I am hung up on flowers, obviously. And I am also once again compelled to comment on the power of the photographer’s point of view. The conventional view of flower is from the side and from a short distance. The tulip becomes something quite different when you view it from the top at close range.
This is one of my wife’s beautiful flowers, incidentally. I’ll admit that I did wander into the neighbor’s yard again today. But the pink tulips called me back home. . . .
Regular readers of this blog might have noticed that what I call “A Photo A Day” has recently been “A Photo Once and A While.” Quite honestly, I’m fighting through the worst “blogging slump” I’ve had in four years. I can’t say why except that I’m a little jaded right now. I enjoy teaching photography at Lake Area Technical Institute, and I love my students but I am realizing that as much as teaching photography has given me, it also takes something away. I’m not complaining and I’ll have plenty of time to recharge in a few short weeks.
I will also admit that I’m a little bored with the dew dappled flower photos I post. But I posting one today, mainly because yet another winter storm has hit South Dakota and I’m looking out my window at at least 8 inches of new snow with more coming down. So my impulse was to find something colorful, and a set of iris photos I took last spring jumped out at me. I hope you like the one I’ve “developed.”
And, before I leave, a word about words. . .
Finding a title for my photos is sometimes hard. And it could be that even my title today is a bit redundant. But I like the word “aspiration,” which has the Greek word “spiro” as its root. Spiro means “to breathe.” Per-spire literally means “to breathe through.” Re-spire means “breathe again.” But “aspire,” or as in the title, “aspiration”, is a little more complicated. I’ll take the dictionary definition: an aspiration is “a hope or ambition of achieving something.” This iris aspires but probably doesn’t know it, especially today as it sleeps beneath a soft blanket of fresh, white snow.
Do I dare say that I am inspired (look that one up!) by what I just wrote. Today I have hopes and ambitions. I hope you do, too.
I suspect that there is nothing all that special about prairie grass, unless, of course, you live where there is no prairie. Or, like me, live where there is no living grass right now. And, as I know I’ve said, when I am feeling SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) kick in, I go looking for photos I took in better weather.
This clump of grass lived on the bluffs overlooking the Little Bend of the Missouri River on Lake Oahe. In late July, 2012, I took close to 50 photos of this grass one morning, mainly because the wind was gusty and the grass wouldn’t sit still. I imagine that taking photos of children might be like that. Though children offer considerably greater diversity, don’t they?
You may have noticed that I revisit the same subjects and scenes in my photography. It could be that I do that because I have limited access to new subjects and scenes. Or it could be that I both lazy and have limited vision.
But it occurs to me this morning that, though there may be a grain (or a bolder) of truth in in this, the real reason is that as I improve as a photographer, I keep wanting to go back and improve on the photos I have taken. Whether the improvements are visible or worth the time and effort, I can’t say. I’ll admit that photography for me is sometimes more about the experience and process than it is about the result. Talk about right brained. . . .
What I like about this “ordinary rose” is the texture in the catchlights in several of the drops of water. How did that happen? By accident, of course. In the process of experimenting with a honeycomb grid on a medium soft box, I discovered that the grid shows up like window panes in several of the focused drops. I like it even if you don’t.
I also like how I spent 10 minutes in Photoshop moving one of the drops because I thought the balance in the photo would be improved. I figure that the drop is less than 3mm in size. But in the macro world, that is pretty big. Which drop? I’m not telling. . . . It ends up being one of the “1000 unseen details.”
“Obverse” is coin talk for “front.” And this photo is where my Kennedy Half project started. Frankly, I got smarter about lighting the coin as I experimented over a two day period. But I’m posting this because I figured some would want to see the Kennedy side of the Kennedy Half. (Yesterday, as you may know, it was the reverse side of the coin.)
I didn’t photograph this with the little symbol under Kennedy’s neck in mind but you certainly can see it here. I can remember that when the coin was released in the 60s, some saw nefarious intent in this symbol. If you look at it in just the right light, it appears to be a hammer and sickle, the symbol of the Soviet Union. Heaven forbid!
It turns out that what we are really looking at is the engraver’s mark, GR, standing for Gilroy Roberts, the designer of the coin. But we have to remember that the 60s were rife with communist takeover theories. And what better way for the insidious Commies to work their way into our culture than to put a tiny communist symbol on every 50 cent piece? Talk about subliminal. . .
The good news is that in the 21st century Americans are much less likely to believe in conspiracies. Right? But wait, are we sure that President Obama isn’t a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Black Panther bent on destroying all that is sacred in our blessed USA? And How about the $10 bill? Is that an Odd Fellows symbol in Hamilton’s bow tie. . . ?
“E Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “From many, one,” which no doubt has many meanings, especially in the context of American democracy. But in this photo, the meaning is a little more literal: there is only one coin oriented and focused in such a way that it has complete meaning.
So is this photo art? Or is it a mere document? It is probably more the latter than the former, though I worked hard to get the look I present here. The focus is very specific. And the lighting was the result of considerable experimentation. Here’s my set-up
I am using a medium soft box on the left with a honeycomb grid. And to provide fill, I am using a Canon Speedlite and a snoot. A snoot is a nose-like attachment that focuses the light very precisely and in this photo helps accentuate the three dimensional properties of the coin, including the ridges and the feathers on the eagle’s wings.
The narrow depth of field allows for very interesting bokeh, both in the background and in the foreground. And for those who crave true wisdom and insight, here’s a bit of a look into the lighting:
The coins, incidentally, are Kennedy Half Dollars, vintage 1965 to 1970. That means that these coins are 40% silver and are worth much more than their 50 cent face value.
I guess I’m stuck on black and white these days. And, while this macro photograph isn’t exactly a “Wow” photo, I’m guessing it’s a closer look at a silver coin than you may have had before. This coin, by the way, was left to me by my aunt Betty of California.
This cactus lives on a shelf in our main bathroom and during much of the year it just sits there. But once a year, spurred on by forces a photographer like me could never comprehend, it blooms.
And when I went into the bathroom a few minutes ago, I wasn’t thinking about macro photography. But I couldn’t ignore the blooms, which were backlit by soft sunlight filter through thin clouds in the winter sky. And so I abandoned my original mission, and got my camera.
Incidentally, this is a Christmas cactus, but given that it is January 30, I think this one is a bit of a nonconformist.