"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
 

Summer Daylilies (1 of 3): Burgundy and Yellow

From “Hemerocallis” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“The name is from the Greek for ‘day’ and ‘beauty’ — a distinguishing mark of the genus is that the flowers open for only a day (hence, daylilies). The 18 species are found across Eurasia, with most in the Far East. The relationship of the Hemerocallidaceae to other formerly ‘lily family’ plants has been much disputed; current thinking puts Hemerocallis in its own family….

Hemerocallis species can be found in a wide range of habitats, including mountain meadow and coastal situations; the common factor is sun or light shade, with moderately high levels of moisture and fertility. These are clonal perennials, forming dense, competitive, persistent clumps and often surviving in abandoned gardens…. Although they are cold hardy, daylilies thrive particularly well in climates with hot, humid summers. They are listed as potentially invasive in some U.S. states. Hybridisation has resulted in a plethora of cultivars, which are divided into a variety of sections, based largely on flower form — trumpet, flat, flaring, star, spider, ruffled, etc.”


Hello!

This is the first of three posts featuring photos I took of daylilies at Oakland Cemetery’s Gardens earlier this summer.

These are the same daylilies as those in one of my posts from last year (see Lilies on Black Backgrounds (4 of 10)), but this year’s colors were really intense — with burgundy, especially, much more saturated than it was in the earlier photos. Coincidentally, burgundy and yellow are two of the trim colors on my house; the third color — you may have guessed it — is green! Scroll toward the bottom if you’d like to read about how I created these images.






With this series of daylily photos (as well as some other daylily and lily-lily photos I’m still working on) I decided in advance of my shoots that I’d likely remove the backgrounds behind the flowers in post-processing. With that in mind, I knew I’d want to get as close-in as possible but also capture as much front-to-back flower detail as I could. So I used narrow apertures — that is, high aperture numbers like f/19 and f/27 — along with a high ISO (ISO 1600!) to get the results I wanted for the original image.

While it’s certainly true that such high ISOs introduce noise, it’s also true that tools like Adobe Lightroom do a decent job of removing that noise while retaining an acceptable level of detail. And, as a bit of a contrarian, every time I see and article describing some element of photography that you should avoid — like using high ISOs — I want to try it and see what happens. I’ve written about this previously: see Lilies on Black Backgrounds: A Photo Project (1 of 10), where I describe how I use this approach to manage color and detail when taking photographs in outdoor, natural light — especially when it’s overcast or I’m working in a tree-covered area (which both help minimize shadowy contrasts).

Below you can see the three photos from the last gallery above, and their transition from the original RAW image in the first column; to the second column where I’ve finished color, contrast, and tone adjustments; to the last column where I removed the background by “painting” it black.

Because I used such narrow aperture settings, the images initially contained a lot of extra behind-the-flower detail, most of which looks pretty messy but gave me the option, in this case, of including some of the better-looking daylily’s leaves in each final image. It took a good bit of patience — and a few hours of eyeball-straining mouse-poking — to reveal some of the leaves in these photos. Lightroom’s automatic subject-selection (see Lightroom’s Masking Tool for an overview) correctly treated the flowers as the primary subject, so the leaves require manual brushing to remove the black overlay. Despite the effort required, though, it was a lot of fun to figure out what parts of the background to include — and these leaves added some shapely flourishes to the images.

Select the first image below if you would like to slide through the transitions.


Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Winter Shapes: Hydrangeas and Japanese Maple Leaves in Black and White

From “Structure” and “Tonal Nuance” in Black & White Photography by Michael Freeman:

“Image possibilities that contain a strong potential for structure notably include elements of line and shape, almost always heightened by some form of contrast….

“Black and white enhances these possibilities by taking away the distraction of colour, forcing more attention on the contrast across edges….

“Physiologically, our visual system responds more sensitively to some hues than to others, which is why yellows and yellow-greens are brighter to our eyes. But more than this, there is our psychological response to different hues. One simple example of this is that ‘hot’ colours around orange are readily associated with flame and burning, and also the production of light. Most people feel these to be inherently brighter than, say, blues, which we tend to associate with water, coolness, and dim light.

“Take this away, and the tonal scale simplifies dramatically. What this allows is a clearer, purer concentration on the subtleties of transition between shades of gray.”


Hello! A few days ago I posted a some photos of hibernating hydrangea and Japanese maple leaves; here are the same photos, rendered in black and white, and modified with various filters in the Nik Collection to create additional contrast and detail, add a bit of glowing softness, and shift the black-and-white tones to a touch of silver-blue.

At the end of this post, there is a before-and-after gallery, if you would like to compare the color and black-and-white versions.

Thanks for taking a look!






Here are the before-and-after images; select the first one to compare versions in a slideshow.


Winter Shapes: Hydrangeas and Japanese Maple Leaves

From Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery by Brenda Tharp:

“It takes practice to get the look you want, and each situation is unique in what it presents in terms of light, color, and pattern. The best way to determine a reference point for this type of picture is simply to experiment and see what you get.”

From Light on the Landscape: Photographs and Lessons from a Life in Photography by William Neill:

“When trees are bare, their graceful forms are starkly revealed. The tones of beige and gray or black and white form a subtle palette in the landscape. The lines of grass and shrub, ice and fallen leaves, display themselves in simple, elegant designs, like a drawing or etching…. Winter photography offers us options at all scales.”


Hello!

I liked the first quotation above because it accurately expressed what I was trying to do with the photographs in the galleries below. Winter color in my part of the southeastern United States is often an odd mix of monochrome interspersed with bright whites, pale yellows, and greens from those hardy plants that don’t mind temperatures in the forty-to-fifty degree range; so some days I go hunting for washed-out colors and other days I look out for hidden bits of bright color instead. These photos are from a mostly-monochrome day.

The first five photos show the remnants of Japanese Maple leaves still clinging to their branches; and the six that follow are desiccated hydrangea leaves and flowers — all with some color and luminance adjustments (among other things) and with their backgrounds “painted” black.

Given the fine details within each of these photos, Lightroom stumbled a little at automatic subject selection; and I ended out spending quite a few hours carefully mousing around the edges of these leaves and branches to get the look I wanted. In the end, there were only a few photos in this set that I was satisfied with, but decided to post them anyway since that’s what experiments are all about: seeing (and in this case, sharing) what you get. I may take a shot at converting some of these to black and white; they might look good that way, and help reduce what (to me, at least) appear to be flaws in these renderings.

The last gallery, at the end of this post, shows the before-and-after versions of each of the five maple leaf photos and six hydrangea photos.

Thanks for taking a look!





Here are the before-and-after images; there were a lot of details to paint! 🙂


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