The point is to turn your grief into love. The roses are helping you find grace.
Holly Lynn Payne
I planted peonies in my new garden last year. Peonies were one of my favourite flowers as a kid. I remember them fondly from our garden in the West Island of Montreal. We had lilac bushes, crabapple trees and plum trees. We had irises too. Oh yes, and tulips and daffodils. Marigolds also, I think.
But it was the peonies that won my heart for having both a delicate frilled beauty and an unforgettable fragrance, which heralded early summer and its longer, languid days. And peonies had such a short life too — they were a sweet reminder that many good things in life are fleeting, so paying attention and having appreciation is in order.
When I first saw the peonies unfurl to the sun this year, I ran out with my camera to capture them in situ. I quickly bent to have a sniff. I could not believe the scent — it was even better than I remembered. Not sweet or sickly — just perfect. I inhaled deeply. Then I went to work shooting them in the garden.
After that, I brought one in and placed it in a clear vase. It was still wet from the rain. I took shots from many angles with different apertures, all against a white background, trying to pay attention to the composition. I was going for something pure and simple. Trying to convey the spirit of the peony.
Then I moved the vase into the kitchen so it was backed by my window to the back yard. I made some images in the golden morning light, again with different apertures, but mostly large because I didn’t really want the peonies to have to fight for attention with the back yard!
Once I was finished shooting, I began to process the raw images. I use Adobe Camera Raw to start with and then for some of the images I played with my new favourite tool in Photoshop, Colour Lookup.
There is a flowering tree not far from our boat (a Hong Kong orchid, I am told) with a lovely fragrance. I love trees in general and I find myself returning to this one often. At certain times, the light falls on the flowers in a way that is irresistible.
So today I spent some time with the flowers, trying to capture a range of their gestures (placement of petals and stamens etc.) and experimenting to see how their colour changed depending on where the light fell on them.
I love listening to Jay Maisel talk about photography. He has forgotten more than I will probably ever know. The funny thing is that he speaks in such straightforward terms and makes it sound so easy, and when you look at his images, you can be fooled into thinking they are simple to make — that is, until you try to replicate one! He has some wonderful videos on You Tube (Google them!) and of course, his new book Light, Gesture, Colour is just excellent.
Many people snap away at flowers and are quite pleased with the results. I envy them. In my experience it’s not easy to take a good picture of a flower — at least one that satisfies me. The ratio of bad to good is quite high. Is that just me, or do you find that too?
Here are some of my favourite quotes from Jay Maisel. They inspire me to keep going and keep trying…
“We have always wanted to find the ‘it-ness’ of anything we shoot. We want to get as deep into the subject as we can.”
“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings, and the implications of all that you look at …”
“What you’re shooting at doesn’t matter, the real question is: ‘Does it give you joy?’”
“Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.” (That is oh so true!)
“The drama of light exists not only in what is in the light, but also in what is left dark. If the light is everywhere, the drama is gone.”
“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.”
But then, on the other hand…
“Remember that most people (those who are not photographers) don’t even see the things that you missed. Many don’t even look. Ergo, you are way ahead of the game.”
THANK YOU to all my readers…
I wish I could thank each and every one of you for your kind, thoughtful and insightful comments on this post. They made my day!
It looks like the weather is shaping up for us to leave to cross to the Bahamas on our sailboat very soon. So I need to turn my attention to other things right now and will probably be without Internet access for a bit.
I hope to see you on the other side!
June abounds with the birthdays and anniversaries of so many friends and family. So as we go through the month celebrating all of you, I’ll think about all the laughter and pleasures we’ve shared over time and look forward to more.
These beautiful irises are now planted in our front yard, the kind gift of family members with seriously green thumbs. When we moved to our new home three years ago, we left behind a garden that had taken years to develop, filled with all kinds of flowers and foliage, shrubs and trees. I do miss my irises and my peonies and my magnolia tree and my climbing vines and all the rest of the plants I carefully researched, selected and planted. I miss my quiet and soothing vine-covered meditation garden, my water feature and my granite bench.
But that was then. This is now. It’s time to start again…We began to plant and landscape last year and we added a plum tree, a ginkgo, lilacs and an espaliered apple tree. We planted blueberry and currant bushes and rhubarb. And our vegetable garden will be full of healthy brightly coloured vegetables just as it was for the past two years.
We continue to develop our outdoor space this summer. I’m yearning for more flowers…but they will come…and the irises are a great beginning.
Our time in the Bahamas on Windsong II is coming to an end. We’re now looking for a weather window to return to Florida. I have more images and video than I know what to do with (!) but I’m sure I’ll figure something out…
It has been a fabulous experience…Be back in touch again soon…
In August I will be joining many bloggers in taking a break from regular blogging — although I’m not all that regular at the best of times. But I feel the need for a digital sabbatical so I can focus on some photo projects I’ve been hoping to do for a while.
I may pop in here as the spirit moves me to share an image or two from one of these projects…or something completely different.
In the meantime, I have a little poll for you…
I’d love it if you’d take a second or two to answer. If you prefer other types of blog posts entirely, feel free to mention this in the comments. Thanks so much for your views!
My grandmother had definite ideas about colour. She used to say that pink and orange “screamed” at each other. I think it stemmed from the fact that she was blessed with thick auburn tresses and had been told she could never wear pink because it would clash with her hair! And did you ever hear the one: “Blue and green should never be seen”? That happens to be one of my very favorite colour combinations.
Thank goodness ideas about colour change over time.
I have written about my colour preferences in photography before. It’s fascinating to go through your archives and pay attention to what colours and combinations you are repeatedly drawn to and how you handle colour in your photography. I highly recommend it.
I have noted that I generally steer away from riotous mixtures of primary colour. Well, not always! The image above is a multi-coloured bougainvillea hedge that we pass all the time. Yellow, red, pink, orange and purple flowers all coexist perfectly side by side. No screaming, no clashing! (I do think the harmonious effect is helped by the shallow depth of field though…)
I added the colour storyboard at the bottom as part of the challenge for Week #11 of an online course I’m taking with Kim Klassen. I doubt this palette would have appealed to my grandmother…How about you?
Don’t forget to check the Daily Post for more colourful entries.