Yesterday I began studying about how to care for the water garden because I was concerned that the beautiful water lily that had bloomed so radiantly the day before was remaining closed even thought the sun was shining brightly on it. It was mid morning and all the other flowers had opened up. In a short time I learned that a water lily only blooms for three days and then slowly sinks back down and forms a seed.
After lunch I checked again and the blossom had opened! I had started to work on a different project but knowing I had only one day left to photograph this beautiful bloom I dropped everything and grabbed my camera and spent the next hour photographing.
I studied the bloom from every possible angle I could get at. I noted the difference between the color and contrast when it was in direct sunlight and how it appeared when I got close enough that my body cast a shadow over it. My eyes could see the reflection of the flower on the surface of the water but my camera could barely detect it at most angles.
In order to enhance the reflection I took a piece of black velvet and slipped it into the tub underneath the plant. The velvet absorbs most of the light and isolates the shapes and forms of the plant.
At one point when I realized my body could not cast a large enough shadow I grabbed a seven foot white umbrella from my studio and used it to cast a large soft shadow over the entire scene because it gave such a wonderful translucent quality to the water and enhances the color saturation the way a cloudy day does.
The combination of the black velvet and the umbrella enabled me to capture a deep midnight blue reflection of the clear sky above. The color is so subtle that you don’t really see it as much as you feel it when it is there and notice the flatness of emotion when it isn’t.
So much of my creative process involves the joy of discovery during the processing of an image after capture. One hour of photography turns into 4 hours of discovery during editing.
Later, as I was researching the history of water lilies in paintings I learned that Monet had focused most of his attention on painting the translucent quality of the water. I felt a sense of connection in my work as if I was taking a well worn path towards enlightenment.
Photographing nature’s beauty creates a powerful sense of awakening much like I imagine the term Satori means in Zen Buddhism.
The way the leaves of the water lily open up to allow the stem of the bloom to pass through reminded me of an artist palette. In this image I see the artist and the artist’s subject. From it I can imagine what Claude Monet felt as he painted water lilies that he had planted in his garden at his house in Giverny.
Monet made more than 250 paintings of water lilies and this was the subject of his final commission before his death. As I studied this single lily I could see that one could spend a lifetime in pursuit of the perfect reproduction of this eloquent form.