Wednesday, 24 September 2014

In the Garden, Taking Photos

Now to get back to business as usual. We can't have too much of a good thing, and now that the giddy excitement has subsided for now, it's time to get back to getting some work done and tying up loose ends. The newsletter has gone down really well, with loads of new subscribers. Thank you if you have signed up. And tomorrow is the day I will be finding the winner for my giveaway. 

I have also been stocking the garden with some little extras for the Autumn season, and now the Equinox has passed, change is in the air. Echinaceas are a good standby for a flower study, and are great for bees too. The one I picked up is 'Little Magnus' a gorgeous purple/pink variety with an orange/red cone. Added to the mix are perennial fuschias, that seem to go on forever, Japanese Anemone and sedum, (just 'cos I love 'em). This lot will come in handy for my next classes.

Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower

Albert Camus

Getting into the autumn mood, I have been out in the garden foraging for seed heads and interesting leaves too. Colour and shape really does come into it's own at this time of year, with beautiful, architectural skeletons and husks appearing everywhere.

Here are just a few I picked up. I particularly like the Exochorda fruits, as these look a bit like star anise. Really pretty.

Foraging for autumn subjects.
L - R Nigella, Allium and Exochorda seed heads

Picked this leaf up whilst visiting Florum recently. Taking a scan of it was initially to capture the colours, but it came out really well, and I might practice painting from it.

A scan of a beautiful cherry leaf.

And my finished Dahlia 

By preparing for workshops and classes, I have been looking into how I use photos to gain information and assist with composition. It's interesting, as many consider the use of photos in botanical art to be a bit of a no-no and somehow like cheating. My view, is to go with the way that is best for you, although if working commercially, there will be times when a completely out of season subject will be needed. Such as daffodils in high summer.

But how to take a good picture to work from? For me, you can use a phone, tablet or old-school camera, just as long as you can get good, quality images. it also needs to be a bright, but not too sunny day. That way harsh shadows are eliminated.

Using a white piece of paper behind the subject, also gives the best portrayal of the colours. here are some practice shots of the Echinacea:

A nice angle, although with the brighter light, some harsh shadows are cast.

Care needs to be taken to ensure sharp focus in the right place.
Here, the camera selected the two nearest petals to focus,
the rest of the flower is slightly fuzzy.
This one would have made for a nice composition, so I might take it again

The two nearest petals create some obscurity.
So for me, not a pleasing composition

Ah, now this is quite a nice one.

And what about a bigger, greener subject. Well, how about that Artichoke I have been nurturing.

My Artichoke is begging for me to paint it.
But it looks so lovely in the border, I don't want to cut it. 

With a bit of jiggery-pokery, I might not need to.
the highlights and colours seem so much more vivid
with the inclusion of a white background.
But how big is it?

Oh now then.
This is looking rather handsome

Of course, this is only part of the job. As questioned above, it's a good idea to take measurements or to get a small ruler into the photos, to get the size right. This helps keep the proportions accurate, as is so vital in botanical illustration. Colour noted in your sketchbook, quickly roughed out at the same time as getting your photo evidence, also ensures an accurate record.

Getting a good shot of the clematis petal

And with the ruler

It's a good habit to get into, and once you get a good eye for taking a useful photo, you'll be away. It's not always possible to either work in the field or to bring the actual subject into the studio, and that's where a good photo library comes in handy.  

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