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, I’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

Happy New Year!!

From Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl:

“No child has ever had such an exciting young life as Little Billy, and no child has ever kept such a huge secret so faithfully. He never told a soul about the Minpins. 

“I myself have been very careful not to tell you where they live, and I am not about to tell you now. But if by some extraordinary chance you should one day wander into a forest and catch a glimpse of a Minpin, then hold your breath and thank your lucky stars because up to now, so far as I know, no one excepting Little Billy has ever seen one. 

“Watch the birds as they fly above your heads and, who knows, you might well spy a tiny creature riding high on the back of a swallow or a raven.

“Watch the robin especially because it always flies low, and you might see a nervous young Minpin perched on the feathers having its first flying lesson. 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places….” 



8 Comments

Walk, Work, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

From “The Walker’s Waking Dreams — Rousseau” in A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros:

Rousseau claimed to be incapable of thinking properly, of composing, creating or finding inspiration except when walking…. It was during long walks that the ideas would come, on the road that sentences would spring to his lips, as a light punctuation of the movement; it was paths that stimulated his imagination….

“Walk, work, discover…. Trampling the earth with his heavy shoes, disappearing into the brush, wandering among ancient trees. 

“Alone, and surrounded — or rather filled — with the quiet murmur of animals and trees, the sigh of wind through the leaves, the rattle and creak of branches. Alone, and fulfilled. Because now he could breathe, breathe and surrender to a well-being slow as a forest path, without any thrill of pleasure but absolutely peaceful. A lukewarm happiness, persistent as a monotonous day: happiness just to be there, to feel the rays of a winter sun on his face and hear the muffled creaking of the forest.”

I’ve been prowling my neighborhood, hunting for splashes of winter color. I’ve ended out with a large, slightly unwieldy batch of photos that I’m organizing into a half dozen galleries, that I’ll be working on and posting over the next week or so. Unlike summer and spring here in the southeast, green no longer dominates the scenes that become my photographs. Where green is present, it’s typically found in hardy grasses; or more commonly, among the ivy varieties whose color shifts from deep green to a shadow-filled version, where aqua or blue are emphasized by seasonal changes and the softer light of a winter sun. Backgrounds, especially, transition toward muted gray, chocolatey brown, and pastel variations of yellow, orange, and gold. My eye moves toward the surprising shapes and textures of plants in their dormant stages, and how those forms stand out as abstractions of their growing season versions.

The two galleries below include images of hydrangeas — bits of hydrangeas — that I found shaded by the trees of Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The first gallery features those where pink and red was still present on the leaves, after their fall turn and while still barely attached to their stems. The white filaments on some of the leaves — a form of mold or fungus — presented some interesting (that is, frustrating) challenges for the photographer because their contrast with the red shades created a difficult-to-overcome sense that they were out of focus … fuzzy, that is. To (attempt to) improve their appearance, I used radial filters in Lightroom individually over each of the leaves, reducing whites, highlights, and saturation then adding a bit of texture and sharpening to emphasize the veins in the leaves over the cottony fungus.

Except for the last photo below, this second gallery shows side-by-side pairs of the same clumps of spent flower clusters, framed differently. I did very little post-processing on these nine images, mainly some brightness and shadow changes to soften and darken the backgrounds and emphasize the remnants of the buds — which through the zoom lens looked almost like they were suspended in mid-air, held up as they were by tiny threads. Our eyes tend to pass over sights like this; but zoom and macro lenses provide a view of the world that our unaided sight typically misses.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

6 Comments

Merry Christmas!

From “A Christmas Carol” in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens:

“‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night…. I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!…’

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him….

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits … and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”


Below I’ve accumulated all the holiday photo galleries from the past ten days … a seasonal spectacle of color and light! Click the links atop each gallery if you would like to see the original posts and the quotations I selected to go with them.

Thanks for reading, and taking a look … and:

Merry Christmas to all!


Ten Days To Christmas: Peace


Nine Days To Christmas: Two Santas and Three Snowmen


Eight Days To Christmas: Tiny Baubles


Seven Days To Christmas: Red and Green


Six Days To Christmas: Silver and Gold


Five Days To Christmas: The Bright Lights Are Coming From Inside The House!!


Four Days To Christmas: Winter Solstice


Three Days To Christmas: Angels, as the Dog Watches Over Them


Two Days To Christmas: Light the World


One Day To Christmas: Happy Christmas Eve!


6 Comments

One Day To Christmas: Happy Christmas Eve!

From “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” in Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, by Shaun Usher:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there….

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

6 Comments