Solitude and the Creative Process

Solitude and the Creative Process

solitude creative process
Act 3 in Red
Windblown and tattered red ranunculus at sunset,
April 30, 2014

The blog has been neglected for a bit this spring, while I have worked on other things. Later this month I’ll be giving some presentations on Floral Photography and also Color Management in Photography. Working on presentations for other people always requires thinking and rethinking of one’s own processes of creating, in my case creating photographic images. I come from a family in which some members do their best work in the company of other people, and other members require at least some degree of solitude to do any work at all. I’m glad I see both sides of that coin in my family, but I definitely am one who requires solitude and time to think to do my best work.

This summer holds a couple of significant anniversaries for me, and these have also stimulated my thought processes. I didn’t set out to think about these things in particular, but I have allowed myself the time to do it. I’ve also allowed myself some time to read, just for pleasure and not directly for learning, as I have done so much of my life. Of course, one may learn more from reading for pleasure, if the circumstances are right.

Some quotes come to mind:

Henry David Thoreau:

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. ~ Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” Walden, 1854

Writer, anthropologist, and friend, Jim Stallings:

Began having a new vision of things. What was it exactly? Can’t say maybe. Can’t say at all less I think on it. I’ll think: emptiness in-forms perception; the point is not how much you know, what you know, or who you know; the point is emptiness and freedom. The loneliness of freedom… ~ Jim Stallings, Falstaff’s Diaries, 2011

Photography instructor, Barrack Naggan, in class critiques of photographs, 2009:

Would you hang it in your house?

The first two quotes had meaning to me at first reading. The real significance of “would you hang it in your house?” took me a little longer to grasp, as simple as it seems on the surface. A work a visual artist is willing to display in his/her home says “this is me. I’m revealing something about myself that I am willing to be seen within the safety of my home.” The same piece, of course, may be seen in many public places. In that context, the image is as much about the viewer as about the artist. The same piece, hung in the home, reveals much more about the artist.

I love photographing almost anything, but am probably best known for florals and portraits. As I prepare the presentations on floral photography, I have gone through a lot of my prior work. The most recognized pieces have been “Lily,” “Starting Over,” and Ephemeral.” These three are monochromatic to one degree or another. Within the world of roses, I am probably best known for my love of the Hybrid bracteata, ‘Mermaid.’ None of these images are hanging in my house, and in preparing the upcoming presentations, I was not inspired to print one for hanging in my house. I have two of my own images in my house: one of the Great Kiva at Chetro Ketl in Chaco Canyon (from film days!) and a monsoon season sky from 2009, done as an HDR. Those are images that are very personal to me, for a variety of reasons.

On the evening of April 30, 2014, I went to my mom’s house to photograph some of her roses for possible inclusion in the upcoming presentations. She grows beautiful roses, but I was not feeling particularly inspired that evening. Until, that is, I saw some old ranunculus flowers that were falling apart and ragged, having been abused by days on end of high winds and blowing dust. The light at that point was perfect – Golden Hour but diffused by a few clouds and all the dust in the air. I took four photographs of the ranunculus, each from a slightly different angle. When I saw the one in this post on the computer, my first thought was “I have to hang that in the house.” Until I saw it, I had not known what I was looking for, only that there was a void that needed to be filled. I had grown restless with my images, but I wasn’t sure where to go next. I ordered a large print for the house that night.

Is this a one-time-only image, or will there be a series of subsequent images of aging flowers that are nevertheless vibrant in their last moments? Only time will tell on that one. But this image tied together so many things happening in my life that I had been thinking about for the past several months – thinking about in wonderful solitude.

I hope to be a little better about the blogging process this summer. I am updating my portfolio site, and invite you to visit there as well.



– gloriously bright flowers that almost require people who see them to smile!

2013 has been a great year for sunflowers in New Mexico, and I have enjoyed photographing a variety of them, as well as some of the creatures attracted to them: bees, crab spiders, and even some attractive flies. I’ve been surprised at the different sizes and colors of the different flowers themselves.

Fall is approaching, and the blooms of the sunflowers around me are coming to an end. But they have seed heads, which are attracting house finches and gold finches and jays, among others.

This is the summer I have been smitten with the humble sunflower.

This slideshow has some of my images from this summer. A few more will probably be added before the bloom comes to a complete end. I hope you enjoy these sunflower images.

All of the images in this slideshow are available for purchase as prints at Susan Brandt Graham Photography.

Some of them are also available as 5×7 inch folded note cards, either in landscape orientation or in portrait orientation.

Approaching Autumn

2013 PX3 People’s Choice Awards


2013 PX3 People’s Choice Awards

for the Prix de la Photographie Paris have been announced. I would like to thank everyone who voted for my images.

I was awarded 3rd Place in Nature – Underwater, for “Jellyfish,” and 2nd Place in Nature – Seasons, for “Flowers of Early Spring.”

These were series of 5 images each. This is representative of the “Flowers of Early Spring” series:

2013 px3 people's choice awards
More White Iris

while this image is representative of the “Jellyfish” series:

2013 px3 people's choice awards Pacific Sea Nettle jellyfish
Pacific Sea Nettle jellyfish

It is an honor to have these images included in winners of the People’s Choice Awards for the 2013 PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris. Again, thanks to all who voted for these images.

Dutch Iris in the Desert

Dutch Iris

These Dutch iris were blooming earlier in May. Dutch iris are about as common as water here in the high desert of the Southwest. But sometimes the magical light, in combination with Dutch iris and water near the Rio Grande River, can produce some unexpected results. This image brought a smile to my face when I saw it uploaded on the computer. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it also.

dutch iris
Impressionistic Dutch Iris

Some Beautiful Iris


The iris were gorgeous last week at the BioPark. For my iris-loving friends, I am sorry I do not have the names of these – they were not marked. But, I think you can still enjoy the beauty of the flowers. They were everywhere throughout the BioPark.

Yellow Iris
Yellow Iris
white iris
White Iris
more white iris
More White Iris
white and purple iris
White and Purple Iris
purple iris
Purple Iris
burgundy iris
Burgundy Iris

Clematis “The President”

Clematis – a beautiful vine that can have very large flowers that come in a wide variety of colors. It grows well in the high desert of New Mexico, and is one of the first things to bloom in the spring. Depending on conditions, it may bloom again in the fall, but the fall bloom rarely matches the spring bloom.

“The President”
has large purple-blue flowers, with reddish-purple anthers, making for a spectacular display at its spring bloom.

These images come from my mother’s garden on May 5, 2013.

“The President”
“The President”
Closeup of Clematis “The President”

Clematis can make a very good companion plant for climbing roses. The vine can use the rose canes for support, but does not “choke” the rose. It will bloom first, usually before rose blooms appear. It will finish blooming about the time the roses start to bloom. The rose provides the “shady feet” the clematis needs to thrive, which is important since the vine itself needs sun.

This clematis, ‘The President,’ is not planted with a climbing rose, but is planted near ‘Gold Medal.’ It is a stunning combination when the two are blooming together.

Clematis – a wonderful addition for a spectacular and early spring bloom!

The Beautiful Redbud

Redbud trees – where I grew up, these trees are quite common in early spring. I have seen them in Albuquerque, but they are not so abundant here. The common variety in Oklahoma, native to the region, is Cercis canadensis var Texensis or “Texas redbud.” It is beautiful and hardy. The Albuquerque Biopark has examples of that variety, and they were blooming on Saturday. There is also the Eastern redbud, along with its many varieties.

The Biopark has another variety of redbud, Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma.’ It is the State Tree of Oklahoma. To be honest, until last Saturday I was not aware of differences between the two, or even that those two varieties existed. In walking through the BioPark, however, I turned a corner and suddenly came upon one whose flowers were darker, with much more intense color, and really markedly abundant flowers. Fortunately, that one had a marker. The common redbud is a beautiful tree; the Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma,’ is, in my eye, even more beautiful.

redbud 'Oklahoma
Redbud ‘Oklahoma’
redbud 'Oklahoma'
Redbud ‘Oklahoma’
flowering tree
flowering tree
The beautiful redbud tree
redbud and willow
Redbud tree with weeping willow

These images are from Saturday, April 6. Yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday, April 8 and 9) we have had strong winds. I doubt many spring blooms remain, not only at the Biopark but around town. The best of the spring bloom was short-lived, but glorious while it lasted. There are the summer-blooming flowers to which to look forward: roses, hibiscus, cosmos, sunflowers, and many others. Spring bloom 2013 has been glorious!

Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs – tulips, daffodils, and others were seen in colorful abundance at the Albuquerque Biopark on Saturday. I was really glad I made it out then, because all were just beginning to look a little worn. Today (Monday) we are having high winds, and I doubt photographing the spring bloom will be as good after today as it was on the weekend.

This is just a sampling of Saturday’s spring bulb beauty.

tulip - spring bulbs
spring bulbs - tulips
daffodils and tulips
Daffodils and Tulips
spring bulb - tulip

Pansies – a Sure Sign of Spring

Pansies – one of the early spring flowers here in Albuquerque seemed to be at their peak today at the Albuquerque Biopark. Actually, there were also glorious bulbs, flowering trees and shrubs, and color everywhere. This post will show you the pansies. They always make me smile, and I hope they brighten your day as well. Other images from today will be posted in subsequent posts.

Purple and blue pansies
Multicolored pansies
Pansies (or something in the pansy family)

And, finally, the pansy I call “the Rohrschach pansy.” 🙂

“Rohrschach pansy”

Color at the Albuquerque Biopark

The Albuquerque Biopark is celebrating its blooming bulbs in March. A few crocus and daffodils are beginning to bloom on the grounds, but the show at present consists of calla lilies and a few other assorted flowers in the Mediterranean Conservatory.

Over the years I have grown a few calla lilies. Somehow, I had expected the ones at the Biopark to be larger. Most were either the size I had grown, or even a little smaller. On the one hand, I did not feel like such a failure as a gardener of calla lilies. On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed as a photographer that there were no “giant” calla lilies on display. What I can say, however, is that the calla lilies (and other flowers) blooming today were quite colorful!

Flowers at the Biopark
Calla Lily
Calla Lily at the Biopark
Calla Lily
Calla Lily at the Biopark
Calla Lily
Calla Lily at the Biopark
Calla Lily
Calla Lily at the Biopark
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