It helps having a leading question in which your work answers or explores. I think people also enjoy seeing familiar things with a twist; something just slightly out of the ordinary. Get into the edit fresh, while you’re still excited about what you’ve just captured and your mind can still visualize the end result. Being iterative - that is, shooting something over and over while changing one variable helps you take creative risks while building on what is already strong.

wintergardens lighting flowers

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