I was pulled over to the magnolia tree in a neighbor’s yard where I found the blossom in my Magnolia Flame piece by all of the flowers on the ground. From a distance, it looked like there was a layer of pink surrounding the entire base of the tree. I thought I might be able to create a naturally abstract composition from the flowers that had fallen off, but as I got closer it became clear that the remnants didn’t completely cover the grass and they were in fairly poor shape. Not wanting to come home empty handed, I searched the branches for a new, better subject. This particular bloom was fresh with excellent colors that drew me right in. The shape that the petals formed immediately made me think of a flame (as if the fire from a candle was burning in a gorgeous pink tone). Even though it was shot wide open with a very shallow depth of field, details including the surface texture and pollen can be seen.
There is a line of magnolia trees on the other side of the walkway next to the overflow parking lot in Hopeland Gardens. It is interesting to me that magnolia trees seem to be on their own blooming schedules. For example, the trees in my neighborhood don’t flower at the same time as the trees in the Rye Patch. Even the trees in Hopeland Gardens don’t normally bloom together. Anyway, I was called over to the trees near the overflow parking area by their bright white flowers. While by no means a perfect specimen, the flower in my Petal Hat piece was quirky and quite appealing. It is currently in the process of shedding its stamen and they are piling up at the bottom of the frame thereby adding some additional colors. I’ve always felt that the carpels resemble octopus’ tentacles, and I liked how they were holding dew drops. But, I was forced to create a composition upon seeing the little petal acting like a hat.
I discovered my Tree Fern composition on the south side of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hopeland Gardens. This little fern and the moss behind it was living on one of the big magnolia trees. I find it fascinating that a tree can have other organisms growing out of and/or subsisting on it. It’s almost as if the tree is so old and entrenched that Mother Nature starts treating the base like it was part of the surrounding ground by letting other flora invade and take up full time residency. I liked the richness of the greens. Aesthetically, I placed the fern in the frame so that the spine would be on a diagonal and the tips of the leaves form an arch above it. The high level of detail allows dew drops, pollen, surface texture, and individual hairs to be seen.
Stamen Pile is similar to a horizontal composition I created at Hopeland Gardens several years ago. Both are abstract and feature magnolia stamens that have fallen away and landed on a petal inside the flower. This scene was found on the side of the Rye Patch driveway and has fewer stamen than my previous piece. I find it interesting how the stamen are essentially cast off after having performed their function but then collected by the flower (as if going to the ground as a group was better or more important than falling independently). I’m sure Mother Nature has a perfectly reasonable explanation for this behavior and perhaps some botanist could provide an answer, but, for me, I’ll simply enjoy the mystery and the random design they create. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The changes that magnolia go through during the seasons are pretty amazing. It seems that each year I find a stage of life that I haven’t seen before. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting anything like the bud in my Rat Tail piece when I happened to notice a furry growth on one of the magnolia trees at the Rye Patch. For aesthetic reasons, I placed it along the diagonal that splits the frame and gave the tip a little bit of room to sit in the corner. Even though the background was filled with busy leaves, the very shallow depth of field, when shooting at two times life-size, dissolved them down into colors. The high level of detail allows single hairs to be seen.
Hopeland Gardens has lots of magnolia trees and several different species. So showy, bright, and full of life, I don’t believe the subject in my Magnolia Blossom piece had been open for very long the spring morning that I discovered it. While it has a certain elegance about it, viewed at two times life-size, it also has some unusual and interesting features. For example, a cartoonist or a science fiction writer could easily turn it into some kind of weird alien or monster with strange tentacles all over its hairy upper body and a form fitting plated coating covering the lower portion. The high level of detail allows individual hairs and crystalline-like structures that form a ridge along the tops of the green curls to be seen.
While searching for a suitable subject one early summer morning, I discovered that magnolia blooms apparently shed their stamen. From what I observed, it appears that in most cases they land in and are held by the tepal where they wait for some Fine Art photographer to notice their abstract quality and capture them before they fall to the ground. 😉
As I’ve written about previously, I don’t use focus stacking that much, but my Fallen Away piece really benefitted from employing it. This composition was created so close to the subjects that the depth of field was extremely shallow and stacking was called for here so that I could get the majority of the stamen in focus. The high level of detail allows surface texture and pollen to be seen.
Though the reds, oranges, and yellows on the subject in Magnolia Bud might normally be associated with fall colors, it was actually created in early spring. If not for those gorgeous colors, I most likely wouldn’t have been attracted to it. And while the spiked protrusions sticking up all over the surface may add character and interest, some might not consider their withering appearance attractive. Yet this bud holds a glamorous, large white blossom beneath that facade and brings to mind the story of The Ugly Duckling.
I was near the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum in Hopeland Gardens when I discovered several blossoms that were potential subjects. There was just one little problem – wind. I selected a flower that could be at least partially held still using my Plamps. The sun was setting and getting closer to the horizon while I waited for the breeze to calm down. I’ve previously written about golden light and how wonderful it is to compose in, though, at the time, I never expected anything like this. The Magnolia in my Inner Glow piece would have been pretty all by itself, but it was given an extra boost of color from the setting sun. As soon as I realized that the nearly orange back lighting was causing the inside of the flower to glow, I knew this would be a rare opportunity to capture something special.
From a photographic perspective, one of the best things about Hopeland Gardens is its amount of diversity. I think the folks that designed the layout and selected species loved color as much as I do. Most times during the year you can find something showing off colors. Though their decorations had long since been put away and stored for the next year, the cone-like shape of the bloom in Emergence reminded me of a Christmas tree light. As if nature set out to prove that it could compete on equal ground with any man-made bulb, or perhaps she was not yet ready for the holidays to end and decided to extend the show into February. For me, it felt more like the flower was forcing its way out of the protection that had kept it safe and warm during the winter thus producing a visual announcement that spring was right around the corner. A high level of detail brings out the surface texture on the flower and the pod, and the individual hairs help make it feel like it’s wearing a winter coat.
I was drawn to the subject in Fat Bottom because of its color and shape. The roundness of the pod’s bottom and the tip of the flower with its folds and winding were especially attractive. Composing physically close produced a background devoid of anything but colors and allowed a high level of detail, including individual hairs and surface texture, to be captured.
Like the subject in Magnolia Bloom, some blossoms I saw that afternoon were completely free from winter coverings and had shed their pods. While not yet fully unfurled, I felt that it still beautifully signaled the coming of spring.