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Art is Where You Make It

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

Final edit.

In very simple terms, a mantra like “art is where you find it” helps drive all landscape photographers to transform scenes of the natural world into compelling works of art. In this post, I say also “art is where you make it” -- the idea of transforming a found scene by adding a visual element.

The bouquet of sterling silver roses my wife carried at our wedding in 2006 has aged gracefully on a hook in the garage ever since. As the flowers dried out and assumed an antique character, I often wondered how I could use them to make a interesting photograph like the first image on this post. These roses -- somehow misnamed sterling silver -- were actually a beautiful shade of lavender originally; I don’t know where the name comes from. The petals have inexorably turned brown, though they remain pretty much intact.

Tear a dozen years off the calendar, and it’s now summer of 2018. My wife and I have decided to test the mettle of our marriage by remodeling two floors of our tri-level home. The carpet in the family room above the garage is ripped out, and then from below the carpet a parquet floor that had been installed -- that is, glued down -- by the previous owners. Removing this flooring tears at the plywood subfloor, leaving it scarred and a mottle of varying shades of gold and tan.

The plywood looks like it will need remedial work before the new, finished-wood flooring is laid, but -- ah, ha! -- in the patterns of those scars I finally see a suitable backdrop on which to portray these roses for a photo. One area in particular, about two by two-and-a-half feet appealed to my visual sense. (See photo, below.)

In an interlude of a couple hours when no workmen were about, I broke out my camera gear and took several shots of this and another bouquet against the tattered wood backdrop. The other photo below shows how I had to configure the legs of my tripod to keep them out of the shot. It wouldn’t have worked without the workers' ladder being handy.

The image I chose was a 1/8-second exposure at f/11 and ISO 100. I used my 50mm lens, and the light source was, providentially, from a large window about 12 feet away. Processing it in Photoshop involved adding 11 adjustment layers to achieve the look I wanted on the floor, the roses and the darker leaves. Notice in the finished photo how the once-lavender, now actually brown petals of the roses came out a rich yellow and orange from my manipulations.

The entire area of the floor that initially caught my eye turned out to be too large compared to the bouquet to be a suitable frame for the subject. So, ironically, I ended cropping out a lot of the great looking floor to make a suitably proportionate backdrop for the roses. Making art is making choices too.

Camera set up to photograph flowers and wood.

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