What Remains: Clematis Transformations

Clematis Season has pretty much come to an end here in Southeastern America; that is, the version of it that goes on in my back yard is almost over. I had written earlier about hoping to get another shot at taking some other shots of my President Clematis, since — when I wrote that post — there were a few unopened buds that looked like they would bloom up real nice. Unfortunately, however, we had several over-the-top hot-hot days in a row in April, and one afternoon when I wasn’t looking almost all of the buds … melted.

One did remain for a few days after the heat blast, so I got these three photos for a final presidential gallery … until next year:

The two Bernadine Clematis vines I added to my garden this year continued to bloom for a few weeks after the President dwindled. I had already taken quite a few photos of those blooms, so didn’t spend too much more time on that … except to assemble these three as a last look at Bernadine for 2019:

Every clematis bloom that appeared and drifted away since early April has been replaced by a tiny mophead. All of these seed pods — there are a dozen or more on each of the Bernadine vines — have a diameter about the size of a quarter or half-dollar, and they’ve already outlasted the flowers. The filaments are highly reflective, transitioning in color from silver to gold as the sun rises and moves to its noon-time high.

I took these photos the day after a couple of thunderstorms, which washed away most of the pollen that had collected on the filaments. My first attempt at a photo gallery — a few days before those storms — gave me a couple dozen photos so full of pollen dust that they weren’t usable. Normally I don’t mind spot-removing flaws and re-blending colors on my macro photos, but picking hundreds of pollen spots from these thin strands didn’t seem like a good way to spend my time. I deleted that first batch of images once I saw how much more photogenic they were after the rain.

Four of my clematis vines (all except the President) are in pots on my back steps, so I see clumps of these vibrant mopheads through my back door and every time I head into the garden. They make me smile quite a bit: they remind me of Truffula Trees from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss or the spiky clover from Horton Hears a Who. And yes, you guessed it: If I sit for a bit on the steps and lean in, I can just barely hear “We are here! We are here!” as the tiny residents of Whoville try to get my attention.

This may or may not be true. 🙂

Select the first image for a slideshow; thanks for reading and taking a look!

Wordless Wednesday: The Many Colors of Early May

Godzilla in the Garden: A Photoshoot

Early this morning, I was out in the garden taking more pictures of plants I’ve already obsessively photographed, when this tiny lizard yelled at me from inside my Concord Grapevine and asked about doing a photoshoot. This was a very unusual thing: these lizards are often skittish around humans and typically scurry out of camera range, but this one wanted to hang with me and pose for a few shots. He said he was after a greater social media presence and for some reason thought I might be able to help.

He was a little shy about the camera at first (aren’t we all?) but quickly got into the swing of things and watched me, warily, as I moved around the vine, got closer and closer, and click-click-clicked. I was experimenting with an inexpensive (but very functionable) LED unit attached to my camera’s flash shoe, and his eyes kept following the light. He may have been a bit dazzled… you know: bright lights, big city, fifteen minutes of fame, and all that jazz….

Anyway… he stayed among the grapevine leaves for close to an hour and I took about fifty photos. He approved these nine for public release. Now he wants to be on Instagram….

Wordless Wednesday: Tiny Leaves and Berries



Clematis Variations: Gallery 2 of 2

Hello! Below is the second of two galleries featuring clematis blooms from my garden. The first gallery included photos of a Bernadine Clematis; this gallery shows a President Clematis — previously posted as buds and vines on a chair, here.

I learned something new while processing the photos for this gallery, as they came out of the camera looking like this:

WTF? What color is this!?!

I loaded about fifty images of the flower into Lightroom and deleted those that were out of focus, then started making adjustments to get better contrast and color out of this over-saturated blue. I’ve owned several Sony digital cameras and have often found that, regardless of white balance settings, the cameras render cooler-than-actual colors — which usually show up in the photos as bluish cast that’s easily stripped out using Lightroom or other tools, and often doesn’t need to be adjusted at all. Still… this blue seemed over-the-top and as I was working on the fourth or fifth photo, a question popped: is the President Clematis blue? I was already indoors of course so I did a search for President Clematis images… only to find a mix of blue, purple, and violet flower pictures along with a few of unrecognizable color. So I did what I should have done in the first place: I went outside and looked at the actual flowers.

Imagine my surprise: the flower is definitely not blue, but a mix of purple, violet, and blue, with colors in the purple and violet ranges most dominant on the petals and blue gradients (on the larger flowers) toward the edges. Funny that I didn’t know that without physically looking, but apparently color memory is not that reliable.

So… a fine side-effect to manually choosing exposure characteristics and white balance (instead of using the camera’s automatic settings) is that you know what you did, and, more or less, why you did it. Outdoor light changes constantly and with macro lenses the changes can have a significant effect; but it’s also true that the photos in both galleries were taken on the same day, at around the same time, with about the same lighting, and with similar camera settings. I didn’t have any problems with the Bernadine Clematis colors, only those on the President Clematis.

Some folks reading this may already know the punch line, but I didn’t. I kept the photos I had already taken, and went back outside to figure out what had happened. It was a little disconcerting: my right eye, looking through the camera’s viewfinder, saw blue; my left eye, peeking around the camera, saw purple. I was pretty sure my eyes weren’t broken, so I started changing camera settings and found that the only way I could get the camera to render the flowers as purple was to manually set an extremely warm white balance — getting an almost exact match for the purple in the flowers, but also casting yellow over everything else in the photo. Corrections in Lightroom didn’t fix that: adjusting white balance there to try to compensate simply slid the flowers back from violet and purple to blue. What a hoot!

As it turns out, digital cameras can be color-challenged when reproducing colors in the purple-to-violet range, and the color shifts even more toward blue as the intensity of violet color increases. See, for example, Why are My Purple Flowers Blue? — which shows an image with a nearly identical color misinterpretation as mine. After trying numerous color adjustments, I learned from The Color Purple and the Digital Camera to start by adjusting the blue hue first…

… and decreasing purple saturation since the color was so intense. These adjustments got me closer to the original color as my eyes saw it, and I could then keep the flower color in check while making additional exposure and color adjustments so that the background elements still looked right. The President Clematis blooms don’t last very long; all of the blooms in these pictures have since blown away so I was glad to have gotten it sorted. I still think a few of the photos in this set ended out with some slightly unnatural colors; but let’s just say that was a creative choice. 🙂

Select the first image to begin a slideshow; thanks for reading and taking a look!

Oh, and another surprise. I usually only get a handful of blooms from this plant, all at about the same time in mid- to late-April… but this year it looks like there may be more!

Wordless Wednesday: Honeysuckle Leaflets