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Robert Norris

"Weeds are Beautiful"


The International House Davis

10 College Park, Davis, CA

April 8 through May 9, 2016

Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Robert Norris, a retired plant scientist from UC Davis, has photographed beautiful weed flowers close up showing fascinating details not normally seen by the unaided human eye. Some of the photos use “stacking” to allow for in depth focusing.


About the Photos

Close-up photographs of plants reveal fascinating details that are not normally seen by the human eye. A major drawback to close-up photography has been the very shallow depth of focus, which has limited the ability of the photographer to capture the full detail of plant structures being photographed. During the last few years there have been computer hardware and software developments which have completely overcome the problem of shallow depth of focus for a single photograph.?

The process is referred to as focus stacking. Equipment has been developed that permits the photographer to take a sequence (stack) of photographs with incrementally changed focus point for each picture. Computer software then takes files for the ‘stack’ of photographs and combines only the sharp, in focus, part of each picture into a single photograph. The result is a picture with essentially unlimited depth of focus showing stunning detail that cannot normally be seen even with a microscope, as the latter still has the problem of limited depth of field unless photomicrographs are also stacked. A few of the photographs in the exhibit were taken in the days of film because they represent a plant, or situation, that cannot easily be reproduced. Most of the photographs, however, have been taken during the last five years using digital rather than film cameras and most used focus stacking techniques. Robert has been ‘blown away’ with the pictures of plants that he has been able to obtain using the focus stacking technique and wants to share his excitement with anyone interested in plants and plant photography. Many of the exhibited photographs show that weeds are indeed beautiful, especially when viewed close up and ‘sharp’.???


Robert Norris is a retired botanist who has been taking close-up photographs of plants since the late 1950s. He learned the ‘art’ of macrophotography using a Leica III, a set of extension tubes and a hand held light meter. No SLRs at that time, and no automated exposure. He currently uses Nikon cameras and lenses; he particularly likes the 200 mm micro Nikkor for macro photography. Robert also paints with acrylics and oils, and has had a painting hung at the State Fair and won runner up best of show at the Yolo County fair for paintings of agricultural machinery at work.
Robert was born, and grew up, in England. He has degrees from Reading University in England and the University of Alberta in western Canada. He is an emeritus member of the Department of Plant Science at UC Davis. He has spent a total of 48 years associated with UCD; 34 of those years were as full-time weed scientist working on weed ecology, integrated pest management, and weed management systems for field crops in California before he retired at the end of 2001.
Robert is an avid gardener and grows about 80% of the fruit and veg that he and his wife eat. He has been teaching vegetable gardening to Master Gardener trainees since the early 1980s, which he continues to the present. He is also a world-class swimmer who trains with Davis Aquatic Masters, and has won numerous gold medals for 100 and 200 m backstroke events at US National and World Masters swimming championships.