Skip navigation

As a gardener, I’ve learned there are a number of factors, many of which are completely out of my control, that influence how ‘good’ a growing season will be. Some years, I’ve seen off-the-chart clematis blooms while others, not so much. And it seems when one particular plant species is underperforming, sure enough, another will out-do itself.

For example, this year the peonies in my garden didn’t quite fair so well with less-than-normal yields on each plant and short-lived blossoms that faded quickly. However, in direct contrast, the dogwood trees are simply stunning! 🙂

Our tree is 12 years old and it is completely engulfed in flowers. It looks lovely by day as the sunshine strikes the white pointed bracts and ethereal by night, when subtly lit and reflecting into the dark water of the pool below.

“The Flying Nun” (White Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 320

The challenge for a photographer, especially one like myself who has been shooting flowers for more years than I care to admit 😉 , is to capture the beauty of nature in a unique manner. Type in ‘kousa dogwood flower’ in any internet search engine and pages upon pages of image results will display, many of them looking exactly the same. Sigh. Where’s the creativity, people??!

“Yamaboushi” (White Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 320, Built-in i-TTL Fill Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, +1.0 EV

So, I set out to shoot these beauties in a manner I’ve not seen before. I admit it took alot of walking about and much contemplation (studying backgrounds, lighting and camera angles) to achieve what I wanted. What I love about the first image is the way the light is cradled inside the delicate cup shape created by the white bracts, causing it to literally glow against the darker background.

What I love about the second image is the soft tones and curves that focus our attention on the true flowers (considered ‘ornamentally insignificant’) which are the small yellow-green inflorescences in the center. (Surprised? 😉 ) Those same bracts now appear as fluid as fabric, gathered and held together at the center by Mother Nature’s very own version of  ‘bling’.

All in all, a doggone good day for shooting an old favorite. 🙂


  1. I really like the composition and the shallow depth of field on the 2nd image. Certainly is a different take; well done!

  2. My ‘green thumbs’ are completely non-existent…
    but I’m sure glad you have them, M.P., because these are some wonderful shots!

    • Ha! When I first started out, my thumbs were more brown than green! (Yes, I’ve been known to kill a few plants…) Luckily, I have a sister and neighbors who are all very good gardeners so over the years, my thumbs indeed have become ‘green’. 🙂

      Thanks much, Sig! 🙂

  3. I love dogwoods! I never noticed them around here until we went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (back in March?). And even then,,,, none in the neighborhoods around where I live.
    LOVE the second picture! Did you get any macros of just the center? I soooo want to get a closer look! 🙂

    • I think dogwoods aren’t that fond of intense heat AND they do like water so I am not surprised you don’t see them in TX.

      No, I didn’t have my teleconverters with me when I shot these, so no super macro on the flowers. The blooms should last awhile longer so I may get another chance to do that. Thanks, Michaela! 🙂

  4. These are both superb illustrations of what a little patience and exploration can bring to a subject.

    “As a gardener, I’ve learned there are a number of factors, many of which are completely out of my control, that influence how ‘good’ a growing season will be. ”

    Sounds a little like photography 🙂

    • Thank you very much, JP! You are sweet to say so! 🙂

      Yeah, there are many factors in photography I feel are always out of my control!! 🙂

  5. Lovely shots 🙂

  6. Shot #1 is enchanting. The color and light are just gorgeous. You are right; you never see a dogwood looking like that. Are they still blooming near you? They seem to have mostly passed here.

    • Thank you very much, Karen! 🙂

      Yes, the dogwoods are still looking very good. I hope they last a good while longer!

  7. You made it, Tracy! You captured it originally. I’ve seen some dogwood photos but never such a close ups. I really like the second photo because of the graceful curves of petals and composition. The first one has great title 😉 We don’t have this tree in our country so it’s always nice if I can see it somewhere.

    • Aw, that is very kind of you to say, Tomas! 🙂

      For the first shot, I did try to think of other titles but kept coming back to that one. So cliche, I know. 😉

      As for the second title, that is the name of the tree is Japanese! I thought it fitting since I keep thinking that main petal in the center of the image looks like the sleeve of a kimono.

  8. I love the first photo, Tracy. My Kousa is 10 years old and not having a great year. I’ve seen others that are spectacular and hope that mine is not failing. It has many tiny flowers this year, so much smaller than usual with a number of dead branches.

    • Thanks, Lynn! 🙂

      Aw, so sad your Kousa isn’t doing so well. It could just be this one year it is struggling (not enough water, tough winter, etc). Check the trunk to see if the Titmice have been chewing the bark off for their nests (typically doesn’t kill it, but will stress it). Otherwise, after it blooms, I’d give it a good pruning, remove the dead branches and clean it up a bit. Then, this fall tap in a couple of fertilizer spikes (according to package directions) and repeat next Spring. 🙂

  9. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. Love the personal touch of the dogwood blooms and them standing out.

  10. You have certainly created a pair of beautiful images. I love how the top one almost looks like it’s flying, and the bottom ones seems to be twirling in a beautiful dance. Both are lovely.

    • Thank you, Amber. Your descriptions make me smile as that is exactly what I see as well! 🙂

  11. That first shot “feels” uplifting. Very pretty!

    • Well, it is the ‘Flying Nun” afterall… 😉

      Thank you, Amy!

  12. You know you could have posted virtually any view of these, and I’d not have seen them before… lol.. but then I guess you have a few more discerning flowery types than me… but you sure did capture some extremely nice shots though… 🙂

    • Ha! I suppose that is true, Brian! I do hope by now that you are learning all your flower varieties via this blog…there will be a test. 😉

      Thanks, Bri! 🙂

  13. I believe that this is a different variety of dogwood than the early bloomers that flower before they leaf, no? These leaf then flower. I see them all around right now and they are gorgeous! You’ve captured them so well here. Gorgeous color and lighting.

    • Yes, you are correct! The first dogwoods to bloom are Cornus florida, sometimes referred to as American Dogwood. They are prone to disease (when we moved into our home in ’94, there was an enormous pink variety out front that we eventually had to remove since it was so diseased and looking poorly. Our neighber told us that it was such a shame since, ‘in its day’, it was a spectacular specimen that used to literally stop traffic when in bloom). Tthe Kousa varieties became more popular since they do not get the disease. I had requested a pink variety but the landscaper decided to plant a white one. At first I was very disappointed but I got over it. 🙂

      Thanks so much, Becky Sue!

  14. I couldn’t actually pick out a dogwood tree. Lovely blossoms.

  15. The flying Nun?????? I LOVE your humor and LOVE how you see things in nature!!! These are both beautiful!!

    • Thanks, Carol!

      Ha! Yeah….it was the only name I could think of for that one! So glad you ‘get’ my humor! 🙂

  16. Beautiful shots, I’m loving the second one.
    Very nice work!!

  17. Such a great photo! I especially love the first one, it is so beautiful!

  18. These are wonderful, Tracy. 🙂

    Our dogwood did well this year, too. And I’m happy to say I learned all those things about bracts and inflorescences just after I shot a bunch of (not so original) shots of the ‘ornamentally insignificant’ (I disagree!) flowers.

    • Thank you, Robin! I disagree as well but you do have to give those showy bracts their props! 🙂

  19. Great blog with some wonderful photographs. 🙂

    • Thank you, Nigel! You are welcome to stop by and comment anytime! 🙂

  20. I’m glad you did not want me to choose here – those two photos are simply amazing, what a fabulous result of all your work with the camera in the garden.

    • Ha! You are so very, very kind, Truels! Much appreciated! 🙂

  21. Wow, really love the first image. The angle makes it a bit magical

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By It’s a Dog(wood)s Life « Milkay Photography on 07 Aug 2012 at 6:46 pm

    […] white Kousa Dogwood did not disappoint and just like last year, I wanted to try to photograph the gorgeous blossoms in a unique manner, despite the fact that my […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: