Informational Notes

9.1 Notes on the Nomenclature of Orchids

The rules of nomenclature, basic for the general information of judges and exhibitors, are detailed in the Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration. The Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration has been prepared and published by the International Orchid Commission on Classification, Nomenclature and Registration, and is a practical adaptation of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, formulated by the International Botanical Congresses, and the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants as formulated by the International Horticultural Congresses. In establishing this set of rules of nomenclature for orchids, certain practices traditional among orchid growers have been retained, even though they may in some degree be at variance with certain technicalities of the International Codes. A current copy of The Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration should be available at all AOS judging sessions.

The Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration has been adopted by the AOS, and all its provisions shall be binding upon the AOS in its official actions. The AOS editor may observe and correct any species names not in keeping with current taxonomic practices for use in AOS publications.

9.2 Notes on Registering Orchid Hybrids

In accordance with the recommendations of the International Horticultural Congress, the Third World Orchid Conference and the AOS, the Royal Horticultural Society was approved as the International Authority for the registration of orchid hybrids. Full details on the rules and procedures for the registration of orchid hybrids are to be found in the current Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration, available from the AOS.

Standard application forms for registering an orchid hybrid may be secured from the International Registration Authority or from the AOS. The application must be filled out and forwarded to the Royal Horticultural Society. The current registration fee must accompany the application. A hybrid cannot be registered until after it has flowered.

The Handbook on Orchid Nomenclature and Registration has been adopted by the AOS, and all its provisions shall be binding upon the AOS in its official actions.

9.3 Photographers' Notice: AOS Use of Official Images

Any photographer who undertakes to execute the official photographs of awarded orchid flowers, by so doing, gives permission to the AOS to use the submitted photographic items for the Society's purposes and programs.

9.4 Guidelines on Orchid Awards Photography

High quality digital image files of awarded orchid flowers and the right of the AOS to use these photographs for its purposes are essential to the proper functioning of the AOS judging system and the carrying out of the AOS's purposes. These pictures provide the only photographic documentation of awarded plants, making possible a comparison of developments in orchid standards over the years; they also provide a basis for the unification of orchid judging standards throughout the vast territory in which AOS judging is conducted.

While it may not be practical to hire a professional to make award photographs, judges or others responsible for these pictures should seek the services of the most competent and experienced photographer available. In fact, the serious amateur photographer with a good general knowledge of orchids may produce more satisfactory pictures than the full fledged professional unfamiliar with his subjects. Before undertaking this important assignment, the newcomer to orchid photography, whether amateur or professional, should carefully study the awards photography guidelines that accompany all AOS judging kits. The photographer might also benefit from studying the books, Garden Photography and Orchid Photography, and by analyzing some of the outstanding examples of award photography published in Orchids and AQ Plus. The ultimate goal should be to achieve the highest standards of quality in all award photographs.

9.4.1 Equipment

The basic equipment needed for awards photography is a high quality digital camera with macro capabilities, a sturdy tripod, portable lighting equipment and material suitable for creating neutral backgrounds. A separate light meter may be helpful in some situations as is an adjustable stand for posing the plants and flowers.

A digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) or electronic view finder camera (EVF) are the most practical for awards photography. Their chief advantage is that composing, focusing, etc., are done directly through the lens that actually takes the picture. A competently used DSLR equipped with a macro lens or an EVF with suitable close-up range can produce pictures of excellent quality.

Through the lens metering (TTL) is the preferred setting when using flash. It is strongly recommended that photographers do not use the camera’s built-in pop-up flash. A separate, external flash that fits the camera’s hot shoe will provide far better results, especially if a light modifier is used. The use of an 18 percent gray card can help ensure proper exposure under any light source as well as provide a reference for minor color correction. If a separate hand held meter must be used, incident light measurement will prove to be more reliable than reflected light readings. Since awards photographers usually have only one opportunity to photograph awarded clones, they must be thoroughly familiar with their equipment. The camera’s self timer can be used to minimize camera motion during long exposures.

9.4.2 General Setup

Generally it is unwise to schedule awards photography outdoors, owing to the impossibility of controlling the environment (sunlight, wind, etc.). Be prepared to select an indoor site, free from drafts and breezes, and preferably somewhat secluded to avoid interference by onlookers. There should be enough room to permit efficient and comfortable working conditions and accommodation of large culture awards. The camera should be tripod-mounted, and the tripod itself should stand on a firm surface for maximum steadiness.

Always avoid background materials having color or texture that may compete or even clash with the flower colors. A medium gray or even a black backdrop of non-reflective material, such as photographer's seamless paper, works very well and will not affect the color rendition of the subjects. No light should be reflected from the brightly colored objects nearby, so that the color tones of the flowers will not be affected. In general, light colors (white, yellow, pastels) are best photographed against dark backgrounds, while very deep reds, purples, etc., are seen to best advantage against a background of medium density. Again, avoid any background with a definite pattern or distracting colors, such as wallpaper. Always place the subject far enough away from any background to eliminate shadows.

Pose the plant on a table or stand which places the inflorescence at a comfortable working height appropriate to the camera/tripod elevation. Empty clay flower pots or wooden baskets make useful plant stands for posing orchids at the proper height or angle. If such props cannot be eliminated from the picture area, camouflage them with a swatch of black velvet, or with some of the same material used for the backdrop. Likewise, remove or hide any plant labels, ties or other items that would distract the viewer's eye.

9.4.3 Lighting

Circumstances (power failure, equipment failure, etc.) may arise in which the photographer has no choice but to use natural sunlight. When shooting color it is best to avoid the overly warm (reddish) daylight normally encountered during the first two hours after sunrise and the last two hours before sunset. To soften harsh, dark shadows common in sunlit photographs, use one or more reflectors to bounce light back inside the face of the flower. Crinkled aluminum foil spread over cardboard, collapsible light disks, or an 8x10 inch piece of white matte board or foam core all work well. Obviously, outdoor photography demands the most sheltered location possible. Small lens apertures and slow shutter speeds require a motionless subject.

For artificial light, there are three traditional choices: photoflood, quartz-halogen and strobe. Newer light sources include LED’s and daylight-balanced fluorescent. Be certain that the correct white balance (WB) setting is selected for the light source to be used. Conduct tests with any new light source before doing actual award photography. Whenever using existing light, each setup is likely to present its own individual problems requiring step-by-step solutions.

Successful flower portraits involve almost the same general lighting principles as good people portraits. The basic light should be placed near (but not on) the camera. A key light of slightly greater intensity is usually placed at a diagonal in the camera plane, off to the side and somewhat above the subject, for modeling. Usually a third light can be used to great advantage, placed well above and slightly behind the subject, to create a luminous effect and separate it from the background. The use of diffusion material with any light source (and especially with strobes) is highly recommended. Shadow-lines will be softened, the rendition of textural features will be enhanced, and a more pleasing natural effect is produced.

9.4.4 Posing the Flower

The awards photographer's challenge is to capture the features of a plant or flower that led the judging team to grant it an award. The photographer should ask a member of the judging team that granted the award to view the posed picture to assure that the proper flower(s) is being photographed and that the picture will show the plant to its best advantage.

The emphasis must be on photographic technique rather than on artistry. While the judges can examine a flower from any angle, the camera can record it from only one. The selection of viewing angle thus becomes crucial. In most cases the important features of a flower can only be recorded from head on, although in some cases a particular subject may require the photographer to shift his camera a few degrees away from perpendicular (plumb). Proper adjustment of camera height will usually place the flower in proper perspective.

Since orchids are three-dimensional, severe depth of field problems are encountered at close range. By keeping the camera parallel to the major vertical and horizontal planes of a flower, most of its elements can usually be brought into focus. Flower elements that lie outside these planes can then be dealt with by stopping down the lens aperture as necessary (f-16 to f-32 are common settings). Any system of incandescent lighting will generate extreme heat which may wilt the flowers, or worse, burn the plant. It is good practice to place your hand over the plant at the point nearest the light source; if the heat feels uncomfortable, the light is too close.

9.4.5 Shooting the Picture

Always use that highest image quality and size settings that the camera is capable of. Award images must be a minimum of 6 megapixels (2000 x 3000 pixels), larger is preferred. Digital cameras have far more settings than film cameras. Check all of them before shooting any awarded orchids. Particularly, be sure that the camera’s white balance is set for the light source being used.

Flower portraits should fill the frame as much as possible. First, make certain that you are satisfied with the flower pose, the lighting, the background, the camera settings and all the other elements of the picture. Next make an initial exposure and carefully study the image on the camera’s LCD screen. Look for unnecessary distractions. Is the pot visible? Does the background cover the entire frame? Can you see any labels, tags, ribbons, stakes, etc.? In short, is anything distracting in the picture? Is focus sharp? Correct any problems before committing to final exposures. Even with the ability to somewhat correct exposure with digital image files, it is still a good idea to bracket exposures. Take at least three pictures; one at the nominally correct exposure setting and one at a lower and one at a higher f-stop. The image will look different on a computer monitor than on the camera’s LCD. Do not rely on post processing to correct exposure mistakes, get it right the first time!

Award image files should be named using the official award number as it appears on the summary sheet, saved as either TIFF or high quality JPEG and burned to optical disc to be returned to the chair of the judging center. DO NOT send RAW files to the AOS.

9.4.5.1 Awards Photography Bulletins

The JC may issue interim information bulletins governing awards photography practices and procedures as needed.