Taking photographs, any photographs, is my passion and the best way that I can spend my day. I love the chance to snap the shutter on an image that appeals to my visual senses. Artistically there are, I discovered, multiple visual senses: design, composition, color and/or monochrome, tension and perspective, among others. However, the most engaging shots I take often connect with some personal history or individual aesthetic.
My personal history is rooted in Brooklyn, NYC. I grew up there and return often. I especially take pleasure in visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, a place of many happy childhood memories and early artistic inspiration. On a recent expedition to the Gardens I decided to photograph the numerous seasonal blooms of summer.
This shoot posed challenges for me. As an architectural photographer, I typically shoot architecture, details of architecture, structural landscape (trees, mountains and the like) with a wide-angle lens. Periodically, I spend time taking macro photographs of flowers and leaves; however, I am not as familiar with macro photography. But, I know that macro photography can teach me a great deal. Macro photography constrains my frame of reference to limited areas of texture and subject.
Texture is an Essential Component of Shooting Architecture
When I focus on architecture, texture is an essential component of the image to promote visual interest. Therefore I am always looking for ways to increase my skills of intensifying and identifying texture. Circumscribed composition, which macro photography demands, is a skill that is always valuable to study and continually improve as a photographer of any subject. So, I concentrate on macro photography not only as a photographic art but also as a learning tool.
On this recent shoot, I felt comfortable in my Brooklyn Botanic Gardens surroundings but was working hard at learning new ways of improving my macro photography. In addition to using a lens I am less familiar with, it was an extremely warm and humid day; many people were milling about and my time was limited in the gardens because of an appointment later in the day. Just the components to promote out of focus and below par photos! However, I continued to photograph roses, water lilies, daisies and other colorful and pretty flowers because I had made the commitment to do the shoot and the trip to Brooklyn for that purpose.
After some time, I came across a cluster of Queen Anne’s Lace. These flowers are marvelously architectural. They are made up of tiny textural components and their structure resembles architecture rather than the undulating organic form of, for example, roses. Immediately I became engrossed in taking macro shots of these lacy flowers. I was also increasingly absorbed in my shots because Queen Anne’s Lace has been a fascination for me all my life. It grows in the front yards of many Brooklyn homes and in vacant lots where my brothers, and occasionally I played stickball in the 1950s.
Queen Anne’s Lace: An Old Friend
The Lace lines many NY highways and is prevalent in the Catskills to which my family escaped from the hot and humid summers of NYC. Queen Anne’s Lace also is plentiful in Coney Island: another summer pleasure of my childhood. As I photographed the flowers, I concentrated on an old friend and not the lens I was using. I continually discover that familiarity with a subject frequently increases success. Of course chancing across the unique Eiffel Tower or the majestic Taj Mahal might inspire some great images, but shooting that which is well known allows me to further develop my craft.
Success is not always realized during one shoot or even many sessions. Yet, my trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with my macro lens gave me new insights into a subject that has visually intrigued me all my life. The wonderfully fanciful flower I have known forever: Queen Anne’s Lace. I also came away from the shoot with sharpened skills for my architectural photography; a better understanding of textures, composition and values. As always I delight in learning and in taking pictures.