No Adjectives Need Apply

The peonies peaked early this year, and last weekend I spent half an hour trying to take a photo that did them justice.

I was happy with a bud shot (I used the microphotography feature), but none of the blossom exposures worked for me.

The color came across fine–in one sense a double peony is all about color, especially viewed from a distance–but the exuberance of an individual blossom kept eluding me. The best I could manage was a nice first-year-photography-student-quality study of  positive and negative space.

Partly it was the camera, an older digital point-and-shoot that I can’t seem to trick into giving me the depth of field that I want.

Partly it was the angle of the light, which was almost directly overhead. I would have obtained better results much earlier in the day or much later, when the sun would have been lower in the sky and given the auto-exposure some shadows to work with.

Then I had the idea to edit out the color, and there was the photo I wanted.

Sometimes you just don’t need adjectives; the structure will carry the day.

© 2010 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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10 Responses to No Adjectives Need Apply

  1. I enjoyed your take on the artistry of photographing peonies. Apparently, even flowers can be too flowery.


  2. Vonna says:

    I love peonies, but they won’t grow in Houston. Too steamy. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos.


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Peonies are a temporary pleasure here, especially with these. They were here when we bought the house; rumor has it that a long-gone neighbor hybridized peonies so these might be from that attempt. Regardless, they are taller than average and have oversized heads on stems that can’t quite support (and so far I have failed in my attempt to find extra-tall peony hoops! And then comes the Peony Rain every. single. year just as they’re peaking and batters them all to heck and back.

      However, they smell deliriously wonderful and, surprisingly, the ants leave them alone, so the breeder must have been doing something right!


  3. Anne M Leone says:

    Absolutely right about structure over adjectives. And how many years has it taken me as a writer to figure that out? =)


    • Anne Bingham says:

      I was a journalism major back when journalism was Journalism (as opposed to journatainment), so adjectives were bred out of my writing at an impressionable age. It took a while to learn how to put them back!


  4. MaryWitzl says:

    Those are great photos, once again!

    I love peonies, both the herbaceous and tree types, and wonder if the peonies in our old garden managed to survive the winter. I’m guessing they didn’t…


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Let me know if they make it, Mary, and I’ll find a way to send you some rootstock if Customs will let me. Nothing affects these babies; if they can survive winter in the Upper Midwest in the worn-out soil they’re growing in between the driveway and then neighbor’s house, surely they can make it where you spend your summers!


  5. Beautiful pictures! I love peonies and tried to grow them here. They just don’t like it here in my part of San Antonio.


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