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Peeling Bark

Peeling Bark
Detail Manzanita – Peeling Bark

I see what I see, even if I can’t show it very well on a blog.  Here, the peeling bark of a Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora) has been transformed into elegant orange, rust, and mahogany brush strokes with the Topaz Simplify3 filter.  It looks great in the print but it is hard to convey the effect in a small blog post.

Of course the filter itself is not the point.  The image stands on its own.  In fact the filter is only the last step after cropping the original photo, tweaking highlights, and enhancing colors.  But the filter is what gives the photo an illustrative look as it smooths out details and blends colors.

This is the full frame of the print, where here in the blog, you can’t really see the effect of the filter.

I am really pleased how the curling skin blisters away from the smooth surface of the branch while the filter preserves the sinewy, taut ripples of the underlying structure in a bubbling stew of warm color.  It doesn’t matter that you can’t see why it works.

Except I showed you in that first detail shot ….

This is the full frame of the original photo before I cropped it as a horizontal.

I worked a good while at the shoot to find a branch and light it with reflectors to get a full frame of these curls and textures. Here is the Manzanita I was working with, a beautifully pruned California native shrub in The Melissa Garden in Sonoma County.


  1. Hi Saxon,

    We met in the Pacific Horticulture Symposium garden tour last October. We traveled garden to garden in the car with Carol Bornstein and company. We talked about you coming to Los Angeles to take some pictures of our gardens.

    Urban Water Group our company has just acquired a new office (its very small approx 600 Sf total all room) and I’d like to talk with you about using your photographs on the walls. Instead and in addition to photos of our work.

    I am thinking of using construction shots ( which I need taken ) of rain water harvesting system going in, other hardscape elements in the “back office” where the concepts and construction plans and budgets are developed, on another wall above the architects work station (91″ long wall) where the planting plans are created I would love to use some of your touched photographs where you have isolated a branch then misted out the background (love the toyon branch), I’m thinking of the metaphoric symbolism of the architect using one plant at a time to put a plan together.

    Then as you get to the entry door some photo that is representatives of a mature space like your manzanita bark photograph.

    I would love the plants in the photographs to be ones that thrive in southern calif regionally if not native specific.

    Could we set up a time to chat?

    Currently we are in construction of an above and below ground rain water harvesting system and I have received a few thousand plants which are in an onsite nursery so it’s prime for some “construction photos”.

    In the future after this garden is finished I love to talk about a possible p photograph that could be created showing the finished garden and the substructure. If the water harvesting interest structure below it

    • Hello Marilee – I am delighted to see this comment from you, amazed that I even got it, and especially, sorry for the delay in responding. I rarely look at my Saxonholt site and assumed any comments that might have been made would be forwarded to me, which this was not, and here it is now July 18 and I am just looking at this.

      I spend much of my on-line time on my PhotoBotanic site and by an amazing coincidence have just posted a short blog post about manzanita and Madrone.

      Of course I want to speak with you, you do such amazing work and I would relish the opportunity to collaborate at any level to help promote better gardening in our summer-dry climate.

      Since it has been so long since you posted this query I am not sure you will even receive this reply and I will try to contact you more directly. Thank you


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