John, I think your comment gets to the point I had in mind when I posted this, which is how to somehow capture the "busy-ness" of a scene like this without the picture losing impact from being too cluttered. (It felt to me at the time almost like some sort of group portrait or crowd scene, only in miniature.) Maybe it could achieve that with fewer background and near-foreground objects and some motion blur to the flowers.
I am still learning too, Rob, just trying to share some ideas I have read and applied to my own satisfaction.
I think, in general, the idea of macro shots (or even "flower" shots that aren't ~ 1:2) is to isolate the subject from the background
, not to have the background "take away" from your subject. I also believe many of the kinds of shot you are experimenting with (where one flower is in-focus, while the rest are not) can be tough to take in convincing manner. Here is an example of such an image I took:
It may not be the best image ever, but essentially I have "one" flower in-focus ... with the rest being a blur. In this case, my "background" was composed of thousands of blades of grass, which could have created a confusing mass of "lines everywhere" but because I chose a moderate f/stop of 7.1 (and had a longer focal length of 180mm), most of my background was blurred. In fact, John R. mentions this as a key element to getting a blurred background, using a longer lens, and I too wrote a blog post
about this very subject, entitled "Size Matters"
And yet, even with the same lens, if I narrow the aperture to f/14 I too will bring in more background to my shots:
In this shot, I wanted to have more of the flower in-focus (which I achieved), but it was at the cost
of blurring the background nicely.
However, a way in which to get the best of both worlds (blurring the background and
getting alot of your subject in-focus) is of course focus stacking. With focus stacking, you can use a wide aperture (say, f/4.5, and take multiple photos of the same subject ... then blend them all together
... and get a very sharp full subject and
a very blurred background bokeh as well:
This was a 6-shot stack of a Scarlet Milkweed, taken @ f/4.5, where I was able to achieve BOTH a very creamy totally-blurred background and
a high degree of subject focus. However, for your purpose of trying to get only one spot of your subject in-focus, while blurring the rest of it, I agree with John R. that using a longer lens will bring you better results.
I appreciate you guys taking the time to give some helpful feedback.
Sure thing & hope this helps,