Portraying Plants

Moving a little further back from the subject than in the previous article in this series, this article will concentrate on portraying plants in their habitat or context.  Here you will see blooms and leaves and possibly neighbouring unrelated plants in the background.  Pictorial elements such as flower-shape, leaf-shape and textures from stems, trunks or an out of focus background play a larger part in producing satisfying pictures.

Primula PulverulentaIllustrating this, the picture on the left is of a clump of Primula Pulverulenta.  There are many picture elements contributing here to the overall impact – vertical stems, the strong deep purple of the flowers against the light green of the leaves, the way in which each flower forms into a wheel and how the supporting stems form a spokes pattern within each wheel.  The leaves come in horizontally, and frame some of the flowers further back, so as well as simply portraying how this plant grows naturally, pictorially the frame chosen makes it a tightly knit composition.

 Standing Water LiliesThe picture of the water-lily on the right shows how this plant can stand tall, and the unopened buds to the right imply that it is normal for these flowers to be well above the level of the water.  The large leaves with their upturned edges add further interest. 

The picture, however, suffers from the fact that it is obvious that these lilies grew in a hot house because there are bright reflections and textures on the water from the greenhouse skylight above.  Particularly, the large white reflection so near to the flower pulls attention away from it, which is a pity, since the blue flower should be the main feature in the picture around which everything else falls into place.

 Water Lily FlatThe water lily shown on the left  (from the same set of water lilies in the hot house) is pictorially better.  Here you can see more of the flower with the variation of tones across its petals, how the bloom appears between the leaves, the radial structure of those leaves and textured dark water with no bright coloured distractions.  Pictorially, this works better than the example of a standing water lily.  Taken together, these two pictures also illustrate the thought processes you must go through to plan a picture consciously to portray as you think fit.

 California Poppies

The picture of yellow poppies on the right has a directionality defined by the texture of the vertical green stems and the near vertical of the bolder wooden stems of the other plants behind them.  It also falls into a foreground with the yellow poppies and the fine but more distant bluebells in the background. 

Lighting here is important because the yellow petals are seen by transmitted rather than reflected light.  Using transmitted light is always well worthwhile with flowers because it shows the delicacy of the petals, the structure of the veins and gives variety as petals overlap so that more colour but fewer details are seen.  The picture gives an impression of being out in the field with nobody around for miles, though it was taken in the public garden of the Isabella Plantation inRichmond.

The next article in the series will deal with portraying unusual features seen on plants.