White blossoms on a small tree called to me from across the Rye Patch lawn. I’ve never seen a bloom like these in that area before, but I don’t think that it has been planted there for very long. In fact, the tree itself was only a couple of feet taller than I am. The honey bees just loved the flowers and were all over them. After more closely examining one, I loved the star shaped stigma surrounded by the bright orange and yellow anthers and filaments. For my Stigma Star composition, I utilized the stigma as my focal point and placed it on the right most line using the rule of thirds (just a little off center). I wanted to keep as many of the anthers in the frame as possible so the lens was moved slightly right to accommodate that aesthetic desire. The high level of detail allows surface textures on the stigma and anthers to be seen.
After successfully creating a macro version of one of the flowers, I wanted my Tree Flowers composition to show them blooming on the tree. I had to fight a bit more wind to get it, but luckily there was enough light to where I could keep my shutter speed under a second while maintaining a decent depth of field setting. Interestingly, it appears that only one of the flower’s petals has a fuzzy/furry edge. The high level of detail allows individual hairs (around a petal edge) and surface textures to be seen.
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 was attracted to the rose of Sharon in my Budding piece by the strong dark purple colors in the bud. This tree is very close to the west wall on the other side of the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum and has had some very nice blooms over the years I’ve been shooting there (some of which have been featured in posts on this blog). After discovering the bud, I searched for an angle that would allow the background to be completely filled with a bloom. Because of the very shallow depth of field when composing physically close to the subject at two times life-size, I was able to dissolve the bloom down to simple colors. The high level of detail allows individual hairs on the bud to be seen.
We took a picnic lunch over to the Swan Lake Iris Gardens in early July. I created and scouted in the morning, had lunch, and then continued creating after lunch with a little more scouting as well. I look forward to having an opportunity to shoot when the iris is in full bloom (perhaps this coming summer).
The lush oranges and the abstract pattern formed by the rolled up petals near the center attracted me to the flower in my Rolls piece. In my mind’s eye, the objects concentrated in the very center (and seeping around the tubes) looked like little red and orange flames. Their points and sharper edges are softened by the circles, arcs, and curves of the petals. Taken together, they create tension in the center that dissipates in waves that flow out into the frame as the petals become larger and open up after being released. The sharp points along the curved edges of the petals help strengthen that feeling.
My artistic goal for Vortex was all about capturing the pink and red structure that forms an arch above the unopened disk florets in the center of the flower. Perhaps because it has a hole in it or because the shapes are curved like they are being forcefully pulled toward the center, it brought to mind a whirling eddy. Upon closer examination, the sharp tips lining the opening reminded me of the Sarlacc pit in the desert of Tatooine in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. I placed the mouth near the left one third line, using the rule of thirds, and used it for the focal point. Shooting at two times life-size quite close to the subject, the depth of field was very shallow.
I discovered the hibiscus in Pink Tinge at the Butterfly Garden. It was quite large which initially got my attention all by itself. I liked how the flower had pink tones that were blended in with the whites of the petals. Of course, the water drops were a bonus and all but forced me to create a composition. I placed the stigma discs very near the lower right side crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used them as the focal point. I felt that placement gave the center reds, pistil, and petals a nice circular flow both into and around the frame.
I had a couple of artistic goals for the zinnia in my Churn piece. First, I wanted to capture the ring of disc florets. But, being directly over the top of them wasn’t desirable because I preferred maintaining approximately the same amount of space to the frame edges and including more of the petals. So, to do that, I used a perspective that allowed more petal length while simultaneously compressing the ring. As I’ve previously posted, more often than not, photography is about compromises. With the distance to the subject being so close, the depth of field was very shallow, but the angle I used forced the disc florets to deflect away from the camera’s sensor. Which meant that they would quickly exit the zone of sharpness that begins just before the focal point on the left side. Secondly, I wanted the petals and the gaps between them to feel like they were shooting out like sunstar beams from behind the disc florets.
The bright red colors called me over to the canna lily in my Points composition from across the south lawn at the Aiken County Historical Museum. While it has an almost abstract feel, I liked the concentration of buds with the single flower. When you are shooting real close to a given subject, the depth of field can be extremely shallow, but as you increase the distance between your lens and the subject, the zone of sharpness expands. Composing while using a higher F-stop can result in background objects being visible. In severe cases, the background can cause an image to become cluttered and confuse the viewer since they may not understand what the subject is. To please my aesthetic eye, I do my best to avoid busy backgrounds, and this was one case where an adjustment was required. This lily was fairly close to leaves, vines, and other flora in the background. To dissolve those things down into colors, I dialed back the F-stop to a smaller number. That is yet another example of the many artistic tradeoffs I’ve posted about previously. You have to consciously decide how much subject sharpness you want to give away to get the background you need. Once again, if you find yourself in this situation, your Depth Of Field Preview while using your camera’s Live View capability is quite valuable because you can use it to judge when you’ve produced the desired amount of blur. Of course, there are processing tricks you can use to achieve similar results, but I believe in getting it right in the camera. To me, the final result is always better, and you’ll spend significantly less time processing.
I liked the mixture of hard points and softer round edges in my Skinny piece. The blend of the buds and petals create a nice contrast. This is the same subject featured in Points composed from a completely different perspective. While keeping the majority of the buds, I wanted to bring more attention to the flower. For the same reasons outlined above, I had to trade some subject sharpness for background blur here as well.
I liked how the petals far outnumbered the buds in my Red Canna composition. It’s interesting that this subject was quite close to the previous subject yet it had significantly more blooms. Though the combination of buds to flowers is nearly opposite of the earlier pieces, I felt that it had a nice mixture, and I liked how they filled out the frame. Once again, the proximity to background objects was a concern and subject sharpness had to be reduced by using a smaller F-stop. The water drops were from a quickly moving shower that started spitting just before I pressed the shutter a couple more times. I grabbed my gear and moved everything under the roof area on the south side of the museum until the rain stopped. The high level of detail allows pieces of pollen and rain drops to be seen.
Before I was run off by the thought of my equipment getting drenched, I had considered whether or not the prior lily subject could be shot at a higher F-stop. Since the rain had ended, I returned to the subject, set the area up a bit, and composed Lily Tower. Though I had to arrange some vines and use a plamp to hold the scene together, I was able to find a perspective and position the tripod so that there was a whole lot of space between the subject and the background (like 40 or 50 feet which was way outside the sharpness zone). I liked the background because it was a bit darker against the bright reds (thanks to an angle that had the lens pointed into the leaves of a background tree). The increased depth of field and high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen and surface textures to be seen.
I discovered the growth in my Ogre Skin piece on a tree at the Rye Patch. I’m not sure what it is (perhaps some type of moss), but the green colors and pocked, bumpy surface looked pretty cool at two times life-size. I immediately thought that this could be what the skin of an ogre or ugly troll looks like close up. I searched for an area that had a good amount of festering, open pits, and additional colors while keeping height differences moderated (due to the extremely shallow depth of field and my desire to attain as much sharpness as possible).
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.
For the past few years, I’ve felt that there was a composition waiting to be discovered in this plant growing near the archway on the front side of the Aiken County Historical Museum. I wasn’t ever quite sure what to do with it so I decided to spend some time exploring it while keeping an open mind.
Which brings up an interesting digression. This might seem strange to some of you (or, who knows, maybe everyone will think it’s weird). But, as I’ve continued to grow as a photographer, I feel like I’ve been developing an inner connection with nature. It’s almost as if she has been guiding me to artistic possibilities. I sometimes feel like I’m not searching subjects out as much as I’m being pulled to them from some outside force. It is nearly impossible to explain, but I can equate it to my music because the feeling is the same. When I would write music (Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar), I sometimes had NO idea where the music was coming from. Occasionally I had ideas in my head that just needed to come out via my fingers, but other times music would find its own way onto the fretboard in a way that made it feel like I was just a vessel through which it could be sent (from who knows where). When I have a clear mind and I feel like I’m somehow in tune with nature, I discover compositions much, much easier. And, I don’t always have an ability to describe, with certainty, what prompted me to look at a given subject or to know that a beautiful scene existed in an area so small we would normally never even see it or, for that matter, think to look for it. Conversely, when that connection is severed or my mind is filled with other thoughts (for example, when the grounds crew at Hopeland Gardens bring out their loud leaf blowers to blow leaves off from the dirt and gravel trails), it can be almost impossible to find suitable subjects. I find myself running away from the penetrating noise so that nature and I can get back on the same wavelength. Once we’ve reconnected, Mother Nature can continue to direct me to the potential opportunities she feels are worthy of presenting – to me and everyone else that sees my work.
Saw Blades is my first composition from the aforementioned plant. I loved the various shades of greens (especially those with a blue hue where the leaves connect to the core) and the abstract pattern they form by being so tightly stacked. If you look closely, you will see tiny little teeth along the leaf edges. I didn’t test this theory, but I imagine that if you were to forcefully brush your skin against them, they would cut you open.
Shafts is a different perspective from the same plant. Because I had the macro rig on my camera, I pulled the tripod back a couple of feet and reframed the scene. My artistic intent was to show more of the leaves and how they attach to the core while retaining an abstract quality. That decision also affected where the focal point was located and, along with the shallow depth of field, determined how the sharpness is distributed throughout the frame. The high level of detail allows surface texture and individual teeth along the leaf edges to be seen.
I pulled the tripod back a little further and changed the perspective again for my Sprout piece. My artistic vision was to essentially combine the abstract lines and shapes of the design created by the leaves with their connection to the core. I also wanted to enhance the 3-D look/feel, and I was able to accomplish that by selecting a couple of leaves to come out toward the lens and get close enough to be beyond the zone of sharpness while simultaneously filling the remainder of the frame with leaves that extend all the way into the background. That helps increase the illusion of depth on a 2-D surface. I did struggle a little with what gallery this belongs in because it has abstract qualities, but, in the end, I felt that it more closely represents what the plant actually looked like. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual teeth to be seen here as well.
I don’t see much wildlife at the museum (aside from the birds and an occasional squirrel) presumably because the grounds are surrounded by a fairly substantial wall. So I was pretty surprised when, after having only taken about three steps off the walkway going down the hill to find a suitable dandelion subject, I scared two fawns out from where they were hunkered down. They certainly weren’t very old, still had their spots, and probably only weighed around 35 pounds. They ran in opposite directions, one going left and the other heading right toward South Boundary. The one that went right, ran up ahead of me but not down towards the cabin. Most likely because someone with a trailer was in the parking area on the other side of the wall opening doors and making quite a bit of noise. I thought that if I could find it, I might be able to create a rather unique composition so I walked towards the area where I lost track of it. But, before I could even get my camera into position, it came up out of where it was, ran down the walkway, and left the museum through the open gate. It then crossed Newberry and went into the trees on the other side of the road. Later as I was searching for subjects near the corner of the grounds where New Lane and Newberry Street meet, the other one (that had went left) came out of hiding and bolted right past me. Poor little things. I’ll bet their mother won’t use the museum grounds as a hiding place again after I scared the hell out of them.
I discovered the dandelion in my abstract Layers piece along the hill in back of the Aiken County Historical Museum following my initial interaction with the fawns. I liked how the orange cones and yellow petals are arranged on top of each other. I also liked the relatively busy look and the sunstar feel with rays and light shooting out in all directions from the center. Due to the extremely shallow depth of field, I preferred the aesthetics of a lower focal point where the subject becomes sharper as your eye descends down into it.
The grounds keepers and gardeners that keep the Aiken County Historical Museum looking good have butterfly bush or lantana growing in a couple of places. In previous years, my timing was always a bit off for being there during peak blooms (i.e., early, but in most cases too late). However, my regular weekly visits during this season put me on site with some superb opportunities.
I previously posted about how prolific the lantana blooms can be and that it can be challenging to find an angle that keeps them separated, but for my Dome composition I, once again, didn’t seek isolation. In fact, my artistic vision was the exact opposite. I searched the entire bush looking for an aesthetically pleasing bloom with a viewing angle that pulled as much additional color into the frame as possible while maintaining edge distinction. The shallow depth of field ensured that the background flowers would dissolve into simple colors which provided excellent bokeh and some assistance with the loss of boundary integrity due to color blending. The greens from the leaves and stem provide an outstanding gap while there was just enough sharpness to create a border between similar background colors. In situations like these, your camera’s Depth of Field Preview button is quite valuable. I also use the Live View feature in combination so that I don’t have to wait for my eyes to adjust to the loss of light when the lens is stopped down. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
There were no boundary integrity concerns with my Circular piece. While searching for subjects on the butterfly bush, I found one blossom that was by itself with a spectacular background. I was able to find an angle that lined it up in front of the blues from a blooming hydrangea. I love finding scenes like this where complimentary colors can be utilized in the composition. To my eyes, this one was special because you don’t normally see lantana with such gorgeous blue bokeh, and I wasn’t about to leave until I had captured it.