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.
When I found this leaf near the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum it was starting to change colors, even though Fall hadn’t officially commenced. The colors of the leaves on the bush where I discovered this had already transformed enough to call me over and, once there, forced a closer examination of them. I selected this one for a couple of reasons: I loved the random patterns of decay and the colors it provided, it was relatively flat (which when shooting at two times life-size at such a close distance is an important consideration if you wish to maximize the zone of sharpness), it had some dew on the surface to enhance the colors, and its location had limited impediments to access. The wind being calm was also another significant factor in obtaining my Fall Insinuation piece as I needed eight seconds of exposure time. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual dew drops to be seen.
The discovery of the scene in my Black Stars piece was serendipitous. I found it on one of the trees along the sidewalk on the side of the house at the Aiken County Historical Museum and it wasn’t what I initially set out to capture. What originally attracted me to this area was some patches of nice pastel colors and a whole lot of holes burred into the bark in lines. After setting up the tripod and getting my first view, the lens was pointing toward a spot without any of the holes, but the star patterns more than made up for that. With the morning sun not yet up that far, it was pretty dark back there between the house and the wall, and this creation required 25 seconds of exposure time (which for macro is a fairly long exposure). Interestingly, after I had captured several frames of the stars, I took a look at the scene I had originally intended to frame – it wasn’t artistically pleasing. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
Coming around the side of the house and out into the front yard, I noticed a pine tree being lit by the sunrise. The golden light enhanced the bark that was peeling off in nice abstract patterns and I was thrilled with its colors. I examined the trunk for the area that had the best color in combination with the most aesthetic design. I loved the oranges, yellows, and browns in my Earth Tones composition. Surface textures can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of detail.
The flower in my Star Light piece was fairly large compared to the periwinkle I normally see. In fact, that is what caused me to stop and look at it more closely. And, I’m glad I did. I loved the little wheel looking object in the very center of the flower and the ample amount of yellow encircling it. I also liked how the white was shooting away from the center (i.e., beams of varying lengths that fade in intensity as they travel farther from the center) as if it was some type of light rays. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
I discovered the group of periwinkle in my Pink Pair just off the sidewalk as I was headed toward the patio area. I found them attractive because they were fresh and pretty. I loved the subtle pink tones in their petals and their gorgeous centers. I placed the right side flower’s center on the right most crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point. Luckily both flower centers were nearly the same distance from the camera sensor which meant that the left side fell squarely into the zone of sharpness. The high level of detail allows individual hairs to be seen.
All of the pieces in this post are from the same box turtle at the Aiken County Historical Museum that I posted about previously. He let me get quite close to him without pulling inside his shell or trying to scuttle away. These naturally abstract patterns come from his back and were created by pointing the lens down toward his shell.
I was attracted to the area in my Expand composition primarily because of the colorful patterns. The main portion of the piece is a single scale with a darker edge that marks its boundary as it contacts the other scales around it. I loved the lines that trace the general outline of the scale and wondered if they were like the rings of a tree that could be counted to determine the age of the turtle. It certainly appeared to me that as this guy grew, his scales got bigger and, at some point, left an indentation that marked the end of a specific life period. I also marveled at his toughness. Something may have tried to eat him and, if so, perhaps their teeth punctured the main scale causing it to break and form a depression.
For my Armor composition, I slid the camera over to the left, switched the orientation to horizontal, and recomposed. While the pattern on the left scale is quite distinctly different from the pattern on the right, artistically, I felt that they worked well together.
I loved the pattern created by the yellows and oranges in Shield. For this piece, I composed down his spine. I loved how the top color blobs appeared to be being pushed away from the area where the two scales meet. As if the force of the bottom scale colliding with the top scale caused everything to shoot outward. The design of the lines in the top scale increase that feeling by having the appearance of waves that grow out and away from the epicenter.
As I was headed towards the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum, I came across the box turtle in my Red Eye piece. He was just sitting there in the grass not moving. I’ve posted before about being an opportunistic wildlife shooter and this was a great opportunity. He appeared to be fine with me being around him and only got a little concerned one time when I pushed down a blade of grass (using a stick) that was leaning on his back. I started creating images from about six to eight feet away and then gradually kept working closer to him. I was using a knee pad and had the tripod as low as it would go (it basically sets on the ground as I don’t use a center post). I felt like I needed to be laying on the ground, but it was wet from rain we had the previous night, and I didn’t have anything to lay on. I seriously considered it, but the thought of wet clothes and being bitten or stung by fire ants caused me to try something else. I got down as far as I could while still being able to see the viewfinder and then used Live Preview to focus the lens. I had tried that on one other occasion and didn’t care for the results, but this time it worked great.
I placed his eye on the left most crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used it as my focal point. I loved the reds in his eye and the oranges and yellows on his body. Being at eye level really makes a difference in a nature composition. I would have preferred a clean foreground, but this is a natural environment so I can live with the grass.