On the last full day of my SC AIR trip, I spent the afternoon back in Cuddo East. As I walked along the driving trail through Alligator Alley, I noticed a circular pattern that broke up the normal lines in a tall tree trunk at the top of an embankment above a swampy channel. After getting a closer look, I was excited to learn that it was a rat snake in an unusual position. Perhaps it was simply timing or the right part of the season, but I only saw three snakes the entire week, and every one of them were good sized rat snakes. Rat Ring was the only composition I was able to create that included the snake’s head. Though I was a significant distance away, I may have scared it because it quickly disappeared. I like how the snake is nonchalantly, almost lazily, resting its head on the thickest part of its body. The snake’s pose creates a calm tone and brings a peaceful sense to the piece.
On the second to last full day of my SC AIR trip, I spent the afternoon exploring different parts of the Hickory Top Wildlife Management Area. As I came into a relatively small and seemingly remote part of Hickory Top, I noticed a spot with a whole lot of color. Since I wanted to continue to assess the site and discover anything else it had to offer, I made a mental note of the location and planned to inspect it much closer when leaving. Even though this section of the WMA felt secluded, it had a nice paved road at least two lanes wide that was similar to an extended driveway. From the main road it went into the woods about three quarters of a mile before splitting at a turnaround that would bring you right back out. On the turnaround, the car scared another herd of wild pigs and they loudly squealed while frantically running for cover. The group seen earlier during the week at the Cuddo East Unit of Santee WMR had many more members, but the Hickory Top pigs appeared to be quite unaccustomed to visitors.
I had never seen wild honeysuckle with these colors before coming across the plants featured in this post. When I returned to the place noted earlier, I found an entire bush of the brightly colored flowers. I didn’t have to look very long to find a branch with blooms and buds that could be isolated against a nicely blurred background, which allowed me to create the Hickory Top Honeysuckle composition. The high level of detail permits surface textures and individual hairs to be seen.
For my Wild Honeysuckle composition, I decided to incorporate the background blossoms and buds instead of finding a cluster to separate away from the others. By using the top of the bush and a horizontal perspective as well as being physically closer, I created a frame filling scene that more closely resembles the majority of the bush – it was simply loaded with the colorful flowers. If for no other reason than they were so ornate and attractive, it seems like more people would have them on their property. I felt that this encounter was unique especially since they were growing in the middle of nowhere against a WMA border fence. Here too, the high level of detail captured allows surface texture, individual hairs, and pollen particles to be visible.
I noted this site along Otter Trail in Cuddo East while doing some scouting the afternoon of the third full day of my SC AIR trip. In fact, this is very near the area where the herd of wild pigs (mentioned in a previous post) was observed. I arrived before the golden hour to position my tripod and camera in a favorable location. After preparing for the sun to descend into the scene, I experienced another one of the trip highlights I wrote about in a prior post. Sitting here in this spot, watching the golden light filter down through the trees, is where I heard the coyotes wailing. Their boisterous excitement seemed to serenade the retreating sun and add an aural element that served as icing on the cake to a wonderfully enriching time with nature. Fighting off ever increasing numbers of mosquitos, I waited until the magic light streaked across the duckweed covered canal and completely enveloped the opening at the tree line in the background before creating the composition in Otter Trail Sunset.
I referred to the piece in this post previously when writing about how superb the Cuddo East Unit of Santee NWR is. I returned there after a break for lunch during the third full day of my SC AIR trip, and continued to be elated with both the photographic opportunities and by the experience itself.
The alligators in Gator Alley Family were found just before the sign for Alligator Alley, which I felt was quite appropriate. Before this piece was composed, at least six of the small hatchlings were spotted along with several of their older siblings. Most of the junk and debris on the surface was created when the cow leaped into the water from the bank she had been sunning on while watching over her hatchlings. A polarizing filter was used to cut the glare on the water and make her easier to see. The hatchlings (one older and one quite a bit smaller and younger) appear fairly content to lie on the log and catch some rays while their mother stands ever vigilantly on guard in protection mode.
After some scouting and composition within the Cuddo East Unit the morning of my third full day of the SC AIR trip, I returned that afternoon and spent the rest of the day there. In one particular area along the driving trail, the Red Clovers (with their bright colors) were fairly abundant and they called out to me like someone waving a flag. Being a professed color junkie, I was compelled to investigate what had forcibly directed my attention to them. The subject in Paint Brush gave the impression of exactly what the title implies; a brush loaded with colorful paint.
I normally find afternoon sun to be overly hard and prefer to compose in the morning when the light is better and there is less wind. However, there are methods an artist can employ to help reduce both the harshness of midday light and breeze induced movement that are especially effective where macro creations are concerned. I used my largest diffuser to hold back the light both on the subject and the background. Since yellow is complementary to red, I positioned the camera to take advantage of as much of the color as I could get in the background. A high level of detail was captured, which allows surface texture and individual hairs to be seen.
The third full day of my SC AIR trip was fantastic. That was due, in large part, to how awesome the Cuddo East Unit of Santee NWR is. The diversity of that area is fantastic and offered many photographic opportunities as well as several highlights of the entire trip. Hearing the coyotes howl and carry on near dusk, watching a herd of wild pigs, realizing that the noise that sounded like truck tires singing on a nearby highway that continued to grow louder the darker it got was actually coming from millions of mosquitos, seeing the largest gator since moving to the CSRA after checking out a whole family of them (babies, mother, and siblings) in Alligator Alley are all events that I will never forget.
I was lucky that my schedule put me in Cuddo East just before the maintenance folks came through with their brush hog and chopped down everything that was growing along the driving trails. Spring had definitely sprung in that area and the fields were full of different types of flowering weeds. Access was easy since the plants were just a couple of steps off the road. The hardest part (which wasn’t that difficult and would have been even easier with a truck or an SUV) was finding a suitable location to park so that the driving trail wasn’t being blocked.
The seeds in the head of Hair Ball got my initial attention because they formed such a thick, round, full shape. It reminded me of a Dandelion, but was much more robust. Zooming down into it gives a fascinating look at what is waiting to be carried off by the wind and results in an abstract composition full of lines, arcs, and sweeping hairs.
During the second full day of my SC AIR trip, I was headed back toward the car after hiking through the trails of the Dingle Pond Unit. While I searched for another scene like the one in Dingle Pond Color Flow, I discovered an equally exciting but completely different type of opportunity. The abstract lines, colors, and patterns in my Water Colors piece come from what lies beneath the water running through the area. The grains of sand and colorful sediment show a pattern of flow and movement as the force of water drifting across this spot randomly redistributes the tiny particles. The work was composed in a manner that allowed the shades to follow that same current from the darker bottom to the lighter top as if the water had an ability to influence the direction the colors flowed.
I came across the fern in Sprung on one of the hiking trails in Dingle Pond Unit the second day of my SC AIR trip. The curvature of the leaves from left to right provide an impression of smiles stacked on top of each other, which gives the piece a joyful feeling. If I was a fern, I’d be happy to finally be unfurled and able to soak up some spring sunshine. The coating of white hairs, like a type of down, speaks to a new beginning with thoughts of a bright future. The high level of detail allows surface texture, veins, and individual hairs to be seen.
On the second full day of my SC AIR trip, I continued to explore the Santee NWR units. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but was delighted when presented with the scene in Dingle Pond Color Flow. Though I didn’t have the magic light associated with a sunrise or sunset, the lighting was still quite special. The oranges and reds in the water were similar to other areas I’ve been where plant decay produces fantastic color combinations (e.g., my Swamp Reflections piece). Normally, afternoon light is simply too harsh for my tastes, but thanks to some passing clouds, the diffusion was enough to allow a composition to be found. Getting the colors from trees and sky reflecting off the water as well as all of the light from the background trees to coalesce with the foreground colors required a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. It has an inviting sense of warmth and feels like a place where you could easily spend time relaxing and taking in the beauty and wonder nature has to offer.
I created Bluff Unit Honeysuckle, while waiting for the sun to set, near the Santee NWR visitor center in the early evening of the first full day of my South Carolina Artist In Residence (AIR) trip. The piece has a joyful mood as the angles of the Honeysuckle pair and the curves of their filaments make them appear to be happily dancing. The high level of detail allows surface texture, contours, individual hairs, and pollen particles to be seen.