The unusual shape of the sap in my Spiked Drops piece is what attracted me to it. If you’ve been following my Tree Sap posts, then you’ll recall that there were two limbs that had been cut. This was under the smaller limb and was hanging down far enough that the extremely shallow depth of field, when shooting at two times life-size, reduced most of the background bark down to simple colors. Both larger drops have nice reflections and refractions. I loved the smaller tapered drop and wondered how it could have been formed in that manner without colliding with the larger drop and being absorbed.
Molten is the final sap composition I was able to create. I was surprised that a collection of sap so large still had such good clarity. Most of the sap runs had at least started to dry and were turning a milky color. These drops were lower on the tree trunk beneath the area where the larger limb had been trimmed.
I love the colors that the lowest drop on the bottom has pulled in and the color striations in all of the drops. They also have some very nice multicolored refractions and colorful reflections.
The pieces in this series of blog posts, taken as a whole, feel like some type of a project – especially since I became accustomed to shooting at their location. I was able to create compositions nearly all season long starting from the time I first discovered the limbs had been cut and the tree had sap running down it. When there wasn’t much to point my camera at on any given day, I knew that I could at least get something from the sap tree.
The discovery of the scene in my Black Stars piece was serendipitous. I found it on one of the trees along the sidewalk on the side of the house at the Aiken County Historical Museum and it wasn’t what I initially set out to capture. What originally attracted me to this area was some patches of nice pastel colors and a whole lot of holes burred into the bark in lines. After setting up the tripod and getting my first view, the lens was pointing toward a spot without any of the holes, but the star patterns more than made up for that. With the morning sun not yet up that far, it was pretty dark back there between the house and the wall, and this creation required 25 seconds of exposure time (which for macro is a fairly long exposure). Interestingly, after I had captured several frames of the stars, I took a look at the scene I had originally intended to frame – it wasn’t artistically pleasing. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
Coming around the side of the house and out into the front yard, I noticed a pine tree being lit by the sunrise. The golden light enhanced the bark that was peeling off in nice abstract patterns and I was thrilled with its colors. I examined the trunk for the area that had the best color in combination with the most aesthetic design. I loved the oranges, yellows, and browns in my Earth Tones composition. Surface textures can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of detail.
I was attracted to the sap in my Flat Drop piece primarily because of its shape. It seems to be expanding horizontally and getting wider instead of longer. Which is curious because gravity should be pulling it down. I also liked the color striations and patterns inside the sap.
The run of sap in Crystal Streak caught my eye because of how clear (almost like glass) it was. I decided to frame it diagonally for several aesthetic reasons. First, it was so skinny that placing it vertically wasn’t nearly as visually interesting. Secondly, the gap created by the moss and bark added visual interest when placed beside it diagonally, but seemed to take away from it when vertical. And finally, the moss seemed to create a diagonal bed for the run to lay on with open bark areas in opposite corners (which didn’t exist when it was turned vertically). Even though it is thin, there are some nice colorful refractions and reflections.
With a bit more golden hour light on the scene in my Light Catchers composition, I moved the lens down the tree a little. Essentially, I placed the tip of the top drop on the first upper crossing line using the rule of thirds. That drop is also at the end of the sap run in Crystal Streak, and I loved how it was throwing light on the bark beside it. I also liked the random, abstract shape of the larger blob near the bottom of the frame and the fact that they are located diagonally from each other with the moss covered gap in the bark connecting them. Both areas have wonderfully colored reflections and refractions (with the top drop having rainbow like colors) as well as sunstars.
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 discovered the sap in this series of posts on a conifer in Hopeland Gardens that had recently been trimmed (likely due to some type of storm damage). I was near the reflecting pools when I noticed an area on the trunk of a tree where a limb was missing and decided to investigate it for potential abstract patterns. Upon arriving at the tree, I found sap dripping down along the edges of two severed limbs and some very cool abstract designs.
In my mind’s eye, the design of the sap in Tears made me think of crying. As if the tree’s open wounds were painful or it was mourning the loss of a photosynthesis contributor. The limbs had likely been removed just days earlier and with the wet weather we had, the interior color of the wood was gorgeous. Being a confessed color junkie, I had to get as much of those rusty oranges in the frame as possible, but I also liked how the moss and bark brought their own distinct layers. Artistically, there was a little bit of a fight going on between colors and sap (I didn’t want the color layers to be too even in the amount of frame real estate they were taking up, but keeping the big, reflection warping, main drop close to a crossing line using the rule of thirds was also an important consideration). As is normal with photography, a compromise, in some form, is often necessary. I love the colors under the surface of the sap and the blues being reflected off the various surfaces. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen and you can almost feel the stretching and pulling of the sticky sap (especially in larger sizes).
The colors in the big, main drop of my Globs piece attracted me to this tiny scene. I loved how the sunlight was bouncing around inside the sap creating wonderfully colorful refractions with their own patterns and designs. While there was essentially no moss in this particular spot, plenty of the gorgeous rusty oranges and browns from the bark created a nice backdrop. Since they add a touch of blue, I was pleased with the reflections here as well. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen here too.
I was intrigued with the shape and color of the sap in Hook Shot. This particular run of sap was completely within the interior of the missing limb. That meant that there would be no fight between color and sap for frame placement – the entire background consists of the rusty oranges. Artistically, I still placed the bulk of the sap (i.e., the larger bottom drop) at a crossing line using the rule of thirds. The little hole near the bottom of the frame that something burred into the surface was simply a bonus that provides additional visual interest. While I have no idea what caused it and it is quite curious, I loved how the sap went from a crystalline clear color to a gorgeous ruby red. Surface texture is visible here as well thanks to the high level of detail.
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.
I was exploring Hopeland Gardens one spring afternoon when I discovered a collection of bright, colorful buds sticking out of some trees. Not having seen anything quite like them before, I was immediately intrigued. I composed Blooming Bark so that the buds were the focal point while holding enough background to show that they were literally popping out of the tree. There were clusters in various sizes and numbers (just like this) all over several nearby trees. Nature never ceases to amaze me.
The bark on these trees in Hopeland Gardens creates random patterns as it peels off and falls to the ground. The red, tan, and brown colors underneath the bark are also attractive. But the vine in Climbing is what caught my attention. While it appears to be secure, there is plenty of evidence of previous vines that were unable to stay attached and the remains of their anchors create additional shapes and designs. I felt this told a story of determination, continued growth, and how nature exudes perseverance.