The first image of what has become Botanical Notes was intended as a learning exercise during our Covid stay-at-home period. I was determined to keep a positive attitude about our restrictions, squash any despair, and utilize the time productively. Two of my goals were to tend my much-neglected flower beds and become more proficient in Photoshop.
After spending weeks keeping busy with photography webinars, attending online workshops, and nurturing my natural homebody tendencies working in the garden, I decided to try my hand at some indoor flower photography. I cut a branch of blooms from our Kwanzan cherry, made backgrounds, and experimented with lighting. The resulting image was pretty but it didn’t excite me or inspire me to try more.
Days later, I was admiring the falling pink blossoms of that same Kwanzan. It seemed so musical, the way they drifted and floated to the ground like snow. I often think of music when outdoors. The cicadas’ songs, starting on one side of our yard and rhythmically moving to the other before starting again, sound like a choir to me. I love hearing the wind announce itself before I actually feel it. As I watched the pink snow, the hymn Amazing Grace came to mind. I credit my grandparents with much of my plant knowledge and as I garden, I often hear them reminding me of tips like: hydrangeas like morning light or gardenias like nitrogen. Thinking of my grandmother’s favorite hymn was another backwards glimpse, reminding me of windy Easter Sundays in new church dresses. That memory brought me to the very tattered 1890’s hymnal that I have and the idea of trying my new Photoshop skills to composite music onto the cherry portrait. After some trial and error to get the music to “float” across the page, I finished an image I really liked. Now I was inspired!
Over the next few weeks, I photographed other flowers as they came into bloom. Some I paired with songs that I photographed from the hymnal. For others, I used another new Photoshop skill – brushes to stamp music notes in the background of my image. Although I was not conscious of it, as the mild days of our long spring eased into the heat of summer, my colors have become warmer and more vibrant.
In my photography, I often like more – more mood, more movement, more painterly effect, more drama, etc. Cloudy weather and fog are exciting backdrops for me. I experiment with a Lensbaby art lens and intentional camera movement. I enjoy using Photoshop plug-ins and textures to further my creative expression. Adding “more” to the flower portraits feels like a natural choice.
Although the images of this series were just created this year, I know that these pieces have been in the works all my life and I am grateful to the loved ones that silently inspired them. I can’t help but wonder what the past will bring me next!
Barbara S. Guin —
All photographs © 2020 Barbara S. Guin All Rights Reserved
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