pressed into service
when i started still blog in 2012, i would always take my camera and white paper with me on vacations. i liked how the daily practice of STILL made me more attentive to my surroundings. but my camera is heavy, and i eventually tired of always being weighted down with equipment. although the increased attentiveness i still savored and didn’t want to give up. so i have evolved instead to gathering bits and pieces i can carry home to photograph later, and to tucking leaf and flower specimens into the pages of the books i am reading or my journal. i have taken up the strange evening ritual of sitting on my journals in order to press the specimens i collected during that days outings. today i took out my current journal to do some collaging, and out drifted a small gardens’ worth of specimens from my last two trips to california. these are not colors one typically finds in the upper midwest–saturated fuchsias and citrusy oranges. they feel like intruders to me being here in this blog of mostly muted colors of the hardwood and boreal forests of the north. but still blog is about being present, wherever i am, and taking notice of the extraordinary in the ordinary. so today you get to join me on the coast of california–one of the worlds’ truly great landscapes. i hope you enjoy your time there.
assorted pressed californian botanicals
this photo is really all about that little elbow of stem on the right, retreating into blurriness. not much else happens in this composition. but sometimes, when nothing is happening, a little tiny something can be world-changing. on a forest floor that you have walked past for several years, the mat of leaves is subtly disarranged, and underneath, the angel choir of a morel mushroom prepares to sing.
little feathery (unidentified) weeds from my driveway
i thought i had finished this assemblage when i first took its photo. then i added an element or two. then i removed them. then i added some others. then i removed them. then i added a whole new row of elements on the right. then i removed them. then i placed some very thin and delicate shapes in a couple of places and they filled some spaces that needed to be filled and then i decided that it was time to take this photo. the spaces between the elements were the right size and shape..
selected bits of early autumn
hip check the assemblage
one of my favorite pieces of advice about how to arrange a styled photograph is to get everything exactly right and then walk up to the table where all of the components of the shot have been impeccably placed, and give it a firm hip check. the point is that a perfect photo can sometimes be so stilted that it is no longer a good photo. sometimes it just needs a little shot of random energy in order to give it the messy feeling of being alive. in this case, i took a photo several days ago of these elm leaves that were in the process of changing from green to yellow to brown to black. the original photo was good, i thought, and nicely enough arranged, but i wondered if a little bit of chaos might make it better. this time, instead of a hip check, i decided to let the random force be several days of sitting on my kitchen floor. often when i let my nature arrangements sit for several days, they get better and better. this time, i don’t think it happened. you can see the original STILL blog post from five days ago. i think the original is a superior image to this one, but i also think it is sometimes interesting to look at process and not just results, and try to figure out why some things work and why others don’t. i hope you don’t mind my sharing a minor failure with you, in the interest of future success.
dried elm leaves
feather and stone
i picked these two types of stems because of the contrast between the hardness of one and the softness of the other. the feathery wands of the asters and the stony looking pebbles of the black eyed susan seed heads. that was the easy part. then i took about 50 photos and never quite arrived at the story i wanted to tell about them. at some point a daily blog makes you say “good enough.” the “good enough” days are the price you pay for those days when you had no story to tell at all, but because you showed up in the studio that day, however unenthusiastically, the art gods drop some gift in your lap out of nowhere. i like “good enough” days because i know that christmas will also come around if i’m patient.
white asters and spent cone flowers