Given that it was already November, I wasn’t expecting to see much color from new blooms at the Aiken County Historical Museum (or anywhere, for that matter). So, I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted some as I was driving in. The flowers in this post were just off the driveway in front of the building. In fact, I was kneeling on the driveway, and I had the tripod on the pavement while composing them.
My artistic goal for Autumn Branch was to fill the frame with as much of the flower’s gorgeous colors as I could. First, I searched through the various groups of flowers with just my eyes, and then where I felt possible compositions existed, I looked through those clusters with the lens. While I wasn’t quite able to completely fill the entire frame, I did come close. Having a viewfinder with 100% coverage helps in situations like this because you know what you are seeing is what you will get and no cropping will be needed in post. I placed the focal point on the leftmost flower and had enough depth in the zone of sharpness to sharply capture petals and pollen on flowers that were behind it. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The morning sun was providing side lighting for my November Highlights piece, which caused the yellows to almost glow. One of my artistic goals was identical to those I had for Autumn Bunch in that I wanted to fill the entire frame with flowers. While I searched for a collection of flowers that met that desire, I also wanted to create a prominent subject by placing its center near a crossing line, using the rule of thirds. The flower in the upper, rightmost area of the frame was elected, and I used it as my focal point to help ensure its importance would be visually identifiable within the frame. Here too, the high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The new, larger mullein plant continued to grow during the time I created the image in the first post of this series. In fact, it was likely seven feet tall when I composed my Hairy Stamen piece. Just like the first plant, the second one also had flowers that bloomed. Because I liked the artistic feel of the scene, I selected a subject that had a fuzzy stalk in the middleground. Helping that decision was the fact that the flower itself was fresh and nice looking (i.e., it was clean and free of odd looking, dark colored substances that were on several other blooms). I knew that the leaves and stalks had lots of hair on them, but I was surprised by how furry the flowers themselves were. And, upon seeing the stamen at nearly two times life-size, I was intrigued with the amount and length of the hairs they had. My artistic goal, from then on, was to ensure that they received the attention by using the center group of them as my focal point. Though not completely in the zone of sharpness or nearly as hairy, I like how the lower stamens help provide balance. The high level of detail allows tiny individual hairs to be seen.
One of the things I like about the south is that flowers are still blooming in early fall. Of course, it doesn’t feel much like fall during that time when the high temperatures remain in the upper 80’s. As usual, the colors of the subject in my Spiny piece are what attracted me to it. I found this flower in the front garden near the south wall of the Aiken County Historical Museum (i.e., next to where Newberry and New Lane streets meet) and it appeared to be fairly fresh. It was also quite wet with morning dew. All that water helps calm down the sharp spikes found across most of the flower’s surface. For aesthetic reasons, I placed the center of the flower in the frame slightly to the left of center horizontally and nearly centered vertically. The high level of detail allows individual dew drops as well as tiny hairs and spines to be seen.
I’ve previously written and posted about the inoperative fountain system in Hopeland Gardens as well as being an opportunistic wildlife photographer. All of the compositions in this post come from the upper fountain area and feature the same subject – a leopard frog that apparently wanted me to create works of it. I was amazed that the frog let me get so close to it because normally they are very cautious and jump before you even get to see them. I did move as slow as I could and continued to work my way up to these poses, but it almost felt like the frog simply wasn’t scared of me (for some unknown reason) and had no intention of fleeing no matter where I placed my tripod. I did have a similar encounter with a young alligator once down at Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen, GA, but it has been my experience that sessions like that are extremely rare.
I was able to maneuver the tripod into a position where I was directly above the leopard frog for my Primed piece. If it knew how nervous I was that it would jump, it very well may have. I felt that this was a unique opportunity (if for no other reason than you just can’t ordinarily get this pose with a live subject without having used some type of unethical technique). I was also thinking that its leg muscles must be locked and loaded and ready to fire in the blink of an eye. I loved the green, elliptical patches mixed in with the rest of its body camouflage, and the duckweed roots draped across its body. Due to the vertical orientation, I made the aesthetic choice of placing it very near the center of the frame horizontally. The high level of detail allows textures to be seen.
By the time I had composed Lounging Leopard I was feeling pretty confident that this frog was going to let me create anything I wanted. I had been deliberate and was careful when lifting and setting the legs of my tripod down both on the cement walls of the fountain and especially in the water near the frog. One thing I did that may have helped was to pull the tripod up and away from the area when major leg adjustments were needed. I had to use my experience and estimate the angles, height, and required leg positions for the next composition. Having a ball head makes that a little bit easier because if you don’t quite get the legs into a good configuration you have some additional movement available by changing the orientation of your camera. Aesthetically, I got as close to the water as I could so that I was nearly at eye-level to the frog. Putting the perspective at your subject’s level helps bring them into a more intimate setting. Keeping in mind that it is also important to give your subject some space to look into within the boundaries of the frame, I placed the eye so that it was nearly bisected by the leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds. And vertically, the eye is just below the upper, leftmost crossing line. As with any wildlife subject, the focal point was put on the eye, which has a reflection off from its surface consisting of a little bit of sky and some trees that surround the fountain. Once again, the high level of detail allows textures to be seen.
I got in as close as I could for my Leopard Head piece. Having a longer lens certainly helps in a situation like this because you can create a full frame image without cropping or chasing your subject off due to the proximity of the lens. At this distance, tiny details in the eye and on the skin are revealed. For example, I love how the pigment in the skin has a type of sparkle in some areas. Texture can be seen here as well (e.g., bumps on the outside of the eye socket and raised areas just behind the eyes) thanks to the high level of captured detail.
My Global piece is all about the big bubble, and it is so much taller and larger than the previous bubbles that the extremely shallow depth of field isn’t deep enough to keep the bottom of it within the zone of sharpness. That being said, one of my artistic goals was to ensure that the smaller bubble on the left-hand side stayed within the frame. Fortunately, doing that placed the subject so that the rightmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, pretty much bisects it. I also positioned it very close to being centered vertically. The specific spot in the pool where this was composed was out in the more open area, and, as such, it benefitted from the blues in the sky reflecting off the surface.
To increase the apparent depth of field for my Bubbles On Bubbles piece, it was focus stacked. That allows thousands of tiny bubbles on the surface to be seen while keeping the larger bubbles within the zone of sharpness. While not as bright as the tones in Global, this also had the advantage of picking up more of the blues from the reflection of the sky. The shadows and particles that surround the bubbles remind me of how gravity pulls in nearby objects as planets form. In fact, throughout the entire time during the composition of these works other bubbles on the surface of the pool (some of which I had planned to use as subjects) were growing, merging, and even popping as they floated around.
I’ve written about the large reflecting pool in Hopeland Gardens in previous posts, and my regular readers may have surmised that there are others on the grounds. In fact, there are four different pools. Two of them are near the main pool and can be found on either side of it, while the other one is lower and south of the main pool. The lower pool is long and not as wide, and it doesn’t have a fountain feature. On the morning I composed the pieces in this series of posts, the lower pool was nearly completely covered with green algae. Upon a closer examination of the surface, I discovered lots of bubbles and interesting naturally abstract scenes.
I was attracted by the bubbles and the random strands of algae in my Frothy piece. Most of the surface has a chaotic – all over the place – feel which tends to cause areas with structure (i.e., the more defined, circular nature of the bubbles) to be highlighted. I found it to be an interesting mixture of organization within disorder, and, as I’ve previously mentioned, I like dichotomous abstracts.
There is still a good bit of disarray on the surface of my Greenie piece, but with the focal point being on a larger/taller bubble combined with an extremely shallow depth of field, it quickly lost much of its detail. One of my artistic goals was to keep the swoop to the left of the bubble within the frame. I placed the bubble to where the leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, cuts through it a little to the right of center. Though not centered vertically, both the upper and lower one third lines dissect the bubble as well. I love discovering happy little aspects during post processing, and, in this case, the reflection on the bubble that resembles a smile (giving it a similar appearance to a smiley face) was an unexpected treat.
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 leaves on the tree where my Fall Berries piece was created can be quite colorful in the Fall. They were, as they have been in the past, loud enough to call me over from across the lawn at the Rye Patch. I searched around the tree for artistically pleasing scenes. I wanted good colors in the leaves and at least one berry. For the scene I settled on, I liked how the dark colors of the berries contrasted nicely against the brighter leaves as well as their mixture of purples with the blue reflections. Aesthetically, I found a perspective that kept the berries from touching each other. Then I placed the left most berry on the first lower left crossing line (a little off center), using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point.
I normally try to get as much depth of field as I possibly can, but sometimes I have to dial back the F-stop setting. As I’ve posted about previously, photography is about concession management. The wind picked up just as I began exploring the leaves. With the sun not yet able to provide much light through the surrounding trees, I needed several seconds of exposure time. But, Mother Nature insisted on rustling the leaves with a breeze coming on shorter intervals than what I required. To come to an equitable agreement with her, I dropped my F-stop down to F/11 which cut my exposure time down to two seconds. Voila, everybody was happy. And, as a bonus, the background leaves nearly completely dissolved down into simple colors. Even with a shallow depth of field, the high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
I liked the naturally abstract pattern on the leaf in my Closing In piece. I discovered it in the same swampy area of Hopeland Gardens that several other leaf compositions came from. In addition to the pigment pattern painted across its surface, I felt that it was a poignant depiction of the end of a life cycle. Very little of the original, healthy green of the leaf exists. Nearly all of it has been replaced by stages of dying and death. The yellows are the beginning of the end with the colorful oranges and reds of decay following close behind. The browns are next in the timeline and then finally black (colorless and lifeless). The green areas are trying to hold out, to continue providing their contribution to the sustainment of life, but they are losing and there is no hope of recovery. The inevitability is inescapable. The leaf will become nourishment for any number of other organisms and it provides a visual treat by presenting gorgeous colors on its way out. As if Mother Nature wanted us to see that even death has positive attributes. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
Though Fall was only a week old, the flowers near the subject in my Fall Blooms piece were burned, wilted, dying, and/or just generally nasty. In fact, I initially walked right past them on my way to the rear of the Aiken County Historical Museum, and it wasn’t until I made my way back toward the car that I spotted this subject. I was surprised by how well this late bloomer was holding up and was impressed with its size (it was a bit larger than its neighbors). I loved the colors. Normally I see solid petal colors so having pink with white was unusual. The interior blooms, with their brilliant oranges and yellows, were also quite attractive. In fact, I used their five, furry, pollen coated arms as my focal point. That aesthetic choice gave just enough sharpness to create the cool looking abstract pattern in the very center of the flower. The high level of detail allows individual hairs and individual pollen pieces to be seen.