After having worked the Chocolate Garden, I returned to the Butterfly Garden to give it a better going over. I had basically picked the low hanging fruit in the morning, but after lunch, I didn’t feel as pressed for time. That allowed me to go a little slower, take additional time to examine more perspectives, and create multiple frames of any given subject. Luckily the shooting conditions were quite favorable for midday (i.e., I had a diffused sky with periods of rain and not too much wind). I loved the size and gorgeous red colors of the buds in my Butterfly Garden Buds composition. I maneuvered around them until I could find an angle that 1) allowed me to keep the buds separated, and 2) have them originate from the top right corner and come down and out into the frame. Thanks to the high level of detail, surface texture and a rain drop can be seen.
Of the images I created featuring the flower in my Diagonal piece, I liked this one the best. I had a couple of initial objectives for this composition. First, I concentrated on the anthers and used them as my focal point. Secondly, I wanted a petal to run diagonally across and down the frame from left to right with the sharp tip ending near the lower corner. While I had resolved those two intentions, I felt that it could be improved with an additional change. I believed that it would be artistically stronger to force the majority of the filaments to originate within the frame (that is, to make it possible to see where they were coming from vice entering the frame from outside of it). So, I found a perspective that brought them back while maintaining the aforementioned goals.
I concentrated on the structures above the unopened disc florets in my Slit composition. In my mind’s eye, the center area reminded me of an eyeball, and the opening it has brought to mind a pupil. It felt almost as if Mother Nature had created a flower that could look back at its admirers. I positioned the lens to where the diameter of the eye used just about the entire height of the frame while the first one third line (using the rule of thirds) runs right through the pupil nearly splitting it in half. That also allowed the disc florets to create a fuzzy ring around the eye and exposed some petals.
I was attracted to the flower in Enticed by how unique the center was. While the flower had a similar color scheme (the very cool pinks/purples that change to orange), the middle was unlike any of the other flowers. For example, there are no disc florets or the cool looking flame like structures. That made me wonder if it was a different flower type completely (planted within the area along the bathrooms at the Butterfly Garden because it had comparable colors) or perhaps some genetically altered version.
Confectionery is close to being a vertical companion to Enticed. It is the same flower, but the perspective was changed. I loved how the petals were layered so I pulled back from the flower a little to bring a bit more of them into the frame. The colors were so sweet that they made me think of candy.
The flower in my Attractive composition, once again, has a similar color scheme with another distinctive center. I loved how the petals were layered and overlap each other here as well (that makes it easy to fill the frame with very nice colors). I also liked the furry looking edges of the petals in the very center and the stubble at the bottom of the petals next to them. The high level of detail allows individual hairs to be seen.
I only had a couple of minutes to check things out at the Chocolate Garden before heading back to the car for lunch. I looked at a couple of compositions, but didn’t feel that I had enough time to create anything. So, after our picnic, the Chocolate Garden was the first place I headed to. Due to conditions and lighting changes, none of the ideas I had before lunch looked good upon my return. However, I did discover the flower in my Chocolate Garden Hibiscus piece. The flower itself was quite large, but it was really low and close to the ground. That made positioning the tripod fairly challenging, and I had to work at it for a few minutes before I was able to manipulate the legs into a suitable arrangement. Aesthetically, I wanted the pistil to come down and away from the center of the flower vertically. I placed the two lower stigma discs on the bottom one third line, using the rule of thirds, and used that area as my focal point. That allowed the crossing line to fall nearly at the center of the stigma and lifted the pistil up into the corner of the frame. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen (on the stigma discs) and individual hairs (on the stigma stems) to be seen.
I loved the soft rolls and arcs in my Sugar piece. Of course, I was attracted by the lovely colors (they have a candy-like sweetness), but the abstract design I discovered at two times life-size was more than enough to ensure that this subject would be captured. I also liked the pink flames randomly scattered among the tubes in the very center of the flower. The high level of detail allows individual hairs and pieces of pollen to be seen.
The flower in Party Colors wasn’t exactly in the Butterfly Garden. There was a small section along the bathrooms that are near the Butterfly Garden that was full of these beauties, and their pinks, purples, reds, and yellows called me over to them. In fact, there were no other flowers that colorful in any of the other gardens. I loved the color scheme and how the pinks/purples change to reds/oranges. I also loved the nice little water drop at the tip of the disc floret. The high level of detail allows surface texture and individual hairs to be seen.
We took a picnic lunch over to the Swan Lake Iris Gardens in early July. I created and scouted in the morning, had lunch, and then continued creating after lunch with a little more scouting as well. I look forward to having an opportunity to shoot when the iris is in full bloom (perhaps this coming summer).
The lush oranges and the abstract pattern formed by the rolled up petals near the center attracted me to the flower in my Rolls piece. In my mind’s eye, the objects concentrated in the very center (and seeping around the tubes) looked like little red and orange flames. Their points and sharper edges are softened by the circles, arcs, and curves of the petals. Taken together, they create tension in the center that dissipates in waves that flow out into the frame as the petals become larger and open up after being released. The sharp points along the curved edges of the petals help strengthen that feeling.
My artistic goal for Vortex was all about capturing the pink and red structure that forms an arch above the unopened disk florets in the center of the flower. Perhaps because it has a hole in it or because the shapes are curved like they are being forcefully pulled toward the center, it brought to mind a whirling eddy. Upon closer examination, the sharp tips lining the opening reminded me of the Sarlacc pit in the desert of Tatooine in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. I placed the mouth near the left one third line, using the rule of thirds, and used it for the focal point. Shooting at two times life-size quite close to the subject, the depth of field was very shallow.
I discovered the hibiscus in Pink Tinge at the Butterfly Garden. It was quite large which initially got my attention all by itself. I liked how the flower had pink tones that were blended in with the whites of the petals. Of course, the water drops were a bonus and all but forced me to create a composition. I placed the stigma discs very near the lower right side crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used them as the focal point. I felt that placement gave the center reds, pistil, and petals a nice circular flow both into and around the frame.
I had a couple of artistic goals for the zinnia in my Churn piece. First, I wanted to capture the ring of disc florets. But, being directly over the top of them wasn’t desirable because I preferred maintaining approximately the same amount of space to the frame edges and including more of the petals. So, to do that, I used a perspective that allowed more petal length while simultaneously compressing the ring. As I’ve previously posted, more often than not, photography is about compromises. With the distance to the subject being so close, the depth of field was very shallow, but the angle I used forced the disc florets to deflect away from the camera’s sensor. Which meant that they would quickly exit the zone of sharpness that begins just before the focal point on the left side. Secondly, I wanted the petals and the gaps between them to feel like they were shooting out like sunstar beams from behind the disc florets.
I had been thinking about and searching for another spot in Botany Bay to watch a sunset. There is a fairly large open area facing West while viewing Jason’s Lake (in and around area nine on the driving tour map), but, having previously surveyed it, I didn’t care for any of the scenes at the lake surface because the background trees were too high. They were blocking the sun before any of the golden hour colors were available. On the map, the Middle Dike Road (which splits Jason’s Lake and the Upper Ponds) appeared to be worthy of closer inspection. Before leaving Botany Bay that morning, I walked the road with a compass to determine what the scenes looked like to the West. It didn’t look very good since West was too far right and the tall, close trees would hide the sun.
Some thunder storms had come through Edisto Beach between four and five that afternoon, and the trailing clouds were keeping the sun well covered. But when looking West from the dock behind our cabin, a little after 6:30, I saw that the sun was starting to break through. At that point, I decided to roll the dice, get over to Botany Bay, and see how things were shaping up. I parked at the Beehive Well (which is area 12 on the driving tour map), gathered my gear, and hurried out onto the dike. When I got to the open area, I discovered that the sun was actually setting even further to the right and was completely blocked by the trees. I wasn’t ready or willing to give up on the scene though and hoped that maybe the setting sun would light things up enough to get some color in the sky.
While waiting for some improvement to the West, I looked the other direction and was excited to see nicely lit clouds, water reflections, and good color on the horizon. I used the flora along the road for the foreground of my Jason’s Lake piece. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the suggestion from other landscape photographers to turn around and see what is happening behind you, but I’m glad I remembered their advice. That worked out perfectly in this situation. I would have missed a very nice opportunity if I hadn’t at least taken a couple of minutes to see if anything else in the vicinity was better than what I planned.
As the colors, clouds, and light to the East began to fade, I moved my gear and set up to compose westward again. For my Upper Ponds piece, I had exactly what I originally hoped for with the sun lighting up the clouds and nice reflections. I used the cordgrass patches and the edge of the water as leading lines that carry you through the frame and into the background. Even though the sun was completely hidden by the trees, it threw enough light on the remaining afternoon storm clouds to create a nice scene. The light show was short lived, but had some spectacular moments (especially in the sky above the trees blocking the sun).
I was encouraged to enter some of my artwork in a contest hosted by the South Carolina State Parks known as the Artist In Residence (AIR). Never having entered any contests (or having shown my work to anyone outside of friends and family), I was pleasantly surprised upon winning a slot. Being a recipient gave me a free one week stay at a cabin in Santee State Park in exchange for a donation of my work. It was a fantastic opportunity, and I brought back more than 1,400 images (it was like a photographic vacation). I spent most of my early mornings within the state park boundaries, but I used the remainder of the days to discover areas of the National Wildlife Refuge that I did not previously know existed (e.g., Bluff Unit, Dingle Pond Unit, Pine Island Unit, and the superb Cuddo East).
I wanted to add some sunrise compositions to my body of work, so I used Google Maps to get a feel for spots within the park that offered the possibility of a good view before I left home. I planned to explore the Lake Marion shoreline for an area that had some foreground interest while being positioned to catch the sun coming up. After checking in, I used the remaining daylight to do some scouting and found a pretty good location just off from the connector trail that runs from the Cypress View Campground to the Bike Trail.
From a photographic perspective, the first morning was a bust. The sky was so choked with clouds that color couldn’t even be seen through them. As far as an outdoor nature experience goes, I enjoyed myself regardless of not creating a single composition.
The second morning, Mother Nature didn’t present what I had initially envisioned, but she provided an excellent option none-the-less. In my Surf’s Up piece, Lake Marion was riled by blowing winds and waves that were rolling to the point of producing white caps. Since the area that I planned on using was cloud choked again, I moved my tripod so that I could position the camera to where some color was able to break through above the horizon. Compared to an ocean or one of the Great Lakes, Lake Marion is fairly small which made me feel like what I was witnessing was unusual. It was captivating to hear the water crash into the shore and watch it fly up in the air. To show the power of the wind and waves breaking along the shore, I used a shutter speed that captured the spray.
The third morning, I decided to try a different location, but it was unproductive, so on the fourth morning I returned to the original site. Compared to the second morning, the mood was peaceful and calm. While clouds were blocking the sun, the magic light still found its way into my Socked In piece. Using the longest shutter speed possible without going to a special setting really brought out the feeling of tranquility. Because of the shutter speed, the lake is velvety smooth and the mixture of pastel colors helps convey the serenity I felt that morning. I love the raccoon tracks in the sand near the shoreline on the lower left hand side, and the logs and roots make a visually interesting foreground contrasted against the silky lake.
On the fifth morning, Mother Nature produced a constantly changing light show. The intensity of the light and the warmth it generated was welcome on that early spring morning. To create that feeling in my Shore Glow piece, I, once again, used the longest shutter speed to smooth out the surface of the lake and capture the reflection of light on its surface from the horizon all the way back to the shore.
Not even ten minutes had passed before I created Got Silk?, and the clouds blocking the light had continued to change and shift. More light was available but it wasn’t as intense, and that made the scene feel a bit cooler. To portray that, I switched to a horizontal orientation that allowed for more of the blues to come in and increased the shutter speed while keeping the lake surface somewhat flat.
After watching the light transform for nearly another half an hour, I created Lake Marion Sunrise. This was very close to what I had imagined capturing before arriving and while scouting potential sites. Watching the gold, orange, and red colors shimmer on the water was a real treat. I love sunrises. To me, the root system looks a bit like an oar fish with an open mouth and a large eye looking back at the viewer. I was pleased to be able to donate a print of this to the Santee State Park, and if you visit the Ranger Station, you’ll see it hanging on their wall.