Wednesday 20 March 2024

Blessed Ostara and submerged flowers

 I am still tinkering away creating submerged floral images and thoroughly enjoying myself. Lots of people have been in touch asking questions, pretty much every day, with numerous requests for a tutorial, despite this being a fairly new thing for me. On looking online, I found very little in the way of resources to help us learn how to create submerged floral photos, so I have decided to create a tutorial which will be available in the coming weeks. I have already created 45 slides for the tutorial and taken a few video clips which I am in the process of learning how to put together for a presentation. I have managed to create very simple videos and have started a Youtube channel which I will be adding to as and when I can manage. 

My first mini videos are on there now. This mini video accompanies theis blog as it shows me creating submerged flower photos for Ostara 

Ostara Submerged flowers video

Today is Ostara - Blessed Ostara everyone

These images were photographed specifically for Ostara, which is a pagan celebration of the start of Spring, my images here celebrate Ostara, with the promise of new life, new blooms and warmer days to come. Daffodils are often associated with this festival and here they are depicted coming out of the darkness of winter and into Spring, a time promising the warmth of sunshine, new life and abundance. I created a set using a nest with eggs and spring flowers frm my garden, plus some deceased butterflies that I had as photography props. These are all elements associated with Ostara
I used the colours associated with this celebration, green, yellow and white for this series.

This is just a quick blog today as all my energy is going into trying to produce the tutorial. Wishing you all a wonderful spring time 
Here are a few new Crocus images that I took last month, the only time I have managed to get out to do some photography in a few months - it was bliss. Taken in a local park, I barely had to move more than 50ft in all to get these images. Its a gorgeous spot in Richardson Dees park, fully accessible and easy to get around on a mobility scooter.

Once I am finished producing my tutorial I will be back to creating more submerged images of spring flowers, many with folklore connections. 


Saturday 9 March 2024

A new project for the New Year

 I love to start each year with  a focus on my photography aims for the year ahead, with renewed enthusiasms, new ideas and goals to improve  in a genre or two. Last year I focused mostly on focus stacking, close up for fungi and flowers as well as super close for insects which were mainly in studio. It was a good choice for me and I certainly learned lots, I will continue practicing focus stacking to hone my skills. Last years efforts certainly paid off as it helped me to win the U.K. round of the EISA Animal kingdom portfolio competition, and come 2nd internationally. I have also been nominated for SWPP photographer of the year with 4 macro images in the macro, botanical and illustrative categories, but did not win a category. 

This year I want to concentrate on something completely different. I want to express emotions and explore the circle of life through a portfolio of plant images photographed in a way that I had never tried before this year. A few months ago I noticed some wonderful images by a photographer called Robert Peek who photographs plants underwater with milk/ink/paint, it was a look and technique that intrigued me so I decided to give it a try at the stat of the year. Turns out that I love everything about photographing plants underwater, adding in different mediums. Its a more versatille technique than I first thought and within days I was testing out a few types of milk, different inks and paints using a range of lighting styles and shutter speeds. For 2 weeks I have tried to spend a little time each day on this project - even if its just 20 minutes,  as everything stays permanently set up, its fairly low energy, meaning I can do this most days for short spells. I have used that time to get used to how the mediums, plants, lighting and modifiers all meld together whilst looking ahead with plans of what I want to depict.

This has been a good time to start such a project as I have hardly made it out since November due to my health problems. Only managing to get out to take photos once in 3 months. I feel lucky to have an interest which I can pursue at home, which I have adaped around what I can manage.

I have created some images that fit what I was after, evoking some emotions. One particular image feels like the first one to truly fit one set of  emotions that I wanted to portray. It is a very personal image depicting grief - which has affected my partner and I twice in the last year. Below is an incredibly personal description of just how this image portrays my own recent, personal experience of a very complicated grief for a family member who I was estranged from ( my choice). 

 This specific image portrays mourning in relation to a particular person, the inside of the tank relates to inside myself /my mind - it felt dark and trapped, the petals are bruised and trapped up against the edges, unable to break out. This describes how  I was unable to openly be myself nor able to express myself properly for a time, it also stands for communication difficulties on many levels and for many reasons. That invisible glass stands for the wall that I put up when I walked away, but also the walls erected by others.

 The yellow flowers remind me of this person and on the day they passed away I picked yellow flowers from our garden which also reminded me of her and I took my first steps on a beach in many years, along with my daughter on the day we discovered she had passed on,  to walk to the sea's edge within a beautiful serene bay at sunset, where we got down  low and set the flowers upon the waters surface, saying a few words of farewell.   The choice of yellow partially shows  some of this persons sunnier side of their nature - I see yellow when I imagine their smile - no you were never a green person in my eyes, yellow was more you than green to me. But yellow also stands for betrayal, and illness which were a large part of the mix - not that I am saying that this person betrayed me, nor I her, but there were elements that without a doubt cast their shadow on both of us. 

  So often in the U.K. we grieve quietly at home, away from the sight of others which is why I added the single "tear" that is very much on the outside of the scene. 

 The "threads" formed by the acrylic ink seeping into the water convey reaching out to others, but are kind of cut off  - this indicates communication issues on several sides, from misunderstandings and cognitive and other difficulties brought about by more than one persons illness. Then the lower mass of ink is in deep turmoil, and hurt - this depicts the pain and confusion but as it sinks to the bottom it also depicts letting go of the grief as I realise that I walked away for my own good reasons all those years ago. The colours, light and darkness are deliberate. 

There is a follow on image, which to me feels like hope, peace and letting go. For me this image represents certain people

By the end of January I felt I had a better feel for how to create images of submerged flowers in my own way. I was ready to add more meaning to what I wanted to create. I have been spending a lot of time reading about the history, medicinal uses, meanings of and folklore of plants. My plan was to create images that would depict some of the story/folklore/meanings behind each plant where possible. For instance Blackthorn has been connected to witches, magic, paganism, folklore, warfare and death, but also strength through adversity - you can read about Blackthorn in these links 

After reading all about Blackthorn I wanted to create images with drama, impact, adding black and red inks for the darker aspects, red for the blood of warfare. I created enough movement within the tank to add to the feeling that I aimed to depict. 

Another example is my attempt to portray Irises according to one of their legends. Aparently they are named after a Greek Goddess Iris who was supposed to deliver messages between humans and gods, going between then using rainbows. So for some images I played around with attempting ( not so successfully) at adding rainbow colours with a sky backdrop. I did not quite manage what I set out to do, but will try again some time, its not easy adding 7 colours at once, strategically placing them along the flower, without messing up the whole scene. I also played around with producing a sky backdrop and yellow melting off the petals for other images. But my first image just had to show off the simple beauty of the Iris without any milk or inks.

For the last image above I digitally altered the colours coming off the petals to get what I wanted.

Another example of tying folklore to flowers is with SnowdropsIn a Romanian legend Snowdrops represent pure love for Spring. Legend has it that the suns rays reached down in the form of a girl named Spring, to chase away Winter. Winter planned to capture Spring, and hide her in his castle so they could continue their reign. People noticed Spring had not arrived and found a hero to save Spring from Winters clutches. The hero battled with Winter, setting Spring free, but as Spring was freed, she kissed her hero, distracting him, enabling Winter to kill him. It is said that his blood fell to the ground. and melted the snow, from which Snowdrops flourished. Snowdrop folkore

I deliberately used a green backdrop to signify emerging Spring, White ink for purity and hope, plus red to signify the blood in the legend. Can you see the heart that formed fleetingly in the red ink - I did not photoshop this, it actually happenned, how strange that it occured in this set out of all the submerged sets Ive done. In another image I used white and red ribbon/wool tied around snowdrops, as this is another aspect linked to folklore and tradition - look up Martisor day.

Not every image is linked to folklore, tradition, or history etc Some I have simply employed colours and techniques which I felt suited the plant, Ironically one such image is of dried Hydrangea that I had at home, after it was shot I realised how much this image reminded me of an otherworldly tree of life, almost as if I had subconciously been trying to create one. This is amongst my favourite images so far. 

Another favourite set is of Carnations which just seemed to come together nicely. It was very much an experiment, where I used milk, inks, paint and even beetroot juice. I was absolutely thrilled that one of these won a gold award from the SWPP in January, for In camera artistry. 

Carnationations are known as the flowers of the Gods and are associated with devotion, fascination, distinction and love. Red Carnations generally represent affections, whilst white symbolise love and purity.
 I have chosen Red, white and pink ink for this set of images to symbolise what these flowers stand for. Plus some with purple.
White for purity, dininty and good luck, red for affection and love, pink for unconditional love and purple for devotion in some

I have been asked so many times to produce a video of how I am creating these images, but at present I just cant manage to do that. Creating the images is as much as I can manage, a couple of days a week, that takes all my energy. I am slowly putting together a talk which I will be doing for Camversation at the end of May and it is my intention to cover this project and a good bit about how I achieve my results then. The talk will be recorded by Camversation, so that anyone can purchase a ticket and watch it at a later date. I promise to give lots of tips then.

In the meantime, I had no teaching on how to do this myself - so its obviously not too difficult to work out. Just a container of water, secure your flowers in the tank and add your chosen medium - milk/ink/paint/juice etc. There is more to it but Im saving all of that for the presentation and maybe a future blog. Im not being secretive about it as I believe we should all share openly how we achieve things in photography, making it accessible to all, but I am still working on fine tuning things and need to get it all written down and as I have limited energy, this takes me time. So if you want to find out all that I have learned and save yourself a couple of months of experimenting, then tune in to my talk for Camversation in May where I will share everything Ive learned that I can fit in to the allotted time. You can also ask questions afterwards too. For now, I hope these images will wet your appetite

In other news I am delighted to share that my Ethereal Nigella image below was a category winner in the Beauty of plants category of International garden photographer of the year, and Cosmos was commended plus I  had others placed in the fungi category.

Blessed Ostara and submerged flowers

 I am still tinkering away creating submerged floral images and thoroughly enjoying myself. Lots of people have been in touch asking questio...