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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Nine: Composition -- putting it together > Sunflower, Anchorage, Alaska, 2002
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Sunflower, Anchorage, Alaska, 2002
22-JUL-2002

Sunflower, Anchorage, Alaska, 2002

In Alaska, land of the "Midnight Sun", summer flowers flourish. I found these enormous sunflowers growing around the base of an old log cabin that serves as Anchorage's Vistors Center. Close-up photography is all about detail, but that detail must also be organized for meaning. Depth of focus is always very shallow in closeups, which simplifies the image and emphasizes the point at hand. In this case, it's the delicacy of the tiny detail in the center of the sunflower that makes the point, as well as the vivid contrasts in color, a study in yellow, red, and green.

Canon PowerShot G2
1/200s f/4.0 at 21.0mm full exif

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Phil Douglis01-May-2006 22:01
You are right, Jenene -- this image fails to stress the huge scale of the flower, because there is no point of comparative reference. I made and posted it here as an example of composition, not its scale incongruity. However this image does work here as color incongruity. It is so colorful, it is indeed outrageous. Hope this helps.
JSWaters01-May-2006 19:42
"In this image, for example, the color is so outrageously vivid that it is incongruous. So is the huge scale. " This surprised me - it's so not a Phil Douglis image. I understand the power of the outrageous color, but how could you have conveyed the huge scale - or am I just not reading it?
Phil Douglis16-Oct-2005 01:53
You have made a very special observation here, Lisbeth. It never occurred to me that including only one "center" (I think it's called a stigma) would give this image its anchor and focus, but I guess it does. I was concentrating so hard on the vividly colored petals, that I took the brown "eye" of the sunflower for granted. Thank you for bringing your own eye to bear on this image and letting us know why it hangs together as well as it does.
Lisbeth LandstrÝm15-Oct-2005 22:35
This picture seems to be strengthened by the fact that only one center is seen entirely. This concentrates the focus on the perfectly ordered center (that is after having enjoyed the vivid and kind of anarchist growth of the sunflowers - all of them individually colored of course).
Phil Douglis10-Mar-2005 06:03
You are right, River. I am not a flower guy. So many photographers specialize in this kind of nature photography, and i don't like to travel ground that is heavily traveled by so many others. But every now and then a flower makes a statement that I can't resist expressing. This enormous sunflower made that kind of statement.

I also appreciate your comment on my style. By saying my style is "nice but not fancy" I assume you mean that I don't rely on a lot of special technique in my work. You are right. My technique is very simple and always subordinate to the content. I avoid using form for the sake of form, aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics. You say my style is "humble, warm and friendly." I think that has to do with my passion for human values. I avoid stressing technical values -- photoshop tricks, filters, lights, and the stuff that commercial photographers and technofans rely on in their work. I keep things simple, pure as I can, always stressing the humane, the incongruous, and the abstract.

In this image, for example, the color is so outrageously vivid that it is incongruous. So is the huge scale. There were 100 flowers in that display. I chose just one to stress. That is abstraction. The bottom line here is beauty, isn't it? And beauty is a human value, something all of us share and understand. You've added warmth, friendliness, and comforting to it as well. All of those things are human values. You do not have to show a person in order to express human values, River. Any image that combines some form of abstraction, incongruity, and human values is bound to reflect my style. Because those are the three principles upon which I've built my cyberbook, my images, and my teaching.

Thanks for this comment -- you are only the second person to comment on it, but in a way, it is probably one of my most significant images in terms of my style as an expressive photographer.
Guest 10-Mar-2005 05:10
Hi, Phil, I just read you are not big on flowers... but this is a good picture of flower... the warmth of the color, dark orange, yellow and green make the photo very warm and very inviting. Personally I love macro photography, and I have taken and seen many macro photos of flowers, and something about this photo is special... I just really enjoy the warmth, not only the warm color, but warm feeling of this picture, friendly and comforting.

I think this is also your style through out your galleries, nice but not fancy, expressive but humble, warm and friendly.
Phil Douglis31-Oct-2004 19:08
Glad you liked this composition, Maureen. I am not big on flower pictures. But this was one big mother of a flower, one of the largest and most vivid flowers I had ever seen. I am always attracted to primary colors (who isn't?) and felt that sense of perfection that you felt. A flower without a flaw, oversized, and in the most vivid of colors. It was not easy to find the best blossom and then put that best blossom in the best place, but this arrangement worked well. It is, as you say, an interpretation of the natural world at its best.
Guest 31-Oct-2004 14:04
I really like the composition and love the framing on this. It's perfect. Nature is so perfect and this jumps out at you with its vivid colors. Beautiful. I could look at this all day.
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