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.
I found this wandering Jew nestled between the gorgeous green leaves on the north side of the circular driveway at the Aiken County Historical Museum. I searched for a section that wasn’t too ate up, had an artistically pleasing pattern, and the ability to fill as much of the frame as possible with leaves. I then placed the flower of the wandering Jew on the top left most crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point. I really liked how the dark purple and green complement each other and create an attractive scene. I think the gardener that planted this section also believed that the two colors would work well with each other. The high level of detail allows surface texture, individual hairs, and individual dew drops to be seen.
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.
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.
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.
The sap in my Big Drop composition produced one of the largest single drops I had seen while creating these pieces. I liked the mostly moss filled green background and this drop had a little bit of everything going for it. For example, it has a couple of very nice sunstars, pulled in and warped background colors, pretty blue reflections, rainbow and multicolored refractions, and crystalline strained and stretched areas. Simply put, I couldn’t resist it.
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.