On a warm, spring afternoon while walking along the Beaver Run Trail in Hickory Knob State Park, I decided to break off the path and head through the woods towards the Savannah River. After climbing down a rather steep bank, I discovered some interesting naturally abstract patterns in the clay about four feet from the water’s edge. I searched the shoreline for an aesthetically pleasing area (i.e., one without any roots, rocks, sticks, etc.) that also offered a nicely random mixture of patterns with the rusty reds, yellows, and cream colors. My artistic vision for Hickory Knob Shore was to create a vertical abstract that featured the aforementioned aspects in addition to the modelling and cracks.
After having worked the Chocolate Garden, I returned to the Butterfly Garden to give it a better going over. I had basically picked the low hanging fruit in the morning, but after lunch, I didn’t feel as pressed for time. That allowed me to go a little slower, take additional time to examine more perspectives, and create multiple frames of any given subject. Luckily the shooting conditions were quite favorable for midday (i.e., I had a diffused sky with periods of rain and not too much wind). I loved the size and gorgeous red colors of the buds in my Butterfly Garden Buds composition. I maneuvered around them until I could find an angle that 1) allowed me to keep the buds separated, and 2) have them originate from the top right corner and come down and out into the frame. Thanks to the high level of detail, surface texture and a rain drop can be seen.
Of the images I created featuring the flower in my Diagonal piece, I liked this one the best. I had a couple of initial objectives for this composition. First, I concentrated on the anthers and used them as my focal point. Secondly, I wanted a petal to run diagonally across and down the frame from left to right with the sharp tip ending near the lower corner. While I had resolved those two intentions, I felt that it could be improved with an additional change. I believed that it would be artistically stronger to force the majority of the filaments to originate within the frame (that is, to make it possible to see where they were coming from vice entering the frame from outside of it). So, I found a perspective that brought them back while maintaining the aforementioned goals.
I concentrated on the structures above the unopened disc florets in my Slit composition. In my mind’s eye, the center area reminded me of an eyeball, and the opening it has brought to mind a pupil. It felt almost as if Mother Nature had created a flower that could look back at its admirers. I positioned the lens to where the diameter of the eye used just about the entire height of the frame while the first one third line (using the rule of thirds) runs right through the pupil nearly splitting it in half. That also allowed the disc florets to create a fuzzy ring around the eye and exposed some petals.
I was attracted to the flower in Enticed by how unique the center was. While the flower had a similar color scheme (the very cool pinks/purples that change to orange), the middle was unlike any of the other flowers. For example, there are no disc florets or the cool looking flame like structures. That made me wonder if it was a different flower type completely (planted within the area along the bathrooms at the Butterfly Garden because it had comparable colors) or perhaps some genetically altered version.
Confectionery is close to being a vertical companion to Enticed. It is the same flower, but the perspective was changed. I loved how the petals were layered so I pulled back from the flower a little to bring a bit more of them into the frame. The colors were so sweet that they made me think of candy.
The flower in my Attractive composition, once again, has a similar color scheme with another distinctive center. I loved how the petals were layered and overlap each other here as well (that makes it easy to fill the frame with very nice colors). I also liked the furry looking edges of the petals in the very center and the stubble at the bottom of the petals next to them. The high level of detail allows individual hairs to be seen.
I only had a couple of minutes to check things out at the Chocolate Garden before heading back to the car for lunch. I looked at a couple of compositions, but didn’t feel that I had enough time to create anything. So, after our picnic, the Chocolate Garden was the first place I headed to. Due to conditions and lighting changes, none of the ideas I had before lunch looked good upon my return. However, I did discover the flower in my Chocolate Garden Hibiscus piece. The flower itself was quite large, but it was really low and close to the ground. That made positioning the tripod fairly challenging, and I had to work at it for a few minutes before I was able to manipulate the legs into a suitable arrangement. Aesthetically, I wanted the pistil to come down and away from the center of the flower vertically. I placed the two lower stigma discs on the bottom one third line, using the rule of thirds, and used that area as my focal point. That allowed the crossing line to fall nearly at the center of the stigma and lifted the pistil up into the corner of the frame. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen (on the stigma discs) and individual hairs (on the stigma stems) to be seen.
We were tired, hot, and almost out of water on the connector trail heading back to the car when I came across the little guy in my Boot Chaser piece. He was cool with his massive jaws. They are so big that he clumsily muddles around. I think I scared him because he stopped dead and stayed still long enough for me to compose a couple of images. But, it didn’t take long before some little ants, apparently not happy with his presence, started biting him and wouldn’t leave him alone. He tried to brush the ants off his back legs and even tried shaking to remove them, but, in the end, I think he got tired of being attacked and decided he was going to move along. I didn’t want him to go because I was hoping that the ants would give up and I’d be able to continue creating so I temporarily blocked his path with my boot. Which worked, but what was really strange was that he kept returning to it – even coming from as far as four feet away. If I moved my boot to the left (to give him an escape route), he’d come plodding over to the left exactly where my boot was. If I then moved to the right, he’d slog on over and return to my boot again. We played that game at least four times so I don’t think it was just a coincidence. Maybe he marked my boot with some kind of a scent or something so he’d know where he was. It was a neat encounter.
After working the area near the shelter where we had lunch, we hiked down a connector trail that leads to the Little Gap Trail. I discovered the bark in my Flakes composition on a side trail that leads down to the water. I was initially attracted to the bark by the abstract patterns, but the colors convinced me that I needed to find a way to fill a frame with them. I searched the surface until I found a section that piqued my artistic eye. My goal was to pull in as much color as possible with an interesting design while keeping as much of the rougher outer layer of bark out of the frame.
Near the end of June, we took an excursion up to Dreher Island State Park. We found an open shelter on Sweet Gum and claimed a spot. I did some scouting in the woods and along the shoreline before having a very good picnic lunch. After eating, I continued to explore near the water’s edge and came across some pine trees that had large areas of bark that had been stripped away (likely from a beaver). All of the images in this post are compositions featuring sap found on the trees in that area.
I loved the almost crystalline or icy look of the sap in my Fractured piece, but I was also attracted to the scene by the gorgeous colors underneath it. It felt quite abstract with the scratches, gashes, and gouges randomly scattered all across the surface. The most colorful areas reminded me of rock candy. My artistic approach was fairly simple; maximize the amount of surface breaks while pulling in the most color. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen (the tiny stress/compaction lines are amazing).
The area where my Orange Cracks composition came from had some great colors. I was immediately drawn to the lush oranges below the white, flaky coating. The difficulty was that the surface of the sap was littered with the corpses of all different types of bugs. They apparently got stuck in the sap and then, because they couldn’t break free, died on the surface. New sap continued to drip down and cover some of the bodies so that they became embedded. Searching for a section that had good color and was relatively clean (and free of bug bodies), was challenging. This perspective brought to mind some type of tasty, frozen or shaved ice, orange drink or perhaps broken pieces of hard candy.
I was excited to discover the two, big, active drips in my Sap Channel piece. The coating on either side of them reminded me of cracked and broken sheets of ice in a river that looked like they could be flowing downstream. Artistically, I preferred the frame in a position to where the channel ran across and down it diagonally. While not possible to recognize in a static capture, I was able to see the sap trickle down the furrow. The high level of detail allows surface textures and reflections off the sap to be seen.
For those of you that have been following my Edisto Beach posts, you probably noticed that day four is missing. There is a simple explanation for that. Botany Bay is closed one day a week. I used that day to scout, hang out, relax, and do some vacation stuff. Nothing created during that time made the cut so there is no day four entry.
I was prepared and ready for day five though. I had checked the status of my battery the night before and the camera indicated that it was full. I learned a valuable lesson the morning of day five: ALWAYS carry a backup battery. I can’t explain what happened because my camera was off and the auto shut off is set for three seconds, but when I got on the beach the morning of day five and set up my first shot, nothing happened. The camera was completely dead. I was initially confused because I knew that the battery was full the night before. I thought maybe something horrible had happened to the camera and it had died. I couldn’t do anything and wasn’t able to create a single composition. The only thing I could do was pack up and go back to the cabin. The first thing I did was to take the battery out and put it on the charger. To my dismay, the charger indicated that it was completely run down. I brought two batteries with me, but I wasn’t even carrying the backup and it hadn’t been charged. I read that letting a battery drain down without using it will shorten life expectancy so I wasn’t charging both of them at the same time – until that morning. After the suspect battery had some juice back in it, I took it off the charger and put it back in the camera. The camera came to life immediately with nothing apparently wrong with it at all. Which was both a relief and a concern. On the one hand, there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with the camera, and, on the other, I had just experienced a battery going completely dead from a full charge overnight. I took the battery back out and put it on the charger until it was full. Then I charged my backup until it was full. From that day forward, I’ve carried two batteries that are both charged.
The morning of day five was spent charging batteries. I talked to Clarence after my battery fiasco, and if I hadn’t already made up my mind to carry two fully charged batteries, he would have convinced me. First, he told me that he had experienced the same thing on more than one occasion. And, secondly, he informed me how good the clouds were at the beach when I didn’t have any power.
After lunch, with full batteries, I returned to Botany Bay. As I wasn’t completely satisfied with the sky in previous attempts, I used the circular polarizer for my Churchlike piece. That brought out the color saturation in the blues and greens.
I was attracted to the scene in my Tree Mountain piece by the sheer size of the canopy this group of trees provide. Stepping back to take it all in, I was fascinated with how tall they were and by the width of the covered area. This is another section along the driveway close to the mansion. With the prolific Spanish moss filling in most of the gaps between the leaves, it felt and looked like the top of a small mountain.
The massive, beautifully adorned tree in Perimeter is at the edge of the side yard to the East of the mansion. Following the gravel road that runs beside it into the middleground of the frame will take you to a corner. If you then turned right, you would be on the Alexander Pond Trail. We saw several alligators and lots of birds from the start of that trail, across the bridge, and to the woods along the Rice Field Dike.
The magnificent tree in my Limbs composition is near the back edge of the yard behind the plantation mansion. I was struck by how massive the limbs were (they appear to be so long and heavy and pull down with such force that it causes them to arch as they come off the trunk). Some have been bent to where they nearly touch the ground. I loved the pattern they formed while flowing out and across the frame and how the leaves and Spanish moss provided both detail and color.
The tree in my Skyscraper piece is tall, majestic, and typical of the beauty that abounds throughout the plantation yards. I placed the subject in a location where the limbs support a visual journey through the frame. The background leaves add color and detail while the sweeping Spanish moss both softens and creates texture depending on movement and/or relative position.
Weightlifter features a tree that appears to be posing in a way reminiscent of a body builder showing off their arm muscles. Indeed, it made me consider the tremendous amount of mass that the trunk must be able to hold up. Most of the plantation trees appear to be small ecosystems that are capable of supporting other life (e.g., moss, ferns, vines, Spanish moss, lizards, and insects).
There is no ground for a point of reference in my Nature’s Awning piece because I couldn’t resist the scene when looking up into the tree limbs at this spot. I loved how the limbs flowed across the entire frame and shot out like a flash of lightening to ever smaller branches. I placed the main group of leaves and limb diagonally to bisect the frame. The Spanish moss and background leaves soften the fractal-like angles of the limbs and branches while adding color and texture. Given that the perspective is skyward and very little sky is visible in the background, it is easy to see how the trees can provide so much natural shade for the backyard.
The tree in my Plantation Monster piece has lots of character, and it almost feels scary or sinister. In my mind, that is due to what looks like an eye and sneering mouth that appear to form a tortured, screaming face from missing limbs. The dappled light helps reinforce that feeling as well. I immediately liked this tree, but it isn’t with the others that are near and around the house. It’s actually along the driveway that leads up to the mansion. I composed this on my way out just before we headed back to the cabin for lunch.
The tree in Behemoth feels nearly as menacing as my Plantation Monster piece, just in a different way. They both feature the same subject, and it was the first place I stopped on my way back into the plantation. The perspective I used captured the limbs coming out over the top of my head as if the thing was about to ensnare me. This tree has huge limbs (some bigger than the majority of trees on our property). I loved how they filled the frame and provided a sense of how large this big ‘ol boy is.
My artistic vision for Driveway Liners was to show a slice of the raw beauty one passes while on the plantation road. Indeed, the gravel drive is in the immediate middleground. I wondered how pretty the entrance and grounds were to visitors riding in a horse drawn buggy shortly after the mansion was constructed.
The tree in my Stately piece is another fine example of the alluring sights anyone on the driveway will pass. I decided to compose it in a way that would show the size (with limbs that stretch out far beyond the frame) while maintaining the tree’s majestic qualities (especially the Spanish moss streaking down from every limb and the patches of lush, green leaves). It’s hard to imagine owning land with a single tree this nice, let alone acres of them.
Yard Scene was composed on the West side of the mansion. My aesthetic goal was to simply capture the plantation’s picturesque side yard. Gorgeous trees, leaves, Spanish moss, grass, and lots of shade for those hot summer days – what more could anyone ask for from a yard?