“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….”
“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!
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.
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.
“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 rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.”
Part of Bradbury’s themed collection The Illustrated Man, this short story was subsequently adapted and included in the 1969 film by the same name, then later featured in the television anthology The Ray Bradbury Theater. The power of the short story, and the film adaptations, came from Bradbury’s ability to take something typically benign — rain! — and turn it into a malevolent force that pounds a group of space travelers marooned on a distant planet. Spoiler alert: the men go insane.
I’ve thought of the film often over the past couple of weeks, when Atlanta’s version of the long rain continued with barely a pause from a few days before Christmas before finally stopping just yesterday. You know that soothing feeling you get from listening to the rain when you’re just barely awake in the early morning? It turns into something else, much less pleasant, on the fourth or fifth day in a row that rain beating on the roof wakes you up at 4:00 AM! 🙂
I suppose it’s only marginally interesting to write about the weather in a blog post; but with above-average temperatures, the rain and clouds clearing away have revealed how nature’s reacting. Irises in my front garden are pushing out a few buds (stay tuned for macros!), normally dormant holly ferns have generated large new fronds, and even perennial lantana and hydrangea stems are dotted with the beginnings of new leaves. But of course it’s not spring yet and unless the temperatures remain above freezing for the next two months, most of this early growth could get crushed later in January or February.
From the winter photos I processed, I’ve selected 51 to post here on my blog; below is the first of three sets that were taken in the days after a snowstorm some years ago when I traveled to northern New York around the holidays. Enjoy the photos; as always, thanks for reading and taking a look!