Bob Stewart Gallery

Bob Stewart lives in Stowe, Vermont, where he and his wife Dee maintain an extensive collection of exotic gesneriads in their greenhouse.  Bob and Dee began growing gesneriads almost 25 years ago, starting on windows, moving to light, then to more elaborate lights, and then to the greenhouse. They grow a wide variety of species, including a lot of epiphytes and cool growers.   Bob and Dee have won many awards for their plants, and lectured on the greenhouse culture of gesneriads at the AGGS 1998 Convention.  They have been members of AGGS for almost 25 years.

Bob's photos tend to focus on particularly interesting flowers or fruit, and are characteristically tight images of individual flowers.  He normally uses flash, creating dramatic images with bright subjects in the foreground, and the background fading into black or near black.

In his own words:

"For slides I use equipment as follows:

"Camera: Olympus OM-2 SLR, because at the time I was buying it had good close-up equipment available, and had through-the-lens flash metering. Today the only choices seem to be Nikon, Canon, and Minolta, any could probably be made to work. An SLR of some sort is a requirement,
otherwise focusing and framing accuracy are almost impossible.

"Lens: Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, because at the time it offered good sharpness, longer then 50 mm focal length (allowing more distance between lens and subject), magnification down to life-size without additional accessories (convenience), and reasonable price. I understand that a 90mm f/3.5 version of this lens is still available and still one of the best buys in macro lenses.

"Film: Kodachrome 2, because it has the finest grain and best color rendition, and I don't need speed because I use flash. I set the camera's meter to under-expose by 1/3 stop to get better color saturation.

"Flash: Olympus 310, because the through-the-lens flash metering works with the camera. I don't use a ring flash because they tend to give lighting that is too even, and results in a flat look to the picture.

"Flash Bracket: I use a special bracket, made by NovoFlex, that attaches the flash unit at the business end of the lens. That avoids having the lens body cast a shadow on the material being photographed.

"Why Flash?

"Because I don't have the patience for the alternative. Without flash you need a tripod to hold the camera, with all the cumbersomeness that the tripod brings with it. You also need to move the plant to someplace where it is not swaying in the breeze, which can be a problem in someone else's greenhouse or outdoors. You also need the patience for tedious setup and long exposures.

"With flash I can use a hand-held camera, for much greater speed and flexibility. I can focus by moving my body back and forth. I can shoot at the exact instant that the plant sways into focus.

"Flash produces a more glary light than a time exposure under the open sky, but I can live with this. If I were more of an artist, I might have different opinions and use different techniques.


"When taking a close-up picture, I set the lens to an exact magnification appropriate to the object, and then focus by moving the whole camera and lens back and forth with respect to the subject. One advantage of this is that I can then record the magnification for each picture. If I later need to know how large the flower or other object was, I can measure the picture and multiply by the magnification factor.

"The other advantage is that (for complex optical reasons) trying to focus the same way as for non-close-up pictures, namely using a fixed camera position and turning the focus ring on the lens, just doesn't work very well. It is difficult to guess in advance the right camera distance, and you often have to turn the focus ring so far that the photo is too large or too small."


Besleria lutea (fruit)
High Resolution A very dramatic illustration of this interesting fruit -- complete with what Bob calls a "meat-like" substance at the top of the berry.  Note the reflection of the flash in the shiny surface of the berry.

Chirita micromusa (detail)
High Resolution If you look closely, you can see the reflection of the flash in what are probably trichomes in the flower surface.

Drymonia coccinea 3
High Resolution This is a good illustration of the leafy calyces and bracts of this showy species.  It is a vining type, and appears to be supported against wire mesh.

Drymonia rhodoloma
 High Resolution  A sinuous portrait of this vining plant, nicely illustrating its overall character, as well as the interesting flowers and calyces.

Drymonia strigosa
High Resolution I love this picture.  The contrast of pink calyx and yellow flower is wonderful, and technical quality of the image is very high.

xHeppimenes 'Tezli'
High Resolution A fine portrait of a seldom seen cultivar.

Nematanthus hirtellus (detail)
High Resolution This tight close-up nicely illustrates the dense hairs over all of the flower -- note the dark maroon calyx from which the flower emerges.

Nematanthus villosus
High Resolution This photo nicely illustrates the character of the plant, and it's unusually upside-down flowering habit.

Paradrymonia hypocyrta (detail)
High Resolution Note the woolly hairs on the flower.

Solenophora tuxtlana
High Resolution This is another classic photo, beautifully illustrating the unusual egg-shaped calyx tube and the dramatically patterned flowers.

Titanotrichum oldhamii
High Resolution A single isolated flower can often be very effective, especially when the flower has the interesting color contrasts of this species.



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