I discovered the cluster of newly sprouted leaves in Foliation while roaming around my back yard. I loved the greens, of course, but I also felt that the design they formed was attractive and graceful – especially the arched top and curly tips. Artistically, I felt that using the trunk of the tree for a background was much more appealing than the grayish ground cover from just about any other angle. Luckily, the leaves were far enough away from the bark that it simply dissolved down into colors with no discernable wood features (even while using a higher F-stop). Additionally, I felt that the light browns of the hairs, at the tips, and highlighted in and around the various surface areas helps tie the backdrop browns to the piece’s subject. Finally, I liked the rib-like striations in the leaves and was pleased with how visible they are. The high level of captured detail allows individual hairs and surface textures to be seen.
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.
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.
The big leaves in the swampy area at Hopeland Gardens make wonderful subjects in the fall when their colors start to change. I have written about and posted several examples over the years because I love the patterns that can be found as they begin to expire (e.g., Fire Veins, Lava Leaf, and Closing In). When they are backlit by the golden tones of a morning sun, as the leaf in my Cessation piece is, they are able to elevate my excitement to another level. As I scan their locale looking for subjects to investigate from the trail at the top of the berm between the swamp and the pond, backlit leaves with these colors act like a beacon that my eyes immediately lock on to. At that point, there is a limited amount of time available to create a composition. The window is short lived due to the fact that the sun has to rise above the trees that keep the swamp partially shaded, and by the time it does, there is very little golden light remaining. I loved the last vestiges of Chlorophyll in the green pockets and tracing around the outline of the yellows and oranges, and I was captivated by the thought that Mother Nature will paint a different pattern on every leaf that reaches this stage of life. This leaf is very likely the only one that will ever look exactly as it does. The high level of detail allows texture and tiny leaf veins to be seen.
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).