Word for Wednesday – Illumination

illumination |iˌloōməˈnā sh ən|
• (noun) lighting or light
•  (verb) that which illuminates or gives light; brightness; splendor; especially, intellectual light or knowledge
• Physics another term for illuminance .
• figurative spiritual or intellectual enlightenment.
• the intensity of light falling at a given place on a lighted surface; the luminous flux incident per unit area, expressed in lumens per unit of area.
• the art of illuminating a manuscript.
• a design used in such decoration.
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from late Latin illuminatio(n-), from the verb illuminare (see illuminate ).

Illumination is about what you can see in light and also, what you want to see because of light. Illumination can have an element of imagining something to be, where others may not. Interest can be found in what is less tangible nor can easily be explained. The part you don’t see, but feel. Or, what you see in shadow, but did not see initially. That is hard to capture in a photo. In art, too, but I find it easier because it comes from within. You put it where you want it.

Fully illuminated, like in really bright sun, an object offers less mystery or a reason to look closer. In the above photo, what you focus on is the small insect. The light is bright and you can almost see through him. But in the same flower below, you are more inclined to study the plant because the lighting was dimmed by the clouds and a bit more even.

When you look at light in the positive and negative, your imagination kicks in. With dark contrast comes conflicting feelings. It can elicit consternation of course, but also mystery. In architecture it is often done intentionally to bring the viewer from dark to light, to create mood and understanding of place.

Lighting contrasts increase your sense of curiosity and wonderment. It is where the dark areas make you contemplate the darkness, like what lies beyond. I really want to have the photographic skills to get those kind of images. The kind that make one think or feel. In architecture it is the design to strive for. The play of light off surfaces create magic, movement and mood. Time and light give the illusion of a changing environment yet, logically, you know nothing has moved or changed color. It just appears that way due to the power of light. Light and shadow alter perception of form and distance.

In the absence of much light, or just a tiny bit of light finding a surface is a wonderful opportunity for the viewer to look closer. And in looking closer, you lose perspective of what you are really looking at as a whole. You can engage in the image. Did you know that this is a rain-soaked rose above? Without much detail, it offers up a question.

To see details not seen in full lighting situations can become an experience. Lighting through membranes, natural or man-made, have a similar effect. Architecture is about creating user and viewer experience. I think good photography has an element of that as well, just in a different dimension. The viewer of an exceptional photograph comes away having ‘felt’ something. I know that sounds cliché but I often feel moved by art and photography. Good architecture has that power too.

I have always looked not at the object, but at the light. I think great light will always make a boring object better, but a good subject in boring light does not do the subject justice. Now the key is learning how to control the camera to collect the beauty of light, to amp up the ‘illuminance’ in a desired way.

You see detail not usually seen when shooting for the light. Remember as a kid when you would put a flashlight against your hand in a darkened room to see brightly through the glowing, orange-lit little hand? That always amazed me.

There is just something intoxicating about the deep burning color of the sun coming out from the shadows, more so than any other color. It is primal with the color of fire. And remember my post on Red and Yellow, Happy Monday from Sunflower Farm? A lot goes on psychologically with those two colors and orange is smack dab in the middle.

Less light intensifies bright colors in the garden, so on a cloudy or overcast day your flowers have more even, saturated color in your resulting photos. You can also probably set your camera to Vivid to increase the saturation when you find say, Autumn leaves and want that pop of color. I never used that feature on my Nikon, I just work with the natural light hitting in early morning or late afternoon to get the vivid intensity. Cloudy days are great for that deep rich coloring. But using Vivid is an option.

So is post editing – just bump up the saturation or contrast and you have a livelier image. Many times one that looks really unnatural though. I use Vibrance in Photoshop then fade to desired intensity. It is much more natural looking. The above iris image had Vibrance applied because it brightened the yellow a tad. The Delphinium below was straight from the camera.

The iris bud below looks like it comes from nowhere. The way the light hit this plant was the only reason I took this shot. I cropped out the soft focused Allium, but you can barely see the foliage of the other plants.

I like morning for just catching rays hitting a bloom. All else around is in shadow so the bloom looks like it is isolated as in a studio shot. It would need a little fill light from the left for that I think, but there was something about this image that I like, possibly the feeling of ‘new beginnings all alone’.

The rose below was shot yesterday morning. It too has a moody feel, because I was out during that few minutes before the soft touch of warm morning light got too bright.  The only thing making it in any way special is the light itself. The soft pink buds in partial shadow/partial morning light  are what gives my rose any interest.

The lack of lighting forces me to look deeper into the subject, finding maybe something that slipped my view when I snapped the photo. Intricacy and delicacy I did not see before. It shows up in a highly contrasted image too. The delicate folds and soft translucency of the iris are brought more into view, than say the orange iris above. Not that any of these are great photos, but these are things I see in them and hope to improve for future images.

Light creating shadows is often more interesting than the subject itself.  And the intensity of the light in relationship to the object is another way to look at a subject. There was nothing special about this garden below, but the shadow cast by the tree was magnificent. I wish I exposed the shot better.

I often look at the light and shadow and not the object, like above. What negative shape does it create? How does the light drape a surface?  How does it soften a form? What does it do with glare and movement? How does it intensify and accentuate texture and form?

Or the opposite, how does it pop an object with crisp clear, and often over whelming detail?

One thing that has saddened me through the years is how, depending where you live, you really don’t see the stars anymore. This is my favorite light, not for photography, but for mood. The brilliant sparkle of the stars is unmatched and how the moonlight washes a surface is just magical. The sun is a star also, but the night-time stars are more mysterious. Again it has to do with what you can not see, but only imagine.

As a kid living in a rural area, the stars were an amazement to me. A sky full with crisp stars shining brightly. The last I had that feeling was in the mountains of Costs Rica where artificial illumination was not everywhere. We have illuminated away the magic.

Next Word for Wednesday, on October 5, is Repose.

Let’s all take a breather and   r   e    l   a   x. Find a photo that says Repose. And please leave a comment to suggest a word. It is fun when we can use a word YOU pick. I like the challenge.

I am posting today because the meme is so new to give anyone a chance to join in. Please join in on Wednesday, or if your post is prepared already, Mr. Linky will be up at  8AM, Tuesday. If you have a nicely lit photo for Wordless Wednesday, you are welcome as well.

Mr. Linky will stay active for a week, so no rush either. The Month in Tens 2 will be late this mid-month due to Word for Wednesday, but look for it September 23.

I want to amend this post to say thank you to all those that joined, but more importantly, that much of the work on these blogs is photographically more adept than here on my blog and you MUST go see the posts. They have captured shots, that though my trying, have yet to accomplish. Make sure you CLICK HERE below on Mr. Linky to blog hop and see the beautiful photos and very creative look at the subject. Many have taken it off in a whole new direction and made some very insightful and erudite reads also.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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40 Responses to Word for Wednesday – Illumination

  1. Great post Donna! Your examples are outstanding too. We have been overcast the past few days and are suppose to get some rain today and tomorrow (wooohooo!) so I will have to look through some photos from earlier in September to see what I can find.

  2. Donna says:

    Your post is always an inspiration. I learn so much. The pics are gorgeous. I love allium and what you did with it and the chives are stunning. I agree about the stars. Where I live there are no street lights and I am so happy because I can see those gorgeous stars so clearly. It takes my breath away…loving this new meme!!

  3. Laurrie says:

    I spend a lot of time just poring over and studying your photos, they are such a treat. How wonderful nature’s illumination is, but how intriguing it looks when you enhance and play with it. Nothing says illumination, though, more than the photo of the stars in the night sky. I saw that in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming where there was no artificial light, and I thought I was going to scrape my head on the stars.

  4. Dear Donna, You make me think about photography in a whole different way. I have to confess that I don’t look at the light and the shadow when I’m shooting, but at the object only. When I take my morning walk around my garden, I see the deep beauty in ever bloom, but am unable to capture it with my camera the way you have. Your stunning photographs are an inspiration. P. x

  5. One says:

    Your ideas and creativity are endless. The composition of the photo of the tree with shadow is my absolute favorite. Thank you for your illuminating sharing.

  6. Jeanette says:

    Dear Donna,
    Your article and photographs help us see nature, light and color from so many perspectives. I couldn’t help but focus on the reflection in the water droplet. Beautiful. Thanks.
    Jeanette

  7. Cathy says:

    Donna, as a long time stargazer, I am also dismayed by light pollution and have gone to great lengths at times to be able to get away from ambient light at night to see the stars. Your photograph is fantastic… how did you take it? I think this is a positively fabulous idea. I hope you like my interpretation of “illumination” which is now linked!

    • The night star image is a Photoshop creation. I guess I should have captioned the image. But it is the only one I altered except for the orange iris. I did that to show what you can do with editing. But really, I should have put in the original shot too so viewers could see the slight difference. It pops the yellow in the photo. Thank you for joining the meme. Your photos are beautiful.

  8. Beautiful photos, love the raindrop ones.
    Found my way here from Cathy & Steve’s blog. Will give some consideration to joining in.

  9. Cathy says:

    I didn’t notice the reflection (white bud, droplets on the bottom) until I went back and looked yet again (I’ve already been through this series of pictures 3 times!!!) when I read Jeanette’s comment. It’s not only amazing what you see, it’s incredible what you don’t see even when you are looking right at something.

    First, that photograph is simply amazing. Secondly, my experience with this image speaks to the fact that different people see things from different perspectives and our collective observations give a much more comprehensive and complete picture of the “whole”.

  10. marguerite says:

    Great word and theme. I have struggled a lot with learning to take photos but once I realized how important light was and started shooting specifically for light as opposed to the object I saw my photos improve. I still struggle but I have a better idea what I’m looking for these days.

  11. skeeter says:

    Your photos are great works of art! They look as though they belong on a wall in a Gallery. Yes, they are that beautiful to my eyes…

  12. b-a-g says:

    Donna – Enjoyed the words as much as the picture. If you’re looking for suggestions for more words … how about EVOLUTION ?

    • That is a real challenge. We will definitely use that one. I thought of repose as a relaxing scenario for two weeks from now, as it would be easy to picture, but Evolution would be a great choice. If others think I should change for October 5th, I’m game.

  13. Karen says:

    Donna, I always come to your posts to learn as well as visit and see what is going on in your world. This post was another excellent tutorial and so enjoyable. Photography is something I have to continually learn about, all the bells and whistles on my son’s Nikon confound me, so mostly I use it set on Auto, which is a shame. I have to educate myself. Thanks for taking the first step by showing what is possible with a little more effort on my part.

  14. Absolutely gorgeous photos, and your post really made me think about lighting. On my island in Maine seven miles at sea the stars are amazing.

  15. HolleyGarden says:

    That picture of the stars is wonderful! I just usually point and shoot, and if there are shadows or the light is pretty, it’s usually a surprise! Your photos are amazing as always.

  16. GirlSprout says:

    Donna, the photos are transcendent. I can’t pick a favorite. I love the meme and hope to post something soon.

  17. I agree with Skeeter. I love the meme idea! I’ll try to find a decent capture to join in next week. Absolutely breathtaking, Donna!

  18. Jennifer says:

    Donna, Your beautiful images make me wish that I had a macro lens. They are all so crystal clear. Raindrops look like jewels!

  19. andrea says:

    This post is mesmerizing for me! (Oh mesmerizing-huh, a word). The article as well as the photos are very well done. You made it in a way which inspire, yet a bit scary for me. It feels like so very professionally done, intellectually stimulating, and i feel lacking of so much! Photography always says it’s the play of light. Trying it as a hobby and as a beginner, I feel so short of my imagination in seeing the interplay of this “light” on my subject. So, i just click and click whenever i feel something is nice or beautiful. I just compartmentalized that ‘illusive’ light, and keep shooting. Hi Donna, i wish you are my teacher!

  20. debsgarden says:

    Donna, I can’t possibly comment on all the individual photos; so many of them are works of art! I love how light transforms an image. Your photos illustrate how important it is to stop and appreciate the light play in a garden, to see shadows and highlights that a quick glance might not appreciate. Your tree trunk shadow photo is a perfect example!

  21. Christina says:

    What an incredible collection of images. They are all beautiful, I’ll come to look at them again, and again. Light is so important and changes our perception and how we fell. when we first moved to our house in Italy I was amazed by the how many stars there are. There is some light pollution but much less than where I lived before. thank you for such a good word. Christina

  22. Veronica says:

    Hi ! This is my first visit as I am a newby blogger! Wow so much beauty captures so magnificently! Will try to join in meme in future .

    Veronica

  23. Thought provoking and beautifully illustrated Donna. I think capturing light in photography or other art forms is almost magical at times. Light, shadow, contrast, all make such a difference, making one shot “ok” and another something to be proud of. I lov ethe shot of the beads of water on the white bud, and for different reasons the iris and rose shots. So much clarity there. I always have trouble with the exposure on shots like the iris, the white tends to burn out.

    Oh, and your reminiscing about shining the torch through your hand as a child made me smile and brought back vivid memories.

  24. As always, your photos are lovely! I enjoyed viewing the various ways things can be illuminated. My favorite was the chives…so beautiful! Thanks for hosting this meme!

  25. Excellent post Donna. In photography, learning to work with light is one of the greatest challenges, at least it was for me, and the most subtle shift in lighting has such a dramatic effect on the mood of the picture. It took me some time, and a lot of practice, to use light to my advantage. Thankfully, digital photography helped to accelerate that learning process (I so don’t miss film!). I couldn’t agree more about the stars too. I’ve never been anywhere as dark at night as in the middle of the Patagonian desert, and I’ve never seen as many stars, whole galaxies even, in one field of view. It was truly awe inspiring, and I just can’t come close to that same experience here. It made me appreciate just how much light pollution we have here.

  26. Cat says:

    Beautiful as always Donna. I agree with you about noticing light and not so much the object. Light has always fascinated me and I wish I could articulate the feelings I experience when I’m witnessing that magical light. One of the things I find most frustrating is when the light is flat and I need a photo to describe something in the garden. I just don’t enjoy photography as much when the light isn’t special. I guess it’s the persnickety artist coming out in my personality at those times!

    The big night sky is fascinating and one of the reasons we enjoy Big Bend so much.

    Great post! Thanks for hosting.

  27. Denise says:

    Donna, your photographs are wonderful, especially the white iris. And the light gives everything a happy feeling.

  28. Christine says:

    hi Donna, I just wanted to let you know that I really want to take part in this, but have been a little intimidated by everyone’s photos … But, I’m going to take the plunge and join next week. I think Repose might be easier for me xxx

  29. Autumn Belle says:

    Your post is very ‘illuminating’. Love the pictures and explanations, learnt a lot too.

  30. Alistair says:

    Donna, you certainly have done justice to your word for Wednesday, absolutely beautiful shots. I am still at the stage when the best of my pics are taken when the sky is over cast. Oh I remember the starry nights of my childhood. I have to say, Cathy and Steve’s pictures are also well worth a look.

  31. nelle howard says:

    Donna, I’ve just found your blog this morning. Your illustrations for “illumination” are very well chosen. I have posted a link, but as I think about it, It probably should have been done by yesterday.
    nellie

  32. Carolyn♥ says:

    Oh Donna, this is so… illuminating! And enchantingly beautiful. Love your pics and love your meme… want to jump in soon. Life challenges have deterred my blogging time and I’ve felt compelled to finish Butterfly Dreams… it has been so much fun and has helped to heal my heart. But i long to find the energy to get back into the things I adore… visiting you is one of them. Thanks for your support and patience sweet friend. Repose… let me see, what can I come up with…

  33. Donna, I did it!! Complete with pretty title learnt by following your tutorial of Green Apples. I hope you like 🙂
    Whilst my photos are not of the same standard as any of the others’ are (i’m trying …), but I enjoyed doing it and look forward to the next one. Thanks for hosting and helping me to think “outside the box”.

  34. Beautiful. I especially loved the iris photos.

  35. This is a valuable theme. I have learned so much from your post, Donna. Thank you. I look at photographs with a more informed eye now. Your photos are of course superb! I managed to find some from my collection that might have some form of illumination. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.
    Rosie

  36. Bom says:

    Oh Donna, what a wonderful post. The images are so evocative. I love the hostas reflection in the droplets, the iris, the light filtered through the branches of the trees and the leaves, and I must not forget your chives.

    Congratulations on your new meme! Hopefully I can join in with repose. It is just difficult for me to post during the week sometimes.

  37. Oh wow, I am at a loss for words. That is just one FABULOUS post!! The photos are breath taking.

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