When I found this leaf near the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum it was starting to change colors, even though Fall hadn’t officially commenced. The colors of the leaves on the bush where I discovered this had already transformed enough to call me over and, once there, forced a closer examination of them. I selected this one for a couple of reasons: I loved the random patterns of decay and the colors it provided, it was relatively flat (which when shooting at two times life-size at such a close distance is an important consideration if you wish to maximize the zone of sharpness), it had some dew on the surface to enhance the colors, and its location had limited impediments to access. The wind being calm was also another significant factor in obtaining my Fall Insinuation piece as I needed eight seconds of exposure time. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual dew drops to be seen.
Prior to creating my Wet Hunter piece, I was exploring the swampy area in Hopeland Gardens where a couple of my favorite leaf compositions have come from looking for another leaf that had turned the right color and would be backlit by the rising sun. I didn’t find any cool leaves, but while I was searching, I looked up and this anole caught my eye.
Though I’ve posted previously about being an opportunistic wildlife shooter, the scene was simply too good to ignore. I created more than 240 images in an effort to get the best pose that I possibly could. I really had to work to get this. Multiple perspectives were needed because the rising sun occasionally brought too much light into the background which forced me to find an angle that looked into an area with better balance. Additionally, I used decreasing camera to subject distances as I worked my way closer by carefully repositioning the tripod. It likely would have taken fewer images under better conditions, but the wind was blowing the cattail around (which by extension was moving the anole), and my subject would not sit still for very long. It was frequently moving its head, and, when the head was still, the eye was moving all over the place.
I loved the dew drops all over its body, the position it was in, how the tail was wrapped behind the cattail leaf, the cattail head, the angle of the cattail leaf (diagonally up through the frame), and the nice colors. I love artistic nature pieces – especially work from the late Ronnie Gaubert (one of my luminaries). Ronnie had an ability to present nature as both documentary and beautifully artistic, and I think I may have been tapping into some of his influence that morning. This was my favorite of the several images I kept, and the others that made the cut are available as stock only. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual dew drops to be seen.
I liked how the berries in my Beautyberry piece resembled little purple balls. Taken together across a much larger area of the bush, they produce a fairly large area of color which is what initially attracted me to them. I searched in and around the bush until I found a branch that had an artistically pleasing layout of berries. I also liked the way the gorgeous green leaves provided support by being at both ends and in between each of the three berry tiers. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual dew drops to be seen.
Part 2 is a continuation of the Abstract Canna Lilies posts from the same plant group in the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum. To see works from or read The Artist’s Story for Part 1, click here.
I was called over to the lily in my Undulating composition by its bold colors. In fact, this flower had the most attractive colors out of any I had seen blooming from this group all season. But, I was even more impressed with the pattern they created. I loved how the petals felt like waves rolling away from and crashing back into the center. The high level of detail allows individual dew drops and surface texture to be seen.
Inner Smile is essentially the vertical companion to Undulating. Though the pattern the colors form is the same, it does have a different feel when viewed vertically. Thanks to the high level of detail, individual dew drops and surface texture can be seen here as well.
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 loved the greens combined with the dark red veins in my Wet Canna Leaf piece. This is another composition from the area along the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum where the canna lilies live. Because of its abstract quality (i.e., simple colors and lines), I really appreciated the ability of the dew drops to bring additional visual interest. Aesthetically, I didn’t want it to feel too mathematically exact or mechanical so it’s not perfectly centered within the frame, but it’s close enough to give the impression that I intended it to be.
I had an eye on the plants in my Garden Grass piece for a while, but hadn’t ever found a composition that I was happy with. They got my attention again so I worked on finding a pleasing way to put them in the frame. I loved the single dew drop at the tip of the center blade as well as how the lush foreground greens arched up and out. Artistically, I couldn’t let the sharp tips of the blades on either side be out of focus (e.g., by focusing deeper into the scene) so I used them as my focal point. That decision let the middleground and background blades naturally fade while providing some separation for the foreground (even though they share the same colors and shapes). If you’re a regular reader, then you may recall my post concerning background objects being visible and how I normally attempt to prevent that from happening. This provides an example of where I allowed a busier background to exist and depended on perceived sharpness to create distinction between the layers.
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 was searching for abstract patterns on leaves in Hopeland Gardens when I noticed an incredible amount of water drops on a spider web. The concentration of drops wasn’t very big, but feels larger than it was thanks to composing at two times life-size. I like the variety of shapes and sizes (especially the tiny drops – some of which are just barely larger than the web they’re on). With the rising sun up far enough to break over the trees, the scene was well lit. I love all of the sunstars that were created from shooting at a high F-stop and the rainbow of colors on the web strands.
Both of the pieces in this post are from the same plant at the Aiken County Historical Museum that I previously posted about (the one in the front of the museum near the archway). The storm we had the night before these were composed left plenty of water drops on the surface of the leaves.
I was, once again, attracted to this plant by the gorgeous greens in the leaves. The abstract pattern of lines and water drops in my Chutes piece provided additional allure. I loved the randomness and number of the drops. I examined the plant while walking around it until I found an angle that let me accomplish my artistic vision. My first objective was to, as much as possible, fill the image with leaves from the foreground to the background by stacking and overlapping them. Secondly, I placed the leaves in the frame so that their arched edges originated below the bottom and came up and out as if they were growing/expanding (perhaps even as a response to being watered so well). The high level of detail allows surface texture and individual teeth along the leaf edges to be seen.
Cascades shares similar characteristics with Chutes. I really like the darker (almost jade) greens which helped bring out the lighter colored edges. My vision here was to fan the leaves out like a deck of cards from left to right. Individual edge teeth and surface texture can be seen here as well – thanks to the high level of detail.