The whirls of the driftwood on Big Talbot Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida, are peculiarly wonderful to me. My father is a woodworker in his spare time, and throughout the years, we have made scores of pieces of furniture, boxes, and we have even turned a number of bowls on the lathe. As such, I am a constant admirer of wood and its natural beauty. I have turned beautifully featured bowls from a pecan log wrought with worm holes, and ambrosia maple, and spalted sweetgum, but the oak bowls I have turned are lovely, but plain, almost like Shaker furniture. They have a very ordinary grain, and little about them is exceptional. The fallen oaks on Big Talbot Island, however, have fantastic patterns, some like the ornamentation of a medieval Celtic manuscript.
I do not know how these patterns came to be, though I speculate that it has something to do with the effect of the sea air on the tree’s formation, both nurturing and stunting the growth at the same time. Some of the trees must have been tall and vast when they stood decades, or perhaps centuries, ago, but it is the smaller ones that have the more intricate patterns like this one. To capture the perspective of this photograph, I set the aperture (depth of field) quite low, so that only a piece of the limb was in total tack focus. The foreground and background are blurred, and the focused piece catches your attention, not only because of its placement in the composition (according to the rule of thirds), but also because of its contrasting sharpness. I would have loved to turn a bowl from this tree, if only to see whether the patterns on the surface came through onto the finished product. But now I have turned my artistic attention away from woodworking to photography, and so I must satisfy myself with capturing the beauty of the wood rather than pulling it from an unfinished block. It is a different approach, but no less satisfying when the photographs turn out like this.
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