I like to say we have two summers here in Austin, TX. The first one lasts from March – June and our second summer is September – November. In between??? July and August is the DeaTH ZoNe!!! Too hot (one year we had 100 days of 100+ degree temps) and too dry for most plants. Everything just browns away except the prickly pear cactus and a few native plants that tolerate the hot, arid conditions. We still have 90+ degree days but in our September through November second summer it is tolerable and the blooms return. Here the Rock Rose field on property blooms away enjoying its second summer.
This patch of rock rose was an accident. A few years ago I cleared out a couple of rock rose plants in our garden that were dried and up done for the year. I threw out the plants in an back area field with cedars. Next year produced a field of rock rose from the seeds from the wilted plants the year prior.
Our cameras love to measure time and light in fractions of a second. But often I do not. Walking through our field there is always motion. Even in the stillest of winds, the hoppers fly and bees buzz around me. Usually there is breeze that waves our grassland and wildflowers into one sea of flowing color and moving highlights.
When you give control to the camera it aims for clarity and thus it tries to slow time down to the point of stopping motion. When I walk our land or hike in our forests nothing seems still and frozen. Everything is moving, constant change, the wheel never stops. It is a bigger illusion to believe we have stopped time in clear print than the illusions and abstractions I present in these images.
All of this is not new. The Impressionistic painters in the 1800’s and JMW Turner before them, departed from the tradition of painting clearly. A new way to communicate the beauty and majesty of this world was born.
My first introduction to this way of approaching photography was found in William Neill’s Impressions of Light. Check out his ebook on capturing nature’s beauty in this manner.
All these images were created utilizing long exposures with camera movement. To gain long exposures times I had to use a Lee Big Stopper filter which adds 10 stops of light reduction. The only edits were performed in Lightroom for color, clarity, and “lengthening the histogram”.
In many elite sports such as figure skating, body building, gymnastics there is the practice of compulsories during competition – basic maneuvers that have to be proficiently completed. There seems to be an unwritten code that there are compulsory image types to complete if you practice nature photography. You have to have the one flower with a blown-out bokeh background. Your have to master the basic composition rules, and then break them. Then there is the field shot and the wet flowers after a rain with drops on them. Flowers with a sunrise background, sunset direct light, sunset back light, etc. And you get big bonus points if you can work in any baby animals into your nature shots!
If you look at the prevailing photo sharing sites it seems that the swing is to more dramatic light/dark range. Check out the most popular on 500px and there will be many ultra-dramatic nature images. A few years ago it was HDR. Speaking of HDR, here is graph of a photographer’s artistic progression from five or so years ago (link location). It was popular back then simply because of its accuracy and universality. I have certainly progressed that path – a couple of times unfortunately. I do not learn my lessons very well!
So where does this leave creativity? True creativity that matches an internal vision of how you connect to the world? That is for another post and a few drinks. But until then, there are few more compulsories to post. More Spring 2015 nature images from our land follows. But this is it for the compulsories.
I am a different person when I walk our land. The birdsong and wind’s whisper are seen even more than heard. Every cactus needle and yucca tell a pointed tale. The roadrunners are leaning forward into their runs. A thousand firewheels orchestrate a symphony of swaying waves. And yellow blooms breathe in-out, in-out, in-out lungfuls of air. I have not found it yet out here but somewhere there is the pulse of a beating heart.
“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” ~ John Muir
There is a natural progression to the wildflowers appearing on our land in central Texas. Verbena and Bluebonnets mark the beginning of Spring wildflowers. They give way to firewheels, mexican hats and the prickly pear cactus blooms. The fields turn from purple and blue to yellows, oranges and reds.