Still Having Trouble

I just read the new posting on the Garden Gone Wild PIcture This Contest. I looked through my photos to find images for what the contest might be asking.

This seemed like an easier criteria this month than others because what was being requested was so well written, illustrated and explained. Explained even twice. It is too late to enter an image to fit the compositional techniques, but I am hoping to get some feedback on how I did handle the project, a very differently interpreted entry. I tried to fill the scene with mood, drama, story, lighting and emotion. The subject of the forest and forest floor was not as readily identifiable, being overshadowed with the mood set by the time of day. Also, a mistake at that time of day, I should have had a tripod along. In fact, all these images were shot handheld.

Maybe I am reading far too much into this, but think my entry may not have been a good choice.  I did show the forest at different times of the day, and focused in on the plants blanketing the floor, but it still lacks something in ‘filling the frame’ with that one representative image.

After looking at hundreds of images that were taken recently, I came up empty. It really is a study of an in-depth subject that seems to be more in keeping with what is outlined as guidance. I am always looking to learn and improve, so thought to look through images taken this fall.

I believe the guidelines suggest story telling with a subject that highlights prominently what the image is trying to convey, but clearly sees the subject with compositional interest, all the while ‘filling the frame, corner to corner’. A very tall order when you consider macro and micro shots seem much easier to deal with to flood a frame with image, but it was noted this is not necessarily the case.

The way a painter approaches a blank canvas, especially one that is abstract in nature, dealing with scale, form and color; positive and negative space, may be a good way to think about the framing as was also noted. Well, I should be able to understand it from this perspective, but all my images that have elements similar to the examples come up short. They make nice photos, but taking a small piece of the landscape and telling the story, well, not so much when they are about only one plant. I guess I have to look at it from the perspective of an editor. What image sells my product.

So I looked to my garden and explored one bed filled with grasses and Rudbeckia. The only problem here is if I want pretty lighting, I would have to literally paint it in. There is no time of day that really gives the subject good natural lighting. In the next bed over, the trees are artificially up-lighted and the roses are blanked in soft light, but nothing in this bed illuminates the plants, artificial or natural that benefits a photograph.

I stepped back and shot the ‘garden’ image.

I moved in closer to cover the group and note the players having color and contrast.

Then I looked for how the two plants interacted together and fit within the design of the garden bed.

I focused in on one type of plant.

Then zeroed in on one a little centered. Here I suppose you could say my image was flooded with warm tones of yellows. Well, that was my intent anyway. That background, by the way, is yellow tissue paper in case you were wondering. The lighting is a daylight fluorescent tube, filtered through the yellow tissue paper. It does seem to resemble daylight, but it was not very bright.

And tried again, walking around the subject getting different lighting and angle, now off-center and weighted to one side. It is a softer looking image, but still yellow on yellow.

And again, weighted to the other side with the light filtering through. The scene was not lit as much as it looks here, I overexposed the last two images. The first one was taken at a ‘normal’ exposure. Just a little trying out the suggestion of not framing completely centered. I did try also to crop the images to have the flower ‘fill the frame’, but it did take away a little of my yellow on yellow theme.

Finally, I showed them dying. After all, this is what most of them really look like now.

Moving on to the other main garden subject showing the grasses a month later, and having only a few remaining Rudbeckia….

in all their fluffy greatness, stealing the show from the Rudbeckia in this image today, we have our next garden partner, the grasses. But the Rudbeckia is still hanging in there.

I re-focused on the only ones left today, amongst thousands of little Rudbeckia offspring.

Many of which will never reach maturity to flower.

And those yet to set seed with the grasses.

I focused in on the seed heads of the grasses from all different angles and proximity,

and in isolation. They are the second biggest player in this bed, so they deserved the attention.

But I really still have no story to tell. Because this garden is in shade most of the day and only sees a little bright afternoon sun. It is also a bed where the homeless found a home. The garden faces a neighbor’s house (her driveway is shown), and it is almost never visited my me. It does have a good variety of plants that bloom in different seasons for a basically haphazardly designed bed.

No water, no planting, no mulch, no conditioning, pretty much no anything. It lives without any assistance. The only time I even see it is to take a few photos.  So this is its story. The garden of neglect. So how can I show that? No clue. Since it seems to thrive fully packed, plant neighbor to plant neighbor, in ground hard as concrete, without me and the sun that the plants really need. I can not pull a story from that, at least pictorially speaking.

So that is my story and I am sticking with it. Heck, I tried, and that is all that matters. LOL.


15 thoughts on “Still Having Trouble

  1. Donna I have not entered one of their contests in a while because I am at a loss most times to understand what they are talking about. I take pictures because something has caught my eye and I want to capture it. It is art to me not the mechanics although I need to learn more about that too…and that is what I find in your pictures…beauty and art. Plain and simple you are gifted and maybe your picture didn’t meet the criteria for some reason but yours are some of the best entered. Love your untended garden…

  2. Despite the neglect it’s a lovely border for your neighbour to admire……….. I wish my Rudbeckia clumps self seeded like that! I really like the photo you submitted to GGW – I wish I had been there and taken the same shot with all of that golden light illuminating the wild asters. It looks like it was a wonderful evening to be in those woods.

    Donna my favourite photo is the 8th one down as you’ve used the process of elimination to focus the viewers attention on the different colours, textures and forms in the border and filled the frame in the process.

  3. I agree with Rosie. The 8th photo has a great combination of textures and colors. Looks like a winning shot to me. Love that 2nd last shot too. Actually I thought most of your photos today fit the criteria.

  4. I like the photo you originally chose for the GGW contest. It evokes a sense of peacefulness and fills the frame, but I’m like Donna. I didn’t understand the criteria last month so I’m not sure I’ll have a go this month.

  5. Donna, I certainly hope none of the following comes across as critical, or at least not in the wrong way. I always love your photos! And I’m no expert behind a camera. I’m just trying to put together what Saxon Holt seems to be saying with what you seem to be asking.

    I wonder if part of what SH is saying, is just not to have anything in the photo that doesn’t tell the story. To me, for example, the top two photos are both telling similar “stories” about gentle arcs and soft colors. I think both are lovely photos, but (again, just to me) the second tells it more clearly, because there’s nothing in the photo that isn’t about arcs and colors. Even though the primary subject of the grass up front only occupies 2/3 of the frame, the background shapes echo the main shape. That gorgeous, soft depth of field you’ve given the background also gives a subtle emphasis to the story of soft colors and gentle arcs. The little bit of green on the left says, “Ah, yes, grass. Grass is green.” It plays a kind of supporting role to the main story. The whole experience is like looking at a gentle waterfall, with that kind of movement.

    In the top photo, though, the dark patch on the upper left seems to be on its own somehow. It doesn’t say “soft” or “arc” or “gleaming light” or any of the things that the grass does, but it’s not a strongly contrasting enough color to cast the grass into relief, either.

    The photo with the seed heads in all the red color, to me fills the frame wonderfully–it all tells a “story” of autumn decay, from the muted red to the slightly munched leaves to the flower head. Every single thing in the photo tells that story in its own way. But the other photo of the rudbeckia seed heads seems to me to tell two different stories on the top and the bottom. The top story is about long, bare stems and open space, and the bottom story is about a kind of “companionship” between the rudbeckia and coreopsis (?) seed heads.

    Is this making sense? Again, I’m not trying to criticize your work–just to take your questions seriously! I don’t think filling the frame necessarily means focusing on only one representative image, but on one primary idea. The photos in your last post, with trees and asters and sunlight and meadows beyond, did fill the frame, because they told only one story. All the separate parts worked together to convey one single impression of that experience, with nothing left over on the edges.

    I will shut up now…

    • Thank you for your analysis Stacy. I think by telling the story , if you do it right, is like you said, not including the parts not telling the story. Sorry for the double negative here. I got so confused on the contest because he did explain it so well. Almost too well, like he would in a classroom. But in a classroom you have a chance to question and that is not as easily done for a contest. I would really love to study under Saxon. I have had photography instructors in my studies before, but never any I have admired and respected as much as Saxon. I thought I had filled the frame with my woods photo until I read his second post and looked at his examples, which are stunning BTW. I just felt like I missed the boat, but who knows, maybe it will get a mention. By his second post, it seemed like a process, which I tried to do in this post with images I took in the last month and then again the other day. It is funny because out of this group of photos, I would have still picked the one less likely to fit the criteria by the comments left on this post. I did not take any of what you said as criticism, only words to critique, and that makes one better. It is great when others see something in a work that the one who creates it does not see. Blogging is such a quick media, and first impressions are not always the right ones. I will really take your words to heart and I am glad you saw story, where I saw none really. All I kept getting from this post’s images was ‘snapshots’. I guess that is what you get from a neglected garden. I need to spend more time on that side of the house. LOL.

  6. How is it possible to fall in love with a photo? That’s how it felt when I saw the close-up of the rudbeckia. I think I actually got a sun tan from its warm glow. Thank you so much for that!

  7. I loved going through your process with you in this post, as you juggled with the thoughts and the visual fare. you have lots of lovely shots, and I do like the contrast between the grasses and the rudbeckia. Thanks for the interesting journey!

  8. Great fun! What I love about the photocontest is how it makes me explore. I see things in a different way afterwards. And I sure see your Rudbeckia and grasses in a different way. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wow, your photographs are gorgeous. I see you love to take pictures of the Fall grasses in bloom too. I love the way the light catches on the feathery blooms. Looks like you have a winner here!

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