My artist’s date with macro

As I mentioned in my Project 52 post, I went on an Artist’s Date with myself this week. What is an Artist’s Date? It’s a block of time where you pursue something that ignites your passion and creativity. It can be going to listen to music, going to a park and painting, sitting in a coffee shop with a journal and writing… whatever speaks to the artist inside of you. I was introduced to the concept by our therapist who had us read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. All this year, Curtis and I have been exploring concepts in this vein by doing morning pages (15 minutes of stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning) and by going on regular Artist’s Dates with each other (those have been our weekly photo walks). Our therapist has also recommended that we do these dates by ourselves every once in a while too.

Curtis and I have been going through a tough spot and I was feeling the need to get out of my comfort zone Wednesday morning after he left on a business trip. I was very thoughtful and purposeful about what I wanted to do. I wanted to use my macro lens (I have a Nikkor 60mm that I mounted on my Nikon D300) and I wanted to shoot nature… flowers and insects. It’s still unGodly hot here in Austin, I think we are at 77 days of 100+ degree days, so I knew it was going to be hot. I put on my walking shoes, shorts, and a t-shirt and chose to go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for my outing since we have a family membership there and I’d only been there once before (and it was with the entire family).

It was a 30-minute drive and I felt myself start to relax almost immediately once I was on the road. I plugged in my headphones to my iPhone and cranked up Pandora… choosing to listen to comedy radio (my favorites are Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan) which I listened to the entire time I was out. I pulled into the LBJ Wildflower Center happy to notice that it was nearly deserted. It was about 11:30 a.m. when I arrived. I attached the monopod to my camera mounted with the macro lens and hooked the remote release around my wrist; I slung my monopod sleeve with its backpack-like string over my shoulder and put the small, white diffusing umbrella in it (I thought the direct sunlight might be too harsh for some shots); I had my tiny messenger-style purse cross-ways across my chest with my ID, credit card, and a bottle of water. I set out.

I took nearly 200 photos and have chosen to share about 30 of them here. All of these were taken with my 60mm macro lens.

When first walking up to the center, you walk through a small wooded area, then cross a driveway, then walk up a stone path with a small pond.

There is a sculptor named Damian Priour being featured who works with glass and limestone… I found his sculptures placed like little treasures throughout the gardens.

I didn’t follow any specific path… I just let go and let my eye lead the way and my heart and camera followed. I found these unusual little red flowers. If I were more observant, I would’ve snapped a photo of their title plaque but I was intrigued by the shape of the flower.

Doesn’t this lens produce beautiful bokeh?

And a from-the-top view of this flower without the stem thingy. I think it looks like a rosette on a cake.

I used the umbrella to diffuse the sunlight on the previous two photos but I liked the harsh dappled effect the sun gave this particular flower. I also tried to pay more attention to my composition.

I found these yucca plants and was enchanted with their curly-cue hairy tendrils.

There were lots of cactus here and there. I’ve never been a huge fan of cactus but I did like these little buds coming out of this big one with the blue sky behind. Once I got this photo downloaded, I noticed the spider hanging out on the underside in the shadows. Cool, huh?

Once thing I like about the Wildflower Center is that there are several smaller gardens off the main path. In this one, I was drawn to this wheat grass… I just love the color and texture!

As I was going through the photos, my mom was checking some of them out and she actually said, “Wow!” on this one. She said it looked like a paper origami or something. Interesting motion to the flower design, yes? This is another one where the direct sunlight added to the intensity of the photo. I’m really liking the depth of field on this one too.

I like the shape and bokeh on this shot. It looks playful to me, like a little kid’s illustration.

Spiky, spiny, porcupine-like grass.

I wish I had caught the name of this tree and these beads of seeds. They were so cool looking!

I was walking back down the main garden area when I saw a dragonfly land on a low plant. I approached slowly, lowered my monopod down to a single extension, and got him in focus. I probably snapped about 20 photos before he flew off and I quickly chimped the shots and realized they were a bit bright, not overexposed, but they didn’t show the detail of his wings like I’d hoped. I wiped the sweat from my brow, took a swig of water, then watched in delight as this very same dragonfly came back to the very same branch in a slightly different position. I closed down my aperture a couple ticks and slowly got closer and closer. I’ll spare you the multitude of shots that I captured of this little guy and just share my two favorites. Aren’t the colors divine in this one? Look at the glimmer on his wings.

As I was finishing up, I whispered, “thank you” to him and I swear he looked up right at me and smiled. I cropped in close to show you the detail.

Another crop of the this same shot… this was my P52 photo today. One of my top 10 favorite photos to date. Oh, and I have another photo that made that top 10 later in this post. 🙂

Now that is soul-enriching.

I wandered a bit more, but was doubtful anything else could come close to what I had just experienced. I found these pretty orange and yellow flowers. They are hardy and survive well in this heat and drought.

More cactus. I liked the way the little cactus’s lines led up to the bigger cactus.

Then, in the shade, in the back of the gardens, oh joy! Two butterflies flitting about. Could I get some shots?

Why yes… yes I could.

I love the spotted bodies. 🙂 And lookie, there is another winged creature at the bottom of the lavendar blossom. I got dozens of these guys too, but the above two were my favorites.

Then I turned around and in the sunshine, down the path, I saw yet another butterfly. A much bigger butterfly. One whose wings flapped continually in a gentle flitter of beats. I wasn’t sure if I could capture this one without some motion blur. But I could and did. I LOVE the swirly feel to the bokeh on this photo. LOVE.

And this one… this is it. My favorite shot of the day. And definitely in my top 10 of all time photos. Look at the light. Look at his far wing. Ahhhh…  this is what photography is supposed to feel like. This is what artistry is supposed to feel like. Yes.

One more of this sweet fellow… a little motion blur, an interesting angle.

At this point, I was pretty much done and started heading back toward the front. I took a different route in case there was something I missed and I came across this tree (or plant?) with these tiny, vivid purple fruits. They look like miniature grapes but were on a tree taller than me.

These little white plants beckoned to me. I think it was their tendrils. Apparently, I have thing for tendrils.

Almost finished now. I’ve reached the entrance pond where I shot the water lily. This time I spy a bee and grab a quick shot. His body almost looks broken in half the way he’s bent.

Same flower, different angle.

And the last one… the stone walkway that leads you in and out of the Wildflower Center.

I found my Artist’s Date to be very fulfilling. I haven’t been so excited to download and share images in a long, long time. It took my mind off of the heavy issues upon which it had been dwelling… at least for a couple of hours. Thanks for looking and sharing in my heaven.

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