Hopeland Gardens has three rectangular fountain areas that, as legend has it, are actually the foundation of the original Iselin home. The largest one of them normally has soothing, bubbling sounds coming from the water being pumped out of the fountains in the center of it. In addition to pleasing your auditory senses, it has good sized pots on each corner that usually have some type of flora in them. I’ve composed many images from those flowerpots over the years, and I discovered the leaf in my Wet Christmas piece growing from flora that was planted in one. I was attracted to the scene by the Christmas colors (reds, greens, and whites), but the naturally abstract qualities were an even bigger impetus. My artistic vision was to put the two larger veins running diagonally through the frame. Aesthetically, the position felt best when the center of the crossroads where all of the veins meet was placed near the upper, rightmost crossing line using the rule of thirds. The wet surface helps bring out the saturation and increases the abstract feel.
In my mind’s eye, the design that the stamen in my Team Spirit piece formed reminded me of the “We’re #1” foam fingers often seen at sporting events. My artistic vision was to create another naturally abstract image with that exact look by composing at two times life-size while ensuring that the top anther stayed far above the others – like an index finger does when holding it up. To enhance the effect, I used an angle that kept most of the fingers in the hotter colors from the flower’s center and only the first finger is allowed to rise above that area and extend up into the cooler colored area of the background. This daylily is the same flower I used for my Starburst Red artwork (you can read the blog post for that in Part 2 by following the link above). Though the zone of sharpness is quite small, surface textures can be seen.
So, I decided to try something really different for my On The Inside piece. I specifically wanted to create another naturally abstract composition, and to do that, I basically went deep inside one of the Starburst Red daylilies. I had to find one that would let me put the focal point that far down into it which meant that it needed to be open in a way that I could. Creating this was fun, and I was quite happy upon viewing the initial attempt on my camera’s Live View with the Depth Of Field preview activated. Much of the flower has been transformed into simple colors and what remained is within or close to the zone of sharpness. There may be a scientific name for the location within a flower where the filaments connect to it, but I certainly don’t have that knowledge. At any rate, that’s essentially what this is. I believe that the yellow tube-like structures are filaments and perhaps the stigma. I didn’t purposefully try to use the rule of thirds when composing this, but the leftmost one third line fell very close to where the top two filaments come together.
Similar to my On The Inside composition, the flower I used for Internal also allowed the focal point to be deep within it. The filament connection point is a little more defined and some striation in the left-hand side petal is also evident. However, the two could almost be bookends since the filaments sweep in opposite directions. The rightmost one third line is very close to where the top two filaments are attached here as well, though, once again, I didn’t force it into the frame at that location (it just happened to lay that way after placing it in an aesthetically pleasing position). I’m not sure how many other types of flowers this new technique would work with, but I like the result and feel that it has added another option to my toolbox.
I was attracted to the scene in my Crisscrossed piece by the design the group of anthers formed. The unique V-shape of the lowest two anthers caught my attention immediately because it was something that I had never seen before. My artistic vision was to place the anthers in the frame with the V being near the bottom and the remaining anthers coming up and into it above them. Once again, by concentrating on the stamen while composing at two times life-size, the shallow depth of field turned the background into simple colors and shapes. While I didn’t intentionally utilize the rule of thirds when framing this, the rightmost one third line cuts through both sets of the anthers that cross each other (at the top and the bottom). Surface textures and individual pieces of pollen can be seen thanks to the high level of captured detail.
I liked how the anthers were clustered into a tight group in my Heat Seekers piece and felt that they would work well framed vertically. My artistic vision was to place the anthers nearly centered just slightly above the hottest, most intense area of background colors. In my mind’s eye, the stamen looked like they were gathered around and soaking in the warmth of a fire. While the depth of field was fairly shallow, pollen and surface textures are still visible.
The colors of the daylily in my Starburst Red piece drew me right over to where a group of these flowers had been planted. While searching for the best composition, I noticed a small sign that was stuck in the ground identifying it as a starburst red daylily (hence the name). My artistic vision was to capture the flaming bowl the stigma and stamen were coming out of as they make their way up into the frame while arching away from and rising above the intense heat at the core of the flower. Surface textures and pollen can be seen here as well.
While on my way to the big, back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum, I noticed what looked like some really small pine cones on some type of an evergreen just before the patio area. The tree, or whatever it is, was in a fairly large pot and wasn’t quite as tall as I am. My artistic vision was to find an aesthetically pleasing group of cones with the right background. I searched the entire tree looking for the best combinations. Upon locating an acceptable cluster of cones, I would examine their backdrop and work the camera around using different angles and subject distances so that there were no large gaps or breaks in the flow of colors across the frame. The amalgamation in my Tiny Cones piece was the overall winner after circling the tree twice. I placed the center of the cones very near the rightmost one third line, using the rule of thirds. While there are no features in the needles on the left-hand side, I felt that they added some additional visual interest, and with such a shallow depth of field, I really liked how they are similar to the shape of the cones (almost like a mirror image). The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen and dew to be seen.
The yellow tickseed flower in my Coming Apart piece was in a group near where I park my car at the Aiken County Historical Museum. In fact, it was growing no more than a few feet from where I prepare my gear. Although proximity is only a small consideration, it does count. Out of all of the flowers I looked at, I preferred this one because there were no gaps between the petals that would allow colors from other things behind the subject to show through. Aesthetically speaking, I wanted to capture uniformity of color across the entire frame. I also liked the abstract and chaotic feel of the petals (they are all over the place). I focused on the center of the flower where there is structure on the inside and then a ring of chaos on the outside that literally looks like it is fragmenting. I didn’t initially plan to use any rule of thirds when I framed this, but because there was enough wind to change the position of the flower even while employing a Plamp, it moved to where the left most one third line cuts through near the flower’s center. The high level of detail allows individual pieces of pollen to be seen.
I’ve created lots of pansy artwork over the years with many of them coming from Patsy’s Garden at the Rye Patch. Maybe she loved them and their wonderful designs as much as I do. Who knows, she may have even agreed with my “Pansies Rock” mantra. Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with her special, memorial area within the Rose Garden, but for those of you who aren’t, my Patsy’s blog tag is a good place to learn more about it. I was attracted to the flower in my Sunburst piece by the pattern of purples that are streaming out and away from the center of it combined with the yellow and orange tones. As I usually do when framing these little flowers, I placed the green heart in the core so that a one third line, using the rule of thirds, crossed it. The high level of captured detail allows lots of tiny dew drops and pollen to be seen.
While exploring the big, back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum on a late spring morning, I came across the iris in my Gold Crest piece. It was immediately attractive because I don’t recall seeing a yellow one previously (at the museum or anywhere else for that matter). More than that though, I found the flame shapes on the crest especially appealing. I also felt that the lines on the falls had an abstract quality that was enhanced by the beard. My artistic vision was to frame the composition so that all of those factors were represented, and, because they were so cool, I used the flames as the focal point. I didn’t specifically utilize any rule of thirds lines while forming an aesthetically pleasing design, yet the flames are within the top one third while the beard and falls start very close to the bottom one third line. More often than not, I find that my recent placement choices innately gravitate towards those ratios.
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.