I remember getting off the plane as a 17 year old exchange student to Japan in the mid-1970s. I looked out onto a sea of people all wearing white shirts or blouses, black or navy trousers or skirts, all with black hair and dark eyes… If the person I was supposed to meet had not been holding a sign with my name on it, I would never have found him. There were no individuals… just a sea of sameness.
It took me several months of attendance in a college prepatory high school where everyone wore the same school uniform and carried the same book bag to train myself to see individuals. I had to learn to describe people not by hair color, but by the shape of the face… not by what they wore, but by the nature of her smile or her personality or the sound of her laughter. Learning to “see” people in this way was transforming for me – the teen who had been brought up in a materialistic culture where looks were everything and individuality as expressed through looks was prized.
When I first started taking pictures of wildflowers, I think I had a similar mentality: a rose is a rose is a rose. I had a sort of mental checklist. Once I had a photo of a particular flower, that was it… (except for Queen Anne’s Lace, of course). White Trillium – check! Red Trillium – check! Spring Beauty – check! I’m not sure what I thought I was doing… perhaps collecting “specimens” for future PowerPoint presentations on how to identify spring wildflowers? Maybe I was afraid I’d run out of storage space on my hard drive if I had more than one picture of the same plant? (I suppose that time will come… I’m down to only 78 gigabytes left…)
This season, I find myself photographing every flower species every time. I don’t pass one by just because I’ve already taken a picture this season, or with this camera, or with this lens… I look for interesting individuals or interesting light conditions and I just shoot… again and again and again. Long Point State Park. Bergman Park. College Park. Audubon’s Burgeson Sanctuary. Audubon’s Bentley Sanctuary. Camp Timbercrest. Wherever I find it, I shoot it again. Morning light, afternoon light, midday light, cloudy day, direct light, dappled light… in the rain! Whatever the conditions I shoot it again. Kit lens, borrowed lens, 300mm, macro, reverse lens technique… whatever I’m carrying that day – I shoot it again.
White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, has been drawing my attention quite a bit this season. I’ve been particularly fascinated by the variation of the individuals I find. It’s called Trillium grandiflorum – large flowered trillium. Yet I have found some very, very small specimens. (Will they grow bigger with time or is that all they have the energy and resources for this year?)
The shape of the petals can vary, too.
Yesterday, I found my favorite individual White Trillium yet. The petals were variegated!
But don’t think that because I’ve found my favorite (so far) I’ll stop shooting! Hmm… I wonder where I should go walking today…