Editor’s Note: Good morning. Jocie Ingram is on site today with a look at getting creative with a camera outdoors and tuning into your artistic side. She has some great tips for us. Enjoy. Here she is:
I’ve always been drawn to the arts, be it visual art, music or literature. My other passion (which didn’t emerge until my mid-twenties) is nature. I remember being out in the field with a prominent botanist who said “I don’t think of myself as a scientist, I think of myself as an artist!” This idea has always stayed with me, and I like to think of my own love of nature as a happy blending of art and science.
When I’m out in nature, I have trained myself to observe what is going on around me. I let my senses open up to take in all of the sights and sounds of the moment. Becoming more observant, and “tuned in” to nature has really changed my life. I now find that nature offers a continual source of beauty, interest and artistic inspiration that I can draw from again and again throughout the year.
Dave and I both used to sketch, but since having kids we just don’t have time (maybe when the little ones get older?) Photography is something we can manage more easily, and it is a great way to find art in nature.
A good way to start is to pick a subject, such as a single flower, and examine it from different angles. Lie down on the ground and look up at the flower, gaze down into its center from above or view it in profile. Or, narrow your focus to one part of the flower, zooming in on the pattern of the petals, or the detail of single leaf. Photographing the stages of the flower’s life cycle, such as the buds, full blooms and seed heads can also create new dimensions of interest.
Looking for details of shape, texture, pattern, color and line, one can design abstract images that suggest something other than what they are. Many photographers experiment with bokeh- blurring the background to produce an aesthetic effect, while keeping the main subject in focus.
A good exercise is to take an empty slide frame out with you to practice framing a picture in the field (fun for the kids too). An ordinary picture can become extraordinary just by moving the frame a little, or zooming in or out from the subject. It takes practice, and, as any photographer will tell you, a good deal of patience to get the perfect shot.
Looking through our gallery of nature photographs, I pulled out a few of my favorites. These images really inspire me to look for the art in nature, and see the simple beauty of things all around me.
1) This profile of sky-blue King Gentian flower is layered over a soft background of blended color (an example of bokeh).
2) Seeds are often the most visually interesting things about a plant, and there are an endless variety of shapes, sizes and textures to explore. The decorative brown lines on these Cow Parsnip seeds look as if they have been painted on by hand.
3) A Bull Thistle in bud looks a bit like a miniature space ship. The sharp prickles contrast nicely with the soft, cobwebby wool between the spines.
4) The Arbutus Tree is a favorite subject for both artists and photographers. The papery cinnamon colored bark peels off in scrolls to reveal the smooth chartreuse inner layer. It makes for a great study in color and texture. Several famous artists have painted the Arbutus: check out E.J. Hughes’ “An Arbutus Tree at Crofton Beach” (1973), W.P. Weston’s “Arbutus Shedding Bark” (1947), and Emily Carr’s “Arbutus Tree” (1922).
5) The berries of the False Lily-of-the-Valley look like shiny glass marbles. The heart-shaped leaves of this plant, with parallel veins that look etched onto the leaf surface, are also worth photographing.
6) Getting down to eye level in a patch of Scouring Rush is like being in a forest of bamboo. I love the fresh green color and the vertical-lines of the grooves that run the length of the stem.
7) The lovely orange and pistachio green colors of this mushroom, which was shiny after a recent rain, reminded us of beautifully glazed pottery bowls. We found these Milky Caps up at Strathcona Park last fall.
Finding artistic inspiration in nature is a personal thing, and it is best to just head out into the field with a sketchpad or camera and an open mind. Taking the time to closely observe things, chances are you will find something you have never noticed before and enrich your life by doing so.
Be creative, try a fresh perspective, and you will begin to see beauty and art in nature around every corner.
For more notes on nature, please check out my blog.
Photos courtesy of Dave Ingram.