This particular color and form evokes in me a sense of calm, and at the same time a feeling of strength and vibrancy, of life rising up—life both simple and complex. The cells not only look like pixels, they are individual packets of information, each unique with a life and mind of its own, contributing to the maintenance and growth of the organism.
In keeping with my propensity to trace subject matter back to its origins, I see in these leaves the genetic inheritance of structure and color—a system that maximizes surface area for the absorption of light from above with vertical channels that, like rivers, deliver nutrients from the soil below—a perfectly integrated living system. Chlorophyll appears to us to be green because it strongly absorbs the blue and red portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. But to the leaves that have no intrinsic color, the discrimination among wavelengths is essential because the green portion of the spectrum affects the life-giving process of oxidation.
Wikipedia provides the technical explanation: “The absorbed energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in a process called charge separation. The removal of the electron from the chlorophyll is an oxidation reaction. The chlorophyll donates the high energy electron to a series of molecular intermediates called an electron transport chain. The charged reaction center of chlorophyll is then reduced back to its ground state by accepting an electron stripped from water. The electron that reduces the chlorophyll ultimately comes from the oxidation of water into O2 and H+ through several intermediates. This reaction is how photosynthetic organisms such as plants produce O2 gas, and is the source for practically all the O2 in Earth’s atmosphere.”
Beyond the science of the plant, there’s the science of brain/mind informing us, as noted, that the leaves do not themselves have color. Rather, our brains create for our nervous systems the sensation of “green” when the signals sent from the eyes to the brain report the absence of blue and red spectral frequencies. The brain says in effect, “Considering that red, green and blue are the primary colors of the spectrum, if it’s not blue and red, it must be green!” And of course that happens continuously at the speed of thought.
My appreciation of green is further enhanced considering that without plant life, animal and human life would never have evolved—at least not on a watery planet and in the forms we know today. In one of my stories of the ancient Maya—Jaguar Sun—the protagonist wonders why trees and plants are green. Since red is the color of blood and blood is the source of life according to his worldview, shouldn’t the forests and plants be red rather then green? Given his perception, the logic makes sense. But fifteen hundred years later we understand that neither blue nor red has the capacity to photosynthesize—to absorb the energy that reduces CO2 into sugars and other biological reactions—the kind of energy that sustains life.
No wonder the leaves in this image evoke a sense of calm, strength and vibrancy. At a sub-conscious level we understand that green plants provide the combined energies of soil and sun to support life.
I want you to understand that there are no colors in the real world. There are no textures in the real world. There are no fragrances in the real world. There is no beauty. There is no ugliness. Nothing of the sort. Out there is a chaos of energy soup and energy fields. Literally. We take all that and somewhere inside ourselves we create a world. Somewhere inside ourselves it all happens. The journey of our life.
Sir John Eccles (Noble Prize winning neurophysiologist)
ABOUT THIS IMAGE
Title: Tropical Leaves
File: DC 9372
I seek out flower conservatories and greenhouses where tripods are permitted. Besides being filled with plants from a variety of ecosystems, the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio has wide enough walkways that I can set up the camera and take my time without disturbing the flow of visitors. A tripod is essential for photographing closeups of plants and flowers. Because the plants are still, the aperture can be stopped way down—at a low ISO setting—to maximize image quality with no concern about the length of the exposure.
Another huge advantage of these environments is the diffuse lighting resulting from glass enclosures overhead and in some cases all around. As this image illustrates, I try as much as possible to position the camera to take advantage of any backlight that may be available. It heightens the contrast of the inner structures of leaves and flowers.