All of the pieces in this post are from the same box turtle at the Aiken County Historical Museum that I posted about previously. He let me get quite close to him without pulling inside his shell or trying to scuttle away. These naturally abstract patterns come from his back and were created by pointing the lens down toward his shell.
I was attracted to the area in my Expand composition primarily because of the colorful patterns. The main portion of the piece is a single scale with a darker edge that marks its boundary as it contacts the other scales around it. I loved the lines that trace the general outline of the scale and wondered if they were like the rings of a tree that could be counted to determine the age of the turtle. It certainly appeared to me that as this guy grew, his scales got bigger and, at some point, left an indentation that marked the end of a specific life period. I also marveled at his toughness. Something may have tried to eat him and, if so, perhaps their teeth punctured the main scale causing it to break and form a depression.
For my Armor composition, I slid the camera over to the left, switched the orientation to horizontal, and recomposed. While the pattern on the left scale is quite distinctly different from the pattern on the right, artistically, I felt that they worked well together.
I loved the pattern created by the yellows and oranges in Shield. For this piece, I composed down his spine. I loved how the top color blobs appeared to be being pushed away from the area where the two scales meet. As if the force of the bottom scale colliding with the top scale caused everything to shoot outward. The design of the lines in the top scale increase that feeling by having the appearance of waves that grow out and away from the epicenter.
Part 2 is a continuation of the Abstract Canna Lilies posts from the same plant group in the big back garden at the Aiken County Historical Museum. To see works from or read The Artist’s Story for Part 1, click here.
I was called over to the lily in my Undulating composition by its bold colors. In fact, this flower had the most attractive colors out of any I had seen blooming from this group all season. But, I was even more impressed with the pattern they created. I loved how the petals felt like waves rolling away from and crashing back into the center. The high level of detail allows individual dew drops and surface texture to be seen.
Inner Smile is essentially the vertical companion to Undulating. Though the pattern the colors form is the same, it does have a different feel when viewed vertically. Thanks to the high level of detail, individual dew drops and surface texture can be seen here as well.
The Aiken County Historical Museum has several gardens within the walls that border their property, and a variety of flora can be found in them. I was attracted to the hosta in my Arcs composition primarily by the size of the leaves (they’re huge), and, I must confess, because of the gorgeous green colors. As I was more closely examining a leaf, I felt that the veins formed a very nice abstract pattern. The rolling, curved sections reminded me of waves and bring a sense of motion as they appear to move from left to right and expand up and out to the top corners of the frame.
After stopping at the marsh area for a couple of minutes, I hurried on to the beach. Although I wasn’t racing anyone to get there, a couple of other photographers had already beaten me to it. The twilight colors were just as spectacular as they had been all week. While composing Unspoiled, I thought about how lucky we are to have a state treasure like this that has gone so many years relatively untouched by human development. Earlier this year, I found out that the beach was closed indefinitely due to damage from Hurricane Matthew (apparently the beach trail bridge was destroyed). I hope all of the trees I photographed survived the storm, and I’d like to visit again sometime in the future.
While working new groups of subject trees, I was able to keep the fantastic reflections off the wet sand, colorful waves and reflections off the water, and gorgeous colors in the sky. The water levels at the beach vary from day to day, and I may have needed wading or hip boots to get to the spot I composed from for my Coastal Roots piece on any other morning. That’s one of the great things about returning to a location several times – you will likely have different conditions for your creations.
I was attracted to the scene in Choppy by the chaotic nature of the wood. As the sun got ever closer to the horizon, the golden tones continued to increase in the sky and reflect off from the water brought in by the waves. All of which raised my excitement level. I also love the twilight purples and the blues along the horizon and in the water.
As I saw this scene start to materialize, I grabbed my gear and literally ran to get into position. I love how the entire beach in my Color Wash piece is reflecting the golden hour colors. There is also a little serendipity at work here too as the foam from an earlier wave creates a somewhat serpentine leading line toward the sun. I specifically composed this so that the sun would be between two of the limbs, and, as a bonus, that created a feeling that the limbs are bowing to it like some type of primitive god.
While the subject tree in Boneyard is featured in other work from the beach, this composition is decidedly different. Most notably is the position of the tree in the frame and of the sun being clearly above the horizon. I love how the sun enhanced the reflection off of the wet sand, created a red toned path that fans out across the drier sand, and highlighted the shells/stones with a sparkle effect. As I inspected the image in the camera’s LCD monitor, it was yet another one that caused spontaneous, excited, chuckling. As I stood on the beach taking it all in, I was elated to have this as my final piece in the Botany Bay Beach Sunrise series.
When the sky has clouds like those in my Sunup piece, I will work scenes as long as possible. The sun had risen above the horizon, but there were so many clouds that you can just barely see it. Which led to some very nice golden hour colors in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand. The additional available light allows for much more detail on the beach itself and on the trees and their root systems.
The foreground tree in my Weathered composition provides another example of how tough the trees on the Botany Bay beach are. With more light allowing additional detail on the tree to be seen, you can tell just how battered, torn, and worn it is. Several aesthetic decisions regarding placement went into this: first, I put the camera in a position to where the foreground and middleground trees wouldn’t touch each other (they come close, but I needed some room on the left hand side to keep that tree from leaving the frame); secondly, I put the sun within the V shape of the middleground tree (it’s hard to see exactly where it is due to all the clouds blocking it); and finally my goal was to maximize the amount of color in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand.
With even more light available for Wave Reaction, a faster shutter speed could be used. That allowed the waves to be active and not quite so smooth. My favorite part of this piece is one of those serendipitous things that happen every once in a while. There is a bird in the sky above the branches on the right-hand side. I did not know that it was there until I processed the image. I’ve written in previous posts about how much I enjoy those little surprises.
My Golden Morning piece has the golden hour colors on full display. They have taken over nearly the entire palette. Even the dry sand has a gold tone. I love watching nature paint. When you compare the first piece in this post (which is the same group of trees) to this, the difference is incredible. And Mother Nature recolored everything and changed the light dispersion by altering the clouds in only twenty minutes.
I walked all the way down to the other end of Botany Bay beach to compose Alternative View. When arriving at the beach from the trail, I normally went left, but this is right and all the way down. I was curious about what was on the other side, and since I had lots of remaining golden light, I searched for other possible subjects. I was attracted to this tree by how many limbs and branches it has (especially some of the thinner limbs). I also liked how the sky above the tree had a wavy, bumpy look that was similar to the waves coming into the beach.
For my Beach Reflection composition, I made the artistic decision to utilize the chaotic nature and twisted limbs of the silhouetted tree. By zooming in, I was able to extend it to the sides of the frame. Though the area of wet sand in the foreground was reduced, it still offered plenty of the spectacular reflections. Since this was created before sunrise, the sky has the same fantastic coloring as the other work in this series. Getting closer also enhanced the single available cloud by increasing the visual interest it provides. This quickly became one of my favorite pieces from the beach.
I loved how battle worn the silhouette in my Bristled piece looked. The sharp angles and jagged lines immediately give you a feeling of how tough it is to be beaten by the water, wind, and sand day after day after day. Yet it resiliently stands tall even with most of the base of its root system exposed. The rough appearance is enhanced by my choice of shutter speed and the nearly cloud free sky. Because the majority of the composition is smooth, the coarse texture becomes amplified when viewed against it. The gorgeous colors reflecting off from the wet sand and water surface helps counter any harshness and bring the two opposing concepts into a peaceful balance.
The beach quickly became busy with photographers and, in most circumstances, I was able to clear them from a scene by reframing the composition. In some cases, depending on their position, I had to abandon my artistic vision completely. To help avoid that, I continued to move up the beach to new areas that I hadn’t yet been to. The silhouette in my Toppled piece can be seen in the middleground and background of several other images from this series. As this was created before the sun was above the horizon, it shares the same magic light colors.
The subjects in my Wavy piece are near the far end of where trees can be found along the beach. Though close to making its first appearance, the sun was still below the skyline. I love how the shadows formed in the reflections off of the wet sand. Because I composed this vertically, a few more of the thin, wispy clouds were available and provide additional character to the sky. There was also just enough light to where the trees weren’t completely dark against the much lighter background which allows for some color and surface texture to be seen.
I was right back in the line of photographers setting in their cars waiting for the gate to open at Botany Bay on the third morning. There is a little trail just to the right side of the gate that allows you to get past it. With a flash light or head lamp, you can easily walk up to the station, get the paperwork required for access to the site, take it back to your car, fill it out, and then return the necessary portion before the gate opens. On the way back to my car, I stopped at the vehicle directly in front of mine and met Clarence Holmes, a photographer out of New York who had been shooting along the coast as he trekked back to his home base. While there wasn’t as many photographers as the previous day, it still felt like we were in a competition to get to the beach first so that one could claim their preferred spot on it.
With sparse clouds and the sun not yet above the horizon, the colors in my Gold Beach piece were fantastic. I especially liked the golds on the wet sand of the shore and being reflected off the surface of the water. The oranges in the sky and the pinks closer to the skyline were equally attractive. I also liked how the silhouette of the tree breaks up the smoothness of the sky. Though the center of the tree is close to the left one third line, using the rule of thirds, I made the aesthetic decision to pull it over to the left a little to increase the space to the right and decrease it by the same amount on the left.
Shimmering Sand is close to being a horizontal companion to Gold Beach. They both feature the same tree and gorgeous colors. However, the perspective was changed. More of the thin cloud was included and the tree itself is further into the middleground. While not perfectly balanced (i.e., it is a bit heavier on the right side), I decided to place it fairly close to the center to allow the foreground stumps on both the left and right sides to be pulled into the frame. That aesthetic decision also made the tree feel more isolated and lonely. That being said, the reflections off the wet sand are the reigning super stars in this piece.
Morning Beach was also composed before sunrise, and, once again, my main aesthetic desire was to capture the colors reflecting off the wet sand. That goal drove several other artistic decisions including the tree group placement (both horizontally and vertically). While Mother Nature only gave us a couple of thin clouds to provide additional visual interest in the sky, she did nicely light them.
The morning of the second day started with the clock radio waking me up in time to wait for the gate to automatically open at Botany Bay. The photographer’s vehicles formed a line and since we all reached the parking area at about the same time, it was like a race to get to the best spots on the beach. One guy had his photography gear strapped to a mountain bike using special harnesses. Because he had the ability to ride to the beach, he was assured that no one was going to get there before he did.
Composing before the sun has risen above the horizon can give colors to a landscape image that no other time of day provides. That by itself makes getting up early, waiting in line, and rushing to the beach worth it. The subject in my Sentinel piece appeared to be the favorite photographic choice for most of the photographers throughout the week. At least, there were usually more of them with their cameras focused on it than any of the other trees or scenes. I loved the blues and the shimmering golds and magic light colors reflecting off the water. I placed the trunk of the tree on the right most one third line, using the rule of thirds, but then made a little aesthetic tweak by pushing the trunk just a bit to the left so that the tip of the branch on the right side had more breathing room. My placement choice allowed the open area to the left to bring more reflective color into the frame and provided a subtle clue as to where the sun will emerge on the horizon. Additionally, since the left side of the tree is wider, it feels as if it had been expanding toward the sun (e.g., pulling and growing in that direction) during its lifetime.
The sun was definitely getting closer to the horizon in my Golden Highlights piece, but there are still plenty of pinks and purples. I loved the more chaotic look from this set of trees and how they were enhanced by the blues and twilight golds reflecting off the water. To minimize the amount of cloudless, light blue, upper sky area, I kept the tips of the branches from extending too far above the skyline. That aesthetic decision placed the tree group in a position where it had a bit more space on the bottom which allowed more of the attractive waves and reflections to fill the frame.
My Beach Sunrise composition has the sun just about to fully break over the horizon. One aesthetic goal I had here was to place the camera in a position where the trees in the scene didn’t touch each other. The trunk of the main, middleground tree was placed very close to the left most one third line, using the rule of thirds. In fact, the base of it is almost exactly at the lower left crossing line which allowed it to stretch up into the frame from an artistic starting point. I loved the decidedly more orange tones, and after seeing how the colors of the golden hour painted the wet sand and water surface, I was excited to the point of chuckling.
I love how the rising sun is coloring and highlighting the waves, the splash of water that hit a limb, and the water draining off from the tree in my Color Splash piece. The golden hour reflections on the water surface are also alluring. By providing essentially the same amount of space to the frame edge for the branch tips on the left and top, that put the center of the tree nearly perfectly on the bottom left crossing line, using the rule of thirds. After less than 15 minutes on the beach, I completely understood why it attracted so many photographers. I felt privileged to be able to witness such beauty and experience an area that has been relatively untouched by humans for so many years.
I was encouraged to enter some of my artwork in a contest hosted by the South Carolina State Parks known as the Artist In Residence (AIR). Never having entered any contests (or having shown my work to anyone outside of friends and family), I was pleasantly surprised upon winning a slot. Being a recipient gave me a free one week stay at a cabin in Santee State Park in exchange for a donation of my work. It was a fantastic opportunity, and I brought back more than 1,400 images (it was like a photographic vacation). I spent most of my early mornings within the state park boundaries, but I used the remainder of the days to discover areas of the National Wildlife Refuge that I did not previously know existed (e.g., Bluff Unit, Dingle Pond Unit, Pine Island Unit, and the superb Cuddo East).
I wanted to add some sunrise compositions to my body of work, so I used Google Maps to get a feel for spots within the park that offered the possibility of a good view before I left home. I planned to explore the Lake Marion shoreline for an area that had some foreground interest while being positioned to catch the sun coming up. After checking in, I used the remaining daylight to do some scouting and found a pretty good location just off from the connector trail that runs from the Cypress View Campground to the Bike Trail.
From a photographic perspective, the first morning was a bust. The sky was so choked with clouds that color couldn’t even be seen through them. As far as an outdoor nature experience goes, I enjoyed myself regardless of not creating a single composition.
The second morning, Mother Nature didn’t present what I had initially envisioned, but she provided an excellent option none-the-less. In my Surf’s Up piece, Lake Marion was riled by blowing winds and waves that were rolling to the point of producing white caps. Since the area that I planned on using was cloud choked again, I moved my tripod so that I could position the camera to where some color was able to break through above the horizon. Compared to an ocean or one of the Great Lakes, Lake Marion is fairly small which made me feel like what I was witnessing was unusual. It was captivating to hear the water crash into the shore and watch it fly up in the air. To show the power of the wind and waves breaking along the shore, I used a shutter speed that captured the spray.
The third morning, I decided to try a different location, but it was unproductive, so on the fourth morning I returned to the original site. Compared to the second morning, the mood was peaceful and calm. While clouds were blocking the sun, the magic light still found its way into my Socked In piece. Using the longest shutter speed possible without going to a special setting really brought out the feeling of tranquility. Because of the shutter speed, the lake is velvety smooth and the mixture of pastel colors helps convey the serenity I felt that morning. I love the raccoon tracks in the sand near the shoreline on the lower left hand side, and the logs and roots make a visually interesting foreground contrasted against the silky lake.
On the fifth morning, Mother Nature produced a constantly changing light show. The intensity of the light and the warmth it generated was welcome on that early spring morning. To create that feeling in my Shore Glow piece, I, once again, used the longest shutter speed to smooth out the surface of the lake and capture the reflection of light on its surface from the horizon all the way back to the shore.
Not even ten minutes had passed before I created Got Silk?, and the clouds blocking the light had continued to change and shift. More light was available but it wasn’t as intense, and that made the scene feel a bit cooler. To portray that, I switched to a horizontal orientation that allowed for more of the blues to come in and increased the shutter speed while keeping the lake surface somewhat flat.
After watching the light transform for nearly another half an hour, I created Lake Marion Sunrise. This was very close to what I had imagined capturing before arriving and while scouting potential sites. Watching the gold, orange, and red colors shimmer on the water was a real treat. I love sunrises. To me, the root system looks a bit like an oar fish with an open mouth and a large eye looking back at the viewer. I was pleased to be able to donate a print of this to the Santee State Park, and if you visit the Ranger Station, you’ll see it hanging on their wall.