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The Lotus and the Lily

The Lotus and the Lily

D800-Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens-4836-2015-07-05It’s been several months since I took a photo and a couple of years since I took a photo of a flower.

When I first got into photography about six years ago, flowers were the subject that first interested me. But, after two or three years of dedicating myself to improving my flower photography technique, I felt I had taken the subject as far as I could go with it and moved on to other subjects.

D800-Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens-4812-2015-07-05 There are several great flower photographers out there – Joshua Taylor, Mike Moats, Kathleen Clemons, Tony Sweet are my favourites – that, after a while, when you realize that you will never attain their level of technical mastery or artistic interpretation, you conclude that you might as well give up and try something else.

D800-Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens-4804-2015-07-05

This morning, I felt a yearning to return to this old, familiar subject, so I drove over to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in northeast Washington, D.C., knowing that the lotuses and water lilies would be in bloom in early July.

I tried not to let my earlier disenchantment with the subject dissuade me from enjoying myself nor to set myself the impossible objective of matching the best in the flower photography business. Rather, I just relaxed, took it easy and enjoyed a pleasant, sunny morning surrounded by the beauty of the lily ponds and lotus fields.

D800-Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens-4820-2015-07-05Every time I photograph flowers, the words of two great photographers reverberate inside my head. Firstly, Joshua Taylor, who taught me that, whenever you photograph a flower, pick the most perfect, the most pristine example you can find, the one that jumps up and shouts at you, “Hey, photograph me!”

Josh also says that there are only two times when you should photograph a flower: when it’s at its perfect best and when it has decayed and fallen apart.

Mike Moats teaches that you should always look for a flower that has personality, the one that’s a big quirky and unusual. Mike calls it “the Lady Gaga flower”, that is, the one that’s an exhibitionist, the one that kind of weird, yet hard to ignore.

In the first and third images of this blog post, I was consciously following Josh’s advice and photographing a perfect, pristine lotus and lily.

For the last image, however, I was definitely in Mike Moats territory, having found a substantially decayed lotus, whose leaves had collapsed in on themselves, leaving part of the seed pod visible for me to photograph from the side. Not a particularly pretty specimen but certainly a characterful one.

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8 Comments

  1. Irv Freedman July 5, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

    Good read. I too have photographed many flowers over many years and the urge to do so comes and goes. I live just across the road from Cylburn Arboretum and it is a quick 2 minute drive from my house. I would walk there, but I would fear for my life trying to cross Northern Parkway – a real speedway. Your recent experience of just being with Mother Nature, is the main reason I enjoy photographing flowers. It is relaxing and refreshing. I have no specifications for a flower to meet, I look around and something grabs my spirit and then I photograph that flower, for some unknown reason, that is calling to me.

    • shaunmoss July 7, 2015 at 12:35 am #

      Irv, my friend, that sounds like exactly the right mindset with which to approach photographing flowers. Thanks for the visit and comment.

  2. Nga July 5, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    Nice images Shaun.
    I feel the same way about photography sometimes, especially in landscape photography… then I just reconcile with self…relax and enjoy nature beauty and forget about photography.

    • shaunmoss July 7, 2015 at 12:33 am #

      My dear friend Nga: I think your attitude is the right one and guarantees happiness. Thanks for the visit and comment.

  3. Joosh July 6, 2015 at 12:04 am #

    Shaun,
    Thanks for the shout-out! Beautiful images and motivating commentary.

    • shaunmoss July 7, 2015 at 12:31 am #

      Cousin Josh, thanks for the visit and comment. As you know, you are my formative influence when it comes to flower photography, so any shout-out I give you is sincere.

  4. John Caplis July 6, 2015 at 1:11 am #

    Shaun,
    your flower images are awesome. Don’t measure yourself against others. I have learned to photograph for my own self fulfillment. I still get discouraged, but I think that’s part of the creative cycle we all go through from time to time. Without it, we probably would get stale and wouldn’t even know it.

    • shaunmoss July 6, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

      John: Many thanks for the visit and encouraging comments. Glad I’m not the only one experiencing this kind of creative downturn. I can’r help but measure myself against the best: it’s the way I am – ambitious! I’m very glad you like these images.

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