I can’t even remember how many times I’ve looked for a composition using the palm tree in my Waggie Windmill piece. I have always felt that it held an artistically pleasing creation waiting to be uncovered, but over the years I’ve wandered the Hopeland Gardens grounds, I never found the right combination (i.e., too much wind, poor lighting, bent or broken fronds, etc.). But on this particular morning, all the pieces fell into place. The fronds were being backlit by the morning sun, the wind was calm, and the fronds had no imperfections. I loved the gorgeous green and yellow colors and the nearly perfect geometric pattern. Mother Nature even gave me a bonus – dew drops. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to reveal the beauty I knew was there, and I quickly took advantage of it before any of the key ingredients were lost.
I mentioned in a previous post that the Aiken County Historical Museum was surrounded by a fairly substantial wall. In some places along the wall, grass or other natural cover exists, but in other spots there are areas with a variety of flora (including flowers and flowering bushes). Both of the pieces in this post were discovered next to the wall that borders the south side of the property.
I was attracted to the leaf in my Life Lines piece by the size and color. This leaf is quite large and since it was primarily backlit, the colors were especially striking. I placed the midrib diagonally because I liked how the veins flowed away from it out into and across the frame. Due to the shallow depth of field, I could have wished that the leaf wasn’t curled on the bottom, but artistically, I love the sweeping arcs. The high level of detail allows surface texture, water drops, and wetness to be seen.
I loved how the foreground leaf in my Lily Leaves composition was lit up by the rising sun. I worked the camera into a position where the subject leaf was still being backlit while the background was filled with another canna lily leaf. I liked how the complementary colors worked so well together. I also liked the little tip, the darker ribs, and the water drops on the red leaf.
The colors in my Frond Lines piece were enhanced by backlighting from the golden tones of the rising sun. I don’t know what caused the fronds to exhibit such a colorful display (perhaps it is part of the normal life cycle), but it certainly caught my eye as I was walking around the tree. The spot this came from wasn’t physically that large or uniformly filled with similar patterns. Composing at two times life-size allowed me to scan across the surface until I found an artistically pleasing design. In particular, the combination of the maximum amount of colorful areas with diagonal lines that cross the frame at disparate angles. The high level of detail allows surface texture and individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
After stopping at the marsh area for a couple of minutes, I hurried on to the beach. Although I wasn’t racing anyone to get there, a couple of other photographers had already beaten me to it. The twilight colors were just as spectacular as they had been all week. While composing Unspoiled, I thought about how lucky we are to have a state treasure like this that has gone so many years relatively untouched by human development. Earlier this year, I found out that the beach was closed indefinitely due to damage from Hurricane Matthew (apparently the beach trail bridge was destroyed). I hope all of the trees I photographed survived the storm, and I’d like to visit again sometime in the future.
While working new groups of subject trees, I was able to keep the fantastic reflections off the wet sand, colorful waves and reflections off the water, and gorgeous colors in the sky. The water levels at the beach vary from day to day, and I may have needed wading or hip boots to get to the spot I composed from for my Coastal Roots piece on any other morning. That’s one of the great things about returning to a location several times – you will likely have different conditions for your creations.
I was attracted to the scene in Choppy by the chaotic nature of the wood. As the sun got ever closer to the horizon, the golden tones continued to increase in the sky and reflect off from the water brought in by the waves. All of which raised my excitement level. I also love the twilight purples and the blues along the horizon and in the water.
As I saw this scene start to materialize, I grabbed my gear and literally ran to get into position. I love how the entire beach in my Color Wash piece is reflecting the golden hour colors. There is also a little serendipity at work here too as the foam from an earlier wave creates a somewhat serpentine leading line toward the sun. I specifically composed this so that the sun would be between two of the limbs, and, as a bonus, that created a feeling that the limbs are bowing to it like some type of primitive god.
While the subject tree in Boneyard is featured in other work from the beach, this composition is decidedly different. Most notably is the position of the tree in the frame and of the sun being clearly above the horizon. I love how the sun enhanced the reflection off of the wet sand, created a red toned path that fans out across the drier sand, and highlighted the shells/stones with a sparkle effect. As I inspected the image in the camera’s LCD monitor, it was yet another one that caused spontaneous, excited, chuckling. As I stood on the beach taking it all in, I was elated to have this as my final piece in the Botany Bay Beach Sunrise series.
When the sky has clouds like those in my Sunup piece, I will work scenes as long as possible. The sun had risen above the horizon, but there were so many clouds that you can just barely see it. Which led to some very nice golden hour colors in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand. The additional available light allows for much more detail on the beach itself and on the trees and their root systems.
The foreground tree in my Weathered composition provides another example of how tough the trees on the Botany Bay beach are. With more light allowing additional detail on the tree to be seen, you can tell just how battered, torn, and worn it is. Several aesthetic decisions regarding placement went into this: first, I put the camera in a position to where the foreground and middleground trees wouldn’t touch each other (they come close, but I needed some room on the left hand side to keep that tree from leaving the frame); secondly, I put the sun within the V shape of the middleground tree (it’s hard to see exactly where it is due to all the clouds blocking it); and finally my goal was to maximize the amount of color in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand.
With even more light available for Wave Reaction, a faster shutter speed could be used. That allowed the waves to be active and not quite so smooth. My favorite part of this piece is one of those serendipitous things that happen every once in a while. There is a bird in the sky above the branches on the right-hand side. I did not know that it was there until I processed the image. I’ve written in previous posts about how much I enjoy those little surprises.
My Golden Morning piece has the golden hour colors on full display. They have taken over nearly the entire palette. Even the dry sand has a gold tone. I love watching nature paint. When you compare the first piece in this post (which is the same group of trees) to this, the difference is incredible. And Mother Nature recolored everything and changed the light dispersion by altering the clouds in only twenty minutes.
I walked all the way down to the other end of Botany Bay beach to compose Alternative View. When arriving at the beach from the trail, I normally went left, but this is right and all the way down. I was curious about what was on the other side, and since I had lots of remaining golden light, I searched for other possible subjects. I was attracted to this tree by how many limbs and branches it has (especially some of the thinner limbs). I also liked how the sky above the tree had a wavy, bumpy look that was similar to the waves coming into the beach.
After the day five equipment issues, I was more than ready to get back on the beach. I’m not sure what I missed the morning of day five, but let’s just say that the magic light Mother Nature provided this morning helped make up for it.
I mentioned in a previous post how much I liked this tree. My Beach King piece is my favorite from all of the works created at the beach. Everything came together for this one. The sky is absolutely gorgeous, the reflections off the wet sand, the blues in the water, and the amount of available light on the tree itself. I love how textures and colors can be seen on the limbs and trunk. The fantastic colors in the sky come from a lower intensity light which allowed the tree to retain more detail against it.
With the muted, less intense colors, additional detail can be seen on the tree in my Pastel Beach composition as well. I like how the striations in the clouds above the subject are similar to the bare areas in the reflections of the wet sand. And how the shadows in the wet sand reflections create a path (almost like a leading line) that facilitates exploration of the entire frame.
The horizontal branches among the group of trees in Snarled are literally wrapped around each other. I wondered if they had undergone some type of a fierce natural event (e.g., like a tornado or a hurricane) when they were young and then they just continued to grow that way.
As the sun got closer and closer to the horizon, the intensity of the light picked up. It also started to paint farther up into the sky. I decided to compose Coastal Sky vertically so that the additional colors above the tree could be included. I love how fragmented (and almost bumpy) the colors in the top layer appear to be (especially since the foreground layer on the beach with all the shells has a similar texture).
I believe that Fitzharris extolled the colors of twilight in one of his photography books. To utilize those colors in the sky and place them where I wanted in relation to the tree, my Predawn composition had to break a rule (i.e., I let middleground objects leave the frame). Photography in general, and especially landscape photography (where you don’t have control over many of the variables that determine an outcome), is all about tradeoffs. In this case, one artistic decision outweighed another. I also feel that as long as you are OK with the choice, it was the right thing to do.
For my Beach Reflection composition, I made the artistic decision to utilize the chaotic nature and twisted limbs of the silhouetted tree. By zooming in, I was able to extend it to the sides of the frame. Though the area of wet sand in the foreground was reduced, it still offered plenty of the spectacular reflections. Since this was created before sunrise, the sky has the same fantastic coloring as the other work in this series. Getting closer also enhanced the single available cloud by increasing the visual interest it provides. This quickly became one of my favorite pieces from the beach.
I loved how battle worn the silhouette in my Bristled piece looked. The sharp angles and jagged lines immediately give you a feeling of how tough it is to be beaten by the water, wind, and sand day after day after day. Yet it resiliently stands tall even with most of the base of its root system exposed. The rough appearance is enhanced by my choice of shutter speed and the nearly cloud free sky. Because the majority of the composition is smooth, the coarse texture becomes amplified when viewed against it. The gorgeous colors reflecting off from the wet sand and water surface helps counter any harshness and bring the two opposing concepts into a peaceful balance.
The beach quickly became busy with photographers and, in most circumstances, I was able to clear them from a scene by reframing the composition. In some cases, depending on their position, I had to abandon my artistic vision completely. To help avoid that, I continued to move up the beach to new areas that I hadn’t yet been to. The silhouette in my Toppled piece can be seen in the middleground and background of several other images from this series. As this was created before the sun was above the horizon, it shares the same magic light colors.
The subjects in my Wavy piece are near the far end of where trees can be found along the beach. Though close to making its first appearance, the sun was still below the skyline. I love how the shadows formed in the reflections off of the wet sand. Because I composed this vertically, a few more of the thin, wispy clouds were available and provide additional character to the sky. There was also just enough light to where the trees weren’t completely dark against the much lighter background which allows for some color and surface texture to be seen.
I was right back in the line of photographers setting in their cars waiting for the gate to open at Botany Bay on the third morning. There is a little trail just to the right side of the gate that allows you to get past it. With a flash light or head lamp, you can easily walk up to the station, get the paperwork required for access to the site, take it back to your car, fill it out, and then return the necessary portion before the gate opens. On the way back to my car, I stopped at the vehicle directly in front of mine and met Clarence Holmes, a photographer out of New York who had been shooting along the coast as he trekked back to his home base. While there wasn’t as many photographers as the previous day, it still felt like we were in a competition to get to the beach first so that one could claim their preferred spot on it.
With sparse clouds and the sun not yet above the horizon, the colors in my Gold Beach piece were fantastic. I especially liked the golds on the wet sand of the shore and being reflected off the surface of the water. The oranges in the sky and the pinks closer to the skyline were equally attractive. I also liked how the silhouette of the tree breaks up the smoothness of the sky. Though the center of the tree is close to the left one third line, using the rule of thirds, I made the aesthetic decision to pull it over to the left a little to increase the space to the right and decrease it by the same amount on the left.
Shimmering Sand is close to being a horizontal companion to Gold Beach. They both feature the same tree and gorgeous colors. However, the perspective was changed. More of the thin cloud was included and the tree itself is further into the middleground. While not perfectly balanced (i.e., it is a bit heavier on the right side), I decided to place it fairly close to the center to allow the foreground stumps on both the left and right sides to be pulled into the frame. That aesthetic decision also made the tree feel more isolated and lonely. That being said, the reflections off the wet sand are the reigning super stars in this piece.
Morning Beach was also composed before sunrise, and, once again, my main aesthetic desire was to capture the colors reflecting off the wet sand. That goal drove several other artistic decisions including the tree group placement (both horizontally and vertically). While Mother Nature only gave us a couple of thin clouds to provide additional visual interest in the sky, she did nicely light them.
At the close of the second day, I returned to Botany Bay and drove along the driving tour looking for a suitable place to watch the sun go down. I pulled off the road and drove a few yards up a two track trail between areas seven and eight. I scouted the area along a bank and felt that it would work. For my Marsh Sunset piece, I used cordgrass as the foreground along with some limbs and Spanish moss. The background trees were a bit close to catch the sun in the frame while filling the sky with golden hour light. In fact, as it descended past the trees, the colors just weren’t exciting enough. That said, there is a reason why you don’t pack up and go home simply because the sun sets or drops below the background. I waited for the magic light colors to emerge and fill the sky with oranges and yellows and the gaps among the trees with reds and purples. That also enabled those same colors to be reflected off the surface of the water in the marsh. Additionally, it allowed more water to continuously flow in and raise the level high enough to where the entire foreground could reflect the gorgeous blues in the sky (prior to that, whole sections were just dark black). I paid for it though. The darker it got, the more sand gnats (or no-see-ums) found me very tasty. I must have killed 100 or more just on my arms and they even tried to get in my nose.
The morning of the second day started with the clock radio waking me up in time to wait for the gate to automatically open at Botany Bay. The photographer’s vehicles formed a line and since we all reached the parking area at about the same time, it was like a race to get to the best spots on the beach. One guy had his photography gear strapped to a mountain bike using special harnesses. Because he had the ability to ride to the beach, he was assured that no one was going to get there before he did.
Composing before the sun has risen above the horizon can give colors to a landscape image that no other time of day provides. That by itself makes getting up early, waiting in line, and rushing to the beach worth it. The subject in my Sentinel piece appeared to be the favorite photographic choice for most of the photographers throughout the week. At least, there were usually more of them with their cameras focused on it than any of the other trees or scenes. I loved the blues and the shimmering golds and magic light colors reflecting off the water. I placed the trunk of the tree on the right most one third line, using the rule of thirds, but then made a little aesthetic tweak by pushing the trunk just a bit to the left so that the tip of the branch on the right side had more breathing room. My placement choice allowed the open area to the left to bring more reflective color into the frame and provided a subtle clue as to where the sun will emerge on the horizon. Additionally, since the left side of the tree is wider, it feels as if it had been expanding toward the sun (e.g., pulling and growing in that direction) during its lifetime.
The sun was definitely getting closer to the horizon in my Golden Highlights piece, but there are still plenty of pinks and purples. I loved the more chaotic look from this set of trees and how they were enhanced by the blues and twilight golds reflecting off the water. To minimize the amount of cloudless, light blue, upper sky area, I kept the tips of the branches from extending too far above the skyline. That aesthetic decision placed the tree group in a position where it had a bit more space on the bottom which allowed more of the attractive waves and reflections to fill the frame.
My Beach Sunrise composition has the sun just about to fully break over the horizon. One aesthetic goal I had here was to place the camera in a position where the trees in the scene didn’t touch each other. The trunk of the main, middleground tree was placed very close to the left most one third line, using the rule of thirds. In fact, the base of it is almost exactly at the lower left crossing line which allowed it to stretch up into the frame from an artistic starting point. I loved the decidedly more orange tones, and after seeing how the colors of the golden hour painted the wet sand and water surface, I was excited to the point of chuckling.
I love how the rising sun is coloring and highlighting the waves, the splash of water that hit a limb, and the water draining off from the tree in my Color Splash piece. The golden hour reflections on the water surface are also alluring. By providing essentially the same amount of space to the frame edge for the branch tips on the left and top, that put the center of the tree nearly perfectly on the bottom left crossing line, using the rule of thirds. After less than 15 minutes on the beach, I completely understood why it attracted so many photographers. I felt privileged to be able to witness such beauty and experience an area that has been relatively untouched by humans for so many years.