A New Adventure

Wow - I knew it has been awhile since I last blogged, but did not realize it was over a year - ouch!  I have been engaged in pursuing a new adventure this past year and a half.  My husband and I are starting a small lavender farm in the Poconos.

Between finding the right property and location, moving, planting lavender and developing products I have had very little time for much else.  That is not to say that I have abandoned my photography, far from it, but I have not had much time to update my website lately - sigh!

Now that things are somewhat settled down I plan on working more on my site here - and - our new home has an 800 square foot space that I will be converting to my photo studio - yippee!!  So stay tuned peeps and I will keep you updated as things progress.

Finding Still Life in Nature

It is spring and this photographers’ thoughts turn to flowers.  After a long dreary winter I always look forward to the spring flower season.  Not only are the flowers so beautiful but they seem to symbolize a renewal of life and faith for me.

Recently I spent 4-1/2 days in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park shooting wildflowers.  Since as the sign above indicates, picking plants are prohibited you have to shoot them where you find them.

The Smokies have over 1500 wildflowers which is more than any other national park.  Photographers descend on the park from all over the world for the opportunity to photograph their amazing diversity.  

I have been to the Smokies in the spring many times before.  Prior to this years’ trip I took some time to review the photographs from my previous visits.  I have been disappointed in the past when I downloaded my images.  I wanted to see if I could determine what I could do to make this years photo expedition a success.

I found that there are two very challenging issues when I shoot wildflowers in the spring.  The first is the background.  The little beauties are coming up through a forest floor littered with dead leaves and twigs.  And, the second is the slightest breeze can throw off your image, especially if you are using a macro lens.  So, before this trip I took some time to really think about how to overcome these obstacles.

The first problem came with a solution that I had not anticipated and was not really looking for.  I happen to admire Tony Sweet and the way he photographs flowers.  If you are not familiar with Tony’s style - check out his website at tonysweet.com.  Anyway, I happened to stumble upon a you tube video he did as a promo for one of his dvd tutorials on photographing flowers.  The link for the youtube video is here if you wish to check it out - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRj–ehunsA.  You may need to copy and paste the link or you can search you tube for Photography How-To - Flower Photography Artistry with Tony Sweet.  

If you watch the you tube video he is using a printed background to eliminate distractions behind orchids in a greenhouse environment.  Watching that I had an aha moment - thank you Tony!  I went into my texture library and applied a gausian blur to a few of them and printed some small - 4X6, and one larger - 8-1/2 X 11.

This turned out to be a fabulous tip - here are two images I took while photographing the wild columbine.  In the first one you can see just how distracting the background was and I zoomed out so you can also see my printed background placed behind the flower.  The second image shows my final photograph.  The printed backgrounds worked beautifully.

In my next post I will show you how I solved my breeze and bright sunshine issues.

Until then - keep looking for the still moments in your day.

Flowers in Still Life

Flowers have long been a subject for still life painters and photographers alike.  They are beautiful and have universal appeal after all.

When I think of flowers in still life, the elaborate floral arrangements of the Dutch Masters immediately come to mind.  But, that is not what I want to talk about in this blog.  I would like to talk about another type of floral still life artist, Georgia O’Keefe. 

What can I say about Georgia O’Keefe’s floral paintings that have not already been said before?  Even though she denied it, some of her floral paintings were sensual and bore a remarkable resemblance to the vagina.  But that is not what I want to focus on (pun intended) here.

When I look at her floral paintings I see a remarkable and stunning example of still life painting at its finest.  Her use of light, shadow and form give her flowers dimension.  Her compositions draw me into the very essence of the flower.  And yet, there seems to be a vulnerability about them, a transient beauty that perhaps only a woman could convey and perhaps see.  This in no way is meant to be a feminist statement or to diminish men in any way.  I know many men who photograph and paint flowers beautifully.  But I think there is a decidedly feminine feeling to her flower paintings.

I wonder if I can also capture that type of feeling in my own photography of flowers.

Georgia O’Keefe was able to stand apart from the crowd of painters, she was able to BE a woman AND a painter and convey both through her art in a world dominated at the time by men.  And, she is now considered one of the most important American painters of our time.  That is quite an accomplishment if you ask me. 

So, I find myself asking what I could do to make my flower images stand out from the crowd?  After all, everyone shoots flowers.  Google flower photography and you could spend eons looking at them all.  What I found was that after a while they all looked the same, I was scrolling through them quickly, and while some of them were unquestionably beautiful, none of them stopped me in my tracks.

So I thought I would try to shoot flowers in a way that showed the “essence of what I see” when I look at the flower.  I don’t want to use alot of props, I want the flower to be the “hero”, as a mentor and friend of mine likes to say, of the image.  I know…I know….I can hear you all saying this has been done already - my quest is to see if I can make them MINE.  My goal is to see if I can create flower images that would make you stop in your tracks and look at them - just like Georgia’s flower paintings make me, and evidently most of the world, stop and take notice.

There is a beautiful magnolia tree in our yard - I have always loved these trees, they burst forth with these wonderful gorgeous blooms and like the town crier announce spring in big way.  The blooms do not last long but while they are here they are so special you can’t help but notice them.  My first attempt at working with flowers in my studio is with a branch of magnolia blooms cut from that tree.  Just some natural light and a piece of cheese cloth on a white background.  A bit of a texture and painting filter was added.  If I have made you stop in your tracks and really look at it I am heading in the right direction.  If not, I guess I need to keep trying.  But, that is how we continue to grow as artists isn’t it?

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