This Tricolor Stromanthe caught my eye at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh this week. The plant is not part of a special exhibit, and I’m sure I have walked past it many times before. I was attracted to the way the plant looked enough to stop and take several photos, hoping to share how much the leaves look painted.
The Stromanthe is a tropical plant in the family Marantaceae, native to portions of the Americas from Mexico to Trinidad and northern Argentina. It can grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It is also called a Tricolor Prayer Plant, and it thrives in indirect light, while bright light brings out its brightest coloring.
It’s fun to spot the Purple Gallinule tiptoeing through the freshwater stream, pecking around for food. When it steps into the sunlight, its brilliant colors delight the birdwatcher.
The Cornell School of Ornithology describes the Purple Gallinule’s behavior:
Purple Gallinules forage near the water’s edge, where they walk nimbly on muddy margins, or on aquatic vegetation. They hunt a bit like domestic chickens, walking slowly and investigating the vegetation with outstretched neck, or pecking at fruits or tubers. Like most rails, Purple Gallinules swim well, and they sometimes perch high in bushes and trees, where their long toes make them agile climbers.
On first impression, the swamp is chaotic. With its high canopy, most of the scene is dark with shadow. The day’s bright sunlight barely filtering through. Large tree trunks, felled by past storms lie at random angles and decay. Walking the boardwalk, I look down into the murky water for alligators, frogs and snakes. I hear a variety of bird calls, but looking around and above me, I cannot spot the birds.
I walk and observe my surroundings for more than an hour. My vision is drawn to the ferns, which spring from the decaying tree trunks and at times fill in a section of the swamp. I see the color, the pattern and the contrast of a narrow trunk, speckled with lichen. I have found a composition. As I work with the image later, I developed a painting. What do you think?
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This driftwood stump caught my eye while I was walking the beach, as I noticed grasses growing out of the center. The scene spoke to me of both the passage of time and the regeneration of life, naturally occurring. Looking it over, I saw a simple composition that would be interesting to photograph with my Infrared camera.
Do you find this image both peaceful and intriguing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Infrared photography can really open your eyes and unleash your inner artist. There are so many ways to process an image that captures visible and invisible light above 590 nanometers, that the creative possibilities for rendering a simple scene can be inspiring. Let me explain.
When I go out to shoot Infrared photos, I look for simple compositions (less is more) with interesting shapes, strong contrast and often, a sky. For example, a an image that includes sunlit foliage against the sky will be high contrast. Walking around your familiar environment, you can find these elements. (A perfect COVID-safe activity!)
When you begin to process at the computer, the fun begins. Using some special techniques, you can render the image in black and white, or blue and white, or blue and yellow, or blue and pink, for example. The possibilities are not exactly endless, as they are derived from manipulation of the red and cyan color channels, but there is lots of space for experimentation and expression of personal taste.
The body of work I have created with Infrared photography and creative processing at the Naples Botanical Garden gave me the idea of putting together a book that includes a variety of processing applications. When I share a single print, I get mixed reactions from people who don’t know what to make of this imaging style. I find myself explaining that black and white photography is “not reality,” but it is revered, and has been a part of our art culture for a hundred years. And consider this: fine art painters take liberties with colors, making choices express feelings and moods, rather than literal “photographic” reproduction. In contemporary art, painters have been freed from even a literal rendering of form when they paint in the abstract, right?
I find that most people don’t understand Infrared Photography, as it is uncommon. I am proud to be an Infrared pioneer, and I hope you will join me and enjoy it.
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.
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.
While we are staying “safer at home,” I’m looking through the images I captured in February and uncovering a few hidden gems. I have found new examples of why it really pays off to wake up in the dark and get on location as the sun rises. The reflections on the lake makes this egret look regal.
This image is similar to one I blogged about in February, but it’s different with the fish in the egret’s bill. Here is another frame from moments later.
Since professional ballerinas are usually strikingly tall and thin, it’s funny to see the rounded figure of a duck extending a leg back into a graceful arabesque.
Both ducks are mottled with purple accent feathers on their wings. The male duck with the yellow beak swims on the left below. The female bill is mottled. Smart ducks, they winter near the coast. Their population has fallen, but they are found in the Eastern United States.
This Great Egret is no Narcissist. He’s just foraging for fish on a Tuesday morning. But his clear reflection in the lake reminded me of the Greek Myth about Narcissus, the character who fell in love with his reflection. This moment frozen in time in a still image gives the impression that the egret may have stared at his reflection for a few minutes. Of course, this moment passed in an instant.
This morning the colors reflected in the water and the ripples surrounding our Great Egret gave this image a unique ethereal quality. The smooth white egret and its reflection contrast with the color and texture of the water, bringing our eye to rest on the bird and its mirror image.
How to pick just TWO images from the past year of photography for the upcoming Art Show in Pelican Bay, our community in Florida? It’s time to order two good sized metal prints for the show. I asked myself which images I would like to keep, assuming no one asks to buy them, and I realized that I have a personal favorite that I did not include in my 2020 photography calendar and I have not included (yet) in my blog! So, here it is:
As I was aiming my Sony camera at the scene (in the rain) and asked my husband to “wait up” for me, I thought to myself that this might become one of my favorite images of the Canadian Rockies trip. Three components made me excited: 1. the vibrant hues of the turquoise lake and red and orange canoes, 2. the pleasing juxtaposition of these colors, which are opposite each other on the color wheel and 3. the circular arrangement of the canoes in the foreground.
If I asked others to choose my two best photographs of 2019, I will probably get a different reply. Do you have any suggestions for my second entry in the Art Show?