As I was walking through the Rye Patch Rose Garden looking for subjects, I discovered a naturally abstract scene that I couldn’t pass without further investigation. The Rose Garden is an enclosed area with two side entrances that each have a swinging door. Within the garden boundaries are hedges that are usually neatly trimmed in a rectangular shape that further segregate the various areas. On top of one of the hedge rows was a web that was completely covered in dew. Upon closer examination of the area I subsequently captured in Dew Veil, I was struck by how I could see the leaves underneath the web while at the same time the drops of dew created a mask over them. It was a curious effect and almost felt as if I was looking at leaves that had been embedded in glass. I found a group of leaves that had a couple of tips poking up and out of the web as well as other leaves surrounding it in an artistic manner. I then placed that group in the frame so that the rightmost vertical one third line, using the rule of thirds, nearly bisected them. To achieve side-to-side sharpness across the entire frame, a technique known as focus stacking was employed. The high level of captured detail allows web strands and a whole bunch of tiny dew drops to be seen.
Hitchcock Woods is an amazing resource to have right in our city, and I’ve written about it in previous blog posts. That being said, I don’t usually hunt for subjects within it using my macro rig. But, this particular morning I didn’t have any luck finding something to point my camera at on the grounds of the Aiken County Historical Museum so I decided to hike down some of the horse trails to see what I could find.
The leaf in my I Heart Nature piece immediately drew me in primarily due to its shape. After all, the heart symbol is a universal ideograph that represents love, and, being a nature lover, I had a strong desire to capture a scene expressing that sentiment. I also found the greens quite attractive. In fact, one of my artistic goals was to find an angle that allowed me to fill the background with as much green as possible while avoiding the creation of darker brown areas where the dirt on the ground could be seen behind/under the leaves. Additional aesthetic concerns were leaf placement (both angle and position in the frame) as well as depth of field control. I put the leaf in the sensor on a diagonal so that it wouldn’t feel static or centered even though I gave the subject about the same amount of breathing room on either side and kept the distance from the top of the frame nearly equal to the space at the bottom. I sought as much detail as I could get in and on the leaf’s surface, but I also wanted the background to quickly fade away. When there is sufficient distance from the subject to the background, depth of field can be increased while maintaining good bokeh, but when objects in the background are close to the subject, you have to compromise. In this case, I had to open the lens incrementally until I found the right amount for this composition (i.e., where I was getting as much detail as possible from the subject while simultaneously decreasing features of the background leaves). This is another time where your camera’s depth of field preview really pays off because you can use it to dial in the setting while you observe the effect across your work. Even though I reduced the depth of field, the high level of captured detail allows surface texture to be seen.
I was attracted to my Wet Spiderwort piece by how nicely the yellow anthers popped against the complementary blues. But, as is often the case, upon viewing the scene at nearly two times life-size, I discovered something even more enticing. I loved how the water drops had formed in and around the anthers and stigma. By dialing back the already shallow depth of field, I could have reduced the detail in the background, however, my desire to hold a selection of anthers and the water drops sharply in focus outweighed any other aesthetic priorities. Further, I like how the drops on the petals add to the overall soaked feel. To place them in an artistically pleasing location within the frame, the largest drops in the group of anthers were concentrated near the left most, bottom crossing line, using the rule of thirds, and they all touch (or are split by) one of the horizontal or vertical grid lines. The high level of captured detail allows textures and drop reflections to be seen.
While wandering the grounds of the museum, I came across a recently cut stump. As fresh as the saw dust was and with such nice surface colors, it likely had only been exposed for a couple of days. I was, once again, struck by the fact that the images I was able to create that morning were only possible with the exact cuts that the saw made. Not that they were planned or meant to be artistic by the person that took the tree down. But, that’s what makes it fascinating because the way it was cut uncovered art that nature had hidden inside the tree.
I was attracted to the syrupy looking colors on the left hand side of my Honey Line piece. For aesthetic reasons, I put the scene in my camera’s sensor so that those gorgeous colors essentially formed a jagged diagonal line. I then ensured that the sensor plane was as close to the surface angle of the area as I could get it so that the focus would be sharpest along the edges of the line. Artistically, I liked how the two sides had both contrasting (e.g., silky versus hard and dry) as well as similar properties (e.g., arcs and squiggly lines). The high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen.
As I was working the stump, golden light from the morning sun started to wash over it. Having the ability to influence an image with those tones is one of the primary reasons I like to be on-site before the sun comes up. Here, I loved how they provide a natural highlight to the ridges created as the saw dug its way through the wood. Artistically, I felt that the complex blend of lines (e.g., diagonals, arcs, and swirls) clashed with each other and created a certain amount of tension. The underlying shapes and warm colors in Brewing Storm reminded me of how nature paints clouds during a sunrise, and, in accordance with the adage, the red in the sky is a sailor’s warning. Texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood can be seen here as well thanks to the high level of captured detail.
The swirled lines, arcs, and colors in my Dunes composition reminded me of sand. As if Mother Nature attempted to render what blowing, drifting sandbanks look like using only the wood from inside a tree as the canvas. As in the previous pieces, the high level of captured detail allows texture, saw dust pieces, and cracks in the wood to be seen here too.
I had been keeping an eye on the colorful, newly planted coleus in the big, back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum since I first discovered them. In fact, I had looked at several different possible compositions on a previous trip, but couldn’t quite get everything that I wanted so I hadn’t captured anything. At the time I created my Scimitar piece, the plants themselves were less than two feet tall and had fresh looking leaves with nice colors. While exploring them for enticing patterns, I came across one that reminded me of the type of blade that a pirate or genie might have. I placed the leaf in the frame so that the sharp tip and bottom left hand side had about the same amount of distance to their respective edges. I then found an angle that allowed most of my subject to be surrounded by the enhancing background colors of the leaf directly beneath it. I placed the focal point on the tip, and by keeping the sensor plane aligned with the leaf, as much as I could, I maintained sharpness across the surface. The high level of captured detail allows texture and tiny hairs along the edges of the leaf to be seen.
When I moved to Aiken there was a huge Deodar Cedar tree on the south side of the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Not only did it have multiple trunks, the tree’s individual limbs were quite large (bigger than most of the trees in my backyard). What made it even more interesting was how the pieces had grown up and out in that location. The area they spanned could have easily been more than 20 feet across. By all indications, the tree was a very popular spot for families and visitors to create snap shots or vacation photos – especially since with a little effort you could easily climb into the heart of them and find yourself standing several feet above the ground. At some point a portion of the tree died and had to be removed. Then a really bad ice storm came through a couple of years ago. Aiken county was one of the hardest hit areas in the entire state and Hopeland Gardens took a serious blow. Among the casualties was their Acacia, too many limbs to count, and what was left of the much beloved tree. Fortunately, when the original paring was done, a portion of the tree was preserved, and, as a form of remembrance or dedication, it was used to create wooden benches that are placed near where the tree originally stood.
As a color junkie, I’ve been attracted to the surfaces of the benches for a while, but never found a composition that I was happy enough with to press the shutter. With my Benched piece, that problem was overcome. I liked the line that runs to and around the knot and, for aesthetic reasons, decided to place it diagonally so that it split the frame. The center of the knot was placed near the bottom right one third crossing line, using the rule of thirds, but then bumped up and to the left a bit so that more of the diagonal line would remain in the frame. The high level of captured detail allows rings and surface textures to be seen.
I was intrigued with the subject of my Blooming Bloom piece. I have seen flowers on the hydrangea bushes in the area of Hopeland Gardens where this was created several times over the years, but I hadn’t ever found anything that set my artistic radar off. That is, until I looked much closer at the flowers. Upon examination of this hydrangea at two times life-size, I discovered that the center of the flower itself had what appeared to be stamen, anthers, and stigma. The most interesting part of that realization was that not very many of them had similar centers. In fact, the majority of them (at least 90 percent) had a tightly closed, nodule-like, raised bump that wasn’t nearly as attractive. This flower had an open center that showed off the gorgeous blues and purples that are apparently hidden inside of it most of the time. Increasing my fascination quotient was the fact that the area of flowers that were blooming seemed to have plenty of smaller blooms (without any petals) that had stamen on them. The high level of detail allows surface textures and dew to be seen.
While exploring one of the swampy areas of Hopeland Gardens, I came across the scene in my Swamp Curves piece. I was initially attracted to it by the gorgeous greens in the leaves, but the sweeping curves of the foreground leaf convinced me to create this. I love the tiny dew drops along the edge of the leaf and how the curves seem to flow out and away from the midrib as if they were ripples on a green lake.
I was attracted to the iris in Risen by the brilliant yellow colors on the falls. The design they created reminded me of the flames that form at the end of a rocket engine when gas, fuel, or some type of propellant is burned. I liked the shape of the crest so I placed the focal point on it and let the rest of the flower parts assume their position in the zone of sharpness. Due to the color mixture and shallow depth of field, a streaking effect was created in the background which helped increase the sense of upward motion and of being propelled. The high level of detail allows surface textures and dew drops to be seen.
I had been searching for an artistically pleasing scene among the iris on the east side of the stage in Hopeland Gardens for quite some time. Since I wasn’t having any luck, I had considered leaving a couple of times and felt like I may be spending too much time in one place. I’ve previously posted about how I prefer to work in morning light and there is only so much of that each day. You can easily convince yourself that there is something better just around the corner waiting for you to come find it. But since there were so many purple iris blooming, I decided to keep hunting until I had covered the entire area before moving on. Once again, the “perseverance is half the battle” adage was proven. With nearly all the blooms inspected, I discovered the subject in my Inner Flower piece. This “thing” was growing out of the side of an iris and hiding close to the shoreline (in fact, I had to put one shoe on the wooden rail that runs along the shore for balance). I have no idea what it is, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. It certainly doesn’t look like any part of an iris so it could be some type of deformed growth. At any rate, I loved the shape of it, the fact that it was covered in dew, and the little gem-like blue liquid on the upper surface.