The compositions below are from the same plant group in the back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum that I previously posted about. The flowers took a pretty bad beating from a storm that came through the night before I captured these. Only a single flower was in good enough shape to be photographed.
I loved the random, abstract design on the canna lily in my Dropped In piece. The oranges and yellows were also quite attractive. But my favorite part has to be the large water drops. For aesthetic reasons, I placed the flower in the frame using a perspective that would pull in as much of the patterns on the petal surfaces as possible. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual drops to be seen.
Even though it’s obviously the same subject, Flow isn’t exactly a horizontal companion to Dropped In. After I rotated the lens, I also had to change the perspective because for artistic motives I, once again, wanted to incorporate as much of the yellows, oranges, and reds in the abstract patterns into the frame. I liked how the splashes of oranges and reds seem to have been expelled out of the center of the flower and create the impression that some are dripping back down into it. I also felt that the large water drops were equally attractive from this view. Surface texture and individual water drops can be seen thanks to the high level of detail.
There is a line of magnolia trees on the other side of the walkway next to the overflow parking lot in Hopeland Gardens. It is interesting to me that magnolia trees seem to be on their own blooming schedules. For example, the trees in my neighborhood don’t flower at the same time as the trees in the Rye Patch. Even the trees in Hopeland Gardens don’t normally bloom together. Anyway, I was called over to the trees near the overflow parking area by their bright white flowers. While by no means a perfect specimen, the flower in my Petal Hat piece was quirky and quite appealing. It is currently in the process of shedding its stamen and they are piling up at the bottom of the frame thereby adding some additional colors. I’ve always felt that the carpels resemble octopus’ tentacles, and I liked how they were holding dew drops. But, I was forced to create a composition upon seeing the little petal acting like a hat.
I discovered my Tree Fern composition on the south side of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hopeland Gardens. This little fern and the moss behind it was living on one of the big magnolia trees. I find it fascinating that a tree can have other organisms growing out of and/or subsisting on it. It’s almost as if the tree is so old and entrenched that Mother Nature starts treating the base like it was part of the surrounding ground by letting other flora invade and take up full time residency. I liked the richness of the greens. Aesthetically, I placed the fern in the frame so that the spine would be on a diagonal and the tips of the leaves form an arch above it. The high level of detail allows dew drops, pollen, surface texture, and individual hairs to be seen.
My Cracked composition is from the trunk of a tree that had been cut in Hopeland Gardens. Perhaps it was removed following one of our ice storms. I liked the desiccated, abstract feel and the almost grayscale color palette. I also felt that the diagonal lines (like stripes across the surface) added a bit more visual interest. The deeper main crack reminded me of a downward trending graph like those from my Engineering and Science Statistics course, and I specifically framed this so that it ran from the top corner to the bottom. I grew more enthralled with abstracts (especially those on the very small scale and created with my macro rig) over the course of the year. In the cases where stumps provided the scene, I began referring to those pieces as stump art.
I discovered the subjects in my Screams piece on the north side of the Rye Patch in a small garden area just off the driveway. The bright white colors pulled me in. In the interest of full disclosure, I was ready to point my camera at just about anything I could find because I was testing out a replacement head. I use an Arca Swiss B1 (an original that I’ve had for more than a decade), and I just couldn’t work around the dreaded Freeze Up problem combined with a barely functional panorama locking screw any longer. Simply put, the issues were causing me to burn through too much golden hour light fiddling with the head while trying to place the frame precisely where I wanted. The bad news is that, over the course of a couple of weeks, I tested several heads and I wasn’t happy with ANY of them. The good news is that Bob Watkins over at Precision Camera Works performed his magic and fixed up my B1 just like it was new again. And, it was repaired under warranty so it didn’t cost me anything. I think it’s working better than it ever did.
Test or not, seeing these little flowers through the lens at two times life-size was enticing. In my mind’s eye, the centers of the flowers resembled wide open mouths and the pearl colored structures just under the top of the center ellipse looked like snaggleteeth. Because of the shape, the yellow and green area reminded me of a tongue. They give the appearance of permanently yelling at the top of their lungs. The high level of detail allows individual hairs to be seen (especially along the petal edges).
For the past few years, I’ve felt that there was a composition waiting to be discovered in this plant growing near the archway on the front side of the Aiken County Historical Museum. I wasn’t ever quite sure what to do with it so I decided to spend some time exploring it while keeping an open mind.
Which brings up an interesting digression. This might seem strange to some of you (or, who knows, maybe everyone will think it’s weird). But, as I’ve continued to grow as a photographer, I feel like I’ve been developing an inner connection with nature. It’s almost as if she has been guiding me to artistic possibilities. I sometimes feel like I’m not searching subjects out as much as I’m being pulled to them from some outside force. It is nearly impossible to explain, but I can equate it to my music because the feeling is the same. When I would write music (Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar), I sometimes had NO idea where the music was coming from. Occasionally I had ideas in my head that just needed to come out via my fingers, but other times music would find its own way onto the fretboard in a way that made it feel like I was just a vessel through which it could be sent (from who knows where). When I have a clear mind and I feel like I’m somehow in tune with nature, I discover compositions much, much easier. And, I don’t always have an ability to describe, with certainty, what prompted me to look at a given subject or to know that a beautiful scene existed in an area so small we would normally never even see it or, for that matter, think to look for it. Conversely, when that connection is severed or my mind is filled with other thoughts (for example, when the grounds crew at Hopeland Gardens bring out their loud leaf blowers to blow leaves off from the dirt and gravel trails), it can be almost impossible to find suitable subjects. I find myself running away from the penetrating noise so that nature and I can get back on the same wavelength. Once we’ve reconnected, Mother Nature can continue to direct me to the potential opportunities she feels are worthy of presenting – to me and everyone else that sees my work.
Saw Blades is my first composition from the aforementioned plant. I loved the various shades of greens (especially those with a blue hue where the leaves connect to the core) and the abstract pattern they form by being so tightly stacked. If you look closely, you will see tiny little teeth along the leaf edges. I didn’t test this theory, but I imagine that if you were to forcefully brush your skin against them, they would cut you open.
Shafts is a different perspective from the same plant. Because I had the macro rig on my camera, I pulled the tripod back a couple of feet and reframed the scene. My artistic intent was to show more of the leaves and how they attach to the core while retaining an abstract quality. That decision also affected where the focal point was located and, along with the shallow depth of field, determined how the sharpness is distributed throughout the frame. The high level of detail allows surface texture and individual teeth along the leaf edges to be seen.
I pulled the tripod back a little further and changed the perspective again for my Sprout piece. My artistic vision was to essentially combine the abstract lines and shapes of the design created by the leaves with their connection to the core. I also wanted to enhance the 3-D look/feel, and I was able to accomplish that by selecting a couple of leaves to come out toward the lens and get close enough to be beyond the zone of sharpness while simultaneously filling the remainder of the frame with leaves that extend all the way into the background. That helps increase the illusion of depth on a 2-D surface. I did struggle a little with what gallery this belongs in because it has abstract qualities, but, in the end, I felt that it more closely represents what the plant actually looked like. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual teeth to be seen here as well.
I noticed some bright colors in the big garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum that looked like canna lily when shooting the coneflower I previously posted. I knew that I needed to get over there and check them out before the wind started to pick up too much.
The first subject I looked at through the lens was the foreground flower in my Spattered Curves piece. I loved the patterns on the petals and the ability to see down into the center of the flower. I have been enthralled with this particular variety of canna lilies since the first ones I ever saw at Magnolia Springs State Park in Georgia. And, I’ve wanted to create a composition featuring one since then. The high level of detail allows individual dew drops on the surface of the petals to be seen.
Yellow Canna was composed using the same subject, but it isn’t exactly a horizontal companion. Indeed, the distance to the flower was shortened and the angle is different as well (in fact, it was completely reframed). My artistic intent was to capture as much of the gorgeous oranges and yellows as possible while highlighting the fantastic pattern. I love how the design has a sweeping, swirled feel as if it had been spinning clockwise when captured. The high level of detail allows individual dew drops, both on the surface of the petals and along their edges, to be seen.
There were plenty of coneflowers in the back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum where I composed Half Cone, but finding one that appealed to me artistically wasn’t easy. A bit of frame placement experimentation helped lead to the discovery of a perspective that I hadn’t previously considered. I felt that reducing it down into the best colors and shapes (by eliminating portions of the flower), created an interesting abstract. I liked how the sharp, pointed areas are calmed by the smooth, soft arcs which produces a nice balance. I was also very aware of what was being removed from (and what was permitted to remain in) the frame. To assist with the aesthetic equilibrium, I kept the left and right side spikes balanced as much as possible. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The subject in my Sunbeams composition is a very delicate mushroom I discovered in Hopeland Gardens. I found quite a few of them growing in clusters on the banks of one of the ponds (specifically, the pond that used to have the dock and platform in it that you could walk out onto). I previously posted about my preference to clean subjects off before shooting them in the field, and on an earlier attempt with a different mushroom, I had tried to do that. That subject had a bug on it and when I tried to shoo the bug off with my very soft makeup brush, the entire mushroom collapsed. The thing felt like it was made from wet paper – it was incredibly fragile. Needless to say, I didn’t try to clean this one. I was attracted to it by the radiating design and the ribs that shoot out from the center like a sunstar. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
There is an old water fountain in Hopeland Gardens that used to be operational. Water bubbled out of it and ran down a cement canal into a catch basin where it was presumably pumped back up to the fountain. A pedestrian bridge was constructed over the top of the canal so that visitors could cross it (you can see part of the bridge and, if you look closely, part of the canal in my Hopeland Gardens Path). It has been years since any water flowed from the fountain, and the base is now filled with duckweed, sticks, leaves, and a few inches of murky, swampy looking water. While searching the duckweed for an abstract pattern, I discovered the scene in my Fountain Eggs piece. The dark, round nodules appear to be some type of egg and the green leaves are duckweed. This is from a fairly small area and was composed at two times life-size. I liked how the eggs formed hexagonal structures with round cones inside them that reflected the blue sky. In larger versions, you can see cellular activity within some of the cones (it looks a bit like tiny brains). I thought it was pretty cool – whatever it is.