Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine)

From “Time” by Susan Hill and Rory Stuart in The Writer in the Garden by Jane Garmey:

“There is a continuity about the garden and an order of succession in the garden year which is deeply pleasing, and in one sense there are no breaks or divisions — seed time flows on to flowering time and harvest time; no sooner is one thing dying than another is coming to life….

“Perfect moments come in every garden…. To the very active gardener they may not be of great importance and usually they will be happy accidents, lucky moments when, chancing to glance up, the gardener will see that this or that grouping of plants at the height of their flowering looks exactly right, because of the way the light falls on them…. The moment will be pleasing but fleeting and its transience of little importance when there is satisfying work to be done….

“Awareness of when such moments are most likely helps to make them happen; they will not be entirely accidental but anticipated; everything will be planned to encourage them. This gardener will be out in the very early morning and from late afternoon, attentive to small changes in the quality of the light and the atmosphere, as well as to every nuance of the season, which combine to create perfection. Late sunlight will slant for just a few minutes on a variegated shrub placed against a dark, evergreen background; the assertive evening calling of blackbirds and the scream of swifts round and round the rooftops calms and stills as darkness gathers; pale flowers, translucent whites, pinks and chalky blues stand out in the dusk, sharp yellows and oranges are defined separately as dimmer, subtler tones retreat into the spreading shadow. Water on a pool goes dark blue and then black at one particular moment, just as the moon rides up into a clear sky. The dew rises and with it the fainter scents which have been blotted out by the heat of the day. Now, all should be quiet, still; the air is so transmissive that any sharp sound or acrid smell will startle and upset the delicate equilibrium in the garden. Conversation and even company are inappropriate…. 

“Such moments are to be enjoyed alone. They are the reasons why some people have gardens.”

Below are a couple of galleries showing early growth on a catawba grapevine in my garden. As new vines start to appear each spring, the leaf tips emerge with a distinct purple tint — almost like they’ve been lightly brushed with that color. It only lasts a few days, and I never even noticed it until I aimed a macro lens at the vines three or four years ago. Now, this color marks time in my garden — like the quotation above implies — and its a marker of early spring that fades to shades of light green shortly after it appears. The two galleries show a similar series of images; the second one includes variations at a closer zoom level.

Thanks for taking a look!




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Wordless Wednesday: Tiny Leaves and Berries



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Clematis Variations: Gallery 2 of 2

Hello! Below is the second of two galleries featuring clematis blooms from my garden. The first gallery included photos of a Bernadine Clematis; this gallery shows a President Clematis — previously posted as buds and vines on a chair, here.

I learned something new while processing the photos for this gallery, as they came out of the camera looking like this:

WTF? What color is this!?!

I loaded about fifty images of the flower into Lightroom and deleted those that were out of focus, then started making adjustments to get better contrast and color out of this over-saturated blue. I’ve owned several Sony digital cameras and have often found that, regardless of white balance settings, the cameras render cooler-than-actual colors — which usually show up in the photos as bluish cast that’s easily stripped out using Lightroom or other tools, and often doesn’t need to be adjusted at all. Still… this blue seemed over-the-top and as I was working on the fourth or fifth photo, a question popped: is the President Clematis blue? I was already indoors of course so I did a search for President Clematis images… only to find a mix of blue, purple, and violet flower pictures along with a few of unrecognizable color. So I did what I should have done in the first place: I went outside and looked at the actual flowers.

Imagine my surprise: the flower is definitely not blue, but a mix of purple, violet, and blue, with colors in the purple and violet ranges most dominant on the petals and blue gradients (on the larger flowers) toward the edges. Funny that I didn’t know that without physically looking, but apparently color memory is not that reliable.

So… a fine side-effect to manually choosing exposure characteristics and white balance (instead of using the camera’s automatic settings) is that you know what you did, and, more or less, why you did it. Outdoor light changes constantly and with macro lenses the changes can have a significant effect; but it’s also true that the photos in both galleries were taken on the same day, at around the same time, with about the same lighting, and with similar camera settings. I didn’t have any problems with the Bernadine Clematis colors, only those on the President Clematis.

Some folks reading this may already know the punch line, but I didn’t. I kept the photos I had already taken, and went back outside to figure out what had happened. It was a little disconcerting: my right eye, looking through the camera’s viewfinder, saw blue; my left eye, peeking around the camera, saw purple. I was pretty sure my eyes weren’t broken, so I started changing camera settings and found that the only way I could get the camera to render the flowers as purple was to manually set an extremely warm white balance — getting an almost exact match for the purple in the flowers, but also casting yellow over everything else in the photo. Corrections in Lightroom didn’t fix that: adjusting white balance there to try to compensate simply slid the flowers back from violet and purple to blue. What a hoot!

As it turns out, digital cameras can be color-challenged when reproducing colors in the purple-to-violet range, and the color shifts even more toward blue as the intensity of violet color increases. See, for example, Why are My Purple Flowers Blue? — which shows an image with a nearly identical color misinterpretation as mine. After trying numerous color adjustments, I learned from The Color Purple and the Digital Camera to start by adjusting the blue hue first…

… and decreasing purple saturation since the color was so intense. These adjustments got me closer to the original color as my eyes saw it, and I could then keep the flower color in check while making additional exposure and color adjustments so that the background elements still looked right. The President Clematis blooms don’t last very long; all of the blooms in these pictures have since blown away so I was glad to have gotten it sorted. I still think a few of the photos in this set ended out with some slightly unnatural colors; but let’s just say that was a creative choice. ­čÖé

Select the first image to begin a slideshow; thanks for reading and taking a look!

Oh, and another surprise. I usually only get a handful of blooms from this plant, all at about the same time in mid- to late-April… but this year it looks like there may be more!

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