The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park was the last stop of the day that Saturday after visiting the Japanese Tea Garden and hanging around the music pavilion watching the guy play with his yo-yo while eating lunch. These were taken with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L series lens, which is a wide-angle lens. The lens was spectacular for all wide-angle up to portrait style shots, but I was left wanting more for up close shots that could be considered more like macro shots. While Canon does make a 100mm f/2.8 L series lens that is a macro capable lens, I wasn’t about to rent yet another lens simply for a quick visit to the Conservatory of Flowers, so I knew that I would be challenged on that outing.
What is a macro lens, you ask? A macro lens is a lens that is designed in such a manner that it allows the photographer to come very close to the subject being photographed. Most lenses have a minimum focal distance that limits how close you can be to your subject while still being able to retain perfect focus. For example, my Tokina 100-300mm has a minimum focal distance of approximately 6.5 feet. This means that anything within the six and a half feet in front of my lens will not be in focus even if I manage to take a photo. For a zoom lens, this is an expected minimum focal distance. In contrast, some macro lenses will allow for the lens to come as close as several millimeters away from your subject while still retaining the capability of focus.
Where would you use macro photography? Macro photography can be useful for the up close photography of small objects such as insects and flowers. Basically, anything can be shot with a macro lens, but these lenses really shine when photographing up close shots of detail. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 has a minimum focal distance of just a little over an inch, so it can get pretty close, but not as close as a macro lens.
I still managed to do pretty well and got a few images that I liked. If you notice on the up close shots of the humidity gauge, bronze lion and sphinx statues, being so close to the subject actually produces a stretched out effect. This is due to the wide-angle nature of the lens. Most macro lenses would not cause this effect. But, I liked the effect nonetheless.
The first few images were from the walk from the Japanese Tea Garden towards the Conservatory of Flowers. The Sphinx statue is right in front of the DeYoung Museum along with the bronze lion. A little further down the road you can find the bronze statue dedicated to Cervantes being idolized by his own creations, Don Quixote of La Mancha and Sancho Panza. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area that have not visited the Conservatory of Flowers, it is truly a gem. The Victorian style of architecture is classic and the whitewash job inside and out makes this building glow on a clear day with a lush green lawn surrounding it. The building dates back to 1878 and is registered in all sorts of historical lists for architecture and engineering. The all wood structure survived the 1906 earthquake with very little damage to it, but is in a state of showing its age. Nonetheless, the building is kept up and will be around for many more years to come.
Inside, the Conservatory is split up into 5 different exhibits, ranging the extremes of tropical and aquatic plants for a great variety. You can quickly make your way through the exhibits or you can take your sweet time. There are a few things to consider when visiting the Conservatory of Flowers. First, dress in layers from a t-shirt on out. I’m serious!!! Some of these exhibits are very, very warm to keep the plants in their native temperature and humidity requirements. If it’s a cool day in San Francisco, as it usually is with or without fog, you will want to dress in layers that can be easily removed for extended viewing of the exhibits. Second, there is limited floor space in the Conservatory, so there are plants species packed on top of other plants species. Keep your eyes peeled, as you’ll want to take a look at everything there is on display. Finally, please keep in mind that there are many plants on display and very tight passageways throughout the Conservatory that make it a challenge to share your walking space with other patrons at times. Please be patient and courteous to everyone around you.
The current special exhibit features the plants and vegetation of the dinosaur age. The exhibit has been expertly done with several signs warning patrons to not feed the dinosaurs along with various life-sized dinosaur models and buttons to be pushed that creative an interactive experience. The feature of the exhibit is a tyrannosaurus rex that starts out with its body inside the exhibit with its towering body that sticks his head through the rooftop of the Conservatory to be seen outside. It was very well done and should be something to check out prior to the special exhibit changing later on this year. There is even a small gift shop featuring the special exhibit for assorted souvenirs. Again, dress in layers and keep in mind that the paths throughout the Conservatory are tight and should be shared with all other patrons.
Enjoy the images and have a good night!!