It’s Spring ! At least here in California. Since many friends across the country are still thawing out, how about we go looking for a photo in my garden? My pink dogwood tree, Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’, is putting on quite a show.
‘Finding the Photo’ is a classic lesson from my Workshop series. I ask my students to look at the garden and go beyond the snapshot. Find that photo that tells a story, that narrows down the viewer’s attention to exactly what you want them to see.
It’s easy to grab the first thing you see.
But then what is special ? What do YOU really see ? Find a way to show that.
As I contemplated the dogwood I noticed that, for the first time, it has reached out and greeted its neighbor, the Japanese maple. I planted both these trees 14 years ago. They have finally touched.
I imagined they would grow up together but never quite visualized them in the same photo. But now that I see them mingling I have an idea for a book – Plant Marriages. Not a groundbreaking idea perhaps, but an idea. Hmmm – will there one day be a companion, Plant Divorces, for combinations that were never meant for each other and need to go their separate ways ?
But for the dogwood photo, what I was hoping to find was a new photo for my photobotanic series – an isolated branch that I could silhouette as an illustration. I walked around and around the tree visualizing branch and flower patterns.
I finally found a very complex pattern that I isolated with my telephoto lens.
It will take a day’s worth of Photoshop to extract the branch from the background to make this one work as an illustration, and I still wanted a branch all by itself. I spied this small branch down close to the ground, reaching out to the blue Ajuga that appeared out of nowhere in my meadow lawn.
Ahhh. So I have found the photo. Now I put my telephoto lens back on and come in tight.
Crop it square and isolate the branch.
Now in the computer post production, after isolating the branch in a Photoshop layer, I fade the background behind it. Since I wanted the branch to leap off the page, I then create a mat to go behind the flower bracts, eliminating all the actual garden in that frame area, and then substitute an off white color.
A PhotoBotanic illustration. Prints for sale here. More detail will follow in “The Camera and Computer”, book 4 of the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop.
Pretty much fun for a day when I had not planned to shoot. But the tree called out, and I knew there must be a photo to be found.