Given that it was already November, I wasn’t expecting to see much color from new blooms at the Aiken County Historical Museum (or anywhere, for that matter). So, I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted some as I was driving in. The flowers in this post were just off the driveway in front of the building. In fact, I was kneeling on the driveway, and I had the tripod on the pavement while composing them.
My artistic goal for Autumn Branch was to fill the frame with as much of the flower’s gorgeous colors as I could. First, I searched through the various groups of flowers with just my eyes, and then where I felt possible compositions existed, I looked through those clusters with the lens. While I wasn’t quite able to completely fill the entire frame, I did come close. Having a viewfinder with 100% coverage helps in situations like this because you know what you are seeing is what you will get and no cropping will be needed in post. I placed the focal point on the leftmost flower and had enough depth in the zone of sharpness to sharply capture petals and pollen on flowers that were behind it. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
The morning sun was providing side lighting for my November Highlights piece, which caused the yellows to almost glow. One of my artistic goals was identical to those I had for Autumn Bunch in that I wanted to fill the entire frame with flowers. While I searched for a collection of flowers that met that desire, I also wanted to create a prominent subject by placing its center near a crossing line, using the rule of thirds. The flower in the upper, rightmost area of the frame was elected, and I used it as my focal point to help ensure its importance would be visually identifiable within the frame. Here too, the high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had been watching the mullein in the front garden near the south wall at the Aiken County Historical Museum basically all season. I reviewed several possible compositions using the initial plant from that area, but wasn’t able to find anything that felt right or was aesthetically pleasing enough. Not long after the first plant had finished blossoming and turned an ugly brown, a new, larger one sprouted up just a couple of feet from where the original one grew. Each time I made my way through the museum grounds, I would inspect the new plant, but even though it felt like it held a composition, nothing was found. The soft, hairy (some might even say fuzzy or furry) leaves were attractive especially when they were covered in dew drops. On this particular morning, I created a couple of works facing east, but they still weren’t exactly what I was looking for. In fact, one of my artistic goals was to eliminate background colors caused by dirt and/or pine needles and fill the entire frame with greens from its leaves. So, I decided to go around to the other side of the plant and see what it offered. While facing west, I discovered something that I had not seen during any of my prior museum outings. A new cluster of tiny leaves had sprung up near the center of the plant. For my Mullein Core piece, I placed that group of leaves on the lower, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used them as my focal point. I was pleased with the result, gratified that my persistence had paid off, and pleasantly surprised with the happy feeling it has (though that is likely due to the large leaf in the background that appears to have a face with closed eyes and a wide smile).
I was experimenting with various ways of framing the foreground subject in my Curly Sue piece when I discovered an angle that allowed the background petals to bring additional visual interest to the scene. I really liked the arcs of the petals in the background and how they came up into the left-hand side of the frame. In fact, I felt that they gave the impression that this was one big black-eyed Susan flower with curled petals that were shooting out in all directions. If not for the background stem being visible, it would certainly appear that way. To perpetuate the illusion, I placed the center of the foreground flower just below the upper, rightmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and used that area as my focal point. That aesthetic decision also tended to accentuate the relative size of the flower’s head. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen and textures to be seen.
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.
Sometimes you just have to give nature some help, which was the case the morning I composed the pieces in this post. While surveying the area where I had found one years ago, I discovered two gladiolus plants next to each other that were lying flat on the ground. They were both dead to the world and did not have the ability to stand on their own. I have no idea what happened to them though an animal may have knocked them over, or perhaps it was the wind, or maybe their blossoms just got too heavy to hold up. At any rate, it seemed like a real shame to have that much beauty going to waste. One stalk was fairly tore up and the flowers were not in good shape at all, and the second had a couple of pretty decent looking blooms as well as others that were being overrun by ants. I picked up the better of the two so that I could examine the flowers a bit closer. After I felt that a composition existed, I tried to get it balanced or propped up high enough to where I could comfortably get my lens on it, but that didn’t work – it just fell right back down again. So I got my plamp out and, after cleaning as many of the ants off from it as I could, I connected one of the clamps so that it would keep the plant from falling over.
After effectively bringing the plant back to life, I searched for an artistically pleasing flower. For my Reincarnated composition, I placed the center stalk of the stigma on the upper, leftmost one third line, using the rule of thirds. Then while keeping the stigma at that location in the frame, I maneuvered the camera around to where the anthers had approximately the same amount of space to their respective side. I focused on the stigma because it felt too prominent against the pink background to ignore. The extremely shallow depth of field didn’t allow much else to fall into the zone of sharpness, and I wouldn’t argue too much against this being classified as naturally abstract. However, the uniformity of the filaments, anthers, and stigma stalks (i.e., three, three, and three) helped convince me not to do that. The high level of detail allows tiny hairs and texture to be seen.
While scouring the best remaining, ant-free blooms, I found one that I liked. I decided to move the plamp into a position that would continue supporting the weight of the stalk and hold the flower steadier since the wind had started to pick up as the morning ticked away. I focused at the top of the stigma here as well and that worked out pretty good considering the angle of the anthers. I like how they slowly fade away. I was also pleased with how the filaments blended right into the background of my Stance piece because it creates the illusion that the anthers are floating. Tiny hairs and texture can be seen here too thanks to the high level of detail.
I was attracted by the blues and purples in my Wet Hydrangea piece, and I had been wanting to create an abstract macro composition that featured hydrangea for a long time. I searched over several bushes in Hopeland Gardens until I found a group of petals that just felt right artistically. The foreground petals as well as the layers beneath them were nicely laid out, and the wet surfaces both enhanced the saturation and increased the abstract feel at the same time. To bring a little sense of order to the scene, I placed the bud in the center of the foreground petals so that the rightmost one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected it. That also allowed the leftmost foreground petal to remain within the frame, which was an important aesthetic concern since it is the subject’s most prominent attribute. I also really like the abstract designs from the reflections off the petal’s wet surface. Then I used the bud as my focal point to amplify its relative importance. Because of the bud’s height, that brought many of the dew drops scattered around the petals into the zone of sharpness. The high level of detail allows texture to be seen.
I don’t normally see two wandering Jew flowers growing so close to one another. In fact, this was the very first time I had ever seen a pair that had petals touching each other, and their proximity caused me to see a familiar pattern in my mind’s eye. Taken as a whole, the outside petals on both sides appear to create the shape of butterfly wings. I didn’t want the wings to feel centered in the frame, so I left a little more space above and on the right side of the petals. That caused the flowers to be placed in the frame where the left flower’s core/center is very near the lower, leftmost crossing line, using the rule of thirds. With the anthers scattered around in different groups as well as being considerably above the surface of the petals (especially considering the shallow depth of field), I selected the rope-like strands that grow out of the filaments as my focal point. That aesthetic decision simultaneously forced the anthers to be out of focus and enhanced the surface of the petals including the pollen that had fallen on them. The high level of detail allows texture, dew drops, and individual pieces of pollen to be seen.