Macro Pansies At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC: Part 1

Hopeland Gardens Pansies Part 1

I love creating macro pieces.  Simply put, I am fascinated with the possibilities that a macro rig offers.  It is very challenging both photographically and technically.  You have to deal with a setup that usually demands more light which translates into longer shutter speeds.  The problem with that is the closer you get to any given subject the more ANY movement is amplified.  Sharpness cannot be achieved if motion occurs and being blurry is not a desirable attribute.  Further, shooting in morning light is preferred because it produces vibrant colors and the heat of the day hasn’t yet stirred up the wind.  But doing that causes a reduction in the overall amount of available light – meaning you need to increase the time your shutter stays open even more.  It is a constant battle between competing elements that requires compromises to resolve.

The techniques utilized aren’t easy in a studio under perfect conditions, but move outdoors and you crank the difficulty level up beyond the comfort level of many photographers.  Have you ever noticed how rarely the wind is dead calm?  Using various types of flash can help overcome some of the aforementioned concerns, but I prefer to compose using only natural light.  I’m not trying to make creating my artwork exponentially harder; I just like naturally lit scenes way more than those produced using flash (even if a diffuser is employed).  While it can be frustrating, the rewards are almost always worth it.  An amazing and wonderful world is normally hidden from our view.  You may give a quick glance to a flower while walking past it or create a work of one at a distance that allows viewers to see the entire thing, but have no idea how exciting, interesting, or beautiful it looks on the inside when viewed at full magnification or higher.


Macro Pansy at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Doll House Pansy

To purchase a print of Doll House Pansy click here
To view a larger version of Doll House Pansy click here

I enjoyed excellent conditions the January afternoon these were composed.  The light was diffused and flat thanks to heavy cloud cover.  At the same time, there was very little wind.  This was my first time creating macro pansy art, and I was quite intrigued by what I was seeing.  I started my exploration just outside the Doll House while city workers were busily removing the Christmas decorations from Hopeland Gardens.  I love the colors in my Doll House Pansy piece; especially the purple highlights and how the browns morph into oranges and reds as they approach the yellows.  Using a fairly small f-stop helped keep a high level of detail all the way down into the very center of the flower and allowed the crystalline particles that look like little diamonds or jewels to be visible while at the same time capturing the surface texture.  The darker arcs emanating from the center focal point create a feeling of tension.


Macro Pansy at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Velvety Ruffles

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My Velvety Ruffles piece shares some of the same color qualities that Doll House Pansy exhibits, but the mood is decidedly different.  The darker arcs no longer carry a sense of tension, instead they convey an open feeling of stretched out arms that seem to welcome you to look closer and examine the subject’s inner beauty.  The purple, velvety highlights along the flower’s ribs also help draw attention to its center.  The yellow and orange arcs that flow out from below the center remind me of a starburst or sunflare and, once again, provide focal point emphasis.  Detail and sharpness in the piece was also an important aesthetic goal and being able to see the individual hairs both in the center and on the surface help establish that.


Macro Pansy at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Color Pump

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The Color Pump piece shares the same qualities as the previously described Velvety Ruffles.  Indeed, it is the horizontal companion to it.


Macro Pansy at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina

To purchase a print of Flutterer click here
To view a larger version of Flutterer click here

My Flutterer piece gave me the feeling of a flower with the ability to flap its petals.  The subject is the same as the previous two, but the viewpoint has been zoomed out so that the left-hand edge of the brown area can be easily seen.  It felt as though it was declaring a type of freedom and that it would no longer be satisfied with being stationary.


Macro Pansy at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Fire Wings

To purchase a print of Fire Wings click here
To view a larger version of Fire Wings click here

The final piece in this blog post is Fire Wings.  This is the same subject as the last three, but this one is zoomed out even further with a perspective change.  Similar to Flutterer, it reminded me of a butterfly and was composed so that both the left and right wings are visible.  This view also really allows the color transitions from the browns into the yellows to be seen across the majority of the surface.  Even though it wasn’t created as close to the subject, a high level of detail was maintained.


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Author: Steven Dillon

Discover behind-the-scenes details, aesthetic decisions, artistic visions, and compositional choices for my pieces in The Artist’s Story posts.

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