02.14.21: Painting lilies

An artist paints lilies growing in a pond in San Diego's Balboa Park.

An artist paints lilies growing in a pond in San Diego's Balboa Park.

Looking over the shoulder of an artist at work

I’ve often come across artists when I’m out with my camera. After all, many of the scenes I’m looking to photograph are also excellent subjects for painting.

And I’ve often asked the artists for permission to take a photograph over their shoulder, attempting to capture some artistic redundancy — the subject, the artist’s artistic interpretation of the subject and my artistic interpretation of the entire scene.

Unfortunately, I was never able to capture an image that I considered attention-getting. Usually the subject matter was too far away to pull everything into a tight scene.

That changed during a visit to San Diego’s Balboa Park in 2018.

My wife and I had spent the day walking through — and enjoying — the beautiful park that is filled with rare trees, exquisite gardens and museums. We visited on a Sunday, so the park was buzzing with exhibits and activities. We sampled food from different regions of the world. We discussed native flowers with horticulture experts. We even encountered giant fire-breathing robots hanging around San Diego’s Maker Faire, an inventors and crafters festival in the park that weekend. It was a memorable and enjoyable day.

As we were walking toward the park’s exit to catch a Lyft back to the hotel I saw an artist beside a pond painting water lilies.  His subject was only a few yards from where he was sitting.

Finally I found an over-the-artist’s-shoulder scene that could work for a photograph.

I asked for his permission to get a photo and told him about the composition I hoped to achieve. His response was a very laid back “no prob.”

So I clicked off a couple of frames, then showed him one of the photos on my digital camera’s screen. His response: “Cool!”

The photo shows the redundancy I was seeking — the water lilies on the pond and the artist’s interpretation of those lilies. The colors blend almost seamlessly from the pond to the easel.

As we were walking toward the park’s exit to catch a Lyft back to the hotel I saw an artist beside a pond painting water lilies.  His subject was only a few yards from where he was sitting.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Oct 7, 2018 4:04 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM 
  • Focal length: 69mm
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter: 1/800 second
  • ISO: 200