With all of the azalea flowers on the north east side of the Aiken County Historical Museum, I was certain that I could find a worthy subject among them. I used the edge of an azalea petal to create the naturally abstract composition in my Curtain piece. My artistic vision was to split the image diagonally where one part featured the petal’s edge and the flower it belonged to while the other section is an entirely different azalea blossom. That took quite a bit of exploring blooms and trying different angles until I found a flower that had the colors I wanted behind it with an edge that wasn’t burned, discolored, or chewed up. Additionally, the edge had to be far enough away from the details in the center that they would dissolve into colors even at a high F-stop, which was required to keep most of edge sharply in focus. Of course, composing at two times life-size helped because the depth of field is quite shallow. Even with that, surface texture along the petal edge 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 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).
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 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.
I don’t normally see two wandering Jew flowers growing so close to one another. In fact, this was the very first time I had ever seen a pair that had petals touching each other, and their proximity caused me to see a familiar pattern in my mind’s eye. Taken as a whole, the outside petals on both sides appear to create the shape of butterfly wings. I didn’t want the wings to feel centered in the frame, so I left a little more space above and on the right side of the petals. That caused the flowers to be placed in the frame where the left flower’s core/center is very near the lower, leftmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. With the anthers scattered around in different groups as well as being considerably above the surface of the petals (especially considering the shallow depth of field), I selected the rope-like strands that grow out of the filaments as my focal point. That aesthetic decision simultaneously forced the anthers to be out of focus and enhanced the surface of the petals including the pollen that had fallen on them. The high level of detail allows texture, dew drops, and individual pieces of pollen to be seen.