If you’re ready for a new life drawing post, click over to Museworthy, where the great art model and my blogging mentor Claudia has posted about our recent session working together in my studio, with photos and drawings!
I like to use stereoscopic photography to study the shapes of things in space – especially complex forms like those of trees and flowers, which can only really be understood in three dimensions. Flat photographs of plants are like pressed flowers – still lovely, but a certain violence has been done.
Stereo photographs reproduce human spatial perception. To see depth in the images in this post, you’ll need a pair of common red/cyan 3D glasses. If you don’t have a pair lying around, you can get one for free here. Ask for red/cyan anaglyph 3D glasses. If you look at these photos without the glasses, you’re missing a lot!
The originals of these photos were in color, but I don’t like any of the methods for presenting stereo photos in color on the web, so I’ve converted them to monochrome for this post. Most pictures of plants and flowers dazzle us with colorfulness, but here we’ll get rid of that distracting factor the better to study forms in space.
My brother Frank lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, a lovely and lively town that is the home of Smith College. The campus has wonderful landscaping and botanical gardens, including this magnificent victorian-era Lyman Conservatory, which houses over 2500 species of plants from around the world. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in town to hang with Frank, and all of the pictures in this post were taken on the Smith College campus last June.
This tree forms a kind of leafy dome under which one may take shelter from sun or rain.
The campus has a good-sized lake surrounded by woods where students can wander the paths and ponder on questions and wonder at the glorious diversity of earthly lifeforms.
The shapes of the land itself are organic forms, just as much as are the living things that adorn the hillocks and hollows of that sod.
Whatever dies falls down and is recycled in water and earth and its vitality bursts up out of the muck.
Every kind of plant has its own characteristic kinds of leaves and patterns of growth, and there seems to be no limit to the variations that can thrive given the right conditions.
Some are soft and some are spiky, some yielding and some aggressive. The different forms are like different personalities.
Plant forms reach out into space to gather energy from light and air and matter from earth and water. Every plant is an alchemical flask of transformation.
Contemplating nature requires all the senses: smell and taste, touch and sight and hearing, intuition and reason.
Nature is reaching out to us, asking us to reconnect, to remember that we are beings of Earth. Alas, we have isolated ourselves in pods and given all our attention to things that flash and sparkle and pretend to respond to us.
If soft nature cannot touch us, sharp and prickly nature will some day come to bear.
The world seems to be a perfect laboratory for generating changing conditions, to which life must respond by adapting into astonishing and wondrous forms.
While we dispute over abstractions, the ever-flowing life force manifests all around us in a billion ways, always aborning, dying, and being born again.
We dream of being visited by alien spacemen that talk and use technology like we do, imagining they will bring us wisdom, while the real deep wisdom shows itself to us in the ever-changing costumes of thriving things and feeling creatures.
Stop for a moment, stop using and consuming everything, stop entertaining yourself, stop competing with everyone. Look, and touch, and smell. You don’t need to meditate on a mountaintop. The magic is right here.
All of these photos were taken with a regular digital SLR camera, by taking one shot as a left-eye view and then shifting a few inches to take a second shot as a right-eye view. Alignment and conversion into anaglyphs was done with the great free software StereoPhoto Maker, which can also convert to many other formats of stereo photography.
I love looking at plants but I’m no expert. If you notice that I’ve mislabeled anything here, please let me know in comments.