Wed, 07 Jan 2009 13:13:47 PST
Justin there are about as many theories and advice that you will soon receive, from here or elsewhere and it is really a matter of [a] personal taste, and [b] what is the purpose or end objective intended.

Speaking personally, I am undertaking as much photography as possible myself of botanical lily species for a new monograph of Lilies and their Allies. Buying in professional material from suitable sources is one route open to me however many of the lily species and or any subspecies or varietas in question are not generally in cultivation, some are so terribly rare or in two cases so far new to science that I have therefore had to make the effort to deal with them myself. In the matter of extraneous material such as a stick that may spoil the composition I would say remove it, if on the other hand its a fly, bee or butterfly treat that as a bonus. One other objective, other than that of a botanical record, is one whereby you wish to create the best and most attractive composition you can to enter e.g. in a competition therefore your objects are a wee bitty different from mine which is to create a visual botanical record. In either context the over riding caveat, I would suggest, is to do no harm to the plant or its surroundings, the removal of a single twig or fern frond obscuring the composition is probably perfectly OK but there is a view, which I share, that "gardening" around the objective is not best practice and as I type that remark I can FEEL potential opprobrium hurtling its way across North America and the Atlantic Ocean in my direction. Ce la vie. Whatever, enjoy yourself.

One useful book which might be of interest, too late to ask for as a Christmas present, is by Alan Detrick, its a Timber Press title which shouldn't be too difficult for you to get. I paid £ 18 for it but I think it is a Can $ 28 and US $ 25 price. Timber press are currently running a sale on both sides of the Atlantic so strike while you can.

Regards,  Iain

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