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.
My artistic vision for Spread Your Wings was to capture how the honeysuckle petals reminded me of wings. In my mind’s eye, what I saw upon discovering these subjects was the familiar shape of arched bird wings as they are flying. I placed the petals so that they opened up horizontally and flowed across the frame. As it was early morning and I was on the north side of the museum building, I was working without much sunlight. Even so, I searched for an angle that gave me the darkest possible background so that the white petals would pop against it. Since there was no way to ignore the stamens or stigmas, I focused on the anther of the first (and tallest) stamen and let everything else fall where it was in the zone of sharpness. That worked out pretty good because I really like being able to see all the tiny little hairs that run up the flower and out to the petal edges. The high level of detail also allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
I was attracted to my Wet Spiderwort piece by how nicely the yellow anthers popped against the complementary blues. But, as is often the case, upon viewing the scene at nearly two times life-size, I discovered something even more enticing. I loved how the water drops had formed in and around the anthers and stigma. By dialing back the already shallow depth of field, I could have reduced the detail in the background, however, my desire to hold a selection of anthers and the water drops sharply in focus outweighed any other aesthetic priorities. Further, I like how the drops on the petals add to the overall soaked feel. To place them in an artistically pleasing location within the frame, the largest drops in the group of anthers were concentrated near the left most, bottom crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and they all touch (or are split by) one of the horizontal or vertical grid lines. The high level of captured detail allows textures and drop reflections to be seen.
While wandering the grounds of the museum, I came across a recently cut stump. As fresh as the saw dust was and with such nice surface colors, it likely had only been exposed for a couple of days. I was, once again, struck by the fact that the images I was able to create that morning were only possible with the exact cuts that the saw made. Not that they were planned or meant to be artistic by the person that took the tree down. But, that’s what makes it fascinating because the way it was cut uncovered art that nature had hidden inside the tree.
I was attracted to the syrupy looking colors on the left hand side of my Honey Line piece. For aesthetic reasons, I put the scene in my camera’s sensor so that those gorgeous colors essentially formed a jagged diagonal line. I then ensured that the sensor plane was as close to the surface angle of the area as I could get it so that the focus would be sharpest along the edges of the line. Artistically, I liked how the two sides had both contrasting (e.g., silky versus hard and dry) as well as similar properties (e.g., arcs and squiggly lines). The high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen.
As I was working the stump, golden light from the morning sun started to wash over it. Having the ability to influence an image with those tones is one of the primary reasons I like to be on-site before the sun comes up. Here, I loved how they provide a natural highlight to the ridges created as the saw dug its way through the wood. Artistically, I felt that the complex blend of lines (e.g., diagonals, arcs, and swirls) clashed with each other and created a certain amount of tension. The underlying shapes and warm colors in Brewing Storm reminded me of how nature paints clouds during a sunrise, and, in accordance with the adage, the red in the sky is a sailor’s warning. Texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of captured detail.
The swirled lines, arcs, and colors in my Dunes composition reminded me of sand. As if Mother Nature attempted to render what blowing, drifting sandbanks look like using only the wood from inside a tree as the canvas. As in the previous pieces, the high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen here too.
I had been keeping an eye on the colorful, newly planted coleus in the big, back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum since I first discovered them. In fact, I had looked at several different possible compositions on a previous trip, but couldn’t quite get everything that I wanted so I hadn’t captured anything. At the time I created my Scimitar piece, the plants themselves were less than two feet tall and had fresh looking leaves with nice colors. While exploring them for enticing patterns, I came across one that reminded me of the type of blade that a pirate or genie might have. I placed the leaf in the frame so that the sharp tip and bottom left hand side had about the same amount of distance to their respective edges. I then found an angle that allowed most of my subject to be surrounded by the enhancing background colors of the leaf directly beneath it. I placed the focal point on the tip, and by keeping the sensor plane aligned with the leaf, as much as I could, I maintained sharpness across the surface. The high level of captured detail allows texture and tiny hairs along the edges of the leaf 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.
The cool looking design in my Puffed piece is the surface of a puffball mushroom at two times life-size. I found it near the butterfly bush on the backside of the Aiken County Historical Museum. I have to admit that curiosity, more than anything else, attracted me to the subject. I simply wondered what the surface looked like and, after having put the lens on it, discovered that a neat abstract pattern existed. It’s covered in tiny little groups of fibers that look like hair mountains with gaps between them that create the zigzag channels. The hair mountains have brown caps that appear to be singed like someone took a hot flame or a blow torch and ran it across the entire area causing them to melt and coalesce.
The furry little purple pods in my Fuzzy Was He piece attracted me to this spot of the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum. The bottom portion of the velvet sage looked like a rather large circular weed which wasn’t very photogenic, but the hairy stalks that carried the tips above that area certainly were. The sharper pointed tips contrasted nicely with the softer round edges on the stem, and the dew drops added a bit more visual interest. I liked the curve of the stem and placed it in the frame so that some of the background stems would add additional patches of color. The high level of detail allows individual hairs and variously sized dew drops (some of which look like little bubbles) to be seen.
The stem in my Velvet Dew composition was out away from other stems. Which was good because it was also in a position that allowed me to isolate it against a colorful background of flowers. To achieve additional sharpness across the entire length of the stem, it was focus stacked. Focus stacking involves creating multiple images where the focal points allow overlapping zones of sharpness. The images are then combined using special software that understands where the sharpest areas in each image are located. Incredible details are possible using the technique, but it isn’t easy and requires conditions that are difficult (for my compositional style) to find in the field.
Artistically, I wanted the furry bloom at the bottom in the frame, as much color from the background flowers as possible, and, as previously mentioned, sharpness on the stem in each section. The focus stacking and high level of detail permits individual hairs and individual dew drops to be seen from top to bottom and end to end of the stem.
I found this wandering Jew nestled between the gorgeous green leaves on the north side of the circular driveway at the Aiken County Historical Museum. I searched for a section that wasn’t too ate up, had an artistically pleasing pattern, and the ability to fill as much of the frame as possible with leaves. I then placed the flower of the wandering Jew on the top left most crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point. I really liked how the dark purple and green complement each other and create an attractive scene. I think the gardener that planted this section also believed that the two colors would work well with each other. The high level of detail allows surface texture, individual hairs, and individual dew drops to be seen.