Mount Cook Buttercup trio

Rework with brightened background


A trio of flowers of the Mount Cook Buttercup in a sub-alpine environment. This plant lights up the mountainsides when it bursts into flower in late-spring and early summer each year.

Specific Feedback Requested

Any comments are welcome. In particular, I wasn’t sure whether to include some of the background foliage (Hebe) as I have done here, or darken the background completely. I couldn’t expose for both the flowers and the background as the background plants were close to the ground and quite dark whereas the flowers (that stand quite high above the ground) were partially sunlit and bright.

Technical Details

1/400s, f7.1, ISO 200
m4/3 35mm

LR, PS, for cropping, to remove some bright spots in background, and for tonal balancing.


Hello Phil_G from NZ :slight_smile:
I’ve been a big fan of flora and fauna from your part of the world for many years, even the buggy critters are awesome there (compared to America), this trio is no exception IMHO!
You mention darkening the background in this image but to me, a completely dark BG only works if the stems from the flowers are showing, in other words, there needs to be some type of implied or obvious physical support for the flowers.
I feel like you were trying to get all of the flowers in focus so going for a lower perspective to include the stems wouldn’t work unless you were to do some focus stacking, but then you may not have the fly in the scene. Decisions, decisions!! :slight_smile:
This one seems to be missing an anchor, they seem to be floating above the foliage.
Of course this all depends on what you were going for and what I just said is only my personal opinion.
Personally, I would consider an even brighter background to help tie or anchor the flowers to the ground.
Alternatively, I might consider a crop showcasing the fly and the flower it’s on like the cropped version posted below.
Let me know if I’m missing something in my critique and I’ll try to do a better job of explaining my approach.
Either way, I think you’re on the right track here! :slight_smile:
All the best!


I realized that I should post an example of what I mean when I say “Implied” anchor.
I took your image and darkened the outer edges, then brought out the green OOF foliage but just in the area right at the flower, to me this implies that the flowers are coming from the bright green area.

I hope you don’t mind that I did this!

Thanks @Merv. Yes, I have a cropped version almost exactly as you have shown, however as this image is for the “blooming” challenge I thought the full scene would be approriate.

When I posted the image I noticed that the background was quite a bit darker than on my computer and had been meaning to get back to this. I wasn’t going to highlight the leaves as you have shown, however, but instead brighten the Hebe nearer the top, as below.
Am not sure that I agree with the need to have stems of flowers in an image with a blackened background. It depends on whether you are trying to show the flower as it appears to the eye and as it is in reality, or an interpretation of the flower for some purpose.
No problem at all downloading images and adjusting to help explain things. Cheers.

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Love this trio of flowers and the dark hints of a background. White flowers can be a challenge you nailed it. but since you asked for feedback I will share this bit I was taught that now is part of my own internal voice while shooting flowers and bugs.

I took a flower class from one of the leaders in flower photography and this thought is stuck in my head… and I can’t help but have it scream at me while I take macros now. and yes it is her opinion but worth sharing and thinking about. Her thoughts are, If a flower has a bug on the subject has shifted from the flower to the bug. It is now a picture of a bug with flowers, not a picture of flowers with a bug.

Since then I am distracted by bugs unless it clearly is a Photo of a bug. I love this shot. so well done but that voice … and now my eyes are distracted by the bug. So yes I am more deliberate with Flowers and bugs.

I think the lighting and composition here are gorgeous! I don’t find the bug distracting as it’s large and distinct enough to be a little extra part of the story. I like the BG withthe subtle detail visible, and it looks very interesting. My only nit is that the lightest part of the Hebe is right at the top edge. I think @Merv has a good idea to tie some of the BG into the flowers – maybe do that and leave the Hebe at the top the way you had it. The L edge feels a bit crowded.

Thanks for your comments @ariel and @Diane_Miller.

The hover flies, along with many other flies and insects are very much part of this subalpine ecosystem and the buttercups usually have several active at any one time. After all, such a means of pollination must be the purpose of flowering anyway? While I can understand your “from the flower to the bug” feeling, Ariel, I am so used to seeing these flies on most of the buttercups up there I have come to regard them as an integral part of the buttercups’ display.

Yes, Diane, the Hebe position is a problem at the edge, but there’s not much I can do about that except kick myself for not paying enough attention when I took that photo. Have done that plenty already. Same with the left edge.

I have lightened some of the backround up differently now to incoroprate Mervin’s suggestion and to include a bit of the Hebe as well (placed at the top of the post). It does improve the overall, scene. Thanks Mervin and Dianne for that. Cheers

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Ecosystems are so important aren’t they! Yeah some time we need to ignore those teachers lessons! :sunglasses:

I like the more prominent vegetation above the flowers, but for my taste I would have kept the subtle detail in the rest of the BG. Maybe a subtle edge vignette would work well.

You have such lovely subjects – hope we get to keep seeing more of them!

Hi again Phil_G, :grin:
I like the rework , in my mind it’s better than the original but the original was good too.
The main objective is to make it what you want it to be.
Critique is only someone else’s opinion and personal perspective, it’s just another way to look at something.

What about that Hebe? Not having seen one before, it has my curiosity up, hint, hint :wink:

All the best,