Magnolia grandiflora

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


Each flower of this species appears at its best for only a few hours after popping open. Overnight those white vertical columns - the stamens - unfold and, in the morning, bees - and a few other insects - swarm in to collect the pollen. At the end of the day after opening, the flower is spent, and withers. But it is soon followed by another flower, so extending the pollination period for several days on this small tree of seven or eight flowers. And all the time there is a beautiful, strong scent.

Specific Feedback

This flower is theatrical, and I tried to enhance this with contrast, while preserving some of the texture of the petals. Could it do with even more contrast?

Technical Details

OM-1 + 60mm macro 1/3200 f4.5 ISO 200 Stack of 6 shots

Stacked in Zerene, cropped and removed small reflections on leaves. Lowered highlights in some petals in Lightroom. Then in Photoshop converted to B and W and adjusted color sliders. Finally adjusted Contrast.

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Exquisitely beautiful, Mike. I truly admire the detail you’ve gotten with your stack, the gradient variations from black to white and dynamic lines created by the petals. Great shot!

Gorgeous!! I’m such a sucker for Magnolias, and the scent is heavenly! (These are our widely-planted “Southern Magnolias”.) And your photography is also theatrical, with the almost-symmetrical composition and lighting. (Maybe in another hour the petal on the left would have drooped more, but then the one on the right might have stayed ahead.) The whites are so well-handled!

For my taste, I’d like to see more canvas all around. If you don’t have it, the center is so compelling here that I think you could crop in from both sides.

Thank you for your kind words @linda_mellor ! @Diane_Miller, that “unfallen” petal bugged me a bit - so your crop solves that problem; also to add canvas would be tricky as there were leaves and branches there. So - thanks for the new idea! I’ve never seen this species anywhere else (except in movies like “Gone With the Wind”).

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Glad I happened on the idea. These trees are all over the milder winter climates in the southeast US but are commonly planted as landscape trees even in our dry summer climate in semi-coastal central California. I think they would like more moisture and humidity but they survive. But there is nothing like walking through a small town in “the deep south” on a warm humid summer evening and being enveloped by the fragrances of Magnolia and Honeysuckle. Add in Tuberose and Gardenia if you are lucky.

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Ah, honeysuckle - I must get a good shot of that one day. We have a wild variety with a great scent - attracts insects too. So that’s one for the future.

Mike, this is an excellent look at this grand flower. As a big fan of filling the frame, you’ve done that very well. The textures in the rear petals are an excellent detail, part of me wishes that you could have kept the particularly in the lower parts of the petal on the right, but the “glow” there sets off the petals in front nicely also. The flower stands out well, so the vertical white “bar” on the right has little visual weight.

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Beautiful Image !!! I don’t know what stacked means… very sharp image and i think the contrast is fine. !!!

Thanks for your comments @Gill_Vanderlip. For stacking, check out this webinar:

Focus Stacking Webinar by Mark Seaver - Learning with Experts / Webinar Recordings - Nature Photographers Network