I’ve written about the wonderful flora diversity within Hopeland Gardens previously, but I still find it very cool that while Aiken is about three hours south of the mountains, you can find flowers that are normally located in the Upstate region here in our little town. I’ve known about this area of mountain laurel for a long time, and I’ve searched through them for possible subjects many times over the years that I’ve lived here. But I wasn’t ever able to time the blossoms right or able to find an aesthetically pleasing group of blooms that I could use to create a composition. As photographers, that’s why we have to keep going back as many times as it takes – persistence will pay off. On this particular spring morning, a very nice set of flowers and buds were waiting for me to find them and compose my Kalmia piece. They certainly are attractive, especially with the lovely bright pinks. It’s no wonder that, according to my father, they were one of my grandmother’s favorite flowers. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
A large swath of color caught my eye while out exploring the area during a long weekend stay in a cabin at Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City, GA. Upon closer inspection, I was pleasantly surprised to find blooming mountain laurel especially in an unfamiliar color. I have seen both white and pink here in South Carolina and in the mountains of North Carolina, but the color in my Red Mountain Laurel piece was a new variety of the much beloved little flowers. Because they bloom in clumps that are roughly spherical (i.e., there can be several inches of distance between a flower in front and one on the side) and their cups can be relatively deep when working with a very shallow depth of field, a frame filing composition with sharp focus throughout can be challenging to find. I was able to resolve that issue by concentrating on a smaller group within a bloom that had a fairly full complement of flowers and buds. The high level of detail allows surface textures to be seen.
Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, SC is truly a photographic treasure chest. This spot has been and continues to be my go-to location for composing macro pieces. The Rye Patch is a ten acre estate immediately adjacent to Hopeland Gardens with its own rose garden. I normally search for suitable subjects by exploring both areas, especially since you can easily walk between the two. During certain peak blooming times in the spring, the azalea, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and other flowering plants and trees really spruce things up.
The bricks in my Hopeland Gardens Path piece lead to a small wooden bridge that spans a spillway from a water fountain and caries you along the blooms beside them. On the other side of the brick wall in the background is the normally busy Whiskey road. Hopeland Gardens is like a sanctuary right in the heart of the city.
The remaining pieces below are all straight ahead, frame-filing takes that showcase both the abundant blooms and gorgeous, old trees within the combined boundaries. It is easy to see why so many weddings (including my brother’s many years ago), receptions, and other events are held here and why wedding and engagement photographers choose this location as their outdoor backdrop. The Spring Arrives and Hopeland Spring Dress pieces were both composed within Hopeland Gardens while the Rye Patch Blooms piece was created just outside the Rye Patch along the path that runs from the main building to the rose garden.