I discovered the flora in my Scribbles piece in the front garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum (not far from where I park). I loved the random, naturally abstract lines formed by the edges of the leaves. I’m not really sure what this thing is, but it kind of looked like some type of interesting cabbage. Since I wanted to even out the light (i.e., bring down the highlights and brighten the darks), I had to try several different angles before finding one that was acceptable. Tiny hairs and surface textures can be seen.
I liked the naturally abstract design of the hairs and seeds in my Feathered piece. As they were in the big, back garden at the museum and the black-eyed Susan were still in bloom, I worked the scene until I found an angle that allowed me to use the flowers as a very nice, colorful background. I reduced the F-stop a little from my normal setting so that no details remained in the background, but not enough to where I lost a significant amount of sharpness on the seeds. I’m not really sure what type of flora the seeds are from, and I hadn’t ever come across any like them at the museum on prior trips. Surface textures, single strands of hair, and tiny dew drops are visible here.
While my Seeds piece is not quite a vertical companion to Feathered, it was composed using the same group. For this composition, I moved the camera closer to the subjects, rotated to a vertical orientation, and bumped the F-stop back up to ensure that I was able to capture all the fine details in the hairs. Along with the black-eyed Susans in the background, dew drops, single strands of hair, and surface textures can also be seen here.
While exploring the north side of the museum grounds, I found some dandelions that I decided to play around with. After examining them, I picked a favorite (or at least one that I wanted to use for compositions). Due to the very early time of day and the lack of light on that side, use of a plamp was required. My initial measurement for shutter speed was at six seconds and Mother Nature rarely gives you that much time without some wind. The problem with a flower head that you can see through is that the resulting image will often be influenced by the plamp (depending on placement, of course). One way to counter that is to find something that can be used to cover the plamp that has the same colors as other flora found in the flower’s natural environment. A large leaf from a nearby weed with nice purples and greens was perfect to hide the plamp.
For my Dandy piece, my artistic vision was to focus down inside the head. That decision created an abstract with what appears to be an explosion of seeds shooting out in all directions. Due to the razor thin depth of field at nearly two times life size magnification, the pappus disks (sometimes referred to as a parachute) are outside the zone of sharpness and add white splashes and strands. Pieces of pollen and tiny hairs on the achenes can be seen.
For Wispy, I decided to see pull the focal point back to the top of the pappus disks. That still created an abstract, just with different qualities. Though both images were created using the same subject, they appear quite different. Additionally, the light had dramatically improved by the time I composed this so I was able to reduce the shutter speed by more than half. Pollen and individual hairs can be seen here as well.
While exploring the Aiken County Historical Museum grounds, I came across what appeared to be some type of seed pods. I discovered them to the right of the museum entrance near the arched doorway. I have no idea what they are, and I don’t recall ever seeing them before. Most of them were attached to what looked like a vine and split open. They caught my attention due to their unique shape (almost like gazelle horns).
The seed pod in my Standoff piece was composed where it was found. Aesthetically, I prefer uncluttered backgrounds. In this particular case, the leaves growing behind the seed pod were fairly close. If your camera has a Depth Of Field preview button, it pays for itself in these types of situations because you can use it to find the F-stop sweet spot where the background is reduced down to simple colors while keeping your subject as sharp as desired. That is exactly what I did while creating this and it was necessary to fulfill my artistic intent. I was pleased that a single seed remained in the pod because I felt that it enhanced the story of this unique looking flora splitting open to drop the next generation of pods. In my mind’s eye, I was also reminded of how a snake (e.g., a cobra) will rear back, and, even though they are connected near the bottom, the top made me think of a snake and another animal preparing to battle each other. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual hairs to be seen.
The seed pod in my Split piece was moved from its original location. My artistic vision was to create a naturally abstract composition utilizing a pod while infusing it with a much more vibrant color. I had seen some nice yellow lilies in the big, back garden earlier that spring morning that I felt would make an excellent background, so I found an open pod on the ground and carried it over to them. I held it in place with the Plamp, which required a little bit of work to get it positioned just right. An additional challenge was getting as much depth of field as I could with the environmental conditions I had to deal with (the wind had picked up a bit and fog was all but blocking my light). Being physically close to the subject helped dissolve the backdrop down into simple colors. Surface textures and individual hairs can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of detail.
Catching a glimpse of what looked like seeds on a tree in Hopeland Gardens, I decided to investigate a little closer. I walked around the tree and checked high and low, but only a single cluster of the seeds was in a position that could be utilized and was aesthetically pleasing. The rest of them were either partially or completely covered by leaves, hidden or obscured in some other way, had undesirable backgrounds, etc.. I liked their design, how they were hanging, the leaf behind them, and the background in my Seed Pods piece. The sharp, pointed tips of the seeds are echoed in the middleground leaf by its serrated edge while the deflated seeds provide a calming tone between the two. The high level of detail allows surface textures and individual hairs to be seen.
The focal point used in Wind Ready allows you to peer down inside the subject’s head of seeds. Though these are a different type of seed, they share similarities with my Rainbow Seeds piece and display a reduced, but still visible, prism-like effect. I like how the seed hairs shoot out like star bursts and they remind me of sparkles from fireworks. Those small hairs have tiny, thinner and shorter hairs coming off from them that can be perceived as individual strands since a high level of detail was captured.
By focusing near the center of the subject in Eversion, I was able to create an abstract composition that allows what is normally hidden beneath its fluffy hairs to be seen; effectively turning it inside out. The outwardly radiating feeling is enhanced by, and gains an edgy attitude from, the ribs in and barbs along the seed blades. The high level of detail allows surface texture, contours, and individual teeth-like spikes to be seen.
I was creating abstract compositions of an open pod of seeds one spring afternoon in the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park when the light changed to a perfect amount and angle. This was one of those serendipitous moments that photographers out in the field occasionally enjoy. The tiny little hairs in Rainbow Seeds caught the light in a way that allowed a prism-like effect to occur. I don’t believe it lasted more than two minutes, and I was already set up, focused, and ready to create when it happened. The result was shimmering streaks of colors all through the composition. The experience could very well be compared to some origins of riddles and tales of yore. For example, you’ve no doubt heard that there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow? Well, these little seeds could just as easily be picked up by the wind, carried to and planted in their final destination, then during the right sun and rain mix, sprout rainbows. Who knows what Mother Nature is capable of? 😉 The high level of detail allows surface texture and contours on some seeds as well as glassy strands and very thin 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.