I was pulled over to the magnolia tree in a neighbor’s yard where I found the blossom in my Magnolia Flame piece by all of the flowers on the ground. From a distance, it looked like there was a layer of pink surrounding the entire base of the tree. I thought I might be able to create a naturally abstract composition from the flowers that had fallen off, but as I got closer it became clear that the remnants didn’t completely cover the grass and they were in fairly poor shape. Not wanting to come home empty handed, I searched the branches for a new, better subject. This particular bloom was fresh with excellent colors that drew me right in. The shape that the petals formed immediately made me think of a flame (as if the fire from a candle was burning in a gorgeous pink tone). Even though it was shot wide open with a very shallow depth of field, details including the surface texture and pollen can be seen.
I had been thinking about and searching for another spot in Botany Bay to watch a sunset. There is a fairly large open area facing West while viewing Jason’s Lake (in and around area nine on the driving tour map), but, having previously surveyed it, I didn’t care for any of the scenes at the lake surface because the background trees were too high. They were blocking the sun before any of the golden hour colors were available. On the map, the Middle Dike Road (which splits Jason’s Lake and the Upper Ponds) appeared to be worthy of closer inspection. Before leaving Botany Bay that morning, I walked the road with a compass to determine what the scenes looked like to the West. It didn’t look very good since West was too far right and the tall, close trees would hide the sun.
Some thunder storms had come through Edisto Beach between four and five that afternoon, and the trailing clouds were keeping the sun well covered. But when looking West from the dock behind our cabin, a little after 6:30, I saw that the sun was starting to break through. At that point, I decided to roll the dice, get over to Botany Bay, and see how things were shaping up. I parked at the Beehive Well (which is area 12 on the driving tour map), gathered my gear, and hurried out onto the dike. When I got to the open area, I discovered that the sun was actually setting even further to the right and was completely blocked by the trees. I wasn’t ready or willing to give up on the scene though and hoped that maybe the setting sun would light things up enough to get some color in the sky.
While waiting for some improvement to the West, I looked the other direction and was excited to see nicely lit clouds, water reflections, and good color on the horizon. I used the flora along the road for the foreground of my Jason’s Lake piece. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the suggestion from other landscape photographers to turn around and see what is happening behind you, but I’m glad I remembered their advice. That worked out perfectly in this situation. I would have missed a very nice opportunity if I hadn’t at least taken a couple of minutes to see if anything else in the vicinity was better than what I planned.
As the colors, clouds, and light to the East began to fade, I moved my gear and set up to compose westward again. For my Upper Ponds piece, I had exactly what I originally hoped for with the sun lighting up the clouds and nice reflections. I used the cordgrass patches and the edge of the water as leading lines that carry you through the frame and into the background. Even though the sun was completely hidden by the trees, it threw enough light on the remaining afternoon storm clouds to create a nice scene. The light show was short lived, but had some spectacular moments (especially in the sky above the trees blocking the sun).
At the close of the second day, I returned to Botany Bay and drove along the driving tour looking for a suitable place to watch the sun go down. I pulled off the road and drove a few yards up a two track trail between areas seven and eight. I scouted the area along a bank and felt that it would work. For my Marsh Sunset piece, I used cordgrass as the foreground along with some limbs and Spanish moss. The background trees were a bit close to catch the sun in the frame while filling the sky with golden hour light. In fact, as it descended past the trees, the colors just weren’t exciting enough. That said, there is a reason why you don’t pack up and go home simply because the sun sets or drops below the background. I waited for the magic light colors to emerge and fill the sky with oranges and yellows and the gaps among the trees with reds and purples. That also enabled those same colors to be reflected off the surface of the water in the marsh. Additionally, it allowed more water to continuously flow in and raise the level high enough to where the entire foreground could reflect the gorgeous blues in the sky (prior to that, whole sections were just dark black). I paid for it though. The darker it got, the more sand gnats (or no-see-ums) found me very tasty. I must have killed 100 or more just on my arms and they even tried to get in my nose.
As the end of our first day came to a close, we ventured into Edisto Beach. We enjoyed looking at the colorful beach houses along Palmetto Boulevard and reading their entertaining monikers such as “Good & Easy”, “High Cotton”, and “Sandy Feet.” After discovering that Beach Access 32 had a couple of open parking spaces, we decided to pull in and walk down to see what the beach looked like. After seeing the scene, I don’t think it took me even 10 seconds to turn around and rush back to the car to get my gear.
What a great way to end day one. We were even treated to a dolphin jumping out of the water, approximately 100 yards off shore, near the line of light coming from the sun. Several people stopped and a small crowd formed to watch the sun dip below the horizon. It was like some type of a ritual with clapping and laughter.
I love how the water, foam, and sand are highlighted with the colors of the setting sun in my Edisto Beach Sunset piece. Unfortunately, the dolphin didn’t want its picture taken, but I was able to catch several birds in the scene.
I noted this site along Otter Trail in Cuddo East while doing some scouting the afternoon of the third full day of my SC AIR trip. In fact, this is very near the area where the herd of wild pigs (mentioned in a previous post) was observed. I arrived before the golden hour to position my tripod and camera in a favorable location. After preparing for the sun to descend into the scene, I experienced another one of the trip highlights I wrote about in a prior post. Sitting here in this spot, watching the golden light filter down through the trees, is where I heard the coyotes wailing. Their boisterous excitement seemed to serenade the retreating sun and add an aural element that served as icing on the cake to a wonderfully enriching time with nature. Fighting off ever increasing numbers of mosquitos, I waited until the magic light streaked across the duckweed covered canal and completely enveloped the opening at the tree line in the background before creating the composition in Otter Trail Sunset.
I created Bluff Unit Honeysuckle, while waiting for the sun to set, near the Santee NWR visitor center in the early evening of the first full day of my South Carolina Artist In Residence (AIR) trip. The piece has a joyful mood as the angles of the Honeysuckle pair and the curves of their filaments make them appear to be happily dancing. The high level of detail allows surface texture, contours, individual hairs, and pollen particles to be seen.