Inside Looking Out: Bradford Pear Blooming in the Rain

Guess what? It’s raining here again … as it did yesterday and the day before and the day before that, and is supposed to tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and part of next week. Sure does put a dent in one’s nature photography … doesn’t it?

However!! A Bradford Pear tree in front of my living room window…

… started blooming recently…

… and I felt like it needed its picture taken before the flowers get washed away. So I opened up the shutters and got a few shots from inside looking out, along with a few from my front porch. With all this rain, I guess I’ll need to come up with more indoor photo projects: stay tuned for some galleries featuring my sock drawer (or not!).

This Bradford Pear is technically a nuisance tree that I really need to have cut down: it splits and drops branches all spring and summer long, so has outgrown its welcome … yet these enchanting white flowers get it a stay of execution every February or March. So, once again this year, here are a few photos of its early blooming.

Thanks for taking a look!

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Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (2 of 2)

Hello! Below is the second of two galleries of Japanese Maple leaves in my garden, as the tree comes to life to signal the coming spring. The previous gallery — see Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2) — was taken while the leaves were still wet from recent rains but for these photos I waited another day until the tree had dried out. That allowed me to get finer visual detail out of the berries, which should be apparent if you view any of the images full size.

Thanks for taking a look!

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Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2)

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“[Leaf] shape varies not just between species but within species and even in individual trees. You could spend a lifetime attending to the variety of forms in a single species of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), because leaf forms in cultivated varieties … vary from fern-like to star-shaped, from shallowly cut to deeply cut, and have colors ranging from chartreuse to dark green, red, maroon, and even pinkish. Tree lovers could check Japanese maple cultivars off their life lists the way birders do warblers, but the owner of a single open-pollinated Japanese maple could be equally entertained just observing the size, shape, and color of the leaves on the thousands of seedlings that come up under such a tree.”

A sure sign that spring is not too-too far away: a Japanese Maple right behind my house produces tiny clusters of new leaves decorated with red/burgundy berries. I took the photos in this gallery the morning after our long rains finally stopped (for a few days, anyway). Raindrops still clung to many of the berry pods, weighing them down and giving them a nice full look even though they’re typically smaller than a pea. The berries only last a few days and fall off as leaves open — after which I sweep piles of them out of the courtyard! — so I was glad to get a break in the rain and take their pictures.

Here are the first eleven images; I played around with background bokeh and colors — especially where blurry berries added a little red, yellow, and green — as well as some backlighting just to see how the shapes looked against filtered sunlight.

A second Japanese Maple gallery and more Oakland Cemetery architecture photos coming soon … thanks for taking a look!

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Before and After: Bradford Pear, Blooming in Black and White

From Black & White Photography: The Timeless Art of Monochrome by Michael Freeman:

At the risk of oversimplifying, subtracting colour from imagery allows the other graphic elements and dynamics to increase in importance….

Colour is so integral to our experience of the world, and of imagery, that most people (and most photographers) do not separate it in their mind’s eye from everything else that is going on. In order to understand what happens when we take it away and work in monochrome, we need to know how it fits in to the total range of image qualities; also, how it differs from the other elements in its effect. [Colour] elicits subjective and emotional responses in a way that other image qualities do not…. The subjective response to colour is powerful and pervasive, and as a result, takes over viewer response to many photographs. If the colour component in an image is strong, rich, unusual, or simply noticeable, there is a good chance that it will swamp the attention….

And because colour triggers emotional responses, there is also usually an unquestioned assumption that it works on a scale of beauty, or at least attractiveness. To say “what a spectacular sunset”, or “look at how blue the water is”, or “that gray really sets off the pink”, or any of the many other common value judgments on colour, is to acknowledge that the effect of colour can be likeable — and for most people should be likeable. This gut reaction to colour is by far the most common, and in this way it stands apart from the other formal graphic elements….

There are a number of ways of subdividing the graphic components of an image, but the most generally accepted are: point, line, shape, texture, and colour. In the way that these are used and interact, there is contrast, balance, and dynamics (or vectors). Subtracting colour enhances those remaining. In practice, this means that the components and qualities most affected are the graphic ones of shape, the graphic structure of the image, and the gradation along the gray tonal scale, as well as the three-dimensional ones of volume and texture.

One Wordless Wednesday back in January, I processed and posted a series of color photos of a vintage camera; then a couple of days later, converted the images to black and white and wrote about the workflow I used. That was my first attempt at color to black-and-white conversion with Lightroom or the Nik Collection, and it was fairly easy to get the results I wanted since the color images leaned toward monochrome and the primary subject was mostly black and silver.

After posting some photos of a Bradford Pear blooming in front of my house on last week’s Wordless Wednesday, I wondered how those multi-colored images would look if I turned them into black-and-white. The budding blooms are a key image element and they vary from light green to bright white, depending on how much the blooms had opened. I wanted to see if I could create black-and-white versions that emphasized the opening blossoms, reducing — but not eliminating — background elements that provided additional context (spring!) to the images. My goal was to elevate the quality of the photos by making the blooms, regardless of whether they were opened or not, “pop” out of the image in shiny bright white.

All of my adjustments to create these images were completed in Lightroom; this time, I didn’t use any Nik Collection filters at all. I’ve been trying to better understand where the two tools overlap, when to choose one over the other, and when to use both. For these images, I converted to black and white in Lightroom — which created the flat-looking versions you can see in the middle column of the second gallery below — then made basic image adjustments (to exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks) to emphasize the blossoms and fade the backgrounds. I then worked through the individual color channels in Lightroom’s Black and White Mix panel to balance the blacks, grays, and whites in each image, mostly by adjusting green, yellow, and red channels to create that balance.

I also applied quite a bit of sharpening to the images, which, surprisingly, didn’t create any apparent distortion but helped bring out the textures, patterns, and highlights of the individual blooms — probably because the sharpening tool mainly had whites and light grays to work with. As a final step I experimented with split-toning — a Lightroom tool I haven’t used very much but want to learn more about. For these photos, I used split-toning to shift gray in the shadows from a warm to slightly cooler color, which provided the silver-white brightness I was looking for when I started this workflow.

Select the first image to view larger versions; then, if you are interested, take a look at the second gallery showing the transitions.

Below are three steps in the transition of these photos from color to black and white. The first column shows the processed color image from my original blog post; the second column shows the color image after conversion to black and white but with no other adjustments; and the last column shows the final version, with adjustments to exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, the individual color channels, sharpening, and split-toning.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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