There are some small bushes between the driveway and the east side of the building at the Aiken County Historical Museum. I’ve inspected the nice little blooms they produce for a composition several times over the years, but wasn’t ever satisfied with what I was able to create. My artistic goal was to fill the entire frame with the flower (something that is difficult to do because of their relatively diminutive size). However, on the morning I created my Bubbling Yellow piece, I found a bush that had a flower on it that was just a bit bigger than what I’ve previously come across. I placed the core of the flower slightly off center to that it could expand out and down toward the bottom of the frame. I was thrilled with the wet surfaces and dew drops that add additional visual interest, and I love all the loops and arcs.
Sometimes we have to work on a subject (or a group of subjects) over the course of several weeks before getting exactly what we want out of it. Even if you produce many different pieces and you aren’t happy with any of them, don’t give up when you know that there is a composition just waiting for you to find it. That’s the story behind my Flame On piece.
The subjects here were new to Hopeland Gardens, and I had been working about six of them every time I wandered the grounds. I tried numerous framing options and had taken home lots of images that I subsequently rejected. I would usually work them for a few minutes during a visit before moving on, so they were, in a manner of speaking, bothering me (i.e., I couldn’t quite get what I desired, but I felt it was there someplace). And every time that it didn’t work was difficult because they were very attractive to the color junkie in me due to their brilliant colors. The interesting thing is that you have to view them at the right angle. When the morning sun backlit them, the reds and pinks in the leaves lit up like flames and drew me in as if I was a moth. Each time that I reviewed and threw out images, I would come away with a better idea of what I wanted to try during my next opportunity. On the morning this was composed, I was sure that I could find an angle and position that would allow me to create what had eluded me for a couple of months. After cleaning up a few spider webs that were flailing around, I finally got the right lighting and wind conditions and found a distance and perspective that pleased my inner artist. I wanted to fill the frame with as many of the gorgeous flame-like leaves as I could, which, in and of itself, produced a more abstract feel. I considered the randomly placed dew drops a nice little bonus.
I was attracted by the blues and purples in my Wet Hydrangea piece, and I had been wanting to create an abstract macro composition that featured hydrangea for a long time. I searched over several bushes in Hopeland Gardens until I found a group of petals that just felt right artistically. The foreground petals as well as the layers beneath them were nicely laid out, and the wet surfaces both enhanced the saturation and increased the abstract feel at the same time. To bring a little sense of order to the scene, I placed the bud in the center of the foreground petals so that the rightmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected it. That also allowed the leftmost foreground petal to remain within the frame, which was an important aesthetic concern since it is the subject’s most prominent attribute. I also really like the abstract designs from the reflections off the petal’s wet surface. Then I used the bud as my focal point to amplify its relative importance. Because of the bud’s height, that brought many of the dew drops scattered around the petals into the zone of sharpness. The high level of detail allows texture to be seen.
The coneflower in my Centrifugal piece was so vibrant and fresh that I had to create a composition with it. For artistic reasons, I placed the center of the flower very near the center of the frame. That produced a feeling of expanding outward like a controlled explosion of colors. It also allows the sharpness to fall off in even amounts starting from the center, where the focal point is, and heading across the frame toward both sides. The morning dew enhanced the saturation and provided a good deal of satisfaction for my color junkie cravings. After processing this one, it immediately became my new favorite coneflower. Individual pieces of pollen can be seen thanks to the high level of captured detail.
My Peachy composition allows you to look right down the throat of this pastel colored flower. Being a color junkie, the pale pinks, oranges, and greens are not what I normally look for. But, as I’ve previously posted, that’s a good thing. Sometimes the more subdued colors are a nice change of pace (especially if they are different from what you usually see and even better if they are a departure from your typical palette). You can think of it as expanding your horizons or simply trying something new. For aesthetic reasons, I placed the anther farthest to the left on the upper, leftmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. I then focused on the larger foreground anther on the right side which created good sharpness across all of them. Individual pieces of pollen on the anthers and filaments can be seen due to the high level of detail.
Pink Paradise was composed looking right down the flower’s throat as well, but the colors are decidedly different from Peachy. They are much more bold and saturated as well as satisfying to my color junkie needs. The gorgeous pinks and reds are a nice complement to the bright yellows and greens, and one of my artistic goals was to feature them as much as possible. To accomplish that desire, I found an angle that would allow those colors to fill the top of the frame while lifting the stamen up and off of the bottom. I also wanted to hold the anthers near the yellows as their darker colors are naturally enhanced against the more vibrant tones. While I used the first foreground anther as my focal point, the extremely shallow depth of field, when shooting at two times life-size, only allowed the zone of sharpness to extend just behind it to the middleground anthers. Even so, the high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
I was attracted to the flower in my Orange Curls piece because it was so different from what a normal daylily looks like. It was immediately apparent that any composition using this subject would produce an abstract. Since it was the only one in the area, and I didn’t have anything else to compare it to, I can’t say if this particular type of flower usually grows in this manner. Perhaps it was lacking something or deformed in some way. Whatever the case, I loved all the loopy, wavy lines Mother Nature endowed it with. The stigma has character as well and is bent and curled like it had been abused. Though the anthers aren’t as easy to see because they have the same color as the petals, I did place one at the lower, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. I then used that anther as my focal point. The high level of detail allows tiny dew drops to be seen.
As I was walking through the Rye Patch Rose Garden looking for subjects, I discovered a naturally abstract scene that I couldn’t pass without further investigation. The Rose Garden is an enclosed area with two side entrances that each have a swinging door. Within the garden boundaries are hedges that are usually neatly trimmed in a rectangular shape that further segregate the various areas. On top of one of the hedge rows was a web that was completely covered in dew. Upon closer examination of the area I subsequently captured in Dew Veil, I was struck by how I could see the leaves underneath the web while at the same time the drops of dew created a mask over them. It was a curious effect and almost felt as if I was looking at leaves that had been embedded in glass. I found a group of leaves that had a couple of tips poking up and out of the web as well as other leaves surrounding it in an artistic manner. I then placed that group in the frame so that the rightmost vertical one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected them. To achieve side-to-side sharpness across the entire frame, a technique known as focus stacking was employed. The high level of captured detail allows web strands and a whole bunch of tiny dew drops to be seen.
While wandering the grounds of the museum, I came across a recently cut stump. As fresh as the saw dust was and with such nice surface colors, it likely had only been exposed for a couple of days. I was, once again, struck by the fact that the images I was able to create that morning were only possible with the exact cuts that the saw made. Not that they were planned or meant to be artistic by the person that took the tree down. But, that’s what makes it fascinating because the way it was cut uncovered art that nature had hidden inside the tree.
I was attracted to the syrupy looking colors on the left hand side of my Honey Line piece. For aesthetic reasons, I put the scene in my camera’s sensor so that those gorgeous colors essentially formed a jagged diagonal line. I then ensured that the sensor plane was as close to the surface angle of the area as I could get it so that the focus would be sharpest along the edges of the line. Artistically, I liked how the two sides had both contrasting (e.g., silky versus hard and dry) as well as similar properties (e.g., arcs and squiggly lines). The high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen.
As I was working the stump, golden light from the morning sun started to wash over it. Having the ability to influence an image with those tones is one of the primary reasons I like to be on-site before the sun comes up. Here, I loved how they provide a natural highlight to the ridges created as the saw dug its way through the wood. Artistically, I felt that the complex blend of lines (e.g., diagonals, arcs, and swirls) clashed with each other and created a certain amount of tension. The underlying shapes and warm colors in Brewing Storm reminded me of how nature paints clouds during a sunrise, and, in accordance with the adage, the red in the sky is a sailor’s warning. Texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of captured detail.
The swirled lines, arcs, and colors in my Dunes composition reminded me of sand. As if Mother Nature attempted to render what blowing, drifting sandbanks look like using only the wood from inside a tree as the canvas. As in the previous pieces, the high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen here too.
When I moved to Aiken there was a huge Deodar Cedar tree on the south side of the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Not only did it have multiple trunks, the tree’s individual limbs were quite large (bigger than most of the trees in my backyard). What made it even more interesting was how the pieces had grown up and out in that location. The area they spanned could have easily been more than 20 feet across. By all indications, the tree was a very popular spot for families and visitors to create snap shots or vacation photos – especially since with a little effort you could easily climb into the heart of them and find yourself standing several feet above the ground. At some point a portion of the tree died and had to be removed. Then a really bad ice storm came through a couple of years ago. Aiken county was one of the hardest hit areas in the entire state and Hopeland Gardens took a serious blow. Among the casualties was their Acacia, too many limbs to count, and what was left of the much beloved tree. Fortunately, when the original paring was done, a portion of the tree was preserved, and, as a form of remembrance or dedication, it was used to create wooden benches that are placed near where the tree originally stood.
As a color junkie, I’ve been attracted to the surfaces of the benches for a while, but never found a composition that I was happy enough with to press the shutter. With my Benched piece, that problem was overcome. I liked the line that runs to and around the knot and, for aesthetic reasons, decided to place it diagonally so that it split the frame. The center of the knot was placed near the bottom right one third crossing line, using the rule of thirds, but then bumped up and to the left a bit so that more of the diagonal line would remain in the frame. The high level of captured detail allows rings and surface textures to be seen.
I liked the naturally abstract pattern on the leaf in my Closing In piece. I discovered it in the same swampy area of Hopeland Gardens that several other leaf compositions came from. In addition to the pigment pattern painted across its surface, I felt that it was a poignant depiction of the end of a life cycle. Very little of the original, healthy green of the leaf exists. Nearly all of it has been replaced by stages of dying and death. The yellows are the beginning of the end with the colorful oranges and reds of decay following close behind. The browns are next in the timeline and then finally black (colorless and lifeless). The green areas are trying to hold out, to continue providing their contribution to the sustainment of life, but they are losing and there is no hope of recovery. The inevitability is inescapable. The leaf will become nourishment for any number of other organisms and it provides a visual treat by presenting gorgeous colors on its way out. As if Mother Nature wanted us to see that even death has positive attributes. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
The cool looking design in my Puffed piece is the surface of a puffball mushroom at two times life-size. I found it near the butterfly bush on the backside of the Aiken County Historical Museum. I have to admit that curiosity, more than anything else, attracted me to the subject. I simply wondered what the surface looked like and, after having put the lens on it, discovered that a neat abstract pattern existed. It’s covered in tiny little groups of fibers that look like hair mountains with gaps between them that create the zigzag channels. The hair mountains have brown caps that appear to be singed like someone took a hot flame or a blow torch and ran it across the entire area causing them to melt and coalesce.