If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts, you may remember a post where I described the no longer operational fountain in Hopeland Gardens. I discovered the female box turtle in my Private Pond piece in the catch basin portion of the fountain system. When the fountain was functioning, water from the canal would flow into the basin where it would, presumably, be pumped back up to the starting point. With no water streaming down the canal, only surface runoff, rain, etc. can get into the catch basin. I’m not sure how she got into the basin, but, because the cement walls are pretty high, she was essentially trapped until it fills with enough water (or perhaps something else she could utilize) for her to climb out. I didn’t see any other turtles so she has the whole area to herself. I had been checking on her during previous trips, but wasn’t happy with the background or her position. Being completely surrounded by duckweed presented the best opportunity I had been given. While she remained perfectly still, her throat was moving in and out (which I liked because it shows movement and implies breathing).
I loved the greens combined with the dark red veins in my Wet Canna Leaf piece. This is another composition from the area along the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum where the canna lilies live. Because of its abstract quality (i.e., simple colors and lines), I really appreciated the ability of the dew drops to bring additional visual interest. Aesthetically, I didn’t want it to feel too mathematically exact or mechanical so it’s not perfectly centered within the frame, but it’s close enough to give the impression that I intended it to be.
I had an eye on the plants in my Garden Grass piece for a while, but hadn’t ever found a composition that I was happy with. They got my attention again so I worked on finding a pleasing way to put them in the frame. I loved the single dew drop at the tip of the center blade as well as how the lush foreground greens arched up and out. Artistically, I couldn’t let the sharp tips of the blades on either side be out of focus (e.g., by focusing deeper into the scene) so I used them as my focal point. That decision let the middleground and background blades naturally fade while providing some separation for the foreground (even though they share the same colors and shapes). If you’re a regular reader, then you may recall my post concerning background objects being visible and how I normally attempt to prevent that from happening. This provides an example of where I allowed a busier background to exist and depended on perceived sharpness to create distinction between the layers.
I believe that the blossom in my Standout piece is rose of Sharon. When facing west, this tree is to the right of the purple rose of Sharon (the same one that produced the bud in front of a bloom from a previous post) next to the wall in the Aiken County Historical Museum. I’ve noticed that they have comparable blooming schedules and their flowers have similar designs. This bloom was positioned by itself with lots of space around it and, more importantly, behind it (the background was clean all the way across Laurens Street to the trees on the other side). The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
Having great colors is almost an automatic way to get my attention, but occasionally I’m attracted to a given blossom by how easy I believe it should be to work with. That was the case with the subject in my Snowballs piece. This is on the same little bush at the Aiken County Historical Museum that I created an abstract from in a previous post and it offered several potential subject blooms. I loved the blood red colors and the design formed as the reds go from purples to pinks as they flow away from the flower’s center. I placed the snow white stigma discs on the lower crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used them as my focal point.
Perhaps the gardeners that care for the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum dug up the flowers that produced the bloom in my Translucent composition and replaced them with the plants that produced the flower in Quiet. The two flowers were from the same spot but their appearances are fairly dissimilar. I was attracted to this lily because the colors were different from the normally loud schemes I find and have composed. The softer, subtler, more pastel yellows, subdued whites, and gently curved anthers all produce a calmer, soothing feel which is nice (once in a while). It’s like listening to George Winston every now and then when you normally have Dokken, Judas Priest, and Van Halen playing.
I felt like I needed to go down by the water near the swamp’s edge in Hopeland Gardens the morning I composed First. That area, just before the wooden bridge closest to Whisky Road, is not some place I usually go, but something told me that I should (even if it was for nothing more than to see if there was anything worthy of pointing a lens at). On my way down the hill I scared a snake, but it didn’t go far and was trying to be still even though most of its body was exposed. Since it was going away from me, I couldn’t see its eyes, and I didn’t feel like there was a composition worth pursuing. It looked like it could be a water moccasin, but I figured it was probably a water snake. After never even seeing a snake the entire time I’ve created there, I couldn’t convince myself that it was a poisonous one. I didn’t even think about it the rest of the time I was exploring other areas, but on my way back from the Rye Patch, coming around from the other side, I wondered if it was still there. When I reached the area I was in earlier in the morning, I looked down and saw the snake once again. It had moved up away from the water and was laying partially in the sun with about half of its body in shade. I decided to see if I could tell what it was so I snuck down the hill a little closer to it and used the lens to magnify its eye. It was a water moccasin! A fat one (obviously it has been eating well).
I continued to carefully get closer and closer to the snake trying not to scare it as well as being VERY cautious. I moved slowly and always kept on eye on it. I was close enough to turn the lens horizontally for my Mug Shot composition.
I have some stock images of it that are within three to four feet from it, but without snake boots I was starting to get a bit nervous. If I could have easily escaped, I might have been a little braver and possibly got even closer. BUT, I had a HUGE disadvantage with the tree knees all over the place and the fact that I would have to go backwards up a fairly steep hill covered in slippery pine needles. I had made up my mind that if it came at me, I was going to abandon the tripod and camera and come back for it later. Trying to pick that up and get away from an angry water moccasin at the same time would have only made matters worse.
So if anyone was curious about the accuracy of the warning posters in the information areas, I can present proof that there are indeed poisonous snakes in Hopeland Gardens. I will now need to be MUCH more aware of what’s on the ground especially while exploring near the swampy areas. Either that, or start wearing my snake boots.
I discovered the stump in my Aged piece while exploring the grounds at Hopeland Gardens. I just happened to look down as I was walking through the area near where the acacia tree used to be and saw this cool abstract pattern on the ground. The stump had been cut off at ground level, and I could have easily passed right over the top of it without ever catching a glimpse. I loved how weathered and worn it looked. It reminded me of layers of rock and was almost as hard to the touch. The high level of detail allows surface texture and wood grain to be seen.
Fissures is from the same stump as Aged, but in a different area. The cracks and crevices made an interesting abstract design. The surface colors were enhanced a little by the golden light from the rising sun. I found the varying thicknesses of the layers interesting (some are compressed while others appear to be swollen). In fact, there are spots that don’t appear to have any layers at all (which is even more intriguing since one expects to see growth rings of some type). The high level of detail allows wood grain and surface textures to be seen here as well.
If you’ve been following my previous posts in this series, then you know that I had been composing around the areas where the limbs had been trimmed from the tree. At this point, those spots no longer had the most interesting subjects. Gathering Colors comes from sap that has dripped and run down onto the tree trunk. I loved the color striations and patterns being pulled into the two large drops. I also liked how the moss acts as a natural highlighter (i.e., it is positioned around the sap and only has a small amount of direct influence) as well as the flatter stretched and strained area immediately above the large drop with its crystalline reflections. The smaller double drip on the side was a bonus. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen (especially on the bark).
I framed the sap in Drips so that it would be on a diagonal. That aesthetic decision was made primarily because I wanted to ensure that I could include all three of the larger drops. I especially liked the pattern created in the middle drop with the refractions, reflections, and surrounding colors being pulled in. Though it’s on a bit of an angle, I also liked that the drop in the top right corner has a classic teardrop shape. Surface textures on the drops can be seen thanks to the high level of detail.
I utilized a completely different perspective for my Flooded piece. Instead of lining up the camera’s sensor with the sap to maximize the amount of sharpness available in the shallow depth of field, I traded that in for a distinctive feel. I made the aesthetic decision to shoot up at the drops to provide more of a sense that they were running down toward the viewer. I loved the colors lit up under the sap and the reflections off from it as well as both clear and dark colored drops. With the high level of detail, surface textures can also be seen here.
I was attracted to the rose of Sharon in my Budding piece by the strong dark purple colors in the bud. This tree is very close to the west wall on the other side of the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum and has had some very nice blooms over the years I’ve been shooting there (some of which have been featured in posts on this blog). After discovering the bud, I searched for an angle that would allow the background to be completely filled with a bloom. Because of the very shallow depth of field when composing physically close to the subject at two times life-size, I was able to dissolve the bloom down to simple colors. The high level of detail allows individual hairs on the bud to be seen.