The Delicate Cleome

This white Cleome stands out so beautifully in Erika’s garden. I love the delicacy of this flower and also how tall, complex and balanced it looks. If someone described me this way, I would be happy.

cleome, flower, summer, white, garden
I love the delicate petals of this white cleome, growing in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

When I was making this photograph, I looked for a simple background, so the Cleome would take center stage. I think the yellow coneflowers, shown out of focus in the background do a nice job as “best supporting actors.”

Spinning Flowers

I nudged myself to get out in the backyard and experiment with some flower photography today. Summer 2020 should be the summer of experimentation, right? I played with long exposures and spinning the camera while pressing the shutter. My favorite image was this one of my hydrangea plant that preserved the outlines of the leaves.

#hydrangea, #experiment, #creative,  #july #flowers, #flowerphotography, #nature, #outdoorphotography, #abstract, #spin
Hydrangea blossoms in pink and blue appear slightly abstract in this spinning image, nicely framed by a wreath of vibrant leaves. © Catherine Kelly

If you want to try this method, you need to set the camera to manual and dial in a long exposure like a third of a second. To achieve a correct exposure, you will need to stop down the lens (to perhaps f/11 or f/16), and set a low ISO (such as 100). The settings will vary for you based on the available light. Focusing is still important. Once you have achieved a good exposure with shutter speed, aperture and ISO, it’s time to play.

How to Improve Your Photography

Looking through my archives for color photographs that would make a satisfying black and white image made me realize that “seeing in black and white” will make me a better photographer. Any consistently successful photographer will pre-visualize the image before image capture. For starters, one evaluates dynamic range, depth of field, light quality, composition, timing of the action and whether the subject is meaningful.

To choose a good subject for black and white photography there are more factors to evaluate: tonal range and contrast, simplicity, shape, texture, interest. I like my black and white images to be strong. The image has to be eye catching and hold the viewer’s interest without the help of color. I admit, I’m a photographer who loves color, so this challenge is fun for me!

This photograph of a mother Bison and her calf grazing on top of the hillside made the cut for a color to black and white candidate. In my judgement, it has simplicity, large repeating shapes, texture in the fur, wide tonal range and plenty of interest — from the unusual wildlife sighting to the eye contact and tongue in mid-air.

#bison, #motherandcalf, #buffalo, #gtnp, #grandteton, #wyoming, #jacksonhole, #givethemdistance, #safedistance, #wildlifephotography, #wildlife, #photography, #nature, #blackandwhite, #sonyalpha, #nik, #silverefexpro
Mother and calf bison grazing in Grand Teton National Park (shot from a safe distance inside a car with a 600mm lens).

The Wild West near Joshua Tree National Park

Black and White photographs feel timeless, don’t they? Looking at a black and white image of a scene from the olden days seems right to me. When we visited Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park, I found some old style buildings like this Feed Store. As I stood on the dirt road, I admired the low evening sun shining from the right on this big Joshua Tree and the wood barn.

As I processed this image, I emulated the look of an infared light photograph by darkening the sky. The foliage was naturally bright from the sunlight. A really good black and white image includes a simple and balanced composition, bold shapes and interesting textures. This image checked all the boxes for me.

#wildwest, #pioneertown, #joshuatree, #joshuatreenationalpark, #socal, #thingstodo, #barn, #blackandwhite, #infared, #photography, #travelphotography, #sonyalpha
Scene from Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoy the shapes and textures in this black and white rendering.

If you arrive in Pioneertown in the late afternoon as we did, you can enjoy dinner and the unique ambiance of the iconic restaurant Pappy and Harriet’s, but you will need a reservation.

Thinking in Black and White

I’m challenging myself with learning a new discipline in photography. The first step is having a digital mirrorless camera converted to capture infared light, and I’m learning about the techniques for capturing and processing these new types of images. But the camera won’t be back in my hands for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I was daydreaming about the places I would love to photograph with the infared camera — like the Florida Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. With the limitations on travel during the pandemic, those excursions will come to pass down the road.

The scenery of Joshua Tree is fresh in my mind, since I visited the park in 2018. I decided to process one of my color photographs in black and white, as a first step in my journey to see in black and white. What do you think?

#joshuatree, #jtnp, #joshuatreenationalpark, #blackandwhite, #silverefexpro, #nik, #nikon, #shapes, #texture, #contrast, #california, #landscape, #photography, #nature, #desert, #adobe
I love the bold silhouettes as well as the textures in the Joshua Trees found in the high desert of California. A monochrome image makes the image more about shapes, textures and contrast, as it subtracts color. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Vineyard Nostalgia

Reading “Is it safe to visit a Vineyard?” in the New York Times took my mind back to visits to the beautiful vineyards in Sonoma, California and the South Island of New Zealand. I found this vibrant view of a vineyard near Nelson and Tasman New Zealand in December 2014. My daughter Erin and I dropped in on several wine makers that weekend for a tasting of their Riesling and Chardonnay grapes. Keep in mind that December down under is equivalent to June in the northern hemisphere. We enjoyed mid-summer greenery and comfortable outdoor weather.

#vineyard, #memories, #newzealand, #NZ, #green, #bluesky, #lush, #downunder, #tasting, #tasman, #nelson
Vineyard slopes down to a lake in Nelson/Tasman region of New Zealand, on the South Island.

During this safer-at-home period of the Coronavirus lockdown, we think back on our travels and special experiences and wonder if we appreciate them now more than ever. We are all looking forward to resuming our travels when the pandemic is over.

Leaf Art in the Tropics

It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Stripes and Polka Dots

Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!

This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Picking Up the Camera Again

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?

I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.

#vine, #nature, #meaning, #contrast, #why, #pink, #pinkandgreen, #phipps, #depthoffield, #focus, #photography, #sony, #sonyalpha
Can you feel the tug of Nature’s work in sharp focus, standing out before Man’s work, the Conservatory building? Yet, I believe the two elements harmonize. I see the vine as fresh, delicate, independent and strong. I made a deliberate effort to show only the vine in focus by using a wide open aperture with a short depth of field.