With a powerful blend of bold color and selective focus, Magda Wasiczek's floral studies conjure up a magical world of fairy tales, spirits, and sprites.
She rarely mounts camera on a tripod, and her technique is loose and freeform. As noted, Wascizek starts by sitting, and then stretching out prone among the greenery. Unlike most flower specialists, she eschews knee pads or ground cloths, and “when I return from the meadow, I look like a mud man,” she laughs. Her point of view is usually at or below floral level, and she quite often tilts her camera to add dynamic lines to flower stems and horizons.
Wasiczek treats her own garden as a laboratory for her photography, nurturing flowers she remembers from her childhood and planting butterfly bushes, sweet peas, and other flowering species that attract the photogenic insects like dragonflies, lady bugs, and butterflies that often “co-star” with the flowers in her photos. “In my garden, everything is interwoven and tangled, and at first sight may seem like a chaotic mess. But for me, it’s an artistic mess!” she exclaims. Such chaos contrasts starkly with the simplicity, purity and beauty of her subjects, and, defocused, it can make for visually dynamic backgrounds as well.
In fact, Wasiczek’s backgrounds often threaten to upstage her subjects with their mysterious depths, rich colors, and graphic energy. She almost always includes visually stimulating swirls or swaths of pure, saturated color that contrast—sometimes dramatically and sometimes subtly—with the blossoms in her foregrounds.
If the photographer can’t find an angle that presents such a background, she will drag a brightly colored plastic toy, ball or other object behind her subject, making sure it’s far back and completely defocused. Her favorites are objects with reflective metal elements, which she places in good light so they appear as bright background highlights in the imagethat suggest distant moons or lamps of a nearby dwelling.
She achieves these backgrounds, of course, by shooting mostly with fast macro lenses and shooting at or near maximum aperture. The result is shallow depth of field, and deep planes of mysterious defocus before and behind her subjects. “Shooting at f/2.8, the biggest difficulty is catching the right focus. It requires a lot of patience, and taking several shots [while bracketing focus] to make sure I have a good one,” she says.
Another dimension to Wasiczek’s flower pictures grows out of her creative use of atmospherics to convey something intimately sensual about her garden and its mise en scene. More than most flower shooters, she’s drawn to frost, mist, dew, snow, falling rain, wind, and fog for the way they communicate feelings of wet, motion, chill, or warmth. The elements add an almost physical immediacy, while hinting at the photographer’s unwillingness to let a bit of inclement weather stand between her and great photographs.
Wasiczek’s color palette is unabashedly unnatural. Her violets are rarely violet, but showcase colors tweaked and twisted by the sensitive application of select Adobe Photoshop Lightroom tools. She dynamically plays the effects of saturation, white balance, tint, hue, contrast, and vibrance sliders off each other until the overall color scheme works. “It can take five or twenty minutes to get the look I want. Often when I fiddle longer than that, the picture usually gets worse, and will ultimately end up in the trash can,” she laughs.
“I have no special Lightroom tricks or techniques,” she sighs. “I simply play.”