While exploring the grounds of Hopeland Gardens looking for magnolia seed pods, I discovered a group of mushrooms that were growing out of a stump that had been cut during the spring. I had inspected the stump earlier in the year (when the saw dust was still fresh) looking for stump art that Mother Nature may have hidden inside the tree, but didn’t find anything. I loved how tightly they were packed together in a relatively small area, and, because of that, my artistic goal was to fill the frame with as many of the mushrooms as I could. I worked several angles and produced many other compositions (some of which are available as stock only pieces) before creating Toadstools. Though serendipitous, I also like how their sizes decrease from top to bottom and left to right. The high level of detail allows tiny hairs and texture to be seen.
NOTE: I hope my regular readers and those who know the difference will forgive my placement of mushrooms into the Flora category. I know that they aren’t technically considered flora, but I don’t currently have a fungi category, so for now, that’s where they fall in my website’s structure.
I’ve previously written about the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum that is within the Hopeland Gardens boundary, but I had never created any compositions from the dogwood trees beside it. On the morning I composed my Dogwood Berry piece, the abundance of red berries called me over to that area. While fall hadn’t officially started (at least on the calendar), some of the leaves were already displaying their seasonal colors. After locating a berry that was near a colorful leaf, I found an angle that allowed me to place the berry on the right side of the frame while centering it vertically. That arrangement opened up the left side of the frame so that the leaf colors could be pulled into the background. My artistic goal was to keep as much as I could of the berry’s surface area in sharp focus, which is challenging using a single image because the camera’s sensor plane is flat and the berry is round (i.e., there will be falloff as the surface curves away). The high level of detail allows tiny hairs and texture to be seen.
I had been watching the mullein in the front garden near the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum basically all season. I reviewed several possible compositions using the initial plant from that area, but wasn’t able to find anything that felt right or was aesthetically pleasing enough. Not long after the first plant had finished blossoming and turned an ugly brown, a new, larger one sprouted up just a couple of feet from where the original one grew. Each time I made my way through the museum grounds, I would inspect the new plant, but even though it felt like it held a composition, nothing was found. The soft, hairy (some might even say fuzzy or furry) leaves were attractive especially when they were covered in dew drops. On this particular morning, I created a couple of works facing east, but they still weren’t exactly what I was looking for. In fact, one of my artistic goals was to eliminate background colors caused by dirt and/or pine needles and fill the entire frame with greens from its leaves. So, I decided to go around to the other side of the plant and see what it offered. While facing west, I discovered something that I had not seen during any of my prior museum outings. A new cluster of tiny leaves had sprung up near the center of the plant. For my Mullein Core piece, I placed that group of leaves on the lower, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used them as my focal point. I was pleased with the result, gratified that my persistence had paid off, and pleasantly surprised with the happy feeling it has (though that is likely due to the large leaf in the background that appears to have a face with closed eyes and a wide smile).
I’ve previously posted about the fountain system in Hopeland Gardens that used to have flowing water in it. For most of the summer, the larger, upper portion was nearly dry. We had enough rain and run off to put some water in the basin, and it didn’t take long before the duckweed covered the entire surface. By putting part of my tripod in the water I was able to compose my Duckweed piece from directly above the aquatic plants. I was attracted to how random (in size, angle, and position) the fronds were as well as how they formed an unmistakably abstract pattern. Another random aspect of the composition is that they aren’t all perfect. In fact, it appears that some of them have deteriorated or perhaps they’ve been eaten by some type of a bug that stripped their surface away and caused veins to be exposed. While small in size and sandwiched between leaves, I also liked the reflections of trees and clouds on the water.
I’ve written about the large reflecting pool in Hopeland Gardens in previous posts. On this particular morning, the crepe myrtle was in bloom alongside the smaller reflecting pool. The colorful reflections from leaves on the nearby trees, the sky, and the crape myrtle blossoms on the dancing water caught my attention as I was searching for subjects. As I normally only carry a single lens with me (unless I’ve made plans to be in an environment where not having additional glass could cost me an opportunity), the macro rig was mounted on my camera. The long lens, light loss, motion, and time of day meant that some adjustments were needed (e.g., ISO and F-stop) so that enough light could be gathered to create an aesthetically pleasing composition while simultaneously slowing down the movement. I loved how not completely freezing the waves caused blending and mixing of the colors in my Time Warp piece and endowed it with an increased abstract feel. To enhance that effect and to get as much color as I could onto the sensor, I purposefully framed the scene on a diagonal. The randomly scattered bright spots are bubbles on the surface of the water.
The Aiken County Historical Museum has a “U” shaped driveway with crepe myrtle trees that adorn the inside edges. I had looked at and considered surface area compositions of the trees over the years, but never found anything that fully satisfied my artistic desires. Since the trees are immediately behind the parking spots (i.e., just on the other side of the driveway), they are easy to notice as soon as you get out of your car or while putting your gear together. On the morning that I composed the pieces in this post, the lighting and stage of bark shedding must have been perfect because the gorgeous colors and patterns that were previously underneath the bark instantly got my attention. I surveyed several trees looking for aesthetically pleasing designs and the best colorations before setting up the tripod.
The bright yellows and warm oranges in New Skin initially attracted me to this particular area of the tree. While framing the abstract pattern Mother Nature had painted and then exposed, I was reminded of a river with eddies and currents swirling around as if the colors themselves were flowing downstream from the top of the frame to the bottom. The high level of detail allows texture to be seen.
The randomly placed, splotchy, dappled areas in my Mottled piece made this abstract irresistible. That being said, I must confess that the color junkie in me loved the various shades of oranges and reds. This pattern felt more like a lava flow mixed with smoke or smoldering ashes as it oozes down through the frame. Texture can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of detail.
I didn’t initially see this abstract pattern because it was not yet fully exposed. Only a portion of it could be seen because the remaining area was covered with bark. However, the bark was quite loose and seemed to be just barely hanging on. My curiosity got the best of me, and I simply had to know what was under it. When I gave it a little tug, the bark slipped right off and revealed what you see here in my Hot Skull piece. I think that the gorgeous reds and really bright yellows exist because they have just been uncovered and haven’t had time to fade. I was thrilled with the coloration, but more enticing was the design that looked like the outline of a skull (with eye and nose sockets and clenched teeth). Seeing the reds and patterns with sharp tipped spikes instantaneously brought to mind flames and fire. Who knew that Mother Nature was a Ghost Rider fan? Cracks in the surface as well as texture can be seen here too due to the high level of detail.
I was experimenting with various ways of framing the foreground subject in my Curly Sue piece when I discovered an angle that allowed the background petals to bring additional visual interest to the scene. I really liked the arcs of the petals in the background and how they came up into the left-hand side of the frame. In fact, I felt that they gave the impression that this was one big black-eyed Susan flower with curled petals that were shooting out in all directions. If not for the background stem being visible, it would certainly appear that way. To perpetuate the illusion, I placed the center of the foreground flower just below the upper, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used that area as my focal point. That aesthetic decision also tended to accentuate the relative size of the flower’s head. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen and textures to be seen.
I discovered the interesting little scene in my Tree Dwellers piece growing on the side of a limb on one of the large, old trees in Hopeland Gardens. I was actually searching for interesting looking moss when the tiny mushroom caught my eye. It was so small that I wanted to get a better look at it through the macro rig lens, and, as soon as I did, I felt that it would make a very nice subject for a composition. I positioned the mushroom so that the leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected it, and then vertically I brought it down a little bit below the center of the frame to keep it from being too neat and tidy. Artistically I wanted the tiny leaves or blades on the moss to be as sharp as they could be across the entire frame, so I used focus stacking to increase the zone of sharpness. The high level of detail allows tiny hairs and textures to be seen.
I came across the strange growth in my Ground Goo piece just off the trail that runs along the side of the garage area on the east side of the Aiken County Historical Museum. The vibrant yellow color initially attracted me to it, but after getting a closer look, the sponge-like appearance, textures, and tiny fibers (almost like a spiderweb) were equally fascinating. It reminded me of a foam spray that expands after being expelled from its container (e.g., similar to a type of insulation). The darker brown and reddish strips lying at various angles under the goo are pine needles, and it appeared to be growing on or perhaps consuming them. I’m not entirely sure what the light green, flaky looking substance is underneath the yellow glop (or, for that matter, whether or not the glop is interacting with it or just growing over the top of it), but it looks similar to a type of moss that I’ve seen on trees. My artistic vision was simply to capture the unusual, random, abstract pattern the shapes, colors, and lines formed. The high level of detail allows various textures and tiny, hair-like strands to be seen.
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.