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

Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (1 of 5)

From “Attention and Design” in The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction by Matthew B. Crawford:

“When viewing two-dimensional representations, whether photographs, paintings, or screens, we are not able to move around and gain different perspectives on the scene depicted…. [We] normally orient ourselves in our physical environment according to an axis of proximity and distance, and this basic orientation is not available when the world appears through mediating representations.

“According to Alfred Schutz, the spatial categories we employ in everyday life arise from our embodiment. A person is ‘interested above all in that sector of his everyday world which lies within his reach and which arranges itself spatially and temporally around him as its center.’ Relative to this center, one carves up the surrounding world at its egocentric joints: right, left, above, below, in front of, behind, near, far. The world within ‘actual reach’ is basically oriented according to proximity and distance. This reachable world ’embraces not only actually perceived objects but also objects that can be perceived through [attention].’ Thus it includes, for example, things behind you that are close but currently out of sight. The content of this sector is subject to constant change, due to the fact that we move around.

“This idea of orientation around a bodily center helps us to see how the attentional environment that has emerged in contemporary culture is novel and somehow centerless. Recall that the basic concept at the root of attention is selection: we pick something out from the flux of the available. But as our experience comes to be ever more mediated by representations, which remove us from whatever situation we inhabit directly, as embodied beings who do things, it is hard to say what the principle of selection is. I can take a virtual tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing, or of the deepest underwater caverns, nearly as easily as I glance across the room. Every foreign wonder, hidden place, and obscure subculture is immediately available to my idle curiosity; they are lumped together into a uniform distancelessness that revolves around me.

“But where am I? … Is the mouse-click a kind of agency? This gesture, emblematic of contemporary life, might be seen as a fulfillment of the thinned-out notion of human agency we have signed on to when we conceive action as the autonomous movements of an isolated person who is essentially disengaged from the world.”

From “You and It” in Collected Poems of Mark Strand by Mark Strand:

Think what you like, but
It really is the same. Oh,
You can walk around on it
All right and, watching the speed
With which it falls back, fool
Yourself into thinking it changes,

Or, standing with your head
On it, think it above you
With all the grass of summer
Hanging down, mindless
Birds at your feet, your blood
Rushing up to greet your shadow.

But move, and only the angle
It is regarded from changes.
Turn up the stones and they
Reveal what has always been
Uppermost. Put them back?
And you are where you started.


This is the first of five posts (yikes!) where I’ve taken the daylily, lily-lily, and amaryllis photographs that I’ve been posting over the past few weeks, and re-rendered some of them on black backgrounds. I wasn’t originally planning to do that because it can be so time-consuming (imagine spending about an hour on each one of these images, and doing that for 76 of them) — but with this long streak of temperatures seeping above 100 degrees every day, I’ve been keeping the outdoors outdoors and myself indoors more than usual.

For these five posts, instead of searching for quotations or verses about the flower families as I usually do, I decided I would look for quotations about photography that are not from books about photography, and poems about the summer season. The excerpt from the poem “You and It” by Mark Strand above seemed to capture, coincidentally, my experience of photographing flowers — as I often photograph each one from many different angles and positions, and most of them don’t survive the “cutting room” where I try to eliminate all but the ones I’m most technically satisfied with that represent what I saw, when I saw it.

And the poem echoes the rather obtuse selection from Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, in that both describe actual experience in the world, and the way we position our physical bodies to capture variations on that experience. Crawford, of course, is contrasting our worldly experiences with our virtual experiences, raising questions about the latter — something I also did when I quoted him in one of my earlier posts on using AI image generators: Irises on Black / Notes On Experiences (2 of 2) and its companion post Irises on Black / Notes On Experiences (1 of 2).

I think it may mean something that after spending a lot of time with Adobe Firefly for those two posts, I subsequently lost interest in it, feeling mostly the kind of digital angst Crawford implies above. I’ll probably try again once its capabilities are incorporated into a Photoshop update (it’s currently available in a beta version of Photoshop, which I’ve decided not to install) because I’d like to see what happens if I apply some other creative styles to my own photographs. It might be interesting, for example, to render my own images as watercolor paintings, or in a Hudson River School style, or perhaps as antique botanical illustrations. I’ve tried each of these with Firefly, but since I can’t yet do any of that with pictures I’ve taken, the results lack meaning and just seem like a flood of randomly generate images of no personal significance. So, for now, I’ll stick with my black backgrounds — which I can do with the tools at hand, and (hopefully!) result in images that you find compelling.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Early Hemerocallis (Daylilies)

From “Hemerocallis” in Flowers and Their Histories by Alice M. Coats:

“There are not very many species of Day-Lily — about thirty in all, including several which are probably only sub-species of the ubiquitous H. fulva, whose range extends from Europe to China. In that flowery land it was cultivated at a very early date, and appears in a painting of the twelfth century; it was called Hsuan T’sao, the Plant of Forgetfulness, because it was supposed to be able to cure sorrow by causing loss of memory….

“In England both H. fulva and H. flava were cultivated before 1597, and called by the early botanists Lilly-Asphodills or Liliasphodelus, because they seemed to embody the characteristics of both families — a lily flower with an asphodel leaf. H. flava, the yellow day-lily or Lemon Lily, ‘is a native of the northern Parts of Europe; it gilds the Meadows of Bohemia; and in Hungary perfumes the Air, in some places for many Miles’. It is very hardy, flourishing even under trees and in towns, and was recommended for London gardens as early as 1722. The foliage is reported to make excellent fodder for cattle, particularly for cows in milk….

“Hemerocallis comes from two Greek words meaning the beauty of the day.”

From “Daylily” in 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:

“The botanical name [hemerocallis] comes from the Greek hemera (day) and kallos (beauty) because the flowers’ beauty lasts but a day, which is also why they are called ‘day lilies.’ They were named by Linnaeus, and the names ‘fulva‘ for the tawny lily and ‘flava‘ for the lemon lily are rare instances where he named specific plants by the color of their flowers.”

From Day Lilies by L. S. Asekoff:

One by one, the unborn
announce themselves — risen from green shadows
day lilies tremble into light.


It was only last year that I learned that daylilies are no longer classified as lilies — yet I still associate them with an invented summer time period I call “Lily Season” since they tend to bloom along with true lilies such as Easter Lilies, Madonna Lilies, and the lily-like Amaryllis family’s Swamp Lilies or Crinum. My Lily Season doesn’t have a set start date, though: it starts when I post my first batches of lily and lily-adjacent images, so this year begins on July 6 and will end when I run out of photos. Imaginary seasons can be very flexible.

I took the photos below — along with some of the other varieties I just mentioned, which I’m working on — in the first half of June. They seemed to have bloomed earlier than usual this year, but even though I was iris hunting at the time, I didn’t want to miss them. “Plants behaving strangely” is sort of a theme for gardens and gardening this year (see, for example, Dogwoods with White Blooms (1 of 2)). I’m still puzzling about the lingering effects of a long and unusual deep freeze we had at the end of 2022 — which did a lot of damage to plant life throughout the area — that was followed by a second one a few weeks later that did further damage to plants that were just beginning to recover. Even this late in the year, I see quite a few plants in my own garden that produce new leaves, lose them, then produce another set. I have read elsewhere that some plants — especially struggling shrubs like mine — may need another season to return to their normal cycles, since they’re clearly not dead but not exuberantly alive either.

I’m hoping that there are additional batches of daylilies and true lilies this month, but recurring stormulous weathers have kept me away from the gardens for the past few weeks so I hope my hope is not misplaced.

“Hemerocallis” — the daylily’s genus — is a favorite new word for me, one I only learned when researching their botanical characteristics and history. It looks like a word I might make up, but — alasp! — I did not. Sometimes I holler it to The Dog just because I like how it sounds. And somehow he got it associated with his playtime… so now when I yell “Hemerocallis!” — he runs off and gets his ball…. 🙂

Try this: Let “Hemerocallis” roll off your tongue once or twice the next time you’re out at your favorite speakeasy; it’s sure to impress all your friends!

Or not!

Thanks for taking a look!

Summer Daylilies (3 of 3): Red, Orange, and Yellow

From “History of the Daylily” in The Illustrated Guide to Daylilies by Oliver Billingslea:

“The modern daylily is a highly evolved plant, the ancestors of which were species native to the temperate parts of central and northern Asia. According to the American Botanical Society, the genus consists of some 13-15 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and dormant herbaceous perennials found growing along the margins of forests, in mountainous areas, marshy river valleys, and meadowlands in China, Korea, and Japan, and occasionally into Manchuria and eastern Siberia….

“The ancient Chinese, in particular, used the species for food and medicine. The flower buds were palatable and nutritious, and the root and crown often served as an effective pain reliever…. Because its flowers were bright and cheerful, the daylily also came to symbolize for the ancients an outlet for grief, its primary effect an emotional one….

“Two species brought to America were the orange H. fulva, commonly known as the ‘roadside’ or ‘homestead’ lily, and H. flava, the ‘Lemon Lily’ of early twentieth century gardens.”

From Colour in My Garden (1918) by Louise Beebe Wilder:

“Among the most lovely and useful of yellow flowers are the Day Lilies (Hemerocallis). Their colour is very pure and fine, and runs the scale from mild lemon colour to strong fuscous orange. The flowering season of the different varieties covers a period of nearly three months, and few plants grow with such hearty good will in all sorts of positions….

“Yet I seldom see any save the common Lemon Lily (Hemerocallis flava) made any great use of in gardens, and this, though truly lovely, is usually relegated to out-of-the-way places where more capricious things have scorned to grow. The Orange Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva) we commonly see decorating the roadside near to some old garden, but its colour is magnificent and it is well worth a place within the garden.”


This is the last of three posts featuring photos of daylilies I took at Oakland Cemetery’s Gardens earlier this summer. The first post is Summer Daylilies (1 of 3): Burgundy and Yellow; and the second post is Summer Daylilies (2 of 3): Double-Double Orange-Orange.

The orange daylilies below are the “single” variation of the double Hemerocallis fulva that I showed in the second of these three posts.

Fuscous” — from the second quotation above — is a fun new word, don’t you think? I’d never heard it before, though perhaps it’s commonly used in Victorian-era botanical culture (or not). It means “dark” or “dark-hued” so let’s use it in a sentence. Here’s the Atlanta weather for today, which prompted me to increase the brightness on all these photos before posting them:

It was a fuscous and stormy day.

Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks for taking a look!

Summer Daylilies (2 of 3): Double-Double Orange-Orange

From “Daylilies by the Bouquetful” in One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell:

“Often I wonder how gardeners fared before the great surge of modern daylilies, as these are a mainstay of the summer garden. Most varieties last three weeks in bloom; that is, a well-grown clump with many flowering stems will show flowers for that long. And there are early and late kinds, so that the season is a good two months or even longer if very early and very late kinds are chosen. Daylily flowers range in size from one and a half to eight inches, on stems one to six feet high.

“Still, it is a mistake to think the daylily will take care of itself like a weed, as the wild Hemerocallis fulva does. That is the burnt-orange kind you see along alleys and at abandoned sites, where it persists along with chicory or dandelions….”

From Colour in My Garden (1918) by Louise Beebe Wilder:

“In Nature, broadly speaking, we find that red and scarlet and yellow are rare, given to us as stimulants, as vivid experiences. They are confined to sunset and sunrise skies, to autumn foliage and to flowers; while the ‘restful and reparative’ colours — blue, green, and violet, as revealed in the sky, the sea, the distance, and the great green setting of grass and trees — make up the beautiful commonplace of our daily seeing….

“Surely there is a lesson here. The constant perception of broad masses of emphatic, exciting colour would prove severely taxing, yet do we most surely need them here and there to bring out the quality of neutral colour, and to arouse the immobile beauty of the garden to glowing life.

“Yellow, orange, and scarlet flowers show to greatest advantage in full sunshine.”


This is the second of three posts featuring photos I took of daylilies at Oakland Cemetery’s Gardens earlier this summer. The first post is Summer Daylilies (1 of 3): Burgundy and Yellow.

I’ve always referred to this particular daylily as “double orange” (or sometimes “double-double orange-orange” because it’s so large) — but discovered today that it is actually a variation of one called Hemerocallis fulva as you can also see if you do an image search for “double hemerocallis fulva” on Google.

I took a few pictures of similar daylilies last year when I hadn’t yet learned that daylilies are not actually lilies, so those older photos are mixed in with true lilies on this post: Lilies on Black Backgrounds (3 of 10). Ah, well, at any given time you only know what you know; and, as Bart Simpson would say: “Mistakes were made!

Thanks for taking a look!

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.”


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!