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Saturday, 29 June 2013 17:55

Expecting the Unexpected

Over the past fifteen years that I have visited the magnificence of Roan Gardens in mid-June I have come to appreciate the presence there of another lovely blossom. For just about the time when the Catawbas are in their full display and the Gardens are filled with spectators, there is another, more subtle explosion of color that takes place about a foot-and-a-half off the ground, and typically on the open edge of the rhododendron forest, often unnoticed by the passers-by. There is a species of columbine in bloom; but it is not the Aquilegia canadensis that grows in the Smokies, which is supposedly the only native columbine east of the Rockies. Instead, it looks much more like the western species I have seen in places like Crested Butte. How it came to be in Roan Gardens is a mystery to me; but whenever I see it there I am always delighted by its beauty. I found this specimen surrounded by ferns and ground cover, underneath a cluster of rhododendron trunks; and in order to use the greenery as  background I framed a composition looking more down on the flower. This allowed me to use the two buds and a few of the leaves, which were lower on the stem, as out-of-focus supporting elements. It also allowed me to make the open bloom relatively larger in the frame and to treat the entire stem much as a spiral with the blossom at the upper end and the lower end disappearing into the background. A focal length of 330mm gave me the magnification and angle of view. An aperture of f/6.3 ensured shallow depth of field, but with sufficient sharpness in the bloom; and a shutter speed of 0.3 second at ISO 100 gave me a somewhat lighter-than-medium overall exposure.

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  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 30 June 2013 19:31 posted by Don McGowan

    Jim, thanks for joining us. I'm sorry to hear the reason for your journey. One of the realities that has come out of my hip problem and surgery has been an increased understanding of the difficulties we encounter as we get older in putting ourselves in certain positions and staying there long enough to work an image effectively. I think the solution then becomes finding the opportunities that can challenge us creatively, but which we can still master by our perseverance. I know you will always strive to persevere.

  • Comment Link Jim Jenkins Sunday, 30 June 2013 18:47 posted by Jim Jenkins

    Beautiful image, what I always expect from you. Your description of how the image was created is always helpful to me. I doubt that I could ever duplicate what you describe, but at least you description gives me a possible chance at how it should be done.
    Late responding, attended the funeral of a friend's father.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 30 June 2013 11:18 posted by Don McGowan

    Hi Nancy T. Thanks for joining us. I'm glad my use of the medium telephoto focal length with this image has inspired you, and I'm glad you like this image. My macro lens would not give me the separation I wanted, so the telephoto was the answer. Hope you are doing well.

  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 30 June 2013 11:09 posted by Don McGowan

    Hi Bruce, thanks for joining me. I hope all is well in Kansas. Your observation on the color complementarity is well-taken. Purple/magenta and green work well together in that magenta is warm enough to appear to "advance" in the image, and the green is cool and, thus, "recedes." You are right, too, about the framing issue with a distracting element. I got "high enough" to the point that I could see a sliver of green between the bud and the blossom. Any higher and I felt I would lose the angle of the blossom and the relationships of the "horns", which I liked; and any lower and the merger between bud and blossom would have occurred. It's interesting that where you see a barely merger, I see a barely non-merger. Thanks for raising the question; it's a very important one.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 30 June 2013 11:01 posted by Nancy Tripp

    Thanks for sharing this. I love your choice of lens at 330mm and aperture to get the great separation of the flower from the background. I don't think to use my longer lenses for flower closeup photos. But this is beautiful so I will give it a try! Thanks!

  • Comment Link Bruce Hogle Sunday, 30 June 2013 10:34 posted by Bruce Hogle

    Hi Don!

    Love the magenta of the columbine against the complementary green. I would have liked to have seen you gotten just a tad higher with your framing so the 1st bud wasn't (barely) merging with the petal of the flower. However, that might have meant compromising some other element that you choose not to, like maybe the green of the stem peaking through in the center which I do like. I like that the flower appears to be coming out of the image at the viewer. Of course, the complementary colors add to the illusion of 3-dimensionality. Very lovely image!

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