Winter Seeds and Berries (1 of 2)

From This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick:

“The natural elements of our childhood environment imprint themselves on us, forming our earliest memories of what a place should look like.”

From Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn Chace, with photographs by Robert Llewellyn:

“Like a child in a fairy tale who follows a beckoning songbird far from home into unrecognizable territory, my seed journey began with curiosity and took me to strange places. Sometimes the load seemed heavy and the road looked long — seeds are complicated and puzzling. Other times a seed revealed its inner secrets before drifting away on a breeze. The ingenuity of the seeds of this world, not to mention their sheer volume of production, is astounding and real. Many seeds are small, but we should underestimate none of them. What they contain and do is huge, mysterious, and important.”

Melody Warnick’s book This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are describes the author’s “love where you live” experiments and techniques, born of her desire to achieve a sense of “place attachment” despite relocating many times throughout her life to American cities of starkly different character. The book is divided into sections discussing topics like buying local, building community relationships, diving into local cuisine, and exploring nearby natural spaces — with practical task-lists and suggestions on how to embed yourself in the region you call home. I included the specific short quote from the book above because it reminded me of connections between my childhood exploration of the woodlands near my home, and what has evolved into an (apparently!) endless engagement with taking closeup photos of the natural world.

Warnick’s book — which I highly recommend if you’re interested in ideas for learning more about your urban or rural environment — is a fine addition to a series of books about environmental psychology that I often use when researching topics for this blog or considering some new photography project ideas — a fascination that, for me, originally developed from a SUNY Empire State College course I took called “Exploring Place: History” where I got the opportunity to perform detailed studies of local historical places, such as Oakland Cemetery. Warnick does cover cemetery exploration in her book, something she found unexpected pleasure in as she realized that she — like many people I get quizzical looks from when I mention my cemetery trips — hadn’t previously thought of a cemetery as a pleasant and historically valuable place to visit.

Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn Chace is a completely different kind of book, one of two I have featuring astonishing images by photographer Robert Llewellyn. You can see some of the photos from the book on the seeds page of his web site. The book embeds you in the lives of seeds, berries, and the fruits of plants, describing their significance to each plant’s natural growth cycle. With the accompanying Llewellyn photographs, the book reveals a world we don’t typically pay much attention to, one that is astonishing in its form and color, especially with the aid of a nice zoom or macro camera lens.

The gallery below is the first of two, where I focused solely on wintering seeds and berries I found in the Oakland Cemetery gardens.

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Below is my second collection of Winter Gold images, a few of which are variations in color or point-of-view of those in the previous post Winter Gold (1 of 2).

I was highly entertained working on the last photo. Aside from the (interesting?) fact that it’s a photo of some dead leaves, it came out of the camera looking like this:

The underexposure was a mistake, something that happens when I misjudge what I’m seeing in the camera’s viewfinder immediately after looking at the sun while trying to hide it behind a tree trunk — one of those goofy photographer moves not unlike wondering why the viewfinder’s so dark… then realizing you haven’t taken the lens cap off. šŸ™‚

Anyway!! The underexposure didn’t concern me that much, though this example does help demonstrate how much detail you can recover from a too-dark RAW file, especially if the subject is in focus. What I hadn’t noticed while taking the shot, though, was the blob of yellow light that had crept onto the entire right side. I initially tried getting rid of it using Lightroom’s spot removal tool, then tried running a graduated filter from the right edge toward the center — but wasn’t satisfied with the results. So instead I used a radial filter around the leaf clump to lose most of the background by reducing highlights, shadows, whites, texture, saturation, and sharpness to eliminate color and detail, then reducing exposure to make the remnants of the original background darker. This approach usually produces good results for me when, as in this example, the coloring in the background is essentially a blown-out highlight, and the dark colors (such as those around the leaf) are not actually black, but are shades of black and gray. Reducing the six elements I listed, and only then reducing exposure, creates a more uniform background — very close to pure black, but still containing softened shades of black and dark-dark gray — and provides a smoother visual transition between the subject of the image and the background.

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

5 Comments

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

From “Sesame Mountain” in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes:

“[He] went up to the mountain and said, ‘Sesame Mountain, Sesame Mountain, open up,’ and the mountain opened before him. Then he entered, and the entire mountain was a cavern filled with silver and gold, and in the back there were large piles of pearls and glistening jewels heaped on top of each other like grain. The poor man didn’t know what to do or whether he should take any of the treasure. Finally, he filled his pockets with gold, but he left the pearls and jewels lying there.”

Like the Poor Man in Grimm’s “Sesame Mountain” story, I, too, am now in possession of a collection of gold nuggets… photographed bits of found winter color featuring yellow-gold, pale-gold, orange-gold, harvest-gold, and of course, gold-gold. Here is the first of two posts showing the results of my gold rush, photos taken during late December and early January visits to Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts (looks like we’ve got a new project going — more soon!) are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Thanks for taking a look!

7 Comments

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Hello. Here’s an additional set of abstract photos from my recent photo-jaunts around the neighborhood.

More on this series here: Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2).

Previous related photos are here: Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter.

Thanks for taking a look! Hope your new year is off to a GREAT start!

6 Comments

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

From The Photographer’s Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman:

“[What] inspires a photographer to raise the camera may be entirely without substance, something that pervades the entire scene. In this case, Iā€™m specifically thinking about light, and most of us at some time simply find the lighting conditions so attractive or interesting that we want to photograph them interacting with something, anything. Exactly what the light is striking becomes much less important than its own quality…. Color, too, attracts the attention of some photographers as a subject in its own right. Even more than light, it offers the possibilities of abstracted compositions in which the color combinations themselves appeal, regardless of what physical objects they are part of.”

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“It may seem that the photographic medium, recording light reflected off actual subjects, is unsuitable for abstraction, but this is obviously not true. Like any other artist, the photographer may willingly omit significant details to force their viewers into an experience they may not notice if distracted by the literal recognition of superfluous elements. 

“In a sense, every photograph extracts a selection of elements from a greater context, allowing the artist to isolate such things as line, pattern, and form by means of careful composition, to a point where the literal subject may become altogether unrecognizable. As such, in photography we can talk not only about a work being abstract or literal, but also about degrees of abstraction.”

As I mentioned in a previous post — Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter — I’m working on several sets of photos from numerous walks through the ‘hood, where I’m hunting out bits of winter color. For this post and the next one, I separated out those images that were more abstract — those with simple or stark shapes and textures. Here’s the first batch, showing the presence of a dominant color (or two) against a textured natural or manmade (concrete, stone, or brick) background.

Here’s the second batch. On one side of a roadway that bisects the cemetery gardens, there are a dozen flowering dogwoods that, of course, have lost their leaves but are already beginning to produce buds that will burst out as new flowers in late February or early March. These eight photos — simply colored, monochromatic, almost black-and-white — seemed to work out well because it was a cloudy day and the filtered sunlight gave their whites and grays (as well as muted blues and background greens), a bit of silver cast that processed nicely in Lightroom.

From the first two photos, you can see how densely the branches and buds on a single tree are packed; and behind them are another dozen or so additional dogwoods that added to the sense that there are hundreds more flowery branches, just dormantly biding their time. While walking among these trees, I found just one remaining spent leaf turned by autumn, the tiny marionette — surprise! — in the last photo.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

7 Comments