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  • Writer's pictureZsolt Varanka

Hello May! Flower photography: Tamron and Sigma glass on Sony

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

This May was a great month with lot of photography trips and hikes, not only to the surrounding Vértes mountains (my favorite place to find deers), but spent a weekend with my wife out in the Mecsek mountains, hoping to find Bánáti bazsarózsa (Paeonia banatica), like last year. Although, this year we missed them blooming, since they were early about 7-10 days, so only specimens growing their crops were found. Anyway, the monkey orchids and the lady orchids were just in their best beauty!

This spring time I put some extra effort to rediscover my Sony E-mount and also my vintage SLR lenses for plant & flower photography. Think, this is a useful habit to relearn and refresh one's knowledge about the things one 'know already'. After my comparative tests I found (again) the Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 lens at the short end and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art with macro ring works outstandingly well for this purpose.

One might thing it is easy to photograph plants, as they do not run away, like wild animals, however, plants are not necessarily grow at the best locations, which are hit by nice light. So, bringing nice light with us is key.

Generally, for macro photography I used to apply bouncing reflectors/sheets and/or small flash. Bouncing and softening direct light is possible only, when there is light to use... However, in full shade there is no light to reflect, also, no nice colors, so no question need to use an own source of light, like flash. Unfortunately, small flash light has some drawbacks, like its color temperature is fixed (can be modified by gels), has no (usable) modelling light functionality (so, need to do lot of 'trials and errors' when applying variable angles and flash power), also, flash provides hard light (could be soften by modifiers). Overall, using flash for this purpose could be a painfully long procedure.

Recently, small video LED lights (with variable color temperature and/or RGB) are quite affordable, also, a vastly easier and more effective light source, as what you see is what you get! I tried out then my small video LED light to make the colors live in the shady forest. I added (smartphone) werk photos for better understanding how to use the translucent and reflecting surface of the collapsible 4 in 1 reflector.

Here I collected some of my favorite plant / flower photos taken this May, as you see, they are all pink, red, purple and magenta!

European smoketree (HUN: cserszömörce, LATIN: Cotinus coggygria) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @136mm, 1/320, f/5, ISO 100

European smoketree (HUN: cserszömörce, LATIN: Cotinus coggygria) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @200mm, 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 100

Turk's cap lily (HUN: turbánliliom, LATIN: Lilium martagon) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @34mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO 200

Turk's cap lily (HUN: turbánliliom, LATIN: Lilium martagon) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @46mm, 1/200, f/3.5, ISO 800

Common poppy (HUN: pipacs, LATIN: Papaver rhoeas) - Sony A7III, Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 @600mm, 1/320, f/8, ISO 125

Monkey orchid (HUN: majomkosbor, LATIN: Orchis simia) - Sony A7III, Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art, 1/320, f/2.2, ISO 200

Werk: using small LED light and reflector to illuminate the flower, which make the colors pop, also, adds 3D effect

Lady orchid (HUN: bíboros kosbor, LATIN: Orchis purpurea) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @28mm, 1/100, f/2.8, ISO 200

Dittany or Fraxinella (HUN: Nagy ezerjófű, LATIN: Dictamnus albus) - Sony A7III, Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 @101mm, 1/160, f/4.5, ISO 400

Werk: use small video LED light to illuminate the flower, while diffusing direct sun light by translucent material


Toma Paunovic
Toma Paunovic
Jun 27, 2022

Excellent results! Tamron 28-200 is excellent lens for this semi macro work, and as you demonstrated, it can produce very nice bokeh if you get close enough to the subject. Can you share exact LED light and reflector you have used?

Zsolt Varanka
Zsolt Varanka
Aug 10, 2023
Replying to

An update: recently purchased a Sony 20mm f/1.8 G lens, which has a similar feature set to my much liked Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 WR glass, means, close focus and very smooth bokeh. However, the Sony is a real upgrade to the Fujinon counterparty, I will share the details in another blog review.

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