In terms of portfolio development, this is one of my earliest digital photographs. It dates from my days as a student in Lansing, Michigan. I was taking a class on black and white photography. As part of one assignment, I visited a local botanical garden. The sun was directly overhead—rarely a good thing when seeking the best light for creating quality images. But this time that high lighting angle worked in my favor.
As I walked through the rows of plants in search of interesting subjects, I noticed a group of potted philodendrons. The way that sun was shining through one of their leaves caught my eye. I wanted to photograph just that leaf. But there were too many plants pushed together on the table, and even when I moved them around a little, their long, wispy stems defied all my efforts to control the composition by removing what I felt were distracting elements. Finally I yielded.
When I decided to just go with the flow, I saw that two leaves—one from one adjacent plant, and one from another—framed the leaf I was intent on photographing in some very pleasing ways. In addition to framing it nicely, they provided tonal balance. In contrast to the light-suffused warmth of the main leaf, they were shadowed, cooler, and more reserved.
When I processed this relatively abstract image for printing, I took special care to preserve detail in the highlights and shadows. Ansel Adams was a master at this. The Zone System he helped to develop codified his ideas. I have huge respect for his talent as a printer. It gave me great pleasure to produce this photograph in ways that so nicely preserve and present its tonal and textural nuances.