Macro Leopard Frog In Duckweed At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Fountain Leopard

 

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.

 

 

Macro directly above Leopard Frog in Duckweed at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Primed

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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.

 

 

Macro Leopard Frog in Duckweed at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Lounging Leopard

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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.

 

 

Macro head of Leopard Frog in Duckweed at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Leopard Head

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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.

 

 

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Macro Abstract Algae On Reflecting Pool Surface At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC: Part 2

Abstract Algae: Part 2

 

Part 2 is a continuation of the Abstract Algae blog posts.  To see works from or read The Artist’s Story for Part 1, click here.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Global

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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.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Bubbles On Bubbles

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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.

 

 

To see related pieces click here, for bonus images, see below.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Viscous

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Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Strange Brew

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Macro Abstract Algae On Reflecting Pool Surface At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC: Part 1

Abstract Algae: Part 1

 

I’ve written about the large reflecting pool in Hopeland Gardens in previous posts, and my regular readers may have surmised that there are others on the grounds.  In fact, there are four different pools.  Two of them are near the main pool and can be found on either side of it, while the other one is lower and south of the main pool.  The lower pool is long and not as wide, and it doesn’t have a fountain feature.  On the morning I composed the pieces in this series of posts, the lower pool was nearly completely covered with green algae.  Upon a closer examination of the surface, I discovered lots of bubbles and interesting naturally abstract scenes.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Frothy

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I was attracted by the bubbles and the random strands of algae in my Frothy piece.  Most of the surface has a chaotic – all over the place – feel which tends to cause areas with structure (i.e., the more defined, circular nature of the bubbles) to be highlighted.  I found it to be an interesting mixture of organization within disorder, and, as I’ve previously mentioned, I like dichotomous abstracts.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Greenie

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There is still a good bit of disarray on the surface of my Greenie piece, but with the focal point being on a larger/taller bubble combined with an extremely shallow depth of field, it quickly lost much of its detail.  One of my artistic goals was to keep the swoop to the left of the bubble within the frame.  I placed the bubble to where the leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, cuts through it a little to the right of center.  Though not centered vertically, both the upper and lower one third lines dissect the bubble as well.  I love discovering happy little aspects during post processing, and, in this case, the reflection on the bubble that resembles a smile (giving it a similar appearance to a smiley face) was an unexpected treat.

 

 

To see related pieces click here, for a bonus image, see below.

 

 

Macro abstract algae on reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Formation

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Macro Abstract Pattern Of Decay On Leaf At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Cessation

 

Macro abstract pattern of decay on leaf at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Cessation

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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.

 

 

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Macro Mushrooms At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Toadstools

 

Macro mushrooms at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Toadstools

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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.

 

 

To see related pieces click here.

 

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.

Macro Dogwood Berry And Fall Leaves At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Dogwood Berry

 

Macro dogwood berry and Fall leaves at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Dogwood Berry

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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.

 

 

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Macro Abstract Duckweed In Fountain At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Duckweed

 

Macro abstract Duckweed in fountain at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Duckweed

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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.

 

 

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Abstract Reflecting Pool Surface At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Time Warp

 

Abstract reflecting pool surface at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Time Warp

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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.

 

 

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Macro Moss And Mushroom On Tree At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Tree Dwellers

 

Macro Moss and Mushroom on tree at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Tree Dwellers

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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.

 

 

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Macro Flowers At Hopeland Gardens In Aiken, SC

Potted

 

Macro flowers at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina
Potted

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The main reflecting pool (i.e., the largest one with the water fountains in it) in Hopeland Gardens has flowerpots at each corner of the rectangular shaped pond.  I’ve written a previous post about how the grounds keepers usually have some type of flowers or flora display in them, which is why I normally make my way to that area each time I’m on site searching for subjects.  The bright flowers in Potted caught my attention as I wound around one of the flowerpots.  My artistic goal was to fill the frame with as many flowers as I could while being close enough to capture the patterns in their throats and pollen swollen anthers.  Additionally, I wanted the background to be as dark as it could be so that the flowers would pop against it.  To find a suitable scene took a couple of passes around each of the flowerpots before returning to the one that initially caught my eye.  I then had to locate a group where the flowers were closely crowded together and experiment with various framings until I found one that I desired.  I focused on the stigma and anthers of the flower in the lower left-hand corner of the frame and got lucky that the distance to the camera’s sensor was nearly identical to the flower in the upper right-hand side.  Which allowed both of the flower’s throat areas to fall within the zone of sharpness.  The high level of detail allows texture and tiny hairs to be seen.

 

 

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