The Water Lily
... Pictures from the pond.

The water lily is one of my favourite flowers to photograph. I'm Aquarius and water's my element so that could have some bearing on it.

The first time I saw Monet's water lily panels at L'Orangerie Museum in Paris, I was mesmerized!

Not just the dazzling rainbows of petals but the amazing hues and patterns of the leaves... the reflections on the water... the quality of the light.

The panels make you feel like you're sitting right there beside his waterlily pond.

white water lily and bee

Any artist or photographer would be ecstatic to have a lily pond close by! 

You could spend years concentrating just on the pond while it changes from morning to night and season to season... just like Monet did.

Blue Water Lily Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

It's easy to confuse water lilies and lotuses, but they're really very different. There's a lot of confusion on the internet, so I'll let you in on some of the differences on this page....and then....

Go here to brush up on the lotus blossom. That should clear up any problems you might still have. 

If you love water gardens and the sound of waterfalls, take two minutes and watch the video I shot at Yeomiji Botanical Gardens on Jeju Island in South Korea. There's a magical display of water plants and at the very end, you'll catch a glimpse of the magnificent Victoria amazonica leaves on the water.

Interested in seeing more of Yeomiji Botanical Garden, an exotic garden where these water lilies live?

The Artistic Touch - Photo Editing

Are you a realist or an artist… or both? This is the part where you learn how I created some of my lotus blossom images.

I slip into this trance-like, blissful state in the digital darkroom. Then again, same thing happened to me in the "real" darkroom! I was kind of a die-hard… held on to slide film and chemicals for a long time before I gave in to the digital revolution. Now I'm sold!

If you can press a shutter, you can learn basic photo editing, Download a free or inexpensive lightweight "model" and start playing. Crop, boost the saturation, change the white balance a tad. Some of my photos only get a few tweaks but I'm totally hooked on manipulating pixels!

Textures Are Terrific!

Here's the original photo with basic adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. Topped off with some white vignetting along the borders.

For the second image I played with a whole bunch of textures in Photoshop. Seeing as these flowers are rather exotic, "rice paper" is a good fit. I decreased the opacity so that the water lily wasn't obliterated.... and erased all of the texture over the center of the flower.

And for the final image... the original image looks a bit cool so I applied a light warming filter... and another texture layer! This one adds a streak of light in the upper right corner and a warm orange and yellow glow to the flower. It was too strong so I dialed the intensity down a little.

The water gets lost in the final image but the floating lily pad is still visible at the bottom.

Frames Add Pizazz!

Frames are so much fun to play around with. When you add one to an image, make it say something about the picture. It should not take your attention away from the photo... it should add to the story.

Blueu water lilies dark vignett
Blue water lilie with bamboo mat frame

This perky water lily lives in the most inconspicuous garden at a restaurant in Thailand... near Kanchanaburi. You'd never know there's such a lush tropical paradise behind the walls as you drive by!

Through the gate, it was a whole different world. Stone fountains, tiers of brilliant flowers and hanging plants, flowering bushes... quite a shock. Including the most incredible carved flower stepping stones between the ponds of water plants.

The frame looks like a woven bamboo place mat, a lot like the ones on the restuarant tables, giving the photo a bit of an Asian flare!

Frames and Textures
... better together

This photo was fun to work with. It was too "flat" to start out with but it got spiced up and colourful with a few layers!

The original image has a white vignette...  peaceful enough.

The second image has three texture layers, a "brocade", a warm filter, and a flame of light, mostly at the top. The orange-yellow light takes over the small flower. Nice hot image!

White water lilies with white vignetting 1 of 3
White water lilies 2 of 3 texture
White water lilies 3 of 3 textures and frame applied

The final step... adding a zinc oxide frame. The colors are hot, hot, hot! I'm usually a bit "dark" but, everything works together here.  The more I look at the final image, the more I like it. Any thoughts?

This image loves textures and frames!

A quick lesson about applying frames. Read on....

Blue water lily no added white space fo frame

There's a lot of detail here, even in the water. After Lightroom basic adjustments and cranking up the clarity, I opened it in Photoshop. Then an "earth" texture and a dark vignette. It really is "earthy", isn't it? Very moody and mysterious.

I added a really simple frame and made some adjustments to the it.

Compare the top and bottom images. Do you see what's different?

Blue water lily earth texture added white space framed

See where the frame on the top image covers part of the petals? I don't like it!

But in the bottom image, the petals are all in the picture. The frames are both the same size so what happened?

In the first photo, I didn't make an adjustment layer...

...but the second go around, I created a new white canvas, 200 pixels wider on all sides, copied the original image to the layer, making sure to center it. My new file had a lovely white border all around so when I applied a frame, it fit nicely. Lots of padding without covering important parts of the photo.

You don't need to add an extra layer IF there's nothing important that the frame covers.

The Water Lily
... More than just a pretty petal

This is the part where you say "Wow, I didn't know that!".

Best to learn everything you can about the pretty petals you're shooting… because the more you know, the more possibilities you can come up with for your pictures of flowers.

Scientific Name: Nymphaeaceae is the family with 8 genera of water lilies that live in freshwater in either temperate or tropical climates.

All the flowers in the hardy group bloom in the morning about 9:00 and close up about 4:00 in the evening. If it's cloudy and dull, they hide their petals and wait for the sun to return!

If you were a tropical water lily, there's a high probability you'd be blue. Plus you'd be totally finicky about where you live… only a conservatory or a very hot and humid climate.

  • And talking about the color BLUE! There are all shades of absolutely fabulous blue waterlilies. But... you'll never find a blue lotus blossom! So don't believe the name if you read about the Egyptian Blue Lotus. It's really Nymphaea caerulea, the Egyptian blue water lily.

..... and it has an amazing ancient history in the land of the Pharaohs!

Here's where you go to find out about the lotuses.

In the 1900's a French botanist bred a miniature group of "pygmy" waterlilies. If you've got a small water feature from 10 cm (4 inches) to 30 cm (a foot) deep, these babies are your ticket!

These little ones come in a rainbow of colors! They'll really give you some great photo opportunities, right in your own back yard!

If you have a pond or a lake, you could grow the large water lilies. They need water about 80 cm (almost 3 feet) deep. But, as Monet found out, they're high maintenance!


National Flower

  • The White Water Lily is the National flower of Bangladesh - they call it shapla. It floats calmly about on the water symbolizing peace and self-reflection. The many petals symbolize all the rivers in Bangladesh.
  • In April 2012, N. nouchali, a sky blue color, was named the national flower of Sri Lanka again! … seems they had mistakenly "advertised" N. caerulea as the national flower for many years!
  • Guyana also has a water lily as its national flower, named after Queen Victoria, Victoria amazonica. The leaves are amazing... huge, up to 3 meters across and they look like gigantic circular baking pans! The flowers can be 40 cm in diameter. When they first flower they're pure white but the second night, they turn a beautiful pink. I've seen these... what incredible plants!
Blue water lily Nymphaea Mrs. Edwards Whitaker

This species, Nymphaea Mrs. Edwards Whitaker, likes to float on the water like a little boat but not all water lily blossoms do. Some sit well above the surface.

I like this image a lot! This mysterious blue blossom almost jumps out of the dark background.

I imagine the delicate flower as a symbol of the goodness and beauty in a world that has a dark side to it. Every day we make a choice as to where we place our attention... the light or the darkness.

... Creative ideas for taking photos of waterlilies.

The tropical water lily is a "scent-sational" blossom. They smell divine… so if you guessed that they're used in making perfumes, bingo!

Narcotic water lilies anyone? I found several stories from Mayan and Egyptian history that got my attention. Apparently, two Nymphaea species were quite the party favors. Religiously speaking, if you were a member of the priestly clique, you could get your freak on by eating a slice of water lily!

Every part of Nymphaea alba is used in herbal medicine. The plant contains two active substances that will either relax you into oblivion or replace your viagra! … depends on which part of the plant you use.

Ancient Egyptian pictures show people putting the flower into their cup of wine and more recent studies show there might be an ingredient in the wine that activates the substances in the flowers, producing pure ecstacy. Seems they knew how to party!

I also came across tales of monks and nuns crushing the roots and mixing them with wine… an "aphrodisiac-combo". Hmm, a few more perks than just meditation when living in some monasteries!

Monet's Waterlilies at Giverny

Pink water lilies in the creek Kanchanaburi Thailand
  • I took this photo at a resort near Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I loved the reflections of the palm trees and the orange bush! The scene reminded me of Monet's waterlily panels.

Monet used his artistic genius to create one of the most staggeringly beautiful gardens that is still studied, copied and absolutely adored by garden lovers everywhere.

His water garden was almost an afterthought. He began working on it 10 years into his perennial gardens. Not long after he started, he was smitten by the beauty of his pond... and then he got serious about the design and enlarging it.

If you want to learn about light, study Monet's paintings and visit his home and garden at Giverny. The garden is a glorious piece of artwork... a study in color and light.

To experience Monet's 19 panels of water lilies, your first stop to make is L'Orangerie Museum in the Tuileries Gardens, near the Louvre! Together, this massive work is called the Grandes Decorations des Nympheas. They are overwhelming! Each panel is 2 meters high and 6 meters long... all painted at the time his health and sight were failing. Brought tears to my eyes.. unbelievable!

You must stand in a room with them to feel the impact because looking at them in a book won't give you that breathtaking experience!

Wrapping it up.

Pink water lilies beside road Sukothai Thailand

Oh yes, and one more bit of trivia about the "blue water lily"… it's July's birth flower.

Use all the information on this page to make memorable images of these water-loving flowers! I wish you many happy hours photographing these beauties!

On that note, I'll sign off on my water lily page!

Namaste for now!

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