There are some small bushes between the driveway and the east side of the building at the Aiken County Historical Museum. I’ve inspected the nice little blooms they produce for a composition several times over the years, but wasn’t ever satisfied with what I was able to create. My artistic goal was to fill the entire frame with the flower (something that is difficult to do because of their relatively diminutive size). However, on the morning I created my Bubbling Yellow piece, I found a bush that had a flower on it that was just a bit bigger than what I’ve previously come across. I placed the core of the flower slightly off center to that it could expand out and down toward the bottom of the frame. I was thrilled with the wet surfaces and dew drops that add additional visual interest, and I love all the loops and arcs.
Sometimes you just have to give nature some help, which was the case the morning I composed the pieces in this post. While surveying the area where I had found one years ago, I discovered two gladiolus plants next to each other that were lying flat on the ground. They were both dead to the world and did not have the ability to stand on their own. I have no idea what happened to them though an animal may have knocked them over, or perhaps it was the wind, or maybe their blossoms just got too heavy to hold up. At any rate, it seemed like a real shame to have that much beauty going to waste. One stalk was fairly tore up and the flowers were not in good shape at all, and the second had a couple of pretty decent looking blooms as well as others that were being overrun by ants. I picked up the better of the two so that I could examine the flowers a bit closer. After I felt that a composition existed, I tried to get it balanced or propped up high enough to where I could comfortably get my lens on it, but that didn’t work – it just fell right back down again. So I got my plamp out and, after cleaning as many of the ants off from it as I could, I connected one of the clamps so that it would keep the plant from falling over.
After effectively bringing the plant back to life, I searched for an artistically pleasing flower. For my Reincarnated composition, I placed the center stalk of the stigma on the upper, leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds. Then while keeping the stigma at that location in the frame, I maneuvered the camera around to where the anthers had approximately the same amount of space to their respective side. I focused on the stigma because it felt too prominent against the pink background to ignore. The extremely shallow depth of field didn’t allow much else to fall into the zone of sharpness, and I wouldn’t argue too much against this being classified as naturally abstract. However, the uniformity of the filaments, anthers, and stigma stalks (i.e., three, three, and three) helped convince me not to do that. The high level of detail allows tiny hairs and texture to be seen.
While scouring the best remaining, ant-free blooms, I found one that I liked. I decided to move the plamp into a position that would continue supporting the weight of the stalk and hold the flower steadier since the wind had started to pick up as the morning ticked away. I focused at the top of the stigma here as well and that worked out pretty good considering the angle of the anthers. I like how they slowly fade away. I was also pleased with how the filaments blended right into the background of my Stance piece because it creates the illusion that the anthers are floating. Tiny hairs and texture can be seen here too thanks to the high level of detail.
Sometimes we have to work on a subject (or a group of subjects) over the course of several weeks before getting exactly what we want out of it. Even if you produce many different pieces and you aren’t happy with any of them, don’t give up when you know that there is a composition just waiting for you to find it. That’s the story behind my Flame On piece.
The subjects here were new to Hopeland Gardens, and I had been working about six of them every time I wandered the grounds. I tried numerous framing options and had taken home lots of images that I subsequently rejected. I would usually work them for a few minutes during a visit before moving on, so they were, in a manner of speaking, bothering me (i.e., I couldn’t quite get what I desired, but I felt it was there someplace). And every time that it didn’t work was difficult because they were very attractive to the color junkie in me due to their brilliant colors. The interesting thing is that you have to view them at the right angle. When the morning sun backlit them, the reds and pinks in the leaves lit up like flames and drew me in as if I was a moth. Each time that I reviewed and threw out images, I would come away with a better idea of what I wanted to try during my next opportunity. On the morning this was composed, I was sure that I could find an angle and position that would allow me to create what had eluded me for a couple of months. After cleaning up a few spider webs that were flailing around, I finally got the right lighting and wind conditions and found a distance and perspective that pleased my inner artist. I wanted to fill the frame with as many of the gorgeous flame-like leaves as I could, which, in and of itself, produced a more abstract feel. I considered the randomly placed dew drops a nice little bonus.
I was attracted by the blues and purples in my Wet Hydrangea piece, and I had been wanting to create an abstract macro composition that featured hydrangea for a long time. I searched over several bushes in Hopeland Gardens until I found a group of petals that just felt right artistically. The foreground petals as well as the layers beneath them were nicely laid out, and the wet surfaces both enhanced the saturation and increased the abstract feel at the same time. To bring a little sense of order to the scene, I placed the bud in the center of the foreground petals so that the rightmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected it. That also allowed the leftmost foreground petal to remain within the frame, which was an important aesthetic concern since it is the subject’s most prominent attribute. I also really like the abstract designs from the reflections off the petal’s wet surface. Then I used the bud as my focal point to amplify its relative importance. Because of the bud’s height, that brought many of the dew drops scattered around the petals into the zone of sharpness. The high level of detail allows texture to be seen.
I don’t normally see two wandering Jew flowers growing so close to one another. In fact, this was the very first time I had ever seen a pair that had petals touching each other, and their proximity caused me to see a familiar pattern in my mind’s eye. Taken as a whole, the outside petals on both sides appear to create the shape of butterfly wings. I didn’t want the wings to feel centered in the frame, so I left a little more space above and on the right side of the petals. That caused the flowers to be placed in the frame where the left flower’s core/center is very near the lower, leftmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. With the anthers scattered around in different groups as well as being considerably above the surface of the petals (especially considering the shallow depth of field), I selected the rope-like strands that grow out of the filaments as my focal point. That aesthetic decision simultaneously forced the anthers to be out of focus and enhanced the surface of the petals including the pollen that had fallen on them. The high level of detail allows texture, dew drops, and individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The coneflower in my Centrifugal piece was so vibrant and fresh that I had to create a composition with it. For artistic reasons, I placed the center of the flower very near the center of the frame. That produced a feeling of expanding outward like a controlled explosion of colors. It also allows the sharpness to fall off in even amounts starting from the center, where the focal point is, and heading across the frame toward both sides. The morning dew enhanced the saturation and provided a good deal of satisfaction for my color junkie cravings. After processing this one, it immediately became my new favorite coneflower. Individual pieces of pollen can be seen thanks to the high level of captured detail.
My Peachy composition allows you to look right down the throat of this pastel colored flower. Being a color junkie, the pale pinks, oranges, and greens are not what I normally look for. But, as I’ve previously posted, that’s a good thing. Sometimes the more subdued colors are a nice change of pace (especially if they are different from what you usually see and even better if they are a departure from your typical palette). You can think of it as expanding your horizons or simply trying something new. For aesthetic reasons, I placed the anther farthest to the left on the upper, leftmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. I then focused on the larger foreground anther on the right side which created good sharpness across all of them. Individual pieces of pollen on the anthers and filaments can be seen due to the high level of detail.
Pink Paradise was composed looking right down the flower’s throat as well, but the colors are decidedly different from Peachy. They are much more bold and saturated as well as satisfying to my color junkie needs. The gorgeous pinks and reds are a nice complement to the bright yellows and greens, and one of my artistic goals was to feature them as much as possible. To accomplish that desire, I found an angle that would allow those colors to fill the top of the frame while lifting the stamen up and off of the bottom. I also wanted to hold the anthers near the yellows as their darker colors are naturally enhanced against the more vibrant tones. While I used the first foreground anther as my focal point, the extremely shallow depth of field, when shooting at two times life-size, only allowed the zone of sharpness to extend just behind it to the middleground anthers. Even so, the high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
I was attracted to the flower in my Orange Curls piece because it was so different from what a normal daylily looks like. It was immediately apparent that any composition using this subject would produce an abstract. Since it was the only one in the area, and I didn’t have anything else to compare it to, I can’t say if this particular type of flower usually grows in this manner. Perhaps it was lacking something or deformed in some way. Whatever the case, I loved all the loopy, wavy lines Mother Nature endowed it with. The stigma has character as well and is bent and curled like it had been abused. Though the anthers aren’t as easy to see because they have the same color as the petals, I did place one at the lower, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. I then used that anther as my focal point. The high level of detail allows tiny dew drops to be seen.
As I was walking through the Rye Patch Rose Garden looking for subjects, I discovered a naturally abstract scene that I couldn’t pass without further investigation. The Rose Garden is an enclosed area with two side entrances that each have a swinging door. Within the garden boundaries are hedges that are usually neatly trimmed in a rectangular shape that further segregate the various areas. On top of one of the hedge rows was a web that was completely covered in dew. Upon closer examination of the area I subsequently captured in Dew Veil, I was struck by how I could see the leaves underneath the web while at the same time the drops of dew created a mask over them. It was a curious effect and almost felt as if I was looking at leaves that had been embedded in glass. I found a group of leaves that had a couple of tips poking up and out of the web as well as other leaves surrounding it in an artistic manner. I then placed that group in the frame so that the rightmost vertical one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected them. To achieve side-to-side sharpness across the entire frame, a technique known as focus stacking was employed. The high level of captured detail allows web strands and a whole bunch of tiny dew drops to be seen.
I just realized, as I was writing this, that I ended the season at the exact same place I started with an identical type of flower. Patsy’s Garden in the Rye Patch Rose Garden had been recently replanted with pansies. Artistically pleasing specimens were fairly sparse, but this one stood out. I liked the colors (of course), but the tiny dew drops made the difference. The petal surfaces are nearly completely covered resulting in a sparkling effect. Aesthetically, I placed the green heart in the center of the flower just below the bottom one third line, using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point. The high level of detail allows surface texture, individual dew drops, and individual pollen pieces to be seen.
The furry little purple pods in my Fuzzy Was He piece attracted me to this spot of the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum. The bottom portion of the velvet sage looked like a rather large circular weed which wasn’t very photogenic, but the hairy stalks that carried the tips above that area certainly were. The sharper pointed tips contrasted nicely with the softer round edges on the stem, and the dew drops added a bit more visual interest. I liked the curve of the stem and placed it in the frame so that some of the background stems would add additional patches of color. The high level of detail allows individual hairs and variously sized dew drops (some of which look like little bubbles) to be seen.
The stem in my Velvet Dew composition was out away from other stems. Which was good because it was also in a position that allowed me to isolate it against a colorful background of flowers. To achieve additional sharpness across the entire length of the stem, it was focus stacked. Focus stacking involves creating multiple images where the focal points allow overlapping zones of sharpness. The images are then combined using special software that understands where the sharpest areas in each image are located. Incredible details are possible using the technique, but it isn’t easy and requires conditions that are difficult (for my compositional style) to find in the field.
Artistically, I wanted the furry bloom at the bottom in the frame, as much color from the background flowers as possible, and, as previously mentioned, sharpness on the stem in each section. The focus stacking and high level of detail permits individual hairs and individual dew drops to be seen from top to bottom and end to end of the stem.