Twelve Plus Two: Rekindled Love

I have a passion for photographing still life and flowers. Whenever I feel bored or want to experiment with a new technique in my studio using my view camera, I turn to my box of seashells, flowers, or other objects.

This particular shoot started in a familiar way. I visited my local grocer and found a beautiful bouquet of tulips to photograph. However, I wanted to approach it differently, using 4×5″ black-and-white film and then hand-color the digitized file in Photoshop (PS).

The story behind this image unfolds in two parts: (1) the shoot and post-processing and (2) the emotions (or the story behind the story) driving its creation. Much of what I create is influenced by emotions.



TECHNICAL: Linhof MT + Nikkor 150/5.6 + Tri-X + Pyrocat 510

Technical Notes

The above graphic illustrates the three stages of the image’s completion process. It begins with the developed 4×5″ black-and-white film negative (image #1). The film is then digitized and inverted into a black-and-white positive image, ready for hand-coloring (image #3). Finally, the finished colored image is displayed (image #2).

My goal was to refine my hand-coloring technique, steering clear of PS’s unappealing auto-coloring function. Instead, I used layers and kept the process simple, unlike my past technique of adding color by applying Marshall oils directly onto a print with cotton balls and Q-Tips.

The steps I used to add color to this black-and-white film image are not difficult but time-consuming. It goes like this: bring the positive image into PS, select the colors for each object, and paint each color into the image with a pen, using a separate layer for each color. This process takes me back to my years as a comp artist in advertising, where I used pencils and markers to draw and color, creating visual concepts to promote products and services.

In photography, the final touches—whether applied in the wet darkroom, on the art table, or through digital post-processing—play a subtle yet significant role in conveying the visual message I want to share. The distinctiveness of this image is largely attributed to these finishing details.

Next, I will share the story behind the story.

The Title Says It All

What a curious title, “Twelve Plus Two,” for this image, wouldn’t you agree? I am a bit of a math nerd, but even so, it’s an unusual name for a bouquet. Yet, there’s a hidden meaning behind it — a secret woven into “Twelve Plus Two: Rekindled Love.” Count the tulips, and you’ll find fourteen. When I first arranged the bouquet for photographing, I discovered two lovely buds hidden from my sight, nestled together as if wrapped in each other’s embrace, hence the “plus two.”

When I created this image, I was in the midst of a long-distance romance with a former love from my early twenties. Neither of us was married any longer or involved with anyone else. Still, after about a year of reuniting, I realized our relationship wouldn’t lead to a shared future even though my heart was all theirs for the taking.

After decades apart, we had evolved into different people from when we were young, having traveled different paths. Though they wanted to commit and cohabit, I hesitated. Despite this, we rekindled an immense love and attraction for each other, sharing precious moments once more.

I love them deeply, even though I felt it was best to end the relationship as it neared the two-year mark. I will always treasure the loving experiences we shared in our twenties and beyond.

It may not be the story you expected, but it is my reality, and they are, to me, what people probably describe as “the love of their life.” To experience love like that is a gift.

When I create work for myself, I strive to express my emotions so the viewer can feel or see them. I may not always succeed, but my work likely conveys my feelings better than my words ever could.

If you see the beauty and closeness in this image and can imagine two buds lovingly intertwined, then I have achieved my goal. It is the essence of it all — emotional love.

darlene almeda