#1016. Etched in Stone – Virtual Petroglyphs

By Bob Kruger | Art & Creativity

Jun 17

There are innumerable granite boulders strewn about my property, part of a five-million-year-old stream bed I have been told by a geologist neighbor of mine. I have photographed many of these moss- and lichen-covered boulders over the years. (They don’t move quickly, so even I can make a sharp image.) I have also photographed, at one time or another, most of the flowers my wife, Ana Maria, grows in her greenhouse. Recently, I have combined a few of these digital photos into “composites” by “layering” them – organic over inorganic – using a variety of blend modes.

The resulting photographs visualize the way the flowers might look several million years hence if each flower were imprinted on rock for all future photogs to see and admire. The smooth and supple elegance of each flower would have been radically transformed by the rough and rigid structure of the rock surfaces upon which each had become entrapped for eternity. (This is the price that each flower would pay for immortality.) The results can be quite striking, from abstract surrealism to organic petrification. I enjoy exploring the myriad combinations of colors and textures that result. Ana Maria is not as enthusiastic. She prefers her flowers as Nature has intended.

I’ve posted both versions for you to compare, Nature’s versions first followed by its Virtual Petroglyph.

In this first example, the Lady Slipper is subsumed into the rock so seamlessly that flower and rock appear to be as one.

In this next example, the African Violet is rendered into several pieces. Flower and rock did not blend together without a struggle. It’s not clear whether the flower weathered the rock or vice versa. It appears that the struggle is ongoing.

An Air Plant is mainly that, air. It appears to float on whatever surface it is placed. But this air plant has been captured for all eternity. It will float no more.

These Phalaenopsis flowers appear as dangling sheets of paper, which have been petrified and coated in lichen.

The imprint of this Clivia appears to have been painted onto the surface of the rock. The three-dimensionality of the rock has come to dominate the design of this flower, and its colors have faded over time.

This Phalaenopsis has been petrified through the years and covered with lichen, appearing like a paper cutting.

This Cattleya, which is beginning to lose its character, has been shattered by the lichen that is overtaking its essence

I’m not sure what this Dried Flower is, but its stateliness has been nicely enhanced in its petrified state.

One of my favorite flowers, the Daisy, is simple and elegant. This one has been transformed into solid stone. It may last forever.

This is one of Ana’s spectacular Dendrobiums. It is almost completely camouflaged by its stony jail, the color patterns of flower and jail so evenly intertwined.

These potted Cattleya have been transformed into a Medieval painting.

Another Lady Slipper that has taken on surrealistic colors as its price for immortality.

Cala Lilies grow throughout our property. This one is gradually fading into its rocky prison.

These Cala Lilies were captured a few days ago. This “petroglyph” has only enhanced their beauty.

I only hope we all age so gracefully. Below is a video version of my project :


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  • philberphoto says:

    I am speechless! But, thankfully, nor fingermotionless…:-) I don’t know what I admire more, the live flowers or the petrified. Not only beyond excellent technically, but aesthetically wonderful. I don’t know what is stronger in me right now, elation, inspiration and admiration, or jealousy, envy and more jealousy. Congrats and kudos!

  • Paul Perton says:

    Wow, Bob. Just wow.

  • Sean says:

    Hi Bob,
    Most excellent work, Bob – technically, artistically, aesthetically, and all other supportive words that fit. Your crafted images engender visceral and emotive reactions that acknowledge just how competent your personal approach is forged in the art and craft of photography.

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Bob, what an extraordinary set of images; either set alone would have been wonderful but the combination is simply splendid. I’d love to see them printed and hung on a wall. Bravo!

  • Christopher says:

    I like them very Bob. Sorry Ana Maria.

  • Lad says:

    Bob, What an inspired idea, and what tremendous results! I’ve never seen anything quite like your flowers entombed in/wedded to granite. They are exceptionally well-photographed as well as brilliantly processed, and the overall effect is simply stunning. Thank you for brightening a gloomy day in quarantine! Lad

    PS: I can already imagine the many imitators embedding flowers in all sorts of media!

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    What a fabulous idea, Bob! And so very well realized – kudos to you!
    I especially like the Cattleya, Dendrobium, and the unknown dried flower (which is Safflower, by the way), maybe due to the color palette or because the flowers truly become intricately one with the rocks….sort of a blooming boulder effect. Quite reminiscent of medieval tapestries -Enchanting!

  • Bob Kruger says:

    Thank ya’ll for the very kind words. I think we all work on our craft, me a bit hesitantly, not quite sure how it will be received. It is difficult to be absolutely sure of a concept (Is it frivolous? Have I gone over the edge? That sort of thing.), but a little positive encouragement goes a long way. Thank you all!

  • Georg Kremer says:

    Bob, these are superb. I work with textures from French Kiss and Photomorphis a lot. But I like the idea of using granite and similar stone. Well done.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Amazing, fascinating, and…
    … just beautiful!

    What a great idea to blend soft and harsh in such a way! They somehow enhance each other just right.

    I’ll be back several times.
    Thanks, Bob, for sharing!

  • Dallas says:

    Bob, what can I say that hasn’t already been said, wow excellent work.

  • John Wilson says:

    Absolutely STUNNING Bob. I’ve worked with blend modes for several years now but never thought of doing this … need to photograph more flowers. You’ve given me a whole new set of ideas.

    I Bow To You Sir.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Gorgeous, Bob!
    But not only your blends… also simply your images.
    I find the Clivia; in it’s apparent simplicity, haunting, because the blend is so perfect that I feel no “inner fighting” nor “dual exposition effect”… the three-dimensionality blend works so well that I can’t help but come back to it… a near “ghost-like” energy.
    The Dried Flower…. your orignal picture already had the charm of ancient botanical engravings, like those in the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert… a sweet and touching travel in time; it has this strange “2D” effect of the way botanists were drawing then; so the blend on a near-flat surface works its magic…
    The first Cala Lilies, before the blend, looks like a typical amateur painting of the 20th century… I have one painted by an old uncle with the same color palette and lighting 🙂
    The second one, in its blend form, reminds me of old Roman stucco… very very nice 🙂
    So, to me, you not only tried something very interesting with your blends, but your flowers pictures cover so many “ways” that I keep this post, with Philippe’s “romantic dark mood” flowers and Jean-Claude “luminous grace” flower, as s source of inspiration for the next years… I took hundreds of pictures from flowers (in Asia, some are just mesmerizing), but I know I never ever took more than snapshots… now learning, thanks guys 😀

    • Bob Kruger says:

      Thank you for the kind words. Can you point me to the two DS posts that you reference?

      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Welcome, Bob
        Sorry it took me ages; there is not yet a full search inside texts on DS, so I had to look post by post, and I gave up after finding the first one 🙂
        Philippe’s post with what I called “romantic dark mood” flowers is #1009. Ceci n’est pas un post (this is not a post) …
        By philberphoto
        The other post was a collective, where Jean-Claude Louis just posted that flower; I archived my emails, but you may ask Pascal J, I first asked him the email of J-C when I was offered a print, so he might remember the number and name of the post 🙂

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    It’s always amusing to wind your wife up, isn’t it, Bob? If we always did the same thing, our photography would soon become repetitive and un interesting.

    This is a creative use of overlays. The results might be unconventional in the eyes of people who aren’t familiar with this genre, but sufficiently impressive to suggest that if you persevere you will end up with a masterpiece.

    And in the meantime, you can reassure your wife by telling her what lovely flowers she grows in her garden.

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