Clematis, Preparing to Bloom: Gallery 1 of 2

From The Secret History by Donna Tartt:

“If I had grown up in that house I couldn’t have loved it more, couldn’t have been more familiar with the creak of the swing, or the pattern of the clematis vines on the trellis, or the velvety swell of land as it faded to gray on the horizon, and the strip of highway visible … beyond the trees. The very colors of the place had seeped into my blood….”

From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:

“In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars.”

From The Writer in the Garden by Jane Garvey:

“Stick a clematis in a sunny spot with its roots shaded and it will reward you for years.”

In early February, I assembled a small gallery that included the very first signs of spring appearing in my garden: a few tiny leaves from one of my three clematis vines. Since then, the plants have suffered through and survived a week of below freezing temperatures, gotten tangled by repeated windy days, gotten soaked by long rainstorms … and yet have started producing new vines at a frenetic pace while pushing out dozens of flower buds. It will be another month, probably, before the flowers start opening; but I’m as fascinated by the vines and buds at this stage as I will be by the flowers when they bloom.

Here are fifteen closeup images from two of the plants that I bought last year. I planted them in pots after flowering season, so I haven’t seen the flowers; and the plants came with a tag that identified them only as “clematis” — so I don’t know the variety. When the flowers do bloom, I’m sure I’ll take many new shots … and possibly get some help identifying the strain.

For several of these photos, I tried to isolate bits of the vine suspended in space, and emphasize the curves and detail in the leaves and buds. I’ll post a second gallery over the weekend, of a President Clematis that has a very different appearance from this one.

Select the first image to begin a slideshow … thanks for taking a look!

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Before and After: Bradford Pear, Blooming in Black and White

From Black & White Photography: The Timeless Art of Monochrome by Michael Freeman:

At the risk of oversimplifying, subtracting colour from imagery allows the other graphic elements and dynamics to increase in importance….

Colour is so integral to our experience of the world, and of imagery, that most people (and most photographers) do not separate it in their mind’s eye from everything else that is going on. In order to understand what happens when we take it away and work in monochrome, we need to know how it fits in to the total range of image qualities; also, how it differs from the other elements in its effect. [Colour] elicits subjective and emotional responses in a way that other image qualities do not…. The subjective response to colour is powerful and pervasive, and as a result, takes over viewer response to many photographs. If the colour component in an image is strong, rich, unusual, or simply noticeable, there is a good chance that it will swamp the attention….

And because colour triggers emotional responses, there is also usually an unquestioned assumption that it works on a scale of beauty, or at least attractiveness. To say “what a spectacular sunset”, or “look at how blue the water is”, or “that gray really sets off the pink”, or any of the many other common value judgments on colour, is to acknowledge that the effect of colour can be likeable — and for most people should be likeable. This gut reaction to colour is by far the most common, and in this way it stands apart from the other formal graphic elements….

There are a number of ways of subdividing the graphic components of an image, but the most generally accepted are: point, line, shape, texture, and colour. In the way that these are used and interact, there is contrast, balance, and dynamics (or vectors). Subtracting colour enhances those remaining. In practice, this means that the components and qualities most affected are the graphic ones of shape, the graphic structure of the image, and the gradation along the gray tonal scale, as well as the three-dimensional ones of volume and texture.

One Wordless Wednesday back in January, I processed and posted a series of color photos of a vintage camera; then a couple of days later, converted the images to black and white and wrote about the workflow I used. That was my first attempt at color to black-and-white conversion with Lightroom or the Nik Collection, and it was fairly easy to get the results I wanted since the color images leaned toward monochrome and the primary subject was mostly black and silver.

After posting some photos of a Bradford Pear blooming in front of my house on last week’s Wordless Wednesday, I wondered how those multi-colored images would look if I turned them into black-and-white. The budding blooms are a key image element and they vary from light green to bright white, depending on how much the blooms had opened. I wanted to see if I could create black-and-white versions that emphasized the opening blossoms, reducing — but not eliminating — background elements that provided additional context (spring!) to the images. My goal was to elevate the quality of the photos by making the blooms, regardless of whether they were opened or not, “pop” out of the image in shiny bright white.

All of my adjustments to create these images were completed in Lightroom; this time, I didn’t use any Nik Collection filters at all. I’ve been trying to better understand where the two tools overlap, when to choose one over the other, and when to use both. For these images, I converted to black and white in Lightroom — which created the flat-looking versions you can see in the middle column of the second gallery below — then made basic image adjustments (to exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks) to emphasize the blossoms and fade the backgrounds. I then worked through the individual color channels in Lightroom’s Black and White Mix panel to balance the blacks, grays, and whites in each image, mostly by adjusting green, yellow, and red channels to create that balance.

I also applied quite a bit of sharpening to the images, which, surprisingly, didn’t create any apparent distortion but helped bring out the textures, patterns, and highlights of the individual blooms — probably because the sharpening tool mainly had whites and light grays to work with. As a final step I experimented with split-toning — a Lightroom tool I haven’t used very much but want to learn more about. For these photos, I used split-toning to shift gray in the shadows from a warm to slightly cooler color, which provided the silver-white brightness I was looking for when I started this workflow.

Select the first image to view larger versions; then, if you are interested, take a look at the second gallery showing the transitions.

Below are three steps in the transition of these photos from color to black and white. The first column shows the processed color image from my original blog post; the second column shows the color image after conversion to black and white but with no other adjustments; and the last column shows the final version, with adjustments to exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, the individual color channels, sharpening, and split-toning.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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Winter Scenes: After the Storm (Set 3 of 3)

From the essay “House-Warming” in Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau:

“The snow had already covered the ground … and surrounded me suddenly with the scenery of winter. I withdrew yet farther into my shell, and endeavored to keep a bright fire both within my house and within my breast. My employment out of doors now was to collect the dead wood in the forest, bringing it in my hands or on my shoulders, or sometimes trailing a dead pine tree under each arm to my shed. An old forest fence which had seen its best days was a great haul for me….”

“At length the winter set in in good earnest … and the wind began to howl around the house as if it had not had permission to do so till then.”

The gallery below contains the last of three sets of photos I took in the days following a snowstorm in northern New York.

The previous sets in this series are here:

Winter Scenes: After the Storm (Set 2 of 3)

Winter Scenes: After the Storm (Set 1 of 3)

Enjoy the photos!

Bye for now……………….. 🙂

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Winter Scenes: After the Storm (Set 2 of 3)

From The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones by Alfred Watkins:

“The winter, with its light of low elevation, and with an absence of leaves, is by far the best season, and the lovely December day … gave an opportunity long hoped for.”

“[The] absence of leaves on trees, winter is by far the best time of year for a certain type of exploration….  Sun shining on one side and very low down is an ideal condition.”

The gallery below contains the second of three sets of photos I took in the days following a snowstorm in northern New York.

The first set in this series is here: Winter Scenes: After the Storm (Set 1 of 3).

The irresistible Ford truck partly buried in the snow made an earlier appearance on this site, in a different season, here: Before and After: Swamp Things.

Thanks for taking a look!

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