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Friday, July 3, 2009

Constructing a Background for Flowers

This image of a Blootroot goes back to 1970 when I took a group of serious photographers from the Camera Club of Richmond to the upper ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The location was along the northern stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we could actually look out over the Shenandoah Valley and see where I lived at the time.
I have always been troubled by people who step on flowers when hiking, or destroying them when making their photographs so this would be the perfect time to give a new group of photographers a few good tips in photographing wild flowers on site.
I was using this single Bloodroot as an example because the background was totally uninteresting. and any photograph made at this time would look just like a thousand others that have been made by countless photo artists.
I was explaining a number of possible solutions that would be of help, but I was also looking around while I was talking so that I might spot something that would solve the problem. I was working with my primary medium format at the time--Black & White. Also a second camera that was loaded with 2 1/4 Ektachrome 64 roll film. I believe his was back when E-4 processing was used.
The background I was looking for was within several paces so I ambled over to a large chestnut log and picked up the knot hole you see in the image above. It was very easy to put in place and it turned out to be a winner. A few in the group made their own backgrounds but this set so attracted the group that, as I recall, everyone took their turn making images of this lone flower. Some had tripods; others did not. I used my large Tiltall. In addition I used a small square of heavy-duty aluminum foil to reflect a bit of light into the set. The toning was accomplished in the lab later on.
That tripod is still as good today (2009) as it was the day I purchased it. I perfer simple equipment that lasts for years or decades, and I am not all that impressed with many of the gadgets that I see on the market today. The only fault I ever had with this tripod was that I thought that it was a bit heavy, but by the time you add all these fancy ball heads and what not to the new gear, it actually turns out to be about the same weight as "old trusty."
I thought this was the end of the story for this set, but some years later, one of the members of that group wrote me a letter from his retirement home in Florida and provided me with some additional news regarding that particular field trip.
Bob told me that he went back to that site after the day trip was over and grabbed that knot hole and put it in the back of his car. I had placed it back where I originally found it and never thought any more about it, except when I view the framed B&W image which still hangs in our hallway. He said he had used that prop many times over the years because it was just so perfect. Or words to that affect.

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