COMPROMISING POSITIONS: PHOTOGRAPHING THE FLOWER
Who is that person squatting in the wet grass in the early morning and what are they doing with that flower?
Oh! It is the photographer who gets low down and dirty- no shame. The photographer. The one who is given automatic “permission” by public on-lookers, “Oh, it’s a photographer!” You know the one- you may BE the one!
COMPROMISING POSITIONS: PHOTOGRAPHING THE FLOWER
Article by Mina Thevenin, Editor
Contributing Photographers: Barbara Hoeldt “Brake for Nature” (Cover), Virginia Photographer Fredrick A.”Ricky” Wilson, Ontario Photographer April Howe, Photography World Photographers Richard S. Wright, Jr. & Linda Covey, New York Photographer Nelin Reisman, Nature Photographer Kas Deddens, and American Photographers Robin Berry & Linda Sarmento
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The photographer is generally unafraid (if body allows) to kneel, lie down and place him or herself in often compromising positions. Why? Who wouldn’t want to capture one of nature’s most cherished, photographed, written about, painted, drawn, animal food-sources, herbal and medicinal-giving organisms, perfume-imbibing, spiritual and religious representations, culturally-shared meanings of celebrations, gift-giving, apologizing, death honoring, good-bye’s, wakes, and thinking of you subjects in the world?
LOTUS OR WATER LILY?
The leaves and carpel (female part) are the clear indicators of identification: lotus or lily. Flat leaves sitting on the water belong to the lily. Lotus leaves emerge from the water along with its flower, sometimes rising up to 4 feet/1.22 meters out of the surface of the water. The carpel of the lotus looks rather like a round box. (1) Photographers Sarmento & Hoeldt photograph the beautiful lotus and water lily as shown below.
People respond to the colors, smells, tactile textures and shapes of flowers- neurologically, cognitively and often emotionally. Animals, too, respond to flowers. In addition to being a food source for many animals in nature, have you ever observed an animal to pause and smell a flower?
The complexity of the flower as an organism is over-looked outside of the botany field. Floriculture is the study of the cultivation of flowering plants. Flor-, flos is its Latin root, meaning flower(s). To understand the flower’s biology, science has identified its parts as either sterile (colorful petals and fragrant smells), male or female. What is the flower anyway, but the plant’s genetic opportunity to reproduce and by reproducing- survive and thrive!
Flowers form to begin the process of reproduction.
Female parts create the unfertilized egg or ovule. The egg(s) waits in the ovary for fertilization. The male part is the anther; it produces either spores or pollen (pollen if it’s seed bearing). These are the sperms needed to fertilize the flower’s egg.
At the same time fertilization is happening, the sterile flower parts, namely the petals and the fragrance, begin to attract small creatures- insects, birds, and bats. These animals help to carry and fertilize other flowers, known as cross-pollination. Like animals, wind is also a part of cross-pollination. Even furry animals or people become a part of this process when they brush against a flower and carry some of its spores or pollen to a neighboring flower- aiding in the process of the flower reproduction cycle.
Allergy sufferers of pollen may not feel very relieved even when they have a greater understanding of what exactly they are breathing in and to what they are reacting! Though have a look on the flower bright side- active pollination means proliferation for many of our plants and flowers- many of which depend upon the health of insects, animals, people, and wind to survive.
The Waving Sunflower.
Great clarity and color contrast make this image pop!
It is not surprising that his flower of choice was the SUNFLOWER, since Wright is known for his celestial photography. Interestingly, the sunflower moves its flower-head throughout the day as it follows the sun across the sky. SUNFLOWER is also known as the Indian Sun and the Marigold of Peru, having been worshiped by ancient peoples for its representation of the sun. Sunflower seeds are eaten and made into oil; all parts of the sunflower are used in some way- from making soap to tobacco.COMPOSITION OF PERFECTION
Photographically & Reproductively!
New York Photographer Nelin Reisman’s photograph captures the trailing dance of hungry monarch butterflies and a lone honey bee on beautiful aster flowers.
Monarchs have a “near threatened” status by the World Wildlife Organization. Honey bees have been decreasing in colony number since 2006. The collapse of colonies is currently being studied to determine why this is happening. To date, 1/3 of bee colonies have disappeared over nearly the last ten years.(2)
Nectar-eating insects are active pollinators for these aster flowers (left). Reisman’s photograph captures a perfect example of pollination. As a result, when these insects visit each flower, the blossoms will become fertilized and set seed. Have you ever noticed the pollen basket on the back of a bees leg? It is transferring the pollen grains (male sperm of flower) to the female’s waiting ovule. Lucky for asters, they are called a “perfect flower” and contain all parts of the four organs within the same flower, so these pollinators do not have to travel too far on this flowering perennial!
Flight of the honey bee. Covey captures an excellent “in-flight” example of the honey bee going in for irresistible sweet nectar of the Arizona honeysuckle! (left)
For the photographer, capturing the flower’s essence and giving light to its mood is perhaps unrecognizably more challenging than what the audience perceives. Most of the time the audience of a beautifully photographed flower won’t be aware of the efforts that the photographer ascribes: intentional composition, cropping, macro clarity, lighting and angle decisions that the photographer makes. Even though all of this complexity is represented in the photographer’s finished image, the final photograph is a seamless presentation to the audience. It is simply a portrait of a timeless and beautiful subject, the flower.
Compromising Positions: Photographing the Flower
Included are the following references:
University of Arizona. (1998). Arizona Cooperative Extension. “Flowers”, BOTANY: PLANT PARTS AND FUNCTIONS
Pickles, Sheila. (1989). The Language of Flowers. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
(1) “Difference Between Lotus and Lily: Lily vs Lotus”. Difference Between. WEBSITE
(2) “Vanishing Bees”. Natural Resource Defense Counsel. WEBSITE
Congratulations to all of the contributing Photography World photographers for this article!